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Whats the best job career to go into without going to college?

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Brenn M.’s Answer

Hi Mason.

This is a great question and one that I'm sure many students have when looking at the expense of college and the job market that follows graduation.

Across the U.S. right now there is a large absence of tradesmen, such as plumbers, electricians, welders, contractors, and the everyday "fix-it" person. The current stats, according to the U.S. Labor Bureau, show that those working in these areas in 2019 saw their annual income increase by 20% and that their annual income was more than $7,000 above the national median income. (see link below)

This means that if your goal is to learn a trade and work hard, there is a big opening for that ideology and for those who want to do the same. Trade school training can start as low as $10,000 based on the area you live in and the trade training available there. Contact your local Community College, as they often have the information for trade training in your area.

Good luck with your endeavors and feel free to reach out again.


Brenn M. recommends the following next steps:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good place to look at what different degrees are doing.

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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Mason,

There are plenty of good jobs that you can get without having a college degree. Your challenge would be having the right skills and then getting the right experience to help you get that job. You should start with thinking about - what is a good job to you? Think about all the jobs even if they are jobs that are associated with college degrees. Think about the skills and talents that you have now. What are jobs that use those skills and talents? One of the most important things about being able to get and do a good job is that you need to be passionate about it. And passion comes from doing what you love and what you would do if you weren't paid to do it.


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Thomas’s Answer

"Top 20 Highest Paying Careers Without A Degree

Transportation & Distribution Manager
Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $94,730
Job Growth: 6%

In this career, you will plan, direct, and coordinate a variety of activities related to the transportation, distribution, and storage of various materials and products. Basically, you’ll be in charge of making sure things get to where they need to go. This career offers a strong median salary, and the job growth is right around the national average. To work in this management position, you only need a high-school-level education. However, you also need at least five years of experience in the industry, but no on-the-job training.

Power Plant Operators
Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $83,020
Job Growth: -6%

These experienced professionals plan and direct the operations of a power plant, ensuring the plant not only produces power, but gets power to the appropriate locations and users. The career has a high median salary, but the obvious negative is the job reduction. Between 2018 and 2028, this career is expected to drop by 6%, meaning there will be fewer jobs. However, with only a high school degree and at least five years of experience, you could land one of these highest paying jobs without a degree.

Commercial Pilot
Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $82,240
Job Growth: 8%

To pilot a plane for an airline, you will need a college degree. However, if you want to work as a commercial pilot, you can earn a high salary with only a high school degree and a commercial pilot’s license, which usually takes about six to eight weeks to complete. The job outlook for commercial pilots is also strong, as the career is expected to grow by 8%, resulting in almost 44,000 jobs by 2026. The growth in demand for commercial pilots will come from many corners, including a need for ambulance flights.

Elevator Technician
Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $79,780
Job Growth: 10%

Considering the significant, under-appreciated risks involved in elevators (they do, after all, lift people hundreds of feet into the air!), the demand for top-quality elevator installers and repairers is high. Even without a college education, these professionals are well paid, and there will be strong growth thanks to an increase in multi-use facilities. To become one, you need an understanding of math and mechanics. Most people will work as an apprentice for at least four years. Even after you are hired as a full-fledged technician, constant training and development will be required.

Fire-Fighting Supervisors
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $76,330
Job Growth: 5%

Firefighters are heroes, but even they need someone to manage and direct their concerted efforts. As a first-line supervisor, you direct fire fighting and fire prevention, increasing the overall safety of your community. With an above-average income and consistent job growth, this is an appealing opportunity for anyone with the right experience and training. You will need some experience, although less than five years is generally required. You will also need moderate on-the-job training to be hired in this profession.

Claims Adjustors
Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $65,670
Job Growth: -4%

These professionals are responsible for investigating insurance claims. Insurance fraud, if left unchecked, could ruin many insurance companies, so they hire people to investigate claims and interview people involved in the insurance situation. Companies prefer to hire people with investigative experience, which means former police officers and detectives are commonly employed in this field. If you work in the automotive-claims sector, you may need a post-secondary degree. If you have a degree, you may have an advantage, but people with experience in investigation are in high demand for claims adjustors.

Theater Makeup Artist
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $64,250
Job Growth: 7%

If you have dreamed about working in theater and entertainment, but don’t think acting or directing is right for you, perhaps a career as a makeup artist would fit your goals. This career offers a strong income (actually has a better median income than actors), but you will need experience and training that helps you apply makeup to performers that is specific to the situation, setting, or the role. The growth for this career is strong, and you will only need a non-degree award. You also won’t need previous training or experience, making this the perfect entry-level option in our list of the highest paying jobs without a degree.

Aircraft Mechanic
Education: Certificate
Median Income: $62,920
Job Growth: 3%

Just like our cars, aircrafts need routine maintenance and regular repairs, and these tasks fall on the shoulders of aircraft mechanics, one of the jobs that don’t require a degree. The income is excellent, but the job growth is only 3%, slightly lower than the national average of 5%. This career requires a certificate, so some post-secondary education is required. You will likely need to complete a certificate that is recognized by the FAA to work in many of the available jobs.

Fire Inspectors
Education: Certificate
Median Income: $60,200
Job Growth: 8%

These experienced professionals are like crime-scene detectives for fires; they try to determine what happened and, if required, who was responsible. Despite a higher income, these professionals do not need a degree, although experience in the field is required. You will need experience first as a fire fighter. Then you will need to complete some moderate on-the-job training. Some specific positions will require a degree, but there are many positions that can be had without a four-year college education.

Electronics Installation & Repairers
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $57,890
Job Growth: -1%

If you are interested in electrical equipment, but don’t want to spend the time and money on a major degree, then you could find work as an installer or repairer of electronics. The pay is strong, but unfortunately the career is expected to shrink by 1%, driven largely by advancement in electronics that require less maintenance. To work in this career, you only need a non-degree award. However, employers often prefer job candidates who have formal education in electronics. Hands-on training and some work experience is critical so that your salary level qualifies this career as one of the highest paying jobs without a degree.

Court Reporter
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $57,150
Job Growth: 7%

To ensure the accuracy of reviews of court procedures, court reporters type word-for-word transcripts of a trial or legal proceeding. They may also be asked to read back information by judges, and could even need to transcribe television or audio evidence. The job requires some training and education, but not a four-year degree. This allows people to earn a sizable income without having the cost of a large college education. Some schools offer training in different types of transcriptions, such as stenography. Depending on the program, however, it can take up to five years to complete this training.

Telecomm Industry Technician
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $56,100
Job Growth: -6%

The telecommunications industry needs intelligent, knowledgable professionals to install, maintain, and repair equipment, and while this is a high-tech position, you don’t necessarily need a high-cost degree. With only a non-degree award or certificate, you’ll have many of the required skills to excel in one of these high paying jobs no degree. One of the benefits of this job is the pay, but there is a downside, as the position is expected to decline by 6% between 2018 and 2028. Also, some employers may prefer candidates with an associate’s degree, although there is work available for people with less education.

Merchant Marine
Education: Training Programs
Median Income: $54,400
Job Growth: -2%

Waterborne transportation is still an important way to move people and cargo all over the country. This calls for highly-trained (and often well-paid) individuals who can ensure the safe passage of everyone and everything on board. These professionals need to complete specific training, usually from a U.S. Coast Guard-approved program. However, formal education is rarely required. Some may also choose to enhance their careers by completing a bachelor’s degree at a merchant marine academy.

Wind Turbine Technician
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $54,370
Job Growth: 57%

As America and the world look to diversify their energy options, one of the sources that could become more frequent is wind energy. This is highlighted by the fact that wind energy technicians are expected to see a job growth of roughly 57%! These professionals will need to understand how to inspect, repair, and maintain wind turbines, and will need to be familiar with a variety of systems, including hydraulics, electronics, and mechanics. Most wind turbine technicians, also known as “windtechs” will attend a technical school and complete certificates that focus on the wind energy industry.

Computer Support Specialist
Education: Varies (Computer-related classes or training required)
Median Income: $53,470
Job Growth: 10%

Even as computers and mobile devices are becoming more common and more intuitive, there is still a high demand for people who can provide assistance to users. Although many in this position will have a four-year degree, people with some postsecondary classes are eligible for numerous positions. The growth for this career field, which is expected to be 10%, will be driven by a variety of factors, including more companies using complex systems and networks to assist in their operations.

Tool & Die Maker
Education: Some postsecondary courses
Median Income: $44,950
Job Growth: 1%

These are the professionals who set up and operate machine tools that create precise metal parts. Extreme accuracy and precision is essential in this career, which brings a solid median salary. To work in this career, most people will only need a high school diploma. Typically, these people are trained on the job, although learning in a community college or vocational school may be required. Some positions may require as much as two years worth of education, although complete degrees (associate’s or bachelor’s) are rarely required.

Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $49,620
Job Growth: 5%

Working in dangerous conditions, firefighters need to be ready at a moments notice to protect lives and property. Because they are so important to our society as a whole, firefighters are well paid, with the top 10% earning over $88,000 annually. To be a firefighter, you don’t need a four-year bachelor’s degree. You will, however, need to complete some form of training and education so you are well prepared for the challenges of this career. A medical exam and drug screening are usually mandatory, and you will need to complete regular fitness tests to continue in this field. A few months of training at fire academies is usually enough to qualify someone for this position making it an excellent option for one of the highest paying jobs without a degree requirement.

HVAC & Refrigeration Technicians
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $47,610
Job Growth: 13%

Heating and air conditioning systems require highly specialized experts, but despite the complexities, this is one of the highest paying jobs without a degree. One of the top advantages to this career is the potential growth, which is expected to be around 13%. This growth will be fueled by a new emphasis on energy efficiency that will drive retrofitting, upgrading, and replacement of old systems. To become an HVAC professional, which is one of the many jobs that don’t require a degree, you will need to complete on-the-job training, perhaps in the form of an apprenticeship. No previous experience on the job is required, but you will need long-term on the job training as well as some certificates and licenses.

Broadcast & Sound Technicians
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $43,660
Job Growth: 8%

When you listen to a radio broadcast or watch a television news program, many people have contributed to the final product; far more than just the voices we hear. Sound engineers set up and operate the sound equipment, ensuring the program is heard by an audience. The growth in this career will come from a variety of areas, including the use of audio equipment by companies and schools. Some careers in this field may require an associate’s degree, but most can be landed with a non-degree award. Hands-on experience with the equipment is also required, so internships and other experiences may be necessary.

Education: Some classes but no degree required
Median Income: $40,240
Job Growth: -4%

With only a minimal amount of classes and no previous experience, you can land this well-paying job. As a bookkeeper, you will produce financial records, organize documents, and check for financial accuracy. The education and experience requirement is minimal, but the career will see a decline in available positions, due to software that helps reduce the amount of people required to keep accurate books. Basic math and computer skills are required, which can be learned in a few postsecondary classes. Some job candidates, assuming they have the right skills, can actually be hired with only a high school degree."


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Simeon’s Answer

There are many successful paths outside of college. I'd recommend looking at some of the trade jobs like plumbing, electrician, HVAC tech, or welder. You could also consider doing work in the military depending on what your interests are.

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Rosemarie’s Answer

Hello Mason, in choosing any Career Path you should explore things that interest you or that you want to gain experience so that you can be productive in that field. There are various ways for individuals who don't attend College to obtain a Career such as: vocational training programs, on the job paid training, working in retail, restaurant, hospital, hotels, airports etc . You just need to figure out if any of these options or others are for you.

Rosemarie recommends the following next steps:

You can start by searching if there are any community based organizations in your area that provide career search assistance. This can lead to resume/cover letter assistance, conducting an assessment to determine skills and knowledge, mock interview etc.
You should evaluate yourself and make a list of the things you enjoy (passion for) or would like to do.
Make a list of possible jobs that match with these things and further research those options to see how they can be achieved.