When you start working straight out of high school or without otherwise going to university – you give yourself a number of key advantages over those who decided to continue education. Firstly, you start earning straight away instead of spending years at college before you can make any real money. Not only do you start earning quickly – but those who go to college instead start racking up debt instead of making money. This could leave you over $100k better off if you choose to get on the career ladder instead of continuing school. If you start saving and building your investments this could be even more. And that doesn't include the possibility of already having earned a couple of promotions by the time others finish their education.
You might have been lead to believe that you could only get a worthwhile career that pays well if you go to college – but this simply isn't the case any more. College isn't for everyone – and the reality is that there are plenty of high-paying jobs that you can get into without an expensive college degree. In this article, we're going to look at them.
Not only does college saddle most students with tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of debt – it also doesn't always lead to a high-paying career. With more and more people going to university, competition for those high-paying graduate jobs is fierce.
You might find yourself better off with a normal, non graduate job that you can start earning in straight away. Not only that, but many graduate degrees are in big city locations which often have higher property and living costs than you might be looking for. Many of these jobs that don't require a degree are in all sorts of locations so you can find the right work-life balance and potentially purchase your dream house reasonably easily.
1. Agricultural Manager
As an agricultural manager, you'll be responsible for the management and day-to-day running of a farm or other agricultural. This is a hands-on, often dirty and stressful role – but one that's also highly rewarding. One of the great things about this career is that it can be got into reasonably easy and without the need for a costly degree or lengthy further education.
While this job is a supervisory role that will require you to hire farm workers and manage them on a day-to-day basis, you will also need a full and strong background in farm work yourself. Duties may include managing and overseeing regular farming activities such as planting, irrigation, harvesting and tending to animals. You will also be required to do other administration duties like record keeping and overseeing the payroll. You might be required to solve problems on an ad-hoc basis and deal with issues that arise as and when necessary.
Other duties for an agricultural manager include overseeing and co-ordinating engineers and the regular maintenance of equipment, along with purchasing new equipment when necessary. You might also be responsible for liasing with other farmers and managing crop production as well analyzing market conditions and other business duties. You'll also be responsible for storage and security. A lot of the specific responsibilities will depend on the type of farming facility you work at and whether it specializes in livestock or crops.
This is a great job for someone who enjoys working as part of the agricultural community in a hands-on role. The pay is good and can start at around $70k a year. This is a job that often has long hours and weekend work. You can get into agricultural management without any formal educational background, but a decent grounding in things like math could be a benefit. Many farm managers are promoted from within and will have already had experience working on a farm. EnvironmentalScience.org has loads more on how to become an agricultural manager.
2. Sales Supervisor
As a sales supervisor, you'll be responsible for running a sales team and ensuring they hit targets and make as many sales as possible. You should have a strong grounding in sales, but this is a career you can get into without any educational background and most importantly – without an expensive university degree.
While sales supervisor roles are one step up from regular salespeople, a lot of the skills are similar and you will still be expected to carry out some sales yourself. Don't be put off by having to be promoted from a regular salesperson to get this role as the staff turnover is so high in this industry that the right applicant with a good attitude and natural talent can find themselves promoted to a supervisory position within a couple of months.
Regular sales roles will include finding clients and explaining the benefits of a range of products to them in a compelling manner. Successful sales people will have a “can-do” attitude, and will be driven and presentable at all times. You may be selling things door-to-door, over the phone or to large businesses. These different types of sales will require slightly different approaches.
As a supervisor, you will be proficient in ground-level sales but also have a level of managerial skills required to successfully motivate a busy team of salespeople. You may be responsible for hiring as well as solving any issues with your team as and when they happen. Many sales teams work to tight target goals, and it'll be your job to make sure targets are met and goals are completed.
This is a career that's only right for someone who is passionate about sales and has the right sort of personality for the job. Managing a team of salespeople can sometimes be difficult and meeting targets is also often stressful. As a positive, pay can start at around $70k a year for the right sales supervisor and you could potentially lead to untapped future earnings if you do well in your role and meet targets. You could earn a lot more based on commission. Sales and sales supervision is a career that should have plenty of openings in your local area.
3. Nuclear Medicine Technologist
As a nuclear medicine technologist you will be qualified in the use of medical-grade radioactive materials to assist in both medical diagnosis and treatment. While this career doesn't need a four-year bachelor's degree – you may be required to have an associates degree in some states. There are also some professional qualifications that might be required depending on your employer. A lot of the training and education can be done while earning and after starting a junior role.
Your main role will be based around administering radioactive materials to patients in a safe and effective manner. This will be done to create images in order to diagnose different conditions and disorders. You will also help doctors use similar radioactive materials to treat a range of conditions. You will be required to discuss the procedures with patients and carry out a prescribed amount of radioactive treatment where necessary. You will also need to liase effectively with doctors and keep detailed records of all procedures and interactions.
You will be required to work without supervision in many instances, but also be a good communicator who can work as part of a busy team. It goes without saying that you should be good with patients and have a professional manner. You may also be exposed to harmful materials so will need to follow safety procedures and work professionally and cleanly.
This is a highly rewarding role that pays and average of around $73,000. It's obviously only appropriate for someone who is willing to work in a hospital environment – but is normally a regular 9-5 role as most procedures are carried out during these times. One negative of the job is that it requires slightly more training and a higher level of qualifications than some of these other roles. Medical Technology School has more information on how to become a nuclear medicine technologist.
4. Power Distributor and Dispatcher
As a power distributor and dispatcher, you'll be responsible for distributing and regulating the flow of power between different energy stations, substations and other distribution lines. It's another great career you can get into without saddling yourself with the debt associated with going to university – and one you can start earning in right away.
Your duties will include constant monitoring overseeing power distribution networks and keeping track of the status of circuits and connections. You will need to regularly inspect equipment and make sure it's running at an optimum level, alone with liasing with engineers should repairs be needed. You'll have a strong grounding in the use of all your equipment and will need to adjust levels to ensure the network is running at an optimum level.
Other duties could include other monitoring and adjustment responsibilities such as those associated with electrical and steam equipment. You'll also need to keep detailed records of all activity as well as respond to emergencies as and when necessary.
This is a good career for someone who enjoys a hands-on role in a busy industrial environment – it's obviously not suitable for someone who doesn't. You may be required to work nights and at weekends, but you could earn an average of around $70k a year. Study.com has some more tips for those looking to get into this industry.
5. Commercial Pilot
You might be surprised to see this on a list of roles that pay well without a university degree – but you don't actually need a strong educational background to become a successful commercial pilot. However, you will need a proven set of skills and a strong background in flight, but this is something many people have before they even leave high-school. The right applicant could start their career as a pilot at as young as 18 years of age.
While you won't be able to captain your own flight for a few years yet – you'll get some cockpit experience and supervised flight experience reasonably early. Although you don't need a university education, you will need to be good at math and have a range of other qualities needed for this well-respected career. You'll need to be professional and a good communicator. This is a job with a lot of responsibility and you'll be required to follow strict safety guidelines and procedures at all times.
As a pilot, your duties will include routine testing and checks of all equipment. This is a supremely important aspect of the job and one that should be taken seriously at all times. You will also need to liase with ground crews, air traffic control and in-flight teams one a regular basis, as well as passengers. It goes without saying that you'll need to be a good communicator with a professional manner.
This a role that a lot of people want to get into. While you could earn $70k a year initially in some locations, this could increase substantially depending on experience and the type of airline you're employed by. Most new pilots at this level will work for a lower-budget airline. You'll be required to travel often and will be away from home for long periods of time. It isn't a 9-5 role either, and will often include weekend work. However, there will be a wide range of benefits associated with this job, including free travel for friends and family.
While you don't need a degree to get into commercial piloting, you will need to complete extensive training and gain a number of qualifications. ATP Flight School has more information on the route to becoming a pilot.
A postmaster manages the day-to-day operations of a Post Office. Duties will include managing a team of employees along with administration and support tasks. You can get into this career without much experience and without any formal educational background or costly university education. That means you can start earning straight away instead of saddling yourself with years of debt before you even get a job.
A postmaster's duties will all be based around the successful running and management of a post department. You'll need to be good at managing a team of individuals and dealing with any problems that arise as and when they happen. You should have a full and detailed knowledge of running a Post Office and all the duties associated with it. You will also be required to keep detailed records and motivate your team to meet targets.
Pay for a postmaster is around $70,640 a year on average. This is a job that often requires early starts, although it could also include early finishes. There are expected to be 3,800 job openings for this role over the next decade or so. You'll need to complete moderate on the job training. Study.com has more information for those looking to become a postmaster.
7. Transportation Inspector
As a transportation inspector, you'll be required to inspect and analyse a number of different vehicles or modes of transport associated with your role. You will normally specialize in particular type of transport, such as aircraft or buses – and you'll be expected to have an extensive and detailed knowledge of them. It's a great role for someone who enjoys large transport infrastructure and is another good quality career that you can get into without an expensive college degree.
Duties for a transportation manager include the regular and detailed inspection of different transport infrastructure such as buses, commercial aircraft or subway cars. You'll carry out a number of different tests to make sure they are running correctly, efficiently, and safely at all times. You may be required to work as part of a busy team or on your own. Good communication and attention to detail is important. You'll also need to keep detailed records of all inspections and work you've carried out. This is a job that requires a strong professional work-ethic as you will be responsible for signing off vehicles as being safe to use, so you must take this work seriously and not cut any corners.
Median annual wage for a transportation inspector is around $70,820 a year. There are expected to be around 7,100 openings for a transportation manager over the next ten years or so, so it's a job with a lot of potential opportunities. You can do this job without a university degree and it often only requires a high-school diploma, although on the job training will be provided before you're fully qualified. This is an ideal role for someone who enjoys working with large engineering infrastructure and has an interest in buses, planes or other vehicles. OwlGuru has more information for those looking to become a transportation inspector.
8. Criminal Investigator
As a criminal investigator you'll be involved in the collection of evidence and investigation of crimes, either to assist a law firm, the police force, or clients as a private investigator. This is an interesting role that doesn't require a strong educational background or university education.
Duties as a criminal investigator will be based around investigating different crimes and collecting evidence. You may be required to work alone and unsupervised, sometimes putting yourself in dangerous situations as you follow violent criminals. You may be required to carry out lengthy observation work or act undercover from time to time. You may be investigating violent crimes or family disputes.
Other duties will include gathering forensics, liasing with other law enforcement professionals and keeping very detailed records and notes of activity. You might need to be good with recording equipment and will often be required to give evidence in court. It goes without saying that you'll need to be able to work efficiently, privately and effectively in your roles. You'll also need to work in a confidential manner on sometimes well-known cases that have a lot of outside interest on them. Not all the work is interesting, as you will also be required to look through lots of records and evidence files, sometimes for hours on end. You may also be required to interview witnesses or victims and records their statements.
This is a role that's only suitable for someone who's willing to work on criminal cases and sometimes with violent criminals or on other disturbing cases. It isn't a 9-5 role as you'll often be required to work nights or weekends. It's a good role for someone who might want to move into a career in traditional law enforcement as there are a lot of transferable skills. Pay for a criminal investigator averages at around $77,000 a year. It's also a growth industry, with over 28,000 expected openings over the next ten years or so. Legal Career Path has tons of information for those who want to know more.
9. WordPress Developer
This is another worthwhile career that you can get into without a formal education or expensive university degree. As a growth industry – WordPress development is something that not only pays well now, but looks set to continue to grow over the next few years.
If you're unaware of what WordPress is – it's a blogging platform that thousands (or even millions) of blogs use to manage and publish their content. It's so popular that becoming a WordPress developer is a role that's in huge demand. Even though it hasn't been around for long, WordPress development is a strong career with good future prospects.
Duties as a WordPress developer are all based around development and improvement of the WordPress platform. As an open source piece of software, it's constantly being changed, adapted and modified by a team of developers across the globe. Some businesses use WordPress so much that they actually need their own developers to help adapt the platform and make it work best for them. There are a range of plugins and themes available for WordPress that are built by developers and change the basic look or function of the publishing platform. In fact, tons of sites you probably visit regularly use WordPress without you even knowing.
You'll obviously need to have a strong background in development and have a basic understanding of the WordPress platform. However, a lot of this experience and knowledge can be self-taught in a matter of weeks. It will also be useful to have knowledge of a number of programming languages – but again, this can be self-taught. You don't need to go to university and study for four years to become a WordPress developer. You might even have the skills to do it now.
Duties as a WordPress developer will include liasing with clients and discussing that changes and improvement they need. You might also work alongside a team of other developers or graphic designers. You'll need to be able to communicate your ideas effectively before carrying out development work to order. Keeping up to date with any changes and other research will also be needed. You might also have to work to tight deadlines. It's also a 9-5 role that is normally completed in a pleasant office environment – and can also be done remotely.
As a WordPress developer, you could expect to earn around $70,000 a year depending on location. There's loads more information on how to become a WordPress developer at Simple Programmer.
10. Property Manager
As a property manager, you'll be responsible for the day-to-day management of a range of properties in your portfolio, usually for the property owner. This is a career you can get into that pays well so you can start earning straight away, without needing to go to university or rack up a lot of debt on an expensive degree.
Duties for a property manager are all based around maintaining and managing a range of properties. These might all be properties on one site or in different locations, so travel may be necessary. You might be responsible for collecting rent and arranging leases, alone with marketing the properties and showing them to new potential tenants.
You'll be responsible for dealing with any complaints or issues that may arise on a regular basis. This could involve dealing with difficult tenants and might include evictions or calling in debt collectors. You'll also be responsible for ensuring public areas are kept clean and that safety regulations are adhered to at all times, which might require you to inspect properties. You may need to liase with cleaning staff and other services to aid carrying out your duties. You'll also be required to either oversee or carry out routine maintenance and repairs.
Property management isn't always a 9-5 role depending on the type of property or properties you are in charge of. It's only suitable for those who are good in managing difficult situations and may sometimes have to put themself in harms way. However, this is only likely in certain development as high-end property managers rarely have to deal with the same range of issues. Pay for a property manager can sometimes depend on the number of properties you are in charge of, but you could expect to earn around $70,000 a year depending on location and the type of properties you manage.
11. Mortgage Broker
As a mortgage broker, you'll be responsible for getting people mortgages so they can buy a home with your help. While some financial experience could be useful, it's actually surprisingly a career you can get into and be successful at without a university degree. That means you can start earning and moving up the career ladder years before those who went to university. You'll also have the added benefit of putting yourself in a position where you'll be able to help buy your own home.
As a mortgage broker, you'll liase with clients about the type of property they can afford and carry out routine financial and background checks. You'll need to keep constantly up-to-date with the property market in your area and be fully aware of all house prices and things that may affect the market where you live (or work). You'll need to be professional and well-presented as well as able to work efficiently and confidentially. You may be required to advice clients on other aspects of home-buying along with helping them through the process of securing a mortgage. You will need to be a good communicator and have constant interactions with banks and other lenders, as well as realtors.
As a mortgage broker, you may be self-employed or work for a larger firm or bank. You could expect to earn around $70,000 a year – but this could grow based on commission and bonuses if you do well. This is normally a 9-5 job that doesn't require weekend work. Realtor.com has more on how to become a mortgage broker.
12. Airport Shuttle Driver
You might be surprised to learn that you can earn up to $70,000 a year as an airport shuttle driver – and all without a costly university degree. That means you can start earning straight out of high school and all without racking up thousands of debt to get an education that might not even get you a job that earns any more.
Another great thing about airport shuttle driving is you can get a job without any experience and very little training. You'll obviously need to be able to know how to drive, though. While the actual starting salary for an airport shuttle driver is normally low, this doesn't include one important huge potential earning factor – tips. A good shuttle driver can earn thousands in tips.
Duties for an airport shuttle driver will include driving passengers to and from departures as well as helping load hand-luggage and liasing with other airport staff. You will be required to work in a quick, friendly and safe manner and check flight times regularly. This is a good job for a people-person, where the right candidate who enjoys talking to people could earn even more in tips.
As the starting salary is low, this is only suitable for someone who is willing to rely on tips for most of their income. This means you'll have to self-motivate and provide a great service all the time, or you might not earn as much. You will also be required to work weekends and evenings (or early mornings), although you shouldn't need to work night shifts.
13. Private Tutor
As a private tutor, you will help share your knowledge with students looking to improve their learning of a particular subject. While some specific subjects will require a strong academic background or university degree, many of them don't. That means if you're an expert in a particular area such as language or music – you can start teaching and earning a good amount in a decent career that doesn't require a university education.
Duties for private tutor will involve looking for new clients and marketing yourself. For a good tutor, this can often be done by word of mouth or with local advertising. Most private tutors are self employed and can work from home or other locations. This gives you the flexibility to build a work life that's right for you – but it may require other overheads of office-space costs.
You'll also be self employed so will only earn if you can generate enough students who are interested. Once you've built up a decent student-base, this business tends to run itself and you'll often find new students come to you after being recommended by someone else.
You'll obviously need to have an in-depth knowledge of your subject and be excellent and communicating it with students. You'll need to be a people-person who can teach towards exam standards and work in a professional manner at all times. Pay for a good private tutor will depend on the subject, demand and how much you work. Some private tutors work weekends or evenings on a part-time basis to supplement other earnings, but a full-time tutor could earn around $70,000 a year.
As a private tutor, you might need a few certificates before you can start earning or to get the number of clients you're looking for, as well as a license for certain subjects in certain areas. You may be teaching students of different age ranges. Getting into private tuition depends on the subject you're looking to teach. It might also be hard work in the beginning as you try and find a range of students, but it gets easier once you've built this up.
14. Power Plant Operator
As a power plant operator, you'll be responsible for the day-to-day running of a power plant or station. It's actually a role you can get into without an expensive university degree. That means you can start earning straight away and building your investments and retirement fund while students are getting deeper into debt. You could even buy your own home before those at university have even finished their studies.
Duties for a power plant operator are obviously based around running a busy power plant. You'll need to work in a safe manner. Duties include running tests and carrying out routine operations to make sure the power plant is running safely and efficiently at all times. You may be required to liase with engineers and other colleagues as well as dealing with issues as and when they arise. You will need to work to strict safety guidelines at all times. You'll also have to keep detailed records of activity in the power plant.
Earnings for a power plant operator average at around $70,000 a year. It's a good job for someone who enjoys a hands-on role in a busy environment, but not for someone who doesn't. You'll have to work weekends and night shifts as most power plants require 24-hour attention.
15. Firefighter and Fire Prevention Supervisor
As a fire supervisor you'll oversee a busy team of firefighters to make sure they're carrying out their job effectively and safely at all times. This will include managing a busy team and motivating them effectively, as well as dealing with any issues that may arise in the workplace. You'll oversee regular training drills and make sure your team work to the best of their ability at all times. It's a job you can do without a university education.
Safety is paramount in this role, and it'll be your responsibility to make sure your team is motivated and trained for a wide-range of incidents. You may be required to attend fires and other dangerous situations. You'll also regularly check equipment and carry out routine maintenance, as well as keep detailed records. You might also be responsible for overseeing talks and other fire prevention activities in your local community, as well as carrying out routine checks, inspections and enforcing fire protection rules.
This is a well-respected job in the community. Pay can start at around $70,000 a year. You may be on call at nights or weekends, and shifts might be long. You can earn even more with overtime. You'll normally get into this role after having already been a regular firefighter, which will require extensive training.
Hopefully you've now seen that you don't have to go to university to get a well-paying job and a fulfilling career. Many of these jobs are available straight out of high-school with little or no training, so you can start earning and building your life straight away.
Other articles in this series:
- Fifteen $40k Jobs
- Nineteen $50k Jobs
- Nineteen $60k Jobs
- Eighteen $80k Jobs
- Fourteen $90k Jobs
- Sixteen $100k Jobs
What do you think? Are any of these jobs an option for you?
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