The Top 10 Tech Jobs Where You Might Not Need a College Degree

The list may surprise you.

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By Nina Zipkin


The stories are almost legend. The barista who hustled his way into Uber, learning coding in quiet hours at the coffee shop, all without a college degree. The guy with a 2.5 high school GPA and a few college credits at a satellite campus who snagged himself an engineering job at Google.

The key to their success -- hustle -- won’t be surprising to you. Stories like these trade on hard work by people willing to find their own teachers to learn the trade.

But even hard workers need to throw their hat in the ring -- something that not all non-degreed workers feel comfortable doing. In fact, one third of Americans won’t apply for a job if they think it requires a degree.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

According to new data, that’s a big mistake. A recent study from career site Comparably recently conducted a study of over 1,800 anonymous employees with high school diplomas or some college education to see which jobs in the tech industry pay the highest salaries to those workers without a college degree.

The data was collected between March 2016 and October 2017 from employees from a range of small, mid-size and large tech businesses that are venture capital-backed, public, and private as well as well-known companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Uber. The data surfaced roles in cities across the country finding people without degrees in six-figure roles -- many with ‘VP’ and ‘director’ in their titles.

To be sure, many companies will still require a bachelor’s or higher for such roles. And these numbers don't account for how long an employee worked at an organization, getting promoted through its rankes. And of course, those with degrees still fare better over time when it comes to earnings or weathering unemployment. Still, the survey shows that in certain specialties, know-how isn’t held back by the lack of a degree and in fast-growing industries like tech, hard-to-find skills are still paramount.

Take a look at the findings and remember to never hold yourself back.  

VP of Engineering

Job requirements: In many cases, this is the type of role where mobilizing people and projects is most important. People in this role might oversee the day-to-day management of a company’s engineering department and focus on the completion and delivery of the products the engineers create. Women in this role earned $198,884 on average, outpacing men’s earnings by 3%, one of two roles in this survey to do so.

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $178,062

Director of Sales

Job requirements: These high-paying execs often oversee the sales strategy for tech products and services. This was one of the highest earning role across cities explored in the study.

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $165,579

Sales Engineer

Job requirements: These engineers know how to sell. They merge their technical acumen with an ability to speak to clients about  products and systems to boost a company’s revenue. 

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $148,726



Job requirements: No, not that kind of architect. While these staffers don’t design and construct buildings, they do develop the infrastructure and specifications for software programs.

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $143,879

Lead Engineer

Job requirements: A seasoned engineer that leads and manages a team of engineers as they work to develop and complete products.

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $132,856

Director of IT

Job requirements: An employee at the executive level that is responsible for a company’s internal information technology strategy. 

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $122,532

DevOps Engineer

Job requirements: This employee deploys a wide variety of different technologies and programs to automate and manage systems and software. They also routinely troubleshoot to find issues and bugs. On the top ten list, this role is one where the compensation gap among employees with different ethnicities was one of the smallest.

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $121,262

Director of Marketing

Job requirements: High-ranking executive that charts the the course of the company’s marketing strategy.

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $114,987

Product Manager

Job requirements: These employees develop a strategy for the development of the products that the engineering team builds.  While it's one of the lowest paid jobs on the list, those doing the role in Seattle or San Francisco, could earn 25-30 percent more on average.

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $101,421

IT Manager

Job requirements: Working in concert with the Director of IT, IT managers implement and schedule a firm’s internal information technology. On the top ten list, VP of Engineering and IT manager were the only roles where women earned more than men, Female IT managers at all education levels earned $114,050 compared to the men’s annual salary of $110,905.

Average salary for workers without a college degree: $100,177

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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