One of the big problems with university education is that it's so expensive. Not only does it set you up with debt that could take decades to pay off – you actually start earning real money much later than those who decided to get a job straight out of high-school or otherwise skip further education. You might have been lead to believe that you can only get a worthwhile career with a strong academic background – but that simply isn't the case these days. There are simply tons of great careers with good pay-scales and potential promotion prospects further down the line that don't need a costly university education. We're going to look at some jobs that pay around $60k a year so you can start earning and contributing to society as quickly as possible.
When you get a good career without going to university – you start earning straight away. This gives you a good head-start on your peers who decided to waste 4 years at college. Yes, you can get good, well-paying jobs after a university degree – but you aren't guaranteed to. In fact, with so many people now going to university, many post-college careers don't pay as much as you might think. If you starting earning straight away instead of going to college, you could have had a couple of promotions by the time that four year period is out, earning you even more. You could have even started paying into a pension or investment fund and growing your prospects rather than racking up even more debt like students do.
Another benefit of getting a good non-degree career is that many of them are located in cheaper parts of the country. Most universities and graduate jobs are located in bigger cities and often more expensive places to live. Many vocations that don't require a degree not only pay well, but can also be located in cheaper parts of the country – meaning your salary goes even further towards giving you a higher quality of life. You could get your dream house while others haven't even graduated yet.
1. Dental Assistant
While many dental hygienists do have college qualifications, there are routes into the profession without a 4-year bachelor's degree. You can also start as a dental assistant and potentially complete work-based courses to improve your qualifications and earning potential.
As a dental assistant your main duties will be in assist the main dentist or hygienist in their routine tasks. These will include taking notes and keeping stock of equipment. You will need to work in a safe and hygienic manner at all times, and will need to be good with patients. You may be required to help with certain procedures.
You can start work as a dental assistant straight out of school but will be required to pass certain exams as you work. It's a good option for those who want to start earning while they learn instead of taking time out to complete their education.
As a more experienced dental assistant who has completed some education in the role, your opportunities will extend and could lead to you becoming a dental hygienist. The main role of a hygienist is to look after the health of a persons teeth and you will be responsible for discussing treatment with patients and performing mostly cleaning tasks on their teeth.
While pay for a dental assistant can start lower, in some areas a qualified one could earn around $60k a year. Your prospects as a qualified hygienist will also increase and you could expect to earn a similar amount as a minimum. You can get a job as an assistant at your local dentists or by asking around in the local area. All Allied Health Schools also provides plenty of information for people looking to get into dentistry as a profession.
2. Criminal Investigator
As a criminal investigator you will be involved in the criminal world, either investigating crimes for private individuals as a private investigator, helping law firms gather evidence for a trial or even assisting the regular police force. As a criminal investigator, your duties will include investigating criminal acts including homicides and other violent crimes as well as burglaries and fraud.
You will sometimes be required to follow suspects covertly or undercover. You may need to use forensics to gather evidence. You'll be required to keep detailed records of all interactions and activities, bag evidence securely and work to other strict protocols. This work is obviously only suitable for someone who is willing to put themselves in sometimes dangerous situations and who is willing to work on violent crimes. However, it could be a great role for someone who is interested in crime or law enforcement, and could lead to moving into law enforcement further down the line.
Your duties as a criminal investigator could also include presenting evidence in court and co-ordinating with other crime investigators including the police force.
The average salary for a regular criminal investigator is around $60,000 a year. This can increase with overtime and if you work for certain law firms or start your own practice. It also has great career prospects for those looking to move into law enforcement or even as a specialist legal investigator. Study.com has some tips for those looking to move into criminal investigating.
3. Commercial Pilot
This might seem like a relatively high-end career that would need a strong academic background, but you can actually get into commercial piloting without a 4-year university degree. You will obviously need a number of relevant piloting qualifications, but you can actually start as a commercial pilot straight out of high-school assuming you've got a strong background and plenty of experience flying.
You'll initially start as a trainee and will have to complete a number of hours in the sky as well as some exams and other tests. You won't captain your own plane for a while, but you will start to pick up cockpit experience quite quickly. While you won't need a degree, you will need to have been good in school and have a good grounding in a number of subjects – especially math.
Duties as a commercial pilot include performing routine checks of the aircraft and equipment before every flight, planning routes and checking weather conditions, and checking fuel and weight limits regularly. You will also need to liase with other cabin crew and passengers, as well as ground crews and air-traffic controllers. You will need to have full understanding and extensive training on all equipment including flight radios.
This is a desirable job that comes with a lot of responsibility. It'll only suit someone who is professional and willing to travel extensive amounts and be aware from home regularly.
Pay for a new commercial pilot can start at around $60,000 a year. This will often be for lower-budget airlines, but career prospects for a fully-trained and experienced pilot are good. You will have the potential to move to better-paying positions and captain your own flights, where you will earn a lot more. Pilot Career News has more information on how to become a commercial pilot.
4. Gaming Manager
As a gaming manager, you will be working in a casino and will be tasked with ensuring the casino floor runs smoothly and that customers to the casino have an enjoyable and safe experience. It's another great career you can get into with no university education and will only require a small amount of on the job training.
Duties as a gaming manager include interviewing, hiring and managing other casino employees as well as many customer facing responsibilities. You will need to be a good people person who can deal with issues as and when they happen, both with other staff and casino guests. You will have a full grasp of how the casino works and will be required to explain or enforce rules where necessary.
As a gaming manager, you will be responsible for a business with a large cash turnover. You will need to make sure the money is deposited safely and regularly. It's a good role for someone who enjoys a fast-moving workplace and is good at providing a great customer experience in a professional manner. You may be required to work at any time of the week or day, including weekends and nights.
Many casinos train up staff to become gaming managers from within, so you can get into the role simply by applying for jobs at local casinos. Pay for a gaming manager can be around $60,000 a year – but this has the potential to increase with experience. Learn.org has more on becoming a casino manager.
5. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
Becoming a nuclear power reactor operator is another great role that you can get into without a costly university degree. Duties for power reactor operators are based around ensuring the nuclear reactor operates safely and efficiently at all times.
Your duties as a nuclear power reactor operator include conducting regular inspections of all equipment, responding to incidents as and when they happen as well as adjusting gauges when necessary. You will be responsible for making sure the reactor operates safely at all times. You'll need to be a good at working to strict safety and procedural guidelines as well as being a good communicator who can work in a busy team. As well as monitoring a number of different indicators and being responsible for making changes to equipment, you'll also need to make detailed records and work in an efficient manner.
This is a job with a lot of responsibility and something that is only appropriate for those who are willing to work in an industrial environment. You may also have to work irregular shift patterns or nights as nuclear reactors need 24-hour care.
Pay for a nuclear power reactor operator is around $60,000 a year, this can grow to an average of around $77,000 a year. You will learn on the job, normally under strict supervision before you are given more responsibility. There is more information on how to become a nuclear power reactor operator at MyFuture.com.
6. Elevator Installer and Repairer
If you're looking for another worthwhile hands-on career that you can get without an expensive college education, you might find becoming an elevator installer and repairer is the job for you. Elevator repairers are always in demand and this looks set to continue, giving good career prospects and potential earnings. As with all these jobs that don't require a degree, you can start earning quickly and put yourself in a healthy financial position while those at university are still not earning and are racking up more debt.
As an elevator installer and repairer you'll be required to interpret blueprints and evaluate the layout of systems before carrying out routine maintenance and repairs. You'll need to be fully trained in the use of specific equipment and will become an experienced in a number of different elevator systems. You'll need to assemble elevator cars prior to installation as well as performing wiring work and other duties to assist the installation. You'll also need to test both new and existing elevator systems and replace faulty components as and when necessary. You'll also be required to keep detailed records of the services you execute.
As already mentioned, elevator repair is a job that's in constant demand and this demand looks set to continue. You can start earning around $60,000 relatively easily as an elevator installer and repairer. It's a good job for someone who enjoys a technical role and enjoys fixing and installing large mechanical objects. It is sometimes stressful work and can often be physically demanding. One positive of the role is that it's generally only a 9-5 job.
Boilermakers construct, maintain, repair and assemble steam boilers. You will be responsible for following blueprints and working in a safe manner at all times. You'll need to be proficient with a wide-range of heavy tools and machinery. You may also be required to inspect, repair and clean existing systems. You'll be responsible for fitting valves and control mechanisms along with ensuring existing boilers are working at a safe level.
Pay for a boilermaker is around $60k a year. You can do this job with some apprentice training and without the need for an expensive degree. This means you can start earning while you learn, putting you in a better financial position than those who decided to go to university. MyPlan has more information for those looking to become a boilermaker.
8. Video Game Designer
This might seem like a dream job for some – but it's also surprisingly one you can do without a university education. You will need a strong background in computers and coding – but this is something that can actually be self taught rather than learned at university. There are tons of online design or coding courses – many of them are free and could give you the required background in skills to become a video game designer.
Actual video game design work probably isn't as exciting as you might imagine – but it's a growing industry with brilliant potential career prospects. It also gets you into a role that has real job satisfaction when you complete and release a finished product, even if the day-to-day work isn't quite what you might imagine.
As a video game designer you will be excellent with computers and have a strong background in a number of different programming languages. You'll often be working as part of a team and will normally be responsible for one small aspect of designing or writing a particular piece of software. Most big (or even small) games have hundreds of people working on them at any one time. It'll be important that you work well in a team and are a good communicator. You'll often be spending long days in front of a computer screen.
You might specialze in coding the back-end of the game or 3d design work which will involve creating what gamers see and use when they play.
This is a great role for someone who wants to get into the video game industry and is normally a 9-5 role. You may be required to work overtime to meet strict deadlines. The office environment will normally be pleasant, but you need to be willing to sit at a desk for long periods.
Pay for a video game designer can start at around $60k a year. This can increase greatly depending on experience. Sokanu has loads more information on how to become a video game designer.
9. Air Traffic Controller
Becoming an air traffic controller is a highly demanding role that has tons of responsibility but also a huge amount of job-satisfaction.
As an air traffic controller – your main duties will be based around ensuring commercial flights complete their journeys safely. You will need to have excellent communication skills and be fully trained in the use of a number of different pieces of equipment. While you can do this job without a university degree, you will obviously have to pass extensive on-the-job training before being responsible for your own flights.
Other duties will include regular weather checks and maintaining a safe and secure workplace environment. You will liase continuously with airline pilots along with other colleagues. You many be involved in high-pressured situations and other incidents where you'll need to think on your feet.
Air traffic controllers earn around $60,000 a year. It's a role that will suit certain people who enjoy responsibility and sometimes working in testing environments. You will need to be intelligent and a great communicator who can think on their feet. This job will probably require night shifts and weekend work. NATS has information on becoming a trainee air traffic controller, which you will need to do before becoming filly qualified.
10. Computer Hardware Engineer
While software engineers look after software, it should be reasonably clear that a computer hardware engineer's job is focussed on the installation and repair of computer hardware. This is a job that doesn't need any further education – many people already have the skills required for this role before they even leave high school, so it's a job you can get into relatively easily if you have relevant experience or an interest in computer hardware.
As a computer hardware engineer you will be responsible for making sure the hardware you're responsible is kept up to date and working at all times. You might work on a single site or travel to a number of different locations to carry out routine maintenance and repair. You'll need to liase with staff and other technicians to evaluate problems and plan out an effective solution. You may be required to purchase parts or order new equipment to replace things that have broken. You'll be responsible for repairing existing machinery and installing new systems, as well as carrying out extensive testing to make sure everything is working as it should be.
This is an ideal role for someone who enjoys computer hardware and fixing things. It is generally a role that only requires 9-5 weekday work, although some weekend or overtime hours might be required in specific circumstances. You'll need to be a good communicator and also someone who has a full and extensive knowledge of a wide-range of computer hardware. This is an industry that is still growing, so career prospects look good. You can expect to earn around $60,000 a year as a hardware engineer, although this could increase depending on experience.
As an actuary, you will evaluate risk for a business and evaluate the financial costs of uncertainty in certain business-orientated situations and outcomes. You will normally be employed in the insurance industry and will help design policies and determine how much people should be charged for different insurance plans depending on a number of other risk factors.
While you don't need a bachelor's degree, you will need to be intelligent, a fast thinker, and good with computers. You may specialize in different areas of insurance such as health, property or pensions. These will all have slightly different procedures and systems with a similar overall goal – to evaluate risk, plan for it, and place a value on insuring against it.
This is a reasonably high-powered role with a lot of financial responsibility. Getting into insurance could lead to a number of great career prospects, including supervisory or managerial roles. A newly qualified actuary could earn around $60k a year – but this has the potential to grow. You will also have the potential to earn bonuses if you meet targets or if the business does well. This is generally a 9-5 role with good benefits.
12. Pharmaceutical Sales
As a salesperson in the pharmaceutical industry, you will be responsible for selling products on behalf of your employer. As with many sales roles, it's a job you can get into without a formal university degree – it also has excellent career prospects and potentially uncapped earnings.
You'll be responsible for arranging and attending meetings with potential buyers. These will often be healthcare providers such as care centers, hospitals and doctors. They could also be retailers and wholesalers. You will have to be an excellent and convincing communicator and someone who is always presentable and professional. You will need to effectively explaoin the benefits of your products and offer incentives and promotions to help make sales.
As with many sales roles, you will often be working to targets. It can be a stressful role as targets will normally need to be achieved. However, for the right sort of person – the potential is huge. You could start on around $60,000 a year but may earn loads more with commission. Some of the best salespeople start out in similar roles and go on to high-paying careers seeing them earn hundreds of thousands a year. You'll need to be a driven and determined salesperson who is willing to go out and achieve, rather than simply site back and ear. This is normally a 9-5 weekday role, but may require extensive travel to different locations.
13. Executive Chef
An executive chef is more than just being a “cook”. You'll often be working in demanding environments and creating menus from scratch to help your employer (normally a restaurant) succeed. Chefs rarely go to university, and while catering college is a normal route into becoming an executive chef – most of the learning is done on the job in the kitchen rather than in a classroom. There are also many successful self-taught chefs who skipped college or formal chef education altogether. Even if you do decide to get some chef qualifications, they are normally quick and easy to complete and can be done alongside work.
As an executive chef, you'll need to be great at not only cooking – but also coming up with dishes that meet the needs of your employer and your guests. You'll constantly be adapting and learning from what works and what doesn't as you fine-tune your menu down the line. You'll need to be an excellent communicator who can motivate a busy team and keep order in the kitchen. A busy restaurant kitchen is normally a stressful environment and as executive chef – you'll be in charge. This means you'll need to be able to work under pressure and think on your feet to solve as and when they happen.
You'll also be responsible for making sure food safety and hygiene protocols are adhered to at all times. This means training staff and putting in place strict controls to effectively manage kitchen safety. You'll also need to cost menu items, source ingredients and make sure everything is running at a profitable level. You may also be responsible for taking deliveries and other auxiliary duties.
As a chef, you will be required to work long, stressful hours – often at the weekend. Pay for an executive chef starts at around $60,000 a year but this can increase significantly depending on where you're employed. You could also get a bonus or profit share if your restaurant is successful, or move into running your own establishment. To get into the industry, you often have to start at the bottom – but there will be tons of demand for kitchen help practically everywhere. It's easy to simply go somewhere and ask for a job and start with little to no experience.
Becoming a plumber is a worthwhile trade that sets you up for a career of good potential earnings and gives you a set of skills that are useful for many situations. It's a great job that you can do without an expensive university education.
As a plumber, you will be responsible for the installation, repair and maintenance of plumbing systems. You could specialize in residential, commercial or industrial plumbing depending on your background, preference or the opportunities in your area. As a plumber, you'll need to follow safe working protocols and evaluate systems before carrying out repair work. You will need to source parts and will be responsible for making sure water systems are running to optimum levels.
While some plumbing work is to a regular 9-5 schedule, you may be on call at night (where overtime is available). As a plumber you'll need to be good with your hands and happy to work in sometimes stressful environments where you may get wet regularly. A plumber can earn around $60k a year depending on experience and location. You will also have the option to start your own firm and earn even more as you get more experience. The Plumber Training Center has more on how to become a plumber.
15. Court Reporter
As a court reporter – your main duties will obviously be based around sitting in court and recording proceedings. This will normally be on a computer or in some cases still a typewriter. You may also be required to make audio and/or visual recordings. It's a job you can get into and start earning without having to go to university. Some locations may require an associate degree.
You'll need to be able to sit and work for sometimes long hours in a professional manner. You will have to have excellent typing skills. You may sometimes have to sit in trials involving violent or disturbing crimes and witness all of the proceedings. This can sometimes be difficult work. You will need to be fully trained on different specialist equipment to help you carry out your job effectively. This job is generally only on weekdays during court hours.
You can earn an average of around $60k a year as a court reporter. Court Reporter EDU has lots more information on how to get into the role.
You might be surprised to see this on a list of well-paying jobs, as many people assume being a waiter or waitress is relatively low on a scale of good jobs. These people are mistaken – the reality is a good waiter can earn a lot more than you think – especially if you take tips into account. Waiting and food service jobs are good for those who want flexible hours to fit around their lifestyle or other commitments and who can potentially earn a lot without a college education.
Your duties as a waiter or waitress will involve serving food to customers and making sure they have a pleasant experience in your establishment (usually a restaurant). You'll need to have full knowledge of your menu and the ability to recommend items to customers and help them with their choices. You'll need to be a people person who's always presentable and sometimes has to work busy shifts while staying on their feet. You'll also need to make sure you work cleanly and safety at all times and might be responsible for reasonably large amounts of cash.
Starting pay for a waiter or waitress can be low. You can usually earn more depending on the tips you earn. Tips will vary from restaurant to restaurant. If you're looking for a role with guaranteed earnings, this might not be for you. In quiet periods you might earn next to nothing – but if you find the right restaurant with the right tip structure, you could easily earn over $60,000 a year. It also has relatively short hours with many shifts being only 5-6 hours a day. However, you will normally have to work weekends and evenings, especially if you want to work when you're likely to earn the most in tips.
Waiting and food service is a relatively easy job to get into. You don't need any formal qualifications whatsoever, or even much on the job training. If you have the right attitude and work ethic, you can succeed in this industry. Simply ask around in local restaurants and it's not too difficult to get your foot in the door.
Similarly to becoming a waiter or waitress, this is another role that you can actually earn more than $60k a year in if you include the tips you could earn.
Duties as a bartender will include taking stock, preparing drinks and generally managing your bar area and ensuring guests have a pleasant experience. This could either be in a restaurant, bar, pub or nightclub. You may be working in busy periods and on your feet for long periods of time. You will normally be working in the evening and at weekends. In the right bar, your earning potential could be huge including tips, but your starting pay might be low. This is an easy job to get into simply by asking around in the right places.
18. Nurse Educator
Demand for nurses is on the rise – and that means demand for nurse educators is growing too. As a nurse educator, you'll be responsible for training the future generation of nurses. While you can do this role without a degree if you've got a lot of nursing experience, this job does sometimes require a formal education (although sometimes just an associates degree).
Duties for a nurse educator include carrying out training to keep aware of new improvements in nursing, along with communicating effectively and teaching your students every facet of becoming a nurse. You will need to plan lessons and help students with practical experience along with helping them prepare for exams. You will need to be presentable and an excellent communicator who can explain things effectively.
As a nurse educator, you could expect to earn around $60,000 a year. This is a rewarding role that has a good work-life balance and generally allows you to work a regular working week with free weekends and plenty of paid vacation time.
19. Market Research Analyst
As a market research analyst, you'll be helping market research firms collect, collate and analyse a wide range of data. You'll need to be a people person who's good at talking to strangers as well as someone who has a good grasp of math. You may be required to travel to various locations to perform market research. You'll also need to be good at evaluating data and may need to use computers and other tools to help you to do so. You can get into this role, like many others – without a university degree. Pay for a market research analyst averages at around $60,000 a year. The Balance has loads more information on how to become a market research analyst.
Hopefully you've now seen that you don't need to go to university to get a good career with great potential earning prospects. Many of these jobs are easy to get into and good set you up with the career you've been looking for without any prior experience or educational background. With the potential to earn $60,000 a year straight out of high school, you have to ask yourself if university is really for you.
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What do you think? Are any of these jobs an option for you?