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Careers Without College: The Best-Paying Jobs Without a Degree

With student debt on the rise, it should come as no surprise that many people are turning to careers that don’t require a college education, whether by choice or out of necessity. In many cases, the financial returns on a job that requires a background in higher education are not worth the investment. For perspective, the average student debt of 2017 graduates is $28,650, according to Forbes.

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This is especially significant when you consider that the Social Security Administration reported a median annual income of $32,838 for U.S. workers in 2018, and the average interest rate for student loans is 5.8%. While a college degree was once considered a ticket to success, they are gaining a reputation as a high-stakes gamble. Luckily, there are many fulfilling, well-paying careers that do not require a degree. In fact, some of these jobs don’t even require prior experience.

Police and Detectives

In 2018, the median salary of police and detectives in the U.S. was $30.47 per hour and $63,380 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 5%, which is average. Educational requirements will depend on the individual agency and/or position, but a high school diploma is often a condition of employment. Further requirements often include:

  • U.S. citizenship;
  • A clear criminal history;
  • Graduation from a training academy;
  • Being a minimum of 21 years of age.

The duties of a police officer or detective will depend on their position and the needs of their agency. But day-to-day activities of the average police officer include roadway observation, emergency response, and filing of reports. To be successful in this occupation, some helpful personal qualities are empathy, perceptiveness, assertiveness, and excellent physical fitness.

Sales Representatives

In 2018, the median salary of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives in the U.S. was $29.64 per hour and $61,660 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 2%, which is low. In most cases, the minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma. Beyond that, training will be dependent upon the product and the company.

There is a wide variety of sales representatives, and therefore their duties can also vary widely. However, their duties usually involve interacting with potential customers either in-person or over the phone, with the goal of selling their product. Because of this, they are also expected to know the ins and outs of the product and company policy regarding it. People who perform well as sales representatives are usually extroverted, charismatic, and ambitious.

Electricians

In 2018, the median salary of electricians in the U.S. was $26.53 per hour and $55,190 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 10%, which is faster than average. The minimum educational requirement for this position is usually a high school diploma. However, there are many barriers to entry in the form of training and on-the-job experience. Depending on the state, vocational schooling may also be necessary. In the U.S., electricians are legally obligated to comply with state laws regarding licensure requirements.

The day-to-day duties of an electrician will depend on available work, level of licensing, and specialization. However, common duties include installation, inspection, and repair of electrical equipment. Personal qualities that will help an electrician thrive in their profession are stamina, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail.

Plumbers

In 2018, the median salary of plumbers in the U.S. was $25.92 per hour and $53,910 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 14%, which is much faster than average. The minimum educational requirement for this position is usually a high school diploma. However, as in the case of electricians, there are often training and apprenticeship requirements necessary to work as a plumber, depending on state requirements for licensure.

The day-to-day duties of a plumber will depend on available work and level of licensing. However, common duties include installation and repair of pipes, sinks, bathtubs, showers, dishwashers and water heaters. Personal qualities that will help a plumber thrive in their profession are stamina, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail.

Insurance Sales Agents

In 2018, the median salary of insurance sales agents in the U.S. was $24.33 per hour and $50,600 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 10% which is faster than average. The minimum educational requirement for this position is usually a high school diploma. Insurance agents are trained by their organization, and must acquire a license in their state. They may also choose to obtain certifications of specialization, which are not required.

The day-to-day duties of an insurance sales agent include upselling clients and renewing their policies, maintenance of records, and thorough review of both laws and company policy regarding relevant insurance policies. Personal qualities which can be a benefit to someone working as an insurance sales agent are charisma, patience, and good memory.

Firefighters

In 2018, the median salary of firefighters was $23.85 per hour and $49,620 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 5%, which is average. The minimum educational requirement for firefighters is usually a high school diploma. Training is usually conducted through fire academies and apprenticeships.

The day-to-day duties of a firefighter depend on their specialization; wildfire firefighters have very different duties and utilize different strategies than structural firefighters. However, some common duties include the operation of vehicles and hoses, support of emergency medical personnel, the rescue of survivors, and filing of reports. Personal qualities that will help a firefighter succeed in their line of duty include bravery, physical strength, and the ability to stay calm under pressure.

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

In 2018, the median salary of real estate brokers and sales agents was $24.18 per hour and $50,300 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 7%, which is faster than average. The minimum educational requirement for real estate brokers and sales agents is a high school diploma. Real estate brokers and sales agents must be licensed in their state. Individual agencies may have their own training requirements as well.

The day-to-day duties of real estate brokers and sales agents include examining properties up for sale, promoting properties, advising clients, conducting walkthroughs, facilitating negotiations, and organizing documents. Personal qualities that are beneficial in this profession are charisma, organizational skills, and an analytical mind.

Construction Equipment Operators

In 2018, the median salary of construction equipment operators was $22.59 per hour and $46,990 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 10%, which is faster than average. The minimum education requirement for construction equipment operators is a high school diploma. Construction equipment operators often learn their trade through on-the-job training and/or apprenticeships. Additionally, these operators will be required to hold the appropriate licenses to operate the machinery, per the guidelines of their state.

The day-to-day duties of construction equipment operators include maintenance and operation of equipment. Good personal qualities for construction equipment operators are diligence, cleanliness, and patience.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

In 2018, the median salary of licensed practical and vocational nurses was $22.23 per hour and $46,240 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 11%, which is faster than average. Licensed practical and vocational nurses must be trained through an approved educational program, and then must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). They may choose to pursue certifications for specializations if they would like, and additional certifications can really improve one’s job outlook. Getting certified as a CNA is a popular option that can really improve a nurse’s career prospects, and CNA training only takes three to twelve weeks.

The day-to-day duties of licensed practical and vocational nurses include attending to patients, providing basic care, updating other healthcare professionals about the status of patients, and keeping records. Personal qualities that will help a nurse succeed in their profession are empathy, patience, charisma, and organizational skills.

Massage Therapists

In 2018, the median salary of massage therapists was $19.92 per hour and $41,420 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 22%, which is much faster than average. Massage therapists are trained through approved educational programs. They must be licensed according to the laws of their state. A high school diploma is often required.

The day-to-day duties of a massage therapist include evaluation of somatic issues, performing massage on clients, and keeping client records. Personal qualities that will benefit people who work in massage therapy are empathy, patience, and charisma.


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