7 Great Careers, No Degree Required

  • Where 4-Year Degrees Aren't Required

    Mom might have told you that you needed to go to college to get a good job, but moms aren’t always right.  College is not for everyone and there are plenty of good jobs that don’t require $200,000 four-year college degrees. When looking at these jobs, just remember that salary averages can vary, depending on region of the country or seniority, often both. Also, benefits beyond salary—particularly in the area of retirement—can be a huge enticement. If you are looking for a solid career path that bypasses the university route, here are some professions you should consider. Photo Credit: Kevin H.
    Air Traffic Controller
  • 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 enrollment in a FAA-approved education program and entrance tests. The road to becoming a fully qualified air traffic controller can take several years, but this is a profession with a nice pay check. The median salary is more than $100,000 a year. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Elevator Mechanic
  • Elevator Mechanic

    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. Photo Credit: zenobia_joy
  • Firefighter

    Salaries for firefighters can run the gamut, with small cities paying half as much as the large. But take a place like Yonkers, N.Y., where a firefighter's starting salary is in the neighborhood of $50,000, no four-year degree required. 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 sets themselves in good stead for their leisure years.  Photo Credit: majorvols
  • Police

    There is money to be had in crime, at least the right side of it.  Best of all: you don’t need a college degree.  Police salaries vary widely according to municipality, but there are promotions to be had—though some require a college degree.  Yonkers, for its part, offers salaries for police similar to those of firemen, with detective officers earning healthy six-figure salaries.  For those who might harbor visions of themselves as an Erik Estrada type, the California Highway Patrol pays cadets between $50,000 and $60,000 while training, also offering free room and board and a mandatory seven hours overtime a month. From there, it’s a salary of $65,185, with 5% increases yearly until the top step base salary of $79,248 is reached.Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Real Estate Broker
  • Real Estate Broker

    The business has its risks in terms of cyclicality and compensation that is based on commission, which means that unless you hustle, you might not make one thin dime. But if you have the gift of the gab—and even the blarney—you don’t need to spend four years toiling away in college. In 2007 the median income of licensed real estate brokers was $65,200, according to The National Association of Realtors, which is based in Washington. That number has since dropped and many real estate brokers work in sideline professions, often in related fields like relocation. For example, 16% of real estate brokers work in commercial property management, according to the National Association of Realtors. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Nuclear Power Operator
  • Nuclear Power Operator

    If Homer Simpson is your idol, become a control room operator at a nuclear plant.  For control room operators at Indian Point in Buchanan, N.Y., a college degree is preferred, but by no means required, says Jerry Nappi, a spokesman, who added that they do look for a high school degree and some demonstration of technical ability.  At the first level, the base pay is $66,000.  With overtime, it bumps up to a likely $75,000, says Nappi.  After five years, you are making a cool $109,000.  If you are promoted from there to reactor operator, you can make $174,000.  A senior reactor operator averages $184,000. Hey, maybe Homer Simpson is not as dumb as he appears? Photo Credit: Kamil Porembinski
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