August 8, 2012

5 Great-Paying Careers Without a Degree


As of 2010, plenty of U.S. residents between the ages of 25 and 34 had a college education of some sort. About 45% had completed an associate’s degree or had education beyond this level. But what about the 19% with some college courses but no degree, or the 25% who still only had a high school diploma?

The thought these days is that you absolutely have to have a bachelor’s degree to get into a career field where you’ll earn halfway decent money, but this is actually not the case at all. In fact, there are plenty of career options where you can combine a high school diploma and experience or on-the-job training to launch a career in a potentially lucrative field.

"Many of the freelance positions I've scored were open to college graduates with a journalism degree only. I got around it by being consistent, professional, and having super referrals. I would say that any media or publishing opportunity is really open to the best candidate -- with or without a degree," shares Linsey Knerl, a freelance writer and partner at Knerl Family Media.

If entrepreneurship or freelancing doesn't interest you, check out these 5 great-paying career options:

  1. Manager
    Managerial positions in the business world are often given to those with great experience, rather than a related degree. If you’ve spent your entire high-school career working in sales for a department or fashion store, then setting your sights on a management position might be for you.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, managers make a median salary of $96,450 per year, and they normally have between one and five years of work experience before landing a management position. If you’re going to be a manager, you need good people skills and you need to be sharp, since management openings are often highly competitive.

  2. Police or Detective Supervisor
    The first-line police and detective supervisors in law enforcement usually have a few years of experience as well as some on-the-job training. This is to be expected, since many policemen attend a police academy before they even start patrolling the streets. The median salary for supervisors in 2010 was $78,260. If you have your eyes set on a job in law enforcement, show that you can excel at your job and can manage others to land a career as a first-line police supervisor.

  3. Fashion Designer
    Fashion designers normally begin as interns of some sort and land potentially lucrative careers with long-term training on the job. To become a fashion designer, you need basic art skills and lots of creativity, as well as dedication to your job, since designers have to work long and hard to become even remotely rich or famous. Designers also tend to make mock-ups of their own clothes, so brush up on your sewing skills for this profession. The median salary for a fashion designer in 2010 was $64,530.

  4. Administrative Services Manager
    Administrative services managers are extremely organized, and they work with people all the time. These managers basically direct and coordinate the administrative services for large organizations, and they might distribute mail, plan meetings, work with facilities maintenance, keep records, and more. Most of them have one to five years of job experience as administrators before landing a management position. The median pay in 2010 for these workers was about $77,890 per year.

  5. Business Operations Specialist
    Business operations specialists are responsible for gathering and analyzing data about a business’s performance and basic operations, maintaining good working conditions and a safe facility, and generally ensure that a business is running according to its policies. Like the administrative services manager, a business operations specialist really just needs experience and organization to land this position. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the demand for business operations specialists is going to increase dramatically in the next few years, and that these individuals make a median salary of $62,450 per year.

As you can see, there are actually some great career options out there that don’t require a degree at all. If you have a high school education, a great work ethic, and experience in your field, you can make a great living without going to college at all. The best thing you can do to land experienced-based jobs like these is to choose your entry level job wisely, work hard and just be good at what you do.

To be sure, data shows that on average, the higher an individual's education, the higher their resulting lifetime earnings.

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Comments about 5 Great-Paying Careers Without a Degree

  • Nomadic Samuel
    on October 3, 2012 8:42 PM said:

    Some great suggestions here! I think many young adults are questioning the value of a degree when some many graduates these days aren't able to get a job. For someone who is creative, something such as becoming a Fashion Designer would be an excellent choice.

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