If you think that you need to pay to go to university and spend 4 years studying in order to get a fulfilling and well-paying career – that simply isn't the case these days. The reality is, there are a number of good careers that you can get into without a costly and time consuming degree.
Many people feel forced into going to university because they think it's the only option – but it isn't. One of the benefits of choosing to avoid university altogether is that you can start earning straight away. Compare that to not only racking up 4 years worth of debt on university fees, but the living costs associated with it too. You could find yourself in over $100,000 worth of debt before you even start earning.
If you skipped college instead, you could already find yourself on the property ladder or a few promotions into your new careers – putting you at a massive advantage compared to those who went to college. Not only that, but many graduate careers don't pay as much as you might think. Starting earning early means you can start paying towards your pension or making other investments while your peers are still getting further and further in debt.
Another great thing about many of these non-degree jobs is that they're available in a number of diverse locations. Many of the higher-paying graduate jobs are only available in big cities and other post-university locations. These places normally have higher living costs and are much more expensive if you're looking to buy or rent a property. With a non-degree career, you can build your life somewhere much more affordable where you could realistically buy a house much more quickly. So in this article we're going to look at some of the best paying careers that don't require a degree to get started.
Cybersecurity is a great option as it's a massively growing industry with a lot of demand for new workers. There are a number of different roles in the Cybersecurity – and the good news is that many of them don't require an expensive university degree. That means you can start earning straight away without racking up 4 years worth of debt – putting you at an advantage over those who went to university instead.
As a cybersecurity analyst will have a range of duties designed to look after the data and security they are responsible for. You will often need to report to a manager and liase with other team-members, so being a good communicator would be a plus. Duties include overseeing data loss protection and event management. You will need to keep up to date with all recent changes and be aware of a range of security threats, along with knowling how to deal with them. You may be required to carry out routine tests and checks, along with software and hardware maintenance of your systems. You'll have a range of tools needed to carry out analytical and behavioral checks along with full knowledge of preventing threats.
This is an ideal job for someone who enjoys computers and has a 21st-century knowledge of cyber security issues. Some employees in this industry do have university backgrounds – but if you can prove a strong set of skills and knowledge you might not need one. Depending on the specific position and location, you could earn around $90,000 a year in cybersecurity. CSO Online has a lot more information for those looking to get into the industry. It's also normally a 9-5 weekday job although you might be called out at other times occassionally.
2. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
As a nuclear power reactor operator, you'll be responsible for the day-to-day operations of a large nuclear facility. It's a job with a lot of responsibility, but it also pays well and importantly – you can do it without an expensive college degree. That means you can start earning straight out of high school and without saddling yourself with 4 years of debt just to get a similar (or worse) career. Skipping university altogether could help you start earning and paying your mortgage or towards retirement while others are still increasing their student debt. This could put you in a very favorable position in comparison.
Duties as a nuclear power reactor operator will be associated with overseeing the safe running of a large nuclear power station. As a job that comes with a lot of responsibility, you'll need to complete some on the job training but you won't need a degree. Duties include carrying out routine maintenance and checks, liasing with engineers and other team members. You'll need to work safely and efficiently at all times and follow strict procedural guidelines. You may be required to carry out tests and other checks as well as adjust equipment levels and oversee the safe and productive efficiency of your facility.
Pay for a nuclear power reactor operator does vary depending on location – but you could earn around $90k a year in some areas and with the right experience. This is a role that will require weekend and night work as most power stations need 24-hour attention. You'll also need to be willing to work in a pressurized industrial environment which only suits certain people. Study.com has some more information for those looking into this career.
3. Financial Services Sales Agent
As a financial services agent, you'll be responsible for selling a range of different financial products to clients, normally members of the public. This is a great career with good earning potential and prospects that you can actually get into without a costly university degree. One of the good things about this career as opposed to some other non-degree jobs is that it's a professional vocation that puts you alongside many others who went to university – yet you saved yourself 4 years of studying and the huge financial costs associated with going to college.
Duties for a financial services sales agent will obviously involve selling financial products to your clients. You'll need to be a good people -person who can effectively explain the benefits of a range of products in a way that maximizes sales without coming across as a pushy salesperson. You'll need to be presentable at all times and have a good knowledge of computers as well as a vast experience in the financial services you'll be selling. Services include loans, financial insurance, investments and possibly mortgages. You'll need to show evidence that supports why what you're offering works for your clients, along with being able to work in a confidential manner at all times.
Another great thing about being a financial services sales agent is that it gives you a good grounding in the financial world. This means you'll be able to invest your own saving more effectively giving you better financial prospects. It also has uncapped earning potential as you could make a lot more if you include commission and hit the right targets – but a qualified sales agent could earn around $90,000 a year in the right location. You'll need some training before you're fully qualified – but this shouldn't take long. The Balance has some additional information for those looking to get into this career. Another benefit of the role is that it's normally a 9-5 job and you'll work from a pleasant office or retail environment.
4. Transportation, Storage and Distribution Managers
As a transportation, storage and distribution manager you'll look after the logistics for a distribution company or someone that is responsible for looking after the delivery of a number of products. This is another career that you can do straight out of high school and without a costly university degree.
As a transportation, storage and distribution manager you'll be responsible for overseeing the logistics of your business. You'll need to keep track of day-today operations and motivate a team of drivers and warehouse workers. This means you'll need to be a good people-person who can motivate a large and diverse team, as well as addressing any problems with the workforce as and when they arise. You'll need to carry out routine checks and liase with maintenance staff. You'll oversee a number of different delivery routes so will need to keep up-to-date on traffic and weather conditions, as well as anything else that effects the efficient delivery of items. You'll check your routes regularly as well as re-designing and altering them as and when necessary. You'll be responsible for a large storage facility and will need to carry out regular checks as well as making sure stock is secure and safe at all times.
This job could include shift work at nights or weekends. You'll need to be able to work in a busy industrial environment with a lot of responsibility. This job could pay around $90,000 a year. It's actually reasonably easy to get into as there are tons of businesses that need distribution managers and you can get into the career if you've already got logistics experience.
5. Air Traffic Controllers
As an air traffic controller – you'll be working in a highly demanding role with tons of responsibility. On the plus side, it can be a highly rewarding career for the right individual, and one you can get into without a university education. That being said, you'll need to complete extensive on the job training before you're fully qualified and are allowed to work without supervision.
Duties for an air traffic controller are all based around ensuring the safe take-off, landing and transit of commercial (or otherwise) jet flights. It goes without saying that you'll need to be fully trained on the safe use of a wide range of equipment and instruments and that safety will be your number one priority at all times. You'll need to be an excellent communicator as much of the job will involve liasing with flight crews as well as ground crews and other colleagues. This job may put you in highly stressful and demanding situations where you'll be responsible for overseeing the safety of a flight during or after specific incidents. This is a highly rewarding job that's only suitable for a calm and quick thinker who has all the required skills to make it a success. You'll also be responsible for weather checks and routine testing of your equipment.
Pay for an air traffic controller is good. You could earn upwards of $90,000 a year depending on location. You'll need to work weekends and evenings and nights. You won't need a degree, but training is extensive. NATS has more on becoming an air traffic controller
While “salesperson” could define a number of different specific roles, the good news is that it's a career that always has tons of demand for motivated new workers and it's one that pays well. All of that but without an expensive university degree that could put you into years worth of debt instead of letting you start earning straight away.
Responsibilities for a salesperson will depend on the type of sales you're doing. It might be retail work, door-to-door, telephone sales or a mixture. You might be selling to the public or other businesses. While all of these will require a slightly different approach, you'll need to be a motivated and driven salesperson who can effectively communicate the benefits of the products you're trying to sell in a compelling manner. You'll need to be a good communicator who's presentable at all times. You'll also need to be happy to work to strict targets and goals, which may effect your overall earnings.
Sales is only right for certain people. It's a demanding job with a high turnover because many people simply don't like the nature of selling. You'll need to make sure you don't fall into the trap of becoming too much of a pushy salesperson – but for the right candidate this is a good career with excellent prospects. You could earn potentially uncapped amounts, but a reasonable amount could be around $90,000 a year depending on the specifics of the job. This job might require extensive travel. There are tons of opportunities for salespeople in your local area – a good way to get into it is to ask around and show yourself to be motivated and driven to potential employers. For the right sales role, very limited training is needed so you can start earning straight away.
7. Software Developer
Software development is a highly rewarding career that you can surprisingly get into without a costly university degree. That means you can start earning straight away – building a healthy financial life for yourself rather than racking than racking up tons of debt just to complete your education.
As a software development, you'll be responsible for programming and coding specific applications and software, normally as part of a busy team. You'll need to have extensive knowledge of at least one programming language, with more as a benefit. While you won't need a degree, you will need a background in either programming or 3d design. The good news is that many successful software developers are self-taught – there are actually tons of useful coding courses available online for free. While good coding skills will be needed, many people with a keen interest in programming already have the right skillset to be successful in software development straight out of university. For a similar candidate, you could have the right background to get going straight away.
Duties include liasing with a large team and reporting to a manager while carrying out your programming duties. You'll need to be good at troubleshooting and fixing problems, as well as keeping records of your work. You'll need to plan out specifics and potential liase with clients, as well as working towards specific goals as part of a team. That means you'll also have to be a good communicator.
This is a growth industry which means it's a good one to get into for those looking for good future career prospects. The right candidate could earn $90k a year depending on location and the specific project you get involved in. You might need to work to tight deadlines and therefore a bit of overtime could sometimes be necessary, but this is normally a 9-5 weekday role. Coding Dojo has loads more info for someone looking to get into software development.
As an actuary, you'll be responsible for analyzing financial risks in your business. This is another career you can get into without an expensive and time-consuming college degree.
As an actuary, your duties will include analyzing statistical data that's relevant for your business – normally an insurer or something similar. You'll need to run tests and work with computer modelling software to evaluate the risks associated with your business as well as preparing presentations and reports to other colleagues and associated stakeholders. You'll need to keep up-to-date with any changes or financial events that could affect your industry. You'll normally be looking after a specific area of insurance and will be responsible for evaluating and accounting for the risk of certain clients or products.
This is another professional career that puts you alongside those who went to university – so a professional manner is required along with extensive training. Career prospects are good, and you could earn up to $90,000 relatively easily depending on location. This is normally a 9-5 weekday role. Be an Actuary has more information on becoming an actuary
9. Supply Chain Manager
As a supply chain manager, you'll be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of a busy supply chain, normally for a factory or other production plant. You can get into this career without a university degree.
Duties for a supply chain manager include overseeing a busy supply chain and being responsibly for it's efficiency at all times. You'll need to regularly review and update practices and make sure your chain meets strict regulations and codes for your area. You'll liase with other logistics managers and oversee distribution. You'll need to be a good communicator who can sometimes work in a busy environment. You'll need to keep detailed records and make sure your facility is working to safety standards at all times. You'll also be responsible for evaluating both material and equipment costs as well as trying to keep things working at a profitable level. You'll need to oversee regular equipment and machinery checks along with negotiating with suppliers.
For the right candidate in the right location, you could earn around $90,000 a year. Some training will be needed. You might be required to work busy shift patterns including nights and weekends. Study.com has more for those wanting to become a supply chain manager.
10. Systems Administrator
Systems administration is another growing industry that has good career prospects for someone who didn't go to university. That means you can start earning much sooner than someone who chose to go to college – putting you in an even better financial position. You could get on the property ladder or be a few promotions into your new role while others your age are still at college getting further into debt.
As a systems administrator, you'll be responsible for a network of computers. This will either be for a single office site or a number of different sites. The business you work for will not necessarily be computer-orientated, but will need computers to carry out their duties – it'll be your responsibility to look after the technical side of things and make sure their computer network is efficient and safe at all times.
You'll need to perform regular checks of both software and hardware as well as carry out any maintenance and fixes when necessary. You may be called upon to fix systems in certain situations, or to advise others how to use their computers more productively or safely. You'll need to keep up to date with all security issues and oversee the security of the network as well as updating relevant software. Helping less tech-savvy users with their computers can also require a level of patience. You may need to source new parts and install them yourself, as well as giving talks on computer safety practices.
This is normally a 9-5 role although some overtime might be needed. You will normally be working in a pleasant office environment. Career prospects are good, and you could earn around $90,000 a year. There should be plenty of demand for someone with the right computer skills in your area. You can get into this simply by being a tech expert and without a strong academic background.
11. Quality Insurance Inspector
As a quality insurance inspector, you'll be responsible for overseeing a production line and ensuring the consistent quality of a range of products. This is another career you can get into without an expensive college degree.
Duties will all be based around quality control and making sure the products you're responsible for meet specific requirements. You'll oversee a range of tests and will have a number of different tools to carry out your duties. You'll be responsible for performing regular checks and making or recommending adjustments to productions processes when necessary. Depending on the facility, this could be in a stressful industrial environment. You'll need to work in a safe and efficient manner and will have to have good attention to detail. You'll also need to keep detailed and extensive records.
This job could require nights or weekend shift work. However, pay can be good – you could earn up to $90,000 a year. Sokanu has a lot more information on getting into this industry.
12. Chemical Process Operator
As a chemical process inspector, many of your duties will be similar to those of a quality control inspector but they'll be associated with chemical production rather than traditional products. This means you'll also have to have a good attention to detail but could be working in a different type of facility with a different tool set and range of production to oversee. It's another career you can get into without a university education.
You'll be responsible for overseeing a chemical production line and carrying out specific tests to make sure correct chemical levels and balances are kept to at all times. You'll have a range of extensive testing equipment and will need to liase with production staff and make changes based on your findings. You'll have to make routine checks and maintenance on equipment as well as ensuring the safe production of chemicals at all time. This role has a bit more responsibility than someone who only oversees quality control as you'll have the ability to make changes to production as and when necessary.
It's a responsible role that requires someone who's willing to work in a potentially dangerous industrial facility. You may have to work nights and weekends. Pay could be around $90,000 a year in certain locations.
13. Ship Pilot
As a ship pilot, you'll be responsible for overseeing or piloting a large vessel through waterways. You'll normally be working on cargo delivery, and you can do this without a university education – but you will need extensive training.
Duties include carrying out full equipment checks and overseeing safety drills, evaluating weather conditions and planning routes. You may be responsible for steering the ship and overseeing its safe transit through busy shipping routes and in other locations. Some local knowledge of tides, weather and geography could be useful. You'll need to work to strict safety controls and be an excellent communicator who can work in a busy and demanding role. You'll need to manage and work alongside a team of crew and may have to manage situations as and when they arise. This is a good role for someone who can think on their feet.
You'll be required to work away from home and travel extensively. It's a demanding role but one that could pay around $90,000 and has good career prospects. Marine Insight has more on becoming a pilot.
14. Food Stall Owner
This one is a little different as it's looking more into something you can start as your own business rather than a job someone is going to give you. The good news is that it's a growth area with huge potential earnings – and it's something you can do without a university education.
Popularity of food stalls and vans is growing exponentially. It's no longer something that's left to old burger vans on industrial complexes. You can now find a wide range of food options in busy and thriving city locations that cater for professionals and students alike. If you're passionate about food – it's actually a reasonably easy business to start up that could see you setting yourself up financially for years to come. However, this isn't a job someone just gives you – you've got to do it all for yourself. Here's how to get started….
Firstly, you need a good idea. Try thinking outside the box and coming up with something with mass appeal but also originality. It could be a vegan smoothie stand or an organic noodle stall. There are countless opportunities. You'll need to be good at cooking/preparing or know someone who is. Finding a stall spot can be difficult in busy locations, but keep trying. You might want to stay in one location or travel to other events (like festivals or food fayres). Make sure you've got all the licenses and permissions you need for your local area.
This is a lifestyle business that requires someone who's passionate and hardworking – but who also has some experience or skill in food preparation and serving. The great thing about this “career” is that you can really build a life for yourself. Some food stall owners only work weekends and give themselves tons of time off, while others take things to the next level and end up operating a fleet of vans – making even more money.
Obviously, you're going to be your own boss and you'll need to stump up a bit of money up-front. This could be as little as $5,000. There could be financing options from banks or other similar institutions. This is a higher risk prospect than simply “getting a job” – but one that could earn you way more than $90,000 a year in the long run. However, that's a reasonable estimate for someone who's willing to take the risk of being their own boss. Upcounsel has more on starting a food van, specifically in California.
Hopefully you've now seen how you don't need to go to university to get a good, well-paying career. One of these options could work for you. While university does have its merits – many are finding that they waste 4 years running up a load of debt, only to find themselves with a job that isn't as good as one they could have had if they skipped school altogether. If you choose one of these careers, by the time that four-year period is out – you could have already got yourself a couple of promotions, putting yourself in an even better financial position.
Don't forget, we've got a ton of other jobs you can look at in different pay ranges:
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What do you think? Are any of these jobs an option for you?