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You can Make Six Figure Without A College Degree

Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned. — Mark Twain

Our world is going through a major transformation. You can hardly sense this unless you reflect on your life and how this transformation has changed the way you live now vs how you lived just 10 years ago.

With that said, I believe that the transformation will make you think about some pervasive notions that have still influenced our lives. Having a college degree is one of those stereotypical notions that we never take time to challenge.

Think about it. We, the mere mortals, have been told that having a college degree is the surest path to financial well-being. Those who belong to academia have reason to reinforce this stereotype — along with major corporations who only hire graduates for high paying jobs — to justify insane cost of education.

The outcome depicts a rather bleak future for those who earn outdated degrees with debt that keeps them enslaved for a long time until they educate themselves with street smart skills.

Unless you want to become a doctor or a lawyer, you can begin reaping financial benefits from these technological transformations now without feeling stigma of not having a college degree to brag about.

I have an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering. Luckily, I have not paid much to earn these degrees as during my undergrad studies, merit based education was subsidized by Indian government. When I pursued my grad studies in the States, I worked as  a graduate assistant. Nonetheless, what I am earning today has no nexus to my education as an Engineer.

A knowledge based society

America has been considered the land of opportunities for good part of last century and even now. It’s considered a melting pot of talent that has fueled its economy for a long time. With the technological changes in the last decade, our world has become a melting pot of talent that was once confined to the boundaries of this great nation.

More companies are realizing that the knowledge based workforce is the key to their bottom line. It’s no longer enough to have a degree without knowledge in your chosen field to secure a high paying job. Instead, having a niche based expertise almost ensures a six-figure income in any economy.

With these changes in the competitive landscape, most companies want to hire someone who can make direct impact on their competitive advantage rather than to hire a jack of all who has an outdated degree from a well-respected university.

Growing influence of the global middle class

The notion of a middle-class largely relates to a country and its population. With recent technological advances, we are seeing a world middle-class that has earning power to buy merchandise from anyone selling products or services on Amazon or eBay.

The massive diffusion of powerful, cheap computing power via cellphones and tablets over the last decade has dramatically lowered the costs of connectivity and education — so much so that many more people in India, China and Egypt, even though they’re still just earning a few dollars a day, now have access to the kind of technologies and learning previously associated solely with the middle class. — Thomas Friedman

As Tom Friedman observed during his recent trip to India, our growing world middle-class has thirst for knowledge and intense desire for a better financial future for their families. That translates into a work force with intense work ethics and laser sharp focus on learning skills that are essential for success in today’s economy.

Chandoo.org is one of those shiny examples of these technological transformations. Purna, who lives in the remote part of India, has proved that you can live anywhere in the world and, with access to a laptop with Wi-Fi, you can make six-figure income by doing awesome work.

You can launch a blog with less than $10 investment and start sharing your knowledge with others. Your blog becomes your resume. Your blog becomes your own knowledge based business that can not only enrich your life financially but also makes you a sought after individual who can demand handsome fees for the service.

Crowd Phenomenon

Another central part of the transformation is the way ideas become reality. Not too long ago, if you had a great idea, you would have no other way to fund your business unless one of the major investment firms shown interest.

Not anymore. With Kickstarter, anyone with great idea can get crowd funding to launch a business. With the explosive growth of these mini-businesses, a knowledge based worker tends to reap huge benefit: by providing skills that are essential to a business with limited capital infusion.

Parting Thoughts:

It’s no longer financially savvy just to attend a college for the sake of a degree. If you want to become successful in this new economy, learn those skills that are in demand due to a growing global middle-class. Think of what you love doing and find a suitable marriage between your practical skills and its viable demand.

I am not against formal education. I believe that having education is essential, but you don’t have to follow stereotypical path to educate yourself to make six-figure income.

I have started teaching a small group of individuals without any formal education with the aim to have them earn six-figure once they master the technical skills needed for their success.

If you think that you can’t succeed without a college degree  — because of self-imposed thoughts and limitations — you are living in the past decade.


The College Conundrum @ Jlcollinsnh

Help Me Fina a Career @ 101 Centavos

Ridiculous Student Loans vs Future of the Education @ Mr Money Mustache

photo by: University of Houston Honors College

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Comments (22)

Hey Shilpan…

..thanks for linking to my post. Still wish I could find somebody to illustrate the cartoon I describe in it. :)

Interesting thing about India’s growing middle class: Out of roughly 1.2 billion people around 325 million are middle class. About a fourth. Seems a small percentage and it is.

But it’s growing fast and consider this: That 325 million is just about the same as the entire population of the USA.

I am about to visit India, so I will soon write a post once I return on March 14th. I was there five years ago, so it will be interesting to see progress since then.

I haven’t been in about 25 years. Would be great fun to return. My wife is a Goan and still has relatives there, and in Zanzibar where she was born and raised.

Where will you be going?

My sole purpose is to spend time with my dad. He is turning 80 and he has Parkinson. I will be in my home town, Baroda. It’s in the state of Gujarat.

Baroda? Missed a chance to go there a couple years back. Our sister company has an operation there. I’m sure there will be a next time, though.

I have been to Goa few times when I was in India. It’s really a fun place: A nice blend of eastern and western culture.

Very true Shilpan! There are some professions where your degree has very little influence on what you can earn. My degree has very little to do with what I do as well.

I can’t agree with you more, my friend!


Do you know of any careers in particular that are in demand for this new economy? And where would one learn these skills? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

So true that many people give up on financial dreams etc, because they don’t have a degree. There is hope, and just like anything else..you can achieve anything you really want.

Indeed, you can achieve anything as long as you don’t allow self imposed limitations to control your mind.

Absolutely… 6 figures without education (formal) is a reality for so many people. In fact, as a PhD, I sometimes think education is overrated.

I can’t agree with you more!

Just imagine how far we will go in another 20 years from now. I think it will be a great change, and an equalizing one, too.

Absolutely! Thanks, Kevin!

It almost makes me cringe when I talk with college students and find that they are majoring in music, English, or Art History. Unless you plan to go into teaching, you don’t need a degree or student loans to pursue these fields. What generally happens is they end up getting a job in a totally unrelated field to pay bills. I have a cousin who spent 6 years getting a degree in communications. He then went to work as a insurance adjuster, which requires no degree. College is a great place to learn life skills, but to go into debt for something that gets you essentially nowhere is not a good plan in my opinion.

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Kim! It doesn’t make sense at all to pay for degrees that are worth no more than an expensive piece of paper to hang on your office wall. I am not against education, but all degrees are not made equal for sure.

This article is so true. Especially with the internet I think the entire game has changed and people are no longer as shackled to conventional jobs as they once were.

The ability to freelance or pursue other careers online has opened up so many possibilities for people regardless of their level of education. You can build a portfolio piece by piece and after a while no matter cares about your degree, just what you can do.

If you can study something you are passionate about in college then go for it, but otherwise I fail to see the reason to spend all that time and money. If you passions lie outside an educational institution then pursue them directly and nothing – certainly not a piece of paper – can stop you from succeeding and making some serious money along the way!

Bravo!! I love it Cody. Thanks for stopping by.

[…] brings up the idea that money is a spiritual topic. Shilpan from Street Smart Finance gives encouragement to those who haven’t gone to college and explains that the sky is the limit.Roger at The Amateur Financier shares pros for public and […]

[…] You Can Make Six Figures Without a College Degree at Street Smart Finance. Considering many people with college degrees aren’t making this much, it’s something to think about. […]

JLCollins and MMM? I seem to be in good company. Thanks for the mention, Shilpan, much obliged.
I like what you’re saying about smarts and skills over a “formal” education of questionable lasting value. We’re trying to foster an entrepreneurial spirit with our two boys, and hope that it will turn into something positive.