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Six-figure jobs that don’t require a college degree

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DENVER, Colo. — Would you believe it’s possible to make a six-figure salary without a college degree?

According to the website PayScale.com there are several high paying careers that don’t require a four- year education.

Myriah Shimatsu happens to find herself in one of those professions. But she says it’s not all about the money, calling her career as a personal trainer more than just a means to collect a paycheck.

“Touching people’s lives, you hear their story,” Shimatsu said. “You get to see why they’re working out, why they’re striving for their goals, and you get to be a part of that.”

Shimatsu has been a personal trainer for five years with a strong client base, and healthy income. But one thing she doesn’t have is a four year college degree.

“I enrolled in a six-month training school, which kind of gave me a broad horizon of different avenues in the industry,” Shimatsu said. “But that’s all.”

Jamie Atlas, owner of Bonza Bodies Gym in Denver, said he’s even seen cases where an advanced degree has worked against a personal trainer.

“ I’ve had plenty of people walk into this gym with a PhD, stand in the corner and say, ‘Where is everyone? Why aren’t they coming to me?’” Atlas said. “I need people who can connect with clients, not just textbooks.”

The pay range varies for different trainers in different parts of the industry. But Atlas said it’s the sort of job where you can “write your own check.”

“If you come in with the right heart, come with the right attitude and are willing to work early hours and late hours, then you can really do well for yourself,” Atlas said.

Katie Bardaro, the lead economist at PayScale.com, has been a big part of producing the data on high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. She said many personal trainers earn north of $100,000 a year.

“A top performer in the field, whether they have executive clientele, they work at a premiere facility, or they have certain skills or certifications that place them above and beyond other personal trainers, can earn that sort of salary very easily,” Bardaro said.

But what about a high-powered trainer’s customer base? How do those people feel when they find out their well-paid trainer hasn’t even gone to college?

“Her education doesn’t mean anything to me,” said beauty pageant participant Erica Kumar, one of Shimatsu’s clients. “Before I got with her, there were so many exercises I’d never done. She has introduced me to a whole new world in fitness.”

With that kind of recommendation, Shimatsu says she never worries about her business model falling short.

“As long as you keep your clients happy – you’re their on time, you’re continuing to go above and beyond to meet their needs – they’re going to market you themselves and keep bringing clients in the door to keep you successful,” Shimatsu said.

Other top-paying jobs that don’t require college degrees

Job Median Pay Top Earners Education
Nuclear Power Reactor Operator $103,000 $142,000 High School Diploma
Personal Trainer $51,400 $141,000 High School Diploma
Executive Pastry Chef $45,100 $102,000 High School Diploma
Handyman $53,300 $104,000 High School Diploma
Massage Therapist $67,600 $141,000 High School Diploma
Source:  PayScale.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics