The influx of emerging technologies as the world nears the completion of the century’s first quarter is ushering in a different kind of professional landscape. One replete with opportunities for people who have the right skills and are passionate enough to dive into and expand on them.
With so many new routes — and perpetually in-demand fields — that the growing population needs, knowing which high-income skills to work on can enhance your earning potential without having to sit through a four-year program.
13 Top High-Income Skills That Don’t Require a Degree
Using data from ZipRecruiter, Salary.com, Indeed, and PayScale as well as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this article lists 13 high-income skills that you can learn without a college degree, what they entail, and their earning potential. The goal is to help you choose the best route for your personal and professional gain and take advantage of skills that continue to be necessary in the foreseeable future.
- Affiliate Marketing
- Course Creation
- Classic Trade Skills
- Machine Learning
- Graphic Design
- SEO Specialist
- Social Media Marketing
- Independent Publisher
- Wellness or Personal Development Coach
- YouTube Creator
- Social Media Influencing
1. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing lets you generate passive income by marketing another company’s product or service and earning a commission for each sale. With a clear plan, multiple links, and the right tools, you can make a solid income stream even when you’re not actively working.
How It Works
If you enjoy using a product or service or identify that one is in high demand, check to see if this business has an affiliate marketing program. If it does, you can request a unique link to use on social media or blog posts that you share with friends, family or followers.
Your job is to promote this product or service in the best way possible and make it appealing. If they click on the affiliate link and buy the product or service, you make a commission for every sale.
The national average for an affiliate marketer in the US is $72,969 a year, or roughly $35 an hour. The highest earners can make up to $111,500 annually.
2. Course Creation
Sometimes, you may have experience with a particular topic and know that others can benefit from your insight. One of the best ways to capitalize on that experience is to create an online course about a topic you are passionate and knowledgeable about. The highest-paying skill is the one that you can integrate the most into your business based on your interests and personality.
How It Works
You can create an online course and reach customers using SEO and marketing techniques that you can learn online. You can also use social media channels to promote your course and reach your target audience using hashtags and sponsored advertising.
Your earning potential depends on factors like pricing, the number of enrolled students, and the number of courses you offer.
If you price your course at $300 and have a consistent customer flow of 50 customers a month, you make $15,000 a month, or $180,000 annually, before taxes.
3. Classic Trade Skills
No matter how much technology plays a role in daily life, classic trade skills are and will continue to be in demand. Some can help you earn an impressive income that reaches six figures. Examples include plumbing, welding, being an electrician, technician or carpenter.
How It Works
When seeking a trade job, always check whether you need a license or certification to start practicing. Some trade jobs don’t have many requirements. In contrast, others come with mandated training and apprenticeships due to their complexity, potential hazards, and physically demanding nature.
Every trade has varying earning potential. A standard electrician makes an average of $60,240 annually, or $31.39 an hour. The average plumber in the United States makes $63,618 a year, with the highest earners making up to $80,000 annually.
4. Machine Learning
Machine learning is a subset of Artificial Intelligence where developers use algorithms and data to “train” a machine to seek patterns and learn, similarly to the way a human brain might.
How It Works
You can start delving into the world of machine learning by building on your primary knowledge of math and learning the basics of programming. Then, work your way up by taking online courses and seeking certifications.
A machine learning engineer at the primary level makes an average of $124,405 per year.
5. Graphic Design
A graphic designer combines elements like font, spacing, colors, typography, and shapes to represent an idea. If you have an artistic sense and like working with digital assets, you can learn graphic design by watching online courses and purchasing programs to implement what you learn.
How It Works
The best way to start gaining experience in the graphic design field is to watch tutorials and learn from experts in the field. You may like to work with a particular style or software more than others. With dedication, you can start using these programs relatively quickly and apply to entry-level positions to gain experience as you work.
The median wage for Graphic Designers in the United States is $57,990 per year and can reach up to $100,920.
A copywriter writes articles, blog posts, landing pages, and web page content to promote a product or service. It’s a flexible and self-guided skill that lets you write about topics that interest you, and plenty of industries need your skills.
How It Works
If you like writing and have an interest in specific topics like sports or food, you write for companies who want to market their products or services.
Many online courses and workshops can point you in the right direction. You can also make connections with others who can refer you to companies they work with who need additional copywriters.
Copywriters can make up to $81,000 a year, with the average salary being $57,715 in the United States.
7. SEO Specialist
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a high-income skill that most companies who rely on digital advertising need to reach more people. With a vast amount of SEO guidance and information online, you can learn how to use SEO to advertise and market products and services for yourself or others.
How It Works
Think of SEO as an octopus with many tentacles, each specializing in a different way to reach clients. You can start with a certification course offered by many well-known platforms like Google. With that in hand, you can build on your knowledge and use it to help clients market their services and increase digital visibility.
An SEO specialist in the United States makes an average of $62,090 annually. The highest earners make up to $92,751. More senior positions give you entry into six-figure territory.
Sales is a classic way to generate income without needing a college degree or formal training. Most of your success as a salesperson stems from your personality and method. While you can benefit from training, workshops, and formalized guidance, if you cannot apply these concepts to your work, it won’t make a difference in the long run.
How It Works
Sales is a dance that involves listening skills, knowledge, charisma, and answering people’s questions by identifying and resolving their pain points.
You can enhance your sales skills online by attending virtual courses and workshops. You can also attend onsite training at companies you are interested in working for to learn job-specific techniques.
A sales representative can make $61,453 as an average annual salary. Excluding seniority, a salesperson can make up to $79,745 per year.
9. Social Media Marketing
Many people use social media platforms to market their skills, products and services to others. And with the right skills, you can make a high income by working with others to enhance their social presence and reach more people.
How It Works
Initially, focus on one or two platforms that you enjoy using and feel comfortable spending time on. By developing your voice and understanding how time, events and relevance factor into your method to bring in more people, you can reach thousands of people and drive your message home to the ones you target.
The average social media marketing specialist makes $59,930 annually on average. The highest earners can make up to $90,000 per year.
10. Independent Publisher
If you have a writing talent but don’t want to be a copywriter, you can self-publish a book for free or with minimal costs. Ultimately, the book’s success depends on your writing abilities and how you market the product. Still, you can get a foot in the door without going through a paid publisher.
How It Works
After you write, edit, and proofread your book, you can use numerous platforms to publish it and make it available for download. Some of the more popular platforms to do so for free are Amazon KDP and Barnes & Noble Press.
How much you make selling books depends on factors like your marketing approach and how many people purchase your work. If you are selling your book for $20 and average 60 buyers a week, you could make $4,800 a month.
11. Wellness or Personal Development Coach
Becoming a wellness or personal development coach lets you use your experience to help others through individual or group coaching. You can start working as a coach by building your experience in a specific field and showing others how that experience translates to tangible gains in their lives, whether personally or professionally.
How It Works
Regardless of the field you are in, people want to see that you are successful in your own right before you can show others what to do. For example, if you are an etiquette coach, your demeanor and social pages must reflect that you have these qualities before you can teach them to others.
As a personal development coach, how much you make a year depends on your pricing model, popularity, marketing techniques, and material. The average personal development coach makes $56,462 a year, with an earning potential of up to $70,000.
12. YouTube Creator
Being a YouTube creator and sharing your passion or lifestyle with the world is a rewarding, enjoyable and lucrative opportunity to make money without having a college degree. Some people specialize in specific content, like food, travel, makeup or adventure.
How It Works
To reach your desired audience and gain more followers, you must be passionate about the topic you are covering, maintain consistency and engage with your audience.
Starting small and having a plan is the best way to start gaining traction. You can also benefit from online tutorials and watching established professional channels to see what the content creators do and what they omit for an optimal viewer experience.
The average YouTube content creator makes $116,940 annually, or $56 an hour. Some of the most popular content creators in the United States make seven and eight figures from their YouTube Channels.
13. Social Media Influencing
Although the social sphere does have a saturation element to it, some influencers are making six figures and have loyal followers who tune in constantly and want new content consistently.
How It Works
Some of the more popular social media platforms for influencers include TikTok and Instagram. But you can become an influencer using multiple channels or by using just one and sticking to it.
To become an influencer, you can watch established professionals and see what they are marketing and how they are reaching their audience. You don’t have to have millions of followers to make money — even niche topics and industries can generate impressive income if you have something different to offer.
The average professional social media influencer makes between $25,000.00 to $93,500.00 annually.
What Are Some High-Income Soft Skills?
Everyone can benefit from honing their soft skills to enhance their earning potential in combination with high-income skills and get you places.
Soft skills are interpersonal or “people skills” that help you connect with others more sincerely and genuinely. They help you adapt to unexpected scenarios, dodge curveballs with grace, and enhance collaboration between individuals and teams.
Some soft skills that have a significant impact on enhancing your relationships with clients, followers, managers or co-workers include:
While oft-repeated and seemingly redundant, being a good communicator improves your relationships with others and helps you avoid bottlenecks that disrupt your rapport with others or your workflow. Good communicators are also active listeners, understanding the needs of others and translating their own in ways that others can understand.
Emotional intelligence breaks barriers that few other soft skills have the power to do. It means knowing how to handle and recognize your emotions and those of others constructively and proactively. With experience, open-mindedness, and understanding, you can pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues that keep you ahead of the game and mitigate risks when working with new people.
In some instances, being flexible and adaptable has its limits, especially in more rigid industries like finance. But in other cases, learning how to adapt — and overcome — new changes in your environment distinguishes you as a leader and makes it easier to work with others.
Strong, competent and knowledgeable leaders are the heartbeat of any company, team, or business. While many people have the label, not all succeed in enriching their team members and bringing out the strengths of each person they manage. A competent leader has many soft skills and also builds hard skills to guide others.
No matter how good you are at what you do, problem-solving skills like active listening, analytic reasoning, risk assessment, and critical thinking mitigate or reduce the likelihood of the problem becoming a significant issue.
Although many high-income skills need time and applied knowledge to reap their full benefits, the result can lead to a steady income stream that helps you maintain a work-life balance.
Before you start any endeavor, make sure that you have a genuine interest in the skill and industry you seek to build on and are aware of the risks that entail. Jumping into the highest-paying skills without enthusiasm leads to burnout later.
With proper planning, enthusiasm and experience, high-income skills translate to tangible financial gains that you can tweak and enhance to gain leverage in your field.
FAQGet answers to your questions about skills that can make you money.
- What are high-income skills?
- High-income skills are technical abilities related to specific industries that have high earning potential. They do not need a college degree, but some may require licensing or certifications to start practicing.
- Why are high-income skills essential?
- High-income skills are essential because they enhance your portfolio and experience, making you more likely to find a well-paying job. Whether it's employers or clients, these skills attract business and place you on a higher professional tier than competitors.
- How can high-income skills add to my professional portfolio?
- High-income skills that are in demand mean that you have more to offer in terms of your proficiency and experience than others. Your professional portfolio becomes more impressive and likelier to attract recruiters, clients or businesses.
- Do you need a college degree to benefit from high-income skills?
- No. Not all high-income skills require a college degree. Experience and proficiency in these skills are the main foundation to benefitting from these skills. Some, however, need certifications and licensure before practicing.
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