If you've been thinking for a while that you need to go to university and study for an expensive and time-consuming degree in order to get a worthwhile career – that simply isn't the case. The reality is -there are tons of well-paying, respectable and highly rewarding career options out there for those who decide to skip university altogether. In this article, we're going to look at them.
While university could be the right choice for some people, far too many are forced into it with the understanding that it's the only option if they want to get a good career. It isn't. University isn't for everyone – and you can still succeed without it.
With some of these careers, you can start work straight out of high school, increasing your earning potential for at least 4 years before those who went to college even finish their education. That means you could already be on the property ladder or have started investing towards retirement with the money you earn – putting you in a much more favorable position than those racking up debt at college. And that's the thing – college is expensive. Some students saddle themselves with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt before they've even finished their education. Not only can you start earning straight away, you should also be debt free.
College doesn't even necessarily produce the high-paying graduate jobs you think it does. With more and more people attending university, there's a lot of competition for those top graduate jobs. By skipping university, you could find yourself having been promoted a couple of times before your peers have even left college – putting you in an even better position. Not only that, but many graduate jobs are based in expensive city locations, making living costs even more difficult. Many of these non-degree jobs are available all over the country, often in places that are much more suitable choices to buy a property and have a better work/life balance.
1. Supply Chain Manager
As a supply chain manager, your duties will be based around overseeing the import or creation of raw materials to be used by the company you work for. This is a rewarding career with good career prospects that you can do without an expensive or time-consuming college education.
Duties for a supply chain manager include reviewing, updating and day-to-day management of the chain of supply in your business. This may include keeping up to date with environment regulations and policy changes. You'll need to be a good communicator who can think on their feet. You'll also be required to keep detailed records and carry out routine checks, as well as working in a safe and professional manner at all times. You'll be responsible for checking and managing transportation routes as well as developing and analysing material costs. You may also be responsible for a busy team and will therefore have to manage them effectively – dealing with problems as and when they arise.
Pay for a supply chain manager could be around $80k a year depending on experience and location. Some previous experience working on the supply chain could be helpful, as could supervisory experience in other roles. You may be required to work shifts or overtime. Study.com has more information on becoming a supply chain manager.
2. Systems Administrator
As a systems administrator, you'll need to be an expert in both hardware and software and will often be responsible for large networks. While you'll obviously need to be good with computers, many people have an appropriate skillset before they even finish high-school. That means this is another great careeer you can get into without any formal further education or university degree.
Duties as a systems administrator include the management, maintenance and installation of both computer hardware and software. You may be employed in an office, or for a company that looks after the systems of businesses in different locations. You'll often be the first person to assists if there's a problem with computers in the workplace. Issues might range from something simple that you can solve in a minute, to bigger problems that might need extensive diagnostics and repairs.
You'll also be responsible for carrying out routine maintenance and updating software regularly to make sure the network is secure. You will be responsible for ad-hoc troubleshooting as well as managing user accounts. You might also need to advice users on how to safely and efficiently use their systems, along with best working practices. In some cases, you will be required to be patient in explaining issues to users who are less-computer savvy than you, so some people skills as well as technical ones could be useful. You might also be required to source new hardware and software as well as install it.
Pay for a systems administrator can average at around $80,000 a year depending on your career. It's also a growing industry as computers become a necessity in the workplace – this gives it good career prospects and potential for promotion. It's normally a 9-5 role that doesn't require weekend work. Computer Weekly has some information on how to become a systems administrator.
3. Quality Assurance Inspector
As a quality assurance inspector, you'll be responsible for ensuring the quality of a specific product, normally in a factory or other production facility. This is a career that you can start without an expensive university degree, so that you can start earning straight away and potentially get on the property ladder before most students have even finished their education.
Duties for a quality insurance inspector include reading blueprints and specifications, monitoring production facilities and ensuring machinery and practices meet production standards. You will be required to keep detailed records along with carrying out extensive tests, checks and measurements to ensure the quality of your product is at an acceptable level. This will lead to either the acceptance of rejection of finished items. Where items are consistently not meeting the standard set by you or your employers, you may have to carry out investigative work and make adjustments or changes to the production process.
The hours of this kind of work depend on the type of facility you're employed at or the type of products you're inspecting. You may be required to work nights or weekends in some 24-hour facilities. You may be working in busy environments or on your feet for long periods of time. This job is only suitable for those who have a good attention to detail. Pay for a quality assurance inspector could average at around $80k a year. Sokanu has more on how to get into this career.
4. Chemical Process Operator
As a chemical process operator, your duties will be based around ensuring the efficiency, safety and quality of a chemical plant. This is another great career you can start without an expensive and time-consuming university education.
Duties for a chemical process operator include managing the day-to-day efficiency of a chemical plant. You will be required to work towards strict safety regulations and work in a professional manner at all times. You will have a range of tools to carry out your job, and will be required to conduct routine inspections and maintenance on equipment. You will also need to liase with engineers to fix any more serious problems. You will need to regularly operate plant machinery, maintain detailed records and ensure the overall quality of what is being produced.
This can be a stressful role that's only suitable for those willing to work in an industrial environment where safety is paramount. You will need to be a good communicator who can think on their feet and address problems quickly and effectively. You might be required to work weekends or nights, and for long hours.
Pay for this role can start at around $80,000 a year. World of Work has more on becoming a chemical plant process operator.
5. Police and Detective Supervisor
As a police and detective supervisor, you will have a lot of responsibility in a demanding role that's highly respected in the community and a good career choice for someone who didn't go to university.
Duties as a police and detective supervisor will be based around the management and supervision of a team of their police law enforcers or detectives. You will normally be specializing in a specific area of law enforcement or investigation, although you may find opportunities for promotion into different departments. You'll need to be an expert on the day-to-day procedures and regulations of your workforce, so some experience in law enforcement is a must. However, the right candidate can be promoted to a supervisory role with only a year or two on the force, so it's much quicker than a 4 year university degree.
You'll often be working on stressful or sometimes difficult cases. This requires only the sort of candidate that's willing to put themselves in harm's way and sometimes work on disturbing cases. You'll need to follow strict procedural guidelines and make sure you're working safely whenever you can. You'll be responsible for taking detailed records and notes, as well as motivating and managing your team to effectively carry out their duties.
You'll often have to work nights or weekends, as well as be on call even when you're off duty. This isn't really a role that you leave at the office, as you'll need to act responsibly at all times. Managing a team of law enforcers can often be a difficult job.
A police or detective supervisor can earn around $85,000 a year. OwlGuru has more on becoming a police or detective supervisor.
6. Elevator Installer and Repairer
Elevator installation and repair is a growing industry that has a lot of career opportunities for the right candidate. Again, you can do this job without an expensive degree – so you can start earning a good salary straight away.
Duties for an elevator installer and repairer include routine inspection and maintenance of elevators and other similar systems. You will be required to carry out tests and fix parts on an ad-hoc basis, as well as attend situations with broken-down elevators and fix them quickly, safely and effectively. You will need to be an expert in a number of different types of elevators. You will need to source parts and keep detailed records of your work, as well as work safely and professionally at all times.
You will also need to be good at installing new elevators into buildings as well as the fixing and routine maintenance of existing elevators.
Pay for an elevator installer can vary – but you could earn around $80,000 a year in the right location. This is normally a 9-5 role, but you may be required to work the occasional weekend or overtime shift. Chron has some additional information on how to become an elevator repairer.
7. Margin Department Supervisor
A margin department supervisor is another good career you can do without a costly university degree, although some financial experience and a good grounding in mathematics is recommended.
As a margin department supervisor, you will be responsible for overseeing the margin department of a firm. The main duties of this department will be related to approving or denying credit ro applications and monitoring account activity. As a supervisory role, you will also need to manage a team and make sure they are motivated to hit targets and work efficiently. You will also need to be able to think on your feet and solve problems in your department as and when they happen, as well as liase with other departments and service providers. You may be responsible for making day-to-day decisions although you could also report to a department manager or boss. You'll be required to take detailed notes and records of activity in your department.
This is a job with good career prospects that could see you move into a higher-paying role. However, although you don't need a university degree, some lower-level financial qualifications could be required. This isn't as easy to get into as some of the other careers in this article. On the plus side, pay starts at around $80k a year and could rise substantially. It's also generally a 9-5 role with little or no weekend or evening work required. You will normally be working in a pleasant (although sometimes stressful) office environment.
8. Automobile Service Station Manager
As an automobile service station manager, you'll be responsible for the day-to-day running of a gas or automobile service station. This is another rewarding job that you can get into without a costly university education.
Duties for a gas or service station manager include overseeing the efficient and safe day-to-day running of a gas station or similar facility. You will be responsible for taking stock of new items, arranging displays and overseeing deliveries. You will also manage a small team of employees and be responsible for large gas deliveries and pump maintenance. You will need to follow strict safety procedures to make sure your facility is clean and safe at all times. You may also be required to promote your station and market your services in the local area. You could also be required to hire and fire staff as well as deal with and manage any problems your team has.
As an automobile or gas service station manager you could earn around $80,000 a year. This is a reasonable relaxed role depending on the location, but you might be required to work evenings, weekends or nights (if it's a 24-hour facility). It's not too difficult to get into this career, but some prior experience in the industry might be preferred as many candidates are promoted from within
9. Air Traffic Controller
As an air traffic controller you'll be carrying out a demanding and highly responsible role that's both respected and rewarding. Again, you can do this without a university degree, but a lot of on-the-job training will be required before you're fully qualified.
Air traffic controllers are responsible for the safe transit, takeoff and landing of commercial (and other) flights. As you can probably imagine, this is not a career to be taken lightly – you'll have to work to strict safety guidelines and be switched on and thinking proactively at all times. You'll need to be an expert communicator and will have to regularly liase with flight crews as well as other air controllers. You'll need to be good at multi-tasking to succeed at this role. You'll have a full understanding of all your equipment and may need to carry out routine checks and inspections. You'll also need to keep detailed records of all interactions and other activity.
This is an often demanding role that will sometimes put you in highly-stressful situations that will require you to think on your feet and keep calm. Pay for this role varies, but you could earn around $80k a year once fully qualified. While you can do this without a degree, you'll need quite a lot of training before you're allowed to operate unsupervised. You may be required to work weekends, nights or evenings. Study.com has more information if you're looking to become an air traffic controller.
10. Unexploded Ordinance Technician
This might be a career that you aren't even aware exists – but it does. Not only that, it could be the right role for someone looking for an exciting and demanding career that doesn't need an expensive university education.
As an unexploded ordinance technician you'll be required to oversee sites and dangerous situations where bombs and other explosive ordinance haven't detonated correctly. You'll be responsible for carrying out dangerous and stressful inspections as well as defusing ordinances or carrying out controlled explosions. It goes without saying, this is a highly stressful job that requires someone who can stay very calm under pressure. You'll need to evaluate sites, carry out research and inspections, as well as diffusing certain ordinances yourself. Safety is paramount at all times. You may be required to carry out controlled explosions. You'll need to be an expert communicator who can work professionally and safely at all times.
Additional duties could include carrying out talks or advisory work. You might be on call 24-hours a day and may need to travel extensively to carry out your duties. However, you could also have a fair amount of free time when not attending live situations. This is a job that's only suitable for someone who's willing to work in highly stressful situations and put themselves in harms way. You could earn upwards of $80,000 a year. Full and extensive training will be required for this job. UXO Global has some additional information for those looking to become an unexploded ordinance technician.
11. Pharmaceutical Sales
Pharmaceutical sales is another career that doesn't require a university education. If you include the potential to earn commission and hit certain targets, it could have untapped earning potential. However, a fair average for a newly qualified pharmaceutical salesperson could be around $80,000 a year.
You will be responsible for selling pharmaceutical goods to other businesses, often healthcare providers or even the public. You'll need to be a driven salesperson with a “can-do” attitude who works to strict targets in a professional and presentable manner. You'll need to be an excellent communicator who can effectively explain the benefits of your products and get people to purchase them without being too pushy.
Sales is only right for people who are willing to put themselves out there and be motivated to meeting targets – but you could earn a huge amount of you sell a lot of products. This is normally a 9-5 role but you may need to travel extensively to meet potential customers.
12. Uber Driver
This is an industry that's almost exploded out of nothing in recent years – and for good reason. As an Uber driver you'll be a self-employed taxi driver in your local area. It has potentially untapped earning potential and the added benefit of being your own boss. Not only that, you can do it without an expensive college degree.
The barrier to entry for an Uber driver is much lower than a traditional taxi driver. That means you can sign up and start driving almost straight away. You'll be responsible for marketing your skills and providing an excellent service. You'll obviously need to be able to drive – and good people skills is a plus. You'll be self employed, so will only work if there's enough demand in your area. However, this is a benefit as you can choose when to work and do as little or as much as you want. Much of your ability to get new clients will be based on your rating, so you'll want to make sure people have a good experience so that they give you good feedback.
You can choose the number of hours you work, but it's not uncommon for a motivated Uber driver to earn $80,000 a year. This could require some evening or night-time work.
13. HVAC Installation and Repair
As a HVAC installer you'll be responsible for the installation and repair of HVAC systems. You can do this job without a university education.
Duties will include carrying out detailed inspections routine maintenance. You will need to buy new parts and install them effectively. You'll need a good knowledge of a number of different systems, as well as the ability to install them effectively and safely. You may also be required to keep detailed records. You'll also be responsible for installing new HVAC systems.
Pay for a HVAC installer and repairer varies, but could be around $80,000 depending on experience and location. You might be required to travel to different sites and work at the weekends, but generally only during the day.
14. Private Chef
While you'll probably already be aware about working as a restaurant chef – you might not know about becoming a private chef. It's another great career with excellent benefits that you can do without a costly university education. While you will need to be an experienced chef, this can often be self-taught or with a bit of catering college experience.
It goes without saying that while your education doesn't need to be extensive, you'll need to be a high quality cook who can work professionally and will probably need to be an expert at marketing your skills in order to get the job in the first place. That's one negative of the role – the positions are in high demand and are relatively hard to come by. You'll normally be employed by a wealthy private individual or family. It'll be your job to cater for them for every meal.
Duties will include menu creation as well as constant communication with your employer to come up with recipes and ideas that suit them. You might be required to cater for special events and functions. You'll need to source and purchase food items yourself, as well as work in a professional, clean and confidential manner at all times. You might be required to travel or work on a yacht.
This is a desirable job that comes with a lot of benefits, like paid travel or the chance to “live-in”. However, you'll normally need to be available all day and fit your life around serving someone else as and when they need it. It can be stressful, but far less so than working in a busy restaurant. Pay can vary massively, but you could expect to earn around $80,000 plus benefits. Serious Eats has some information for those looking to become a private chef.
15. Power Distributors and Dispatchers
As a power distributor and dispatcher, you'll be responsible for the day-to-day running of a power plant or energy facility. This is a good job with excellent career prospects that you can do without a strong educational background. That means you can start earning a good wage straight away without saddling yourself in loads of debt by going to university.
Duties for a power distributor and dispatcher are based around maintaining and overseeing the distribution of power from a plant or facility. You will be required to carry out routine maintenance and inspect power routes, as well as liasing with engineers and fixing any problems as and when they arise. You'll often be working in an industrial environment and will need to be a good communicator who can work to strict safety regulations. You'll also need to keep detailed records of plant activity at all times.
Pay for a power distributor and dispatcher could be around $80,000 a year. You'll need some on-the-job training to begin with. You might need to work night shifts and at weekends, as this job normally needs doing 24-hours a day. Careers.org has more on becoming a power distributor
16. Transportation, Storage and Distribution Managers
As a transportation and storage manager you'll be based around management and efficiency of a distribution or logistics firm. Again, you can do this without an expensive university education.
Distribution managers are responsible for an area of distribution of a range of products. You may be responsible for a fleet of lorries and team of delivery drivers. You'll need to have full knowledge of the area your responsible for and make routine checks of your delivery routes. You'll need to keep updated on traffic and weather conditions and make changes accordingly. You may also be responsible for checking equipment and arranging repairs, as well as being responsible for the safe storage of products on site. You'll need to be a good communicator who can manage a large team often remotely. You'll also need to be good at managing a big team.
Pay for a distribution and logistics manager could be around $80,000 a year. This work will sometimes be long and stressful, and may require overtime, evening and weekend hours. Study.com has more if you're looking to become a transportation, storage and distribution manager.
17. Ship Pilot
A ship pilot is a rewarding and desirable role that you can do without an expensive college degree. That puts you at a great advantage with bigger potential earning power than some of those who went to university and saddled themselves with debt instead.
As a ship pilot, you'll be responsible for piloting a large vessel. You'll need to be a good communicator who can be responsible for a large water vessel. You'll carry out detailed inspections of your vessel and plan routes accordingly. You'll need to consult weather reports regularly and take them into account. You might also need local knowledge with regards to tides, winds and currants, as well as other hazards. You'll normally give directions to other ship members who do the actual steering, but you'll need to be experienced in these situations yourself. You'll obviously need to be good at managing a team and keeping to strict safety protocols. You might need to navigate your ship through tight waterways or into difficult positions.
You'll need extensive training and experience to become a ship pilot, but you can get started without a university degree. Once qualified, you could earn around $80,000 a year. This job might require extensive travel as well as long periods on the job.
18. Financial Services Sales Agent
As a financial services sales agent, you'll be responsible for selling financial services to the public. You can do this without a university degree.
You'll need to be presentable, professional and a good communicator who can efficiently and convincing explain the benefits of a number of different financial products to a range of customers and potential clients.
This job is only suitable for someone who's happy to work towards targets as a salesperson in a customer-facing role. So you'll need to be a good people-person. You'll be responsible for explaining the benefits of a range of financial products such as loans, tax advice and insurance. Pay for this job could be around $80k a year, but you'll also have the potential to earn more base don commission. This is generally a 9-5 role although some weekend work may be required.
Hopefully you've now seen how many great jobs there are that don't require an expensive university education. You could start earning $80k a year reasonably quickly and without racking up loads of debt as a student.
Don't forget to check out our other job series with:
- Sixteen $100k Jobs
- Fourteen $90k Jobs
- Fifteen $70k Jobs
- Nineteen $60k Jobs
- Nineteen $50k Jobs
- Fifteen $40k Jobs
What do you think? Are any of these jobs an option for you?