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6 Career Changes That Don't Require a Degree and How To Pivot

by Allie Shaw
October 1, 2018 | Work

Realizing the career path you’ve chosen is no longer right for you can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be hard to pivot to your next big thing. You want to pinpoint what you’re passionate about and pursue it, preferably without returning to school.

If you believe the best careers and salaries belong to people with four-year degrees, it might be time to fact-check that opinion. Having the right experience, attitude and certifications can make all the difference.

Here are six interesting careers with high salaries that don’t require a traditional, four-year college degree, along with their average salaries, according to Glassdoor:

1. Web developer, $78,897

A career where science meets art. A great way to immerse yourself in the world of web development is by taking a coding or web development boot camp. Check out this boot camp’s guide on the basics to get started.

2. Mortgage loan officer, $63,650

A great option for those who have a natural knack for business or finance. Although a traditional education isn’t required to become a loan officer, it does require certification and getting licensed. Check out this guide on the steps to get there.

Who doesn't want to be this happy at their job? It's more possible than you think to change tracks.

3. Social media manager, $59,965

If you plan out each social media post you make like it’s a science, this might be the career for you. Help companies market themselves in a more creative way. Understanding the ins and outs of social media, staying up to date on constantly changing trends and creating a social media presence for yourself is key to pursue this role.

4. Freelance writer, $42,120

Freelancing writing can be a great way to work on your own time (and dime) as well as being an outlet for your creative juices. You love food, traveling, fashion or tech products? Write about them! Build your writing portfolio and start your freelance career from the comfort of your own home.

5. Real estate sales agent, $51,562

A flexible option for anyone interested in sales. While not as glamorous as reality shows make it out to be, it is a great career path for anyone interested in helping people find their dream homes. Be sure to check out the process as well as the pros and cons of the industry before making the leap.

6. Personal trainer, $33,120

You don’t have to be a gym bro to help people achieve their fitness goals. Creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself is an incredible experience, so why not spend your days helping others do the same? Just find your niche, and get certified.

If none of those careers suit you, don’t worry. The Balance and U.S. News offer their own lists with more options.

How to make the leap to something new

It's awesome to keep an open mind about new career opportunities. But, if you feel discontented with your current job, you shouldn’t necessarily up and quit.

Doing that might make you feel better in the short term, but you could pay for it in the long term—especially if your next gig doesn’t come through quickly. Instead, check out these inspiring stories about what can happen when you plan out your path to a new career and execute on it.

1. Consider your personal experiences

Your next job often roots itself in you. That is, your passion, experiences and knowledge all build toward a particular career path, the dream job. You might not be able to describe it yet, but you'll get closer as you explore what you're truly interested in. It’s simply waiting for you to find it.

Inspiration: Trevor Wheelwright, content expert at, started out in the e-commerce industry but was looking for a change.

"I saw an open position for a content expert at Reviews and realized that, even though I didn't have the specific experience they were looking for, I could use my existing skills and knowledge to get the job anyway—and I did," he said. “It’s really about you—your unique personality, knowledge, and skills—and figuring out where those things fit."

2. Attend a boot camp

Maybe coding, web development or user experience (UX) design captures your attention. If so, you should look into coding boot camps. Several organizations offer them both online and off. General Assembly, for example, has campuses spread around the world, allowing you to learn inside a classroom and under the tutelage of a working professional. For online courses, visit sites like Udemy, Codecademy and Skillshare.

Inspiration: Cameron Chapman, a writer at, learned how to code on her own, stringing together different tutorials.

“I taught myself the basics of coding from a bunch of online tutorials that have long since become obsolete and disappeared from the web,” Chapman said. “I would have jumped at the chance to use a site like (Codecademy) when I was teaching myself.”

And while coding boot camps are fun, Chapman also advised that “eventually it will be time to take off those training wheels and learn how to write code the way professional developers do it.”

3. Get a certificate

Some jobs require only a little extra education, primarily earned through a few classes or certification programs. Each career path has different requirements, though, so you may need to do some research.

Inspiration: Laurence Bradford, contributor at Forbes and creator of Learn to Code with Me, helps people develop the digital skills necessary in today’s workplaces. She said certifications “legitimize your skills, and go a long way toward showing employers that you can handle the job duties.” This is true of nearly any industry—if you can show potential employers that you're willing to put in time to get certified, they'll be able to see that you are driven and care about your career.

4. Work with a mentor

Mentors are key to career success because they’ve been where you are, and they want to share their experiences and knowledge with you. Let them. They can prevent costly mistakes, instill self-confidence, help you develop healthy habits and introduce you to their friends and colleagues.

Inspiration: Billionaire Richard Branson attributes much of his success to mentors, particularly his “oddball Uncle Jim.” His uncle, mocked for eating grass by the U.S. army, eventually achieved an advisory role teaching “elite forces how to live off grass and nuts when food was scarce.” Branson reflects how Uncle Jim taught him “that when everyone else thinks your idea is crazy, that may be a sign you’re really onto something.”

Allie Shaw
Allie Shaw graduated from the University of Utah with degrees in communications and public relations. She is an expert in all things technology and lifestyle. She is a freelance writer for multiple publications and spends most of (all of) her free time shamelessly approaching strangers who have goldendoodles.
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