Mom might have told you that you need to go to college to get a good job, but moms are biased. College is not for everyone.
There are plenty of good jobs that don’t require you to go into $200,000 of debt for a four-year college degree. When looking at these jobs, just remember that salaries can vary, depending on the region of the country or seniority, and often both. Also, benefits beyond salary—particularly in the area of retirement—can be a huge incentive.
If you are looking for a solid career path that bypasses the university route, here are some professions you should consider:
Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers monitor and direct private and commercial air traffic. They are highly trained and skilled, but the job does not require a college degree. The Federal Aviation Administration, which employs practically all air traffic controllers, requires them to enroll in a FAA-approved education program and pass entrance tests. The road to becoming a fully qualified air traffic controller can take several years, but this is a profession with opportunities. The median salary is more than $100,000 a year.
Many construction jobs are high-paying. Elevator mechanic jobs are lucrative and stable. There is a lot of training involved, however, and new mechanics have to start in an apprenticeship program. Still, with a mean income of more than $60,000 a year, this is one gig that can take you higher.
If you’re willing to fly all over creation, deal with rowdy passengers and keep a smile on your face throughout, you can earn a good living as a flight attendant. Salaries are determined less by region of the county or even particular airline than by how many years you’ve put in. For those with less than six months experience, the median salary is $16,200, according to the Association of Flight Attendants. By year 15, flight attendants at Southwest are pulling in more than $55,000 a year.
Salaries for firefighters can run the gamut, with small cities half that of the large. But take a place like Yonkers, N.Y., where a firefighter's starting salary is in the neighborhood of $50,000. A chief can make three times that. Salaries for non-officer firefighters with seniority run to about $90,000, while lieutenants and captains make in the low six figures. The job of a firefighter, like many others that do not require college degrees, keeps on giving. In Yonkers, for example, retirement compensation is determined by your last year's salary—not the average of your last three, as can be the case in other cities. This means that a firefighter who puts in a good deal of overtime over a relatively short portion of their career has a chance to be quite comfortable in retirement.