All work and no school: 5 top-paying tech jobs that don’t require a college degree

Sep 13, 2022

5 mins

All work and no school: 5 top-paying tech jobs that don’t require a college degree

We’ve long believed that formal education was the ticket to a well-paying job; the better your degree, the bigger your paycheck. But, in today’s job economy, that’s changed. Especially in one of the highest-paying fields: tech. It’s a fast-paced sector, meaning what you spend time learning in university could become obsolete by the time you’re ready to join the workforce. The result is a rise of education outside the traditional classroom in the form of online courses run by experts, boot camps, or a self-taught, learn-by-doing approach. Even big-name companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple have stated they don’t require a formal degree from applicants.

So, if you want to shift gears in your career and land a top-paying job in tech without returning to student life, here are 5 tech roles that don’t require a college education.

For each job we’ll share:

  • The median annual salary in New York City
  • The job outlook, or projected percent change in employment, from 2022 to 2031
  • Where you can upskill and learn about each role

1. Software Developer

Are you a natural problem solver? If so, working towards becoming a Software Developer may be for you. As a Software Developer, you’re the brains behind programs that serve end-users of all kinds—whether in the form of an app or larger systems that help programs run.

To become a Software Developer, you need to know common programming languages like JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Python, and C++. It’s also a collaborative job that requires soft skills like strong communication and project management. An entry-level position for this role would be a Junior Developer, which requires a solid understanding of applications and databases, and the ability to write simple scripts and fix bugs.

A linear path would have you move on to a Senior Developer role or Team Lead. However, there are alternative routes you can take as a developer, depending on whether you want to work independently or with a team. People-oriented roles you could evolve into include positions like a Product Manager or Scrum Master, while independent, behind-the-scenes role options could include becoming a Data Scientist or DevOps Engineer.

  • Median annual salary in New York City: $130,160

  • Job outlook: Demand for Software Developers is expected to grow by 25% between now and 2030, which is much higher than average.

  • Where to learn about it: Online courses such as this one from General Assembly can be a good starting point. This particular institution has a network of hiring partners includes companies like Amazon, Twitter, Apple, and Slack.

2. Systems Analyst

A Systems Analyst looks at the big picture of a company’s systems and procedures. It’s a role that requires being service-driven and strategic, continually looking at ways to improve current systems and optimize them for the future.

Systems Analysts need to have a deep understanding of computer programs and information technology, business acumen, organizational skills, and solid communication. After putting in time in a junior position, your career trajectory could steer you toward a Project Manager role, Team Lead. Further down the line and with the right people skills, you could progress to IT Director and eventually, Chief Technology Officer.

Opportunities as a Systems Analyst span many industries beyond those with a tech focus. Systems Analysts are needed in teams across sectors such as retail, finance, and services, so you won’t be limited to the tech world if this career sounds like something you’d like to pursue. The transferable skills you’ll acquire through online learning or internships will stand to you no matter the industry you choose to work in.

  • Median annual salary in New York City: $103,800

  • Job outlook: Demand for Systems Analysts is expected to grow by 10% between now and 2030, which is faster than average.

  • Where to learn about it: The University of Minnesota offers a 4-part course through Coursera, which you can enroll in for free to see if it’s the right fit.

3. Database Administrator

Database Administrators manage and organize company data. They’re responsible for keeping the data clean, up-to-date, and secure. Coding skills are required for a Database Administrator role in programming languages like Python, R, or SQL.

Data is a business’s pot of gold, which is why it makes sense that this is one of the top-paying jobs in tech. It requires meticulous attention to detail and knowledge of how to understand and analyze data on top of managing it.

You might start as support on a company’s helpdesk or in a developer role before moving into a Database Administrator role. With on-the-job experience, you could eventually move into an IT Manager or Director position. Industries of all kinds with a digital presence and a database need Database Administrators, even beyond traditional tech or startups, such as educational institutes and healthcare companies.

  • Median annual salary in New York City: $117,450
  • Job outlook: Demand for Database Administrators is expected to grow by 8% between now and 2030, which is faster than average.
  • Where to learn about it: Some of the biggest software companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle offer certificates in Database Administration.

4. Web Developer

Web Developers create and maintain websites, ensuring they’re user-friendly, functional, and visually appealing. Like a software developer, becoming a Web Developer requires learning coding languages, with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Node.js being the most common.

You might also want to choose whether to specialize in front-end, back-end, or full-stack development. Front-end Developers focus on the website the end user will see, whereas Back-end Developers focus on the behind-the-scenes mechanics of a website, and Full-stack combines the two.

Since practically every company has a website, you could work anywhere that has an internal web team—tech or otherwise—join a web agency or even run your own freelance business doing web development as an independent contractor.

  • Median annual salary in New York City: $92,750
  • Job outlook: Demand for Web Developers is expected to grow by 16% between now and 2030, which is much higher than average.
  • Where to learn about it: A site like CodeAcademy offers coding classes for free. CodeSchool is another well-reputed online coding course and has a 10-day free trial.

5. Technical Writer

It’s not only computer languages that will land you the top-paying tech job of your dreams; being a wizard in English can, too! Technical Writers serve as the bridge between tech products and humans: they’re the wordsmiths who turn complex jargon into simple terms for people to understand.

A Technical Writer will be responsible for writing things like how-to guides, answers in an FAQ section, or product manuals. University English essay writing skills need not apply here; the more direct the language, the better.

As for the evolution of a Technical Writer, aside from moving into a senior or management position, you could shift focus into becoming a Knowledge Master, a UX Writer, or Instructional Design. A Technical Writer’s skills of translating intricate ideas into digestible information can span outside of tech, for example, in government jobs related to policy writing.

  • Median annual salary in New York City: $80,050
  • Job outlook: Demand for Technical Writers is expected to grow by 7% between now and 2030, which is faster than average.
  • Where to learn about it: SkillShare offers a variety of technical writing courses and a free one-month trial. Also, start writing! Develop a portfolio of your work to share with prospective employers, or reach out to tech companies to inquire about writing on a freelance basis so you can learn about their product first and eventually transition into a more technical role.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, and there are plenty of other great jobs in tech that you can land without formal education. Maybe you’re a self-taught graphic designer, branding mastermind, or sales pro ready to dip your toes in the tech world. Whatever your goal, know that success is right around the corner, and it doesn’t have to come from a degree!

The figures stated in this article are accurate as of 2023, as indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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