“You have to go to school to get a good job.”
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That was a phrase that my father continually beat into my head harder than Lars Ulrich could pound on his bass drum. (In case there is a generation gap, Lars is the drummer from the rock band Metallica).
While I’m thankful that I followed my father’s advice and obtained my finance degree, an interesting article by Wallet Pop.com caught my curiosity. The article had taken a look at some of the highest paying jobs that one could get with no college degree.
College is freaking expensive! According to College Boards.com the average cost for one year of tuition is $7000. The cost of a full four year degree is increasing every year, making the idea of getting that beloved college a degree a pipe dream. So what are your other options?
Break in the program. This is a good plug for joining the military. 4 years of college all paid for and then some. I just checked the rates for student loans at GoBankingRates.com and while they are not terrible I did much better by working for Uncle Sam, earning a salary, and getting college paid for. Plug is over. Back to the post….
There are many careers that you can obtain without an actual degree, but most require either a trade school certification, or just time on the job and working your way up through the ranks.
A trade school certificate can be obtained in as soon as six months, or as long as four years. Best part is that these jobs pay well – some very well!
If you have decided to not attend a four year college out of high school, or are looking for a fresh start at a new career, here are some of the highest paying careers with no degree.
Disclaimer: While there are definitely some good paying jobs on this list, I still think having a college degree is still worth it. Yes, tuition is high and will continue to rise, but the experience, connections, and mindset that college offers is invaluable. Now on to the jobs….
Highest Paying Jobs Without College Degree
1Margin Department Supervisor: ($83,000)
A margin department supervisor oversees a company’s credit department which manages customer credit accounts and approves or denies credit to customers. This job will most likely require lots of on the job training/shadowing. You will not be required to have a finance or accounting degree to obtain the job, but you will have to know the process well because the scope of the job requires mathematical calculation as well as debt analysis and recognition of accounting principles.
2Air Traffic Controller: ($74,922)
An air traffic controller is required to pass vigorous testing by the FAA, which includes health checks, as well as mental stability tests. Being an air traffic controller has been voted most stressful job in the United States many years because of what the job entails.
This job does not require a college degree but is a very highly competitive industry; it does help to know someone already in the business.
3Automobile Service Station Manager: ($72,000)
Essentially the role of the service station manager is to run the day to day operations of a gas station. The scope of the work includes setting the gas prices for the day, scheduling the rest of the employees that work at the station, ordering new merchandise to keep the shelves stocked as well as being the direct manager to the other employees. Some skills that would be helpful to obtain this job would be good personal skills as well as some managerial experience. Once again, you could probably obtain this type of a position by working your way up the ladder through on the job experience.
4Real Estate Broker: ($71,000)
To become a real estate broker you will still need to take a couple of classes to become certified, but still much less of an expense to you relatively to a college degree. You will be trying to sell houses as well as filing the paper work for the transaction and helping with the loan agreements.
Anyone who has passed through high school can acquire the license required for real estate transactions, but if you are considering this career you should be very friendly and have flexible hours because you will most likely be working on your customers schedules.
Want to earn over $100k becoming a real estate agent? Check out 101 ways to make 6 figures as a real estate agent.
5Landscape Architect: ($66,000)
With this career you will have the option of whether you would like to be certified or not. However if you are certified you will have access to larger contracts and a wider scope of work. If you do not mind getting a little dirty and working hard for a living than this might be a good career for you. This career may require you to take some classes at a community college on horticulture as well as landscape design, but these types of classes are not required. Make sure you have a good eye for design and a strong work ethic to consider this career.
Here’s a how to guide for starting your own lawn company and making some serious money.
6Lead Carpenter: ( $63,000)
This job will require you to have lots of experience in the field. This type of experience can be acquired through either going to a trade school to teach you the techniques, or by being an apprentice to a lead carpenter. By going to trade school you will actually have some type of certification which might make you more marketable in the field, but being an apprentice would most likely land you in a job replacing your teacher. Either way you can be very successful in this type of career, just make sure you enjoy working with your hands.
7Director of Security: ($62,000)
This job will most likely be acquired by starting off in an entry level security position, then working your way through the ranks to become the director of security.
Depending on the company you will work for, you might be required to pass a background check as well as some minor health inspections. You might also be required to pass a security guard training program but this will most likely all be paid for by the employer so the actual educational cost to you would be zero. Some good skills to have for this type of job would be some above average physical characteristics as well as integrity to do what is right.
You can also try going the Police Officer route. Make sure you study with the Police Exam Guide.
8Elevator Mechanic ($61,000)
Just like the lead carpenter job, this job will most likely be acquired through a trade school degree or lots of years experience. Being an elevator mechanic does have a couple more stipulations. Lots of major corporations will require you to have a license and work for an insured company, which in this case would force you to go through the trade school route so that you could work on these large corporate jobs. Most of this industry is unionized so make sure you are willing to join a union before entering this line of work.
9Cable Supervisor: ($60,000)
This career would be a managerial type setting. You would be responsible for overseeing the maintenance as well as installation workers that set up cable boxes and internet connections. You would be responsible for the scheduling aspect as well holding the workers accountable to be where they need to be. A good way to acquire this type of a position is to either apply for the job with some type of managing/scheduling background, or to apply for the entry level position and work your way up by knowing the business.
10Flight Service Manager: ($54,000)
This career would most likely be obtained through lots of on the job experience. You would be responsible for helping schedule flight crews as well as taking care of customer complaints and filing the necessary paper work for them. This job would require great personal skills as well as lots of patients with angry customers. The airlines can be a stressful area to work in, so if you are considering this line of work make sure you can keep your cool in the toughest of situations.
11Freelance Photographer: ($47,000)
Being a freelance photographer takes dedication to ones tasks as well as a great eye for artistic detail. This type of a career may also require you to travel distances to be able to acquire the right “shot” for the right story. In a sense being a freelance photographer can take many molds such as taking pictures of nature for magazines, or taking picture of stories for newspapers, or even being a paparazzi type photographer and searching for the next big celebrity scandal. Whichever you choose to be, this career could pay well with no educational experience required.
12Personal Trainer ($37,500)
This career will most likely require you to have a certification so that you are qualified to teach proper physical fitness techniques. This certificate is not very difficult to obtain however and is relatively cheap compared to any other type of trade school mentioned above. To be successful in this line of work you will most likely want to be a very physically active person yourself, as well as have a passion for this line of work. If you love the newest trends in fitness, and spend lots of time in the gym already, this could be the perfect career option for you.
So if you are looking to head back to school for some quick training, or have decided that college is not the right option for you, there are still plenty of careers out there for you to choose from. Whatever you do, don’t get distressed. Remember the following names: Henry Ford, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Rachel Ray, and Simon Cowell. Guess what all these entrepreneurs had in common? Yup, you guessed it. No college degree.
Getting started as a personal trainer is simple, but here are some guides to get you started: Bootcamp Basics will show you how to start your own bootcamp. You can also try getting your Yoga certification.
Other Notable Careers, No Degree Required
13Funeral Director ($80,000)
You do need some training to be a funeral director, but once you have it, you can make as much as $80,000 a year. It is important that you be able to handle the macabre, and you do need to have a degree of tact and warmth, since you are dealing with people in difficult situations. However, if you can take the job, it is something worth considering.
14Commercial Pilot ($50,000)
You can make more than $50,000 if you get on as a commercial pilot at the right airline. Training is required, but you will not need to get a college degree. It can be a fun job if you like flying, and you can get discount fares when you aren’t on the job. You do have to be away from home, though.
Often the first step to becoming commercial pilot is to get your private pilot’s license. You’ll get your flight hours up and more comfortable in the cockpit. Here’s a study guide to help you pass the PPL Exam.
15Truck Driving ($45,000)
After six to eight weeks of training, and after you obtain your commercial driver’s license, you can make $45,000 or more as a truck driver. Work your way up to becoming a trainer, and you can clear more than $70,000 a year. Team drivers, those with hazmat certifications and others can make different salaries as well. You do need to be able to deal with the monotony of driving, and deal with being away from home.
For those with the right skills, sales can be a financially rewarding job without the need for a college degree. A salesperson might work on a commission structure, or base + commission. In either case, how much you end up making depends on how well you sell, whether you are selling cars, furniture, real estate, pharmaceuticals, credit card processors or high-end clothes. Depending on what you do, you may need to complete a certification or become licensed. A people person with the right talents can make six figures a year. But it usually requires a large amount of hustle.
17Fire Fighting ($30,000)
The starting salary is often just a little more than $30,000, but you can make more than $50,000 a year, depending on where you work, and whether you reach a supervisory position.
You don’t need a college degree, but you will need to go through a training program. You will need to show strength and stamina if you want to be a firefighter. You can also pick up additional pay if you work fighting wild fires.
To help you get physically ready for firefighting duty, I recommend you check out Pass the Beep Test. It’s a guide to help you prepare your body for firefighting.
If you are about to take your EMT classes to become an EMT, you will be happy to learn that the job outlooks in this field are very promising. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a growth of position by 9% from 2008 to 2018. However, chances of having a good job in the EMS are given to those who have more EMT certifications (like paramedics). The hourly wages can vary from $9.08 (10% of the work force earns less than this) to $23.77 (10% earn more than this bracket). The median hourly wages of EMTs is at $14.10 (as at May 2012).
Getting your EMT Certifications is easy if you study. Get the Paramedic Study Guide so you’ll pass the exam on your first try.
19 Railroad Jobs ($75,000)
Do you like trains? If so, a railroad job might be just for you. There’s a variety of positions from engineers, conductors and management positions available. Railroad jobs give you a chance to see new parts of the country while getting paid very well in the process.
If you’re looking at getting a railroad job, here’s a comprehensive guide that shares how to get a job in the railroad industry.
20Medical Coder ($46,800)
The healthcare industry is currently booming and you can expect it to continue to with the Baby Boomer generation getting older. There aren’t enough doctors and nurses available. Behind all of the doctors is a team of medical coders that type up what procedures you had done and bill you or your insurance company the amount owed. This is a growing industry that doesn’t require a degree. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) released a salary study last year that showed on average a medical coder earned $46,800.
To be a medical coder you will need a CPC certification. Pass the CPC exam and start your medical coding career with this useful CPC Exam Prep and Study Guide.
There are a number of career paths within information technology that do not require a degree. Starting out you’ll probably do support calls on a helpdesk and only make $11-13 per hour. But as your skills progress and you get more experience you can easily make $50,000 to $70,000 per year as you get into systems administration and network engineering.
Get started on your IT career path by getting some online computer training and certification.
Every job has its pros and cons. And, no matter your job, it is likely that you will need some sort of training. While a college degree may not be necessary, some sort of education or skills training is required to do most jobs.
“Formal education will make you a living. Self education will make you a fortune.”
– Jim Rohn
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