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10 Well Paying Jobs That DON'T Require a College Degree

by Daniel Nahabedian May 8, 2011

DID YOUR PARENTS tell you that, in order to secure a good job, you had to earn the right college degree? While this may be true for many careers, going to college isn’t always an option. It’s very expensive, time-consuming, and you may not want to wait to reap the benefits of your years of studying.

There are, however, many well paying jobs that favor experience and hard work instead of degrees. That’s not to say you can just waltz in and work. You still need some experience and training, but you won’t spend all that time and money on school.

1. Home aides supervisor

Average salary: $63,400

Responsibilities: Home aides supervisors monitor the quality of care performed by aides for home patients. They orient, train, and assign work to new health aides and document patient statuses to develop a care plan.

Experience and training: No high school diploma is even required. All training is done on the job by supervisors or registered nurses.

Qualifications: Homes aides should be responsible, compassionate, patient, emotionally stable, and cheerful. They should also be honest and discreet as they often work in private homes. The job is physically demanding and many are exposed to diseases and infections. Despite the disadvantages, many home aides supervisors still gain satisfaction from assisting those in need, in addition to personal financial security.

2. Casino gaming manager

Average salary: $67,400

Responsibilities: The casino gaming manager plans, organizes, coordinates, and controls all gaming operations in the casino. He/She is responsible for setting policies, resolving complaints with unhappy guests, and controlling the food and beverage service.

Experience and training: Many casino managers start as entry-level gaming workers with on-the-job training during the first few weeks. Experience in other gaming occupations and a broad knowledge of casino rules, regulations, procedures, and games eventually helps them advance into supervisory positions. Each casino establishes its own education, training, and experience requirements, but all gaming service workers must obtain a license from a regulatory agency, such as a state casino control board or commission.

Qualifications: Casino managers need superior customer service and communication skills, an outgoing personality, and the ability to maintain composure even when dealing with angry and demanding patrons. They can be expected to work nights, weekends, and holidays. The job is physically demanding, requiring you to stand for long periods of time.

3. Ship captain

Average salary: $87,000

Responsibilities: The ship captain’s job is to navigate the vessel, manage the crew, and ensure the ship complies with international and local laws. The captain is also in charge of the accounting on board as well as payrolls and inventory of cargo.

Experience and training: Applicants with no degree must often accumulate thousands of hours of experience as a deckhand before reaching higher levels. Some become self-employed captains after purchasing their own small boats.

Qualifications: Excellent physical condition, good vision, and balance are requirements to work aboard ships. The working conditions can be dangerous, and captains can spend a long time away from home depending on the length of voyage. However, being away for long periods helps them save a lot of money.

4. In-flight service manager

Average salary: $72,200

Responsibilities: Mainly found on large aircraft, the ISM is in charge of running the cabin. They ensure that flight attendants conform to personal appearance and pre-flight requirements and compile flight reports. They deliver on-board announcements and ensure the cabin is safe for takeoff and landing.

Experience and training: High school diploma is the minimum educational requirement. Flight attendants go through formal on-the-job training at a flight training center. Airlines also conduct a thorough background check, which goes back as many as 10 years.

Qualifications: In-flight service managers are tactful and resourceful people who can speak clearly and interact comfortably with strangers and remain calm under stressful conditions. Additionally, airlines usually have age, physical, and appearance requirements. The applicants must also meet height requirements for reaching overhead bins, which often contain emergency equipment. Men must have their hair cut above the collar and no beards are allowed. Free time and free/discounted airfares provide flight attendants the opportunity to travel. However, the work can be strenuous and trying. They are required to stand during much of the flight and must remain pleasant and efficient, regardless of how tired they are or how demanding passengers may be.

5. Illustrator

Average salary: $60,000

Responsibilities: Often working with advertisement agencies or as freelancers, illustrators design fonts and images for a variety of media, from websites to print campaigns and video. They study the layouts, sketch, illustrate, and prepare graphic material for websites.

Experience and training: As many illustrators are freelancers, there are no special requirements and trainings for the job. However, a strong portfolio is a must to be able to attract new clients.

Qualifications: Creativity, communication, and problem-solving skills are crucial. Illustrators must be able to communicate ideas visually, verbally, and in writing. They also must be open to new ideas and influences, and quick to react to changing trends. The abilities to work independently and under pressure are equally important traits. They are required to have self-discipline to start projects on their own, budget their time, and meet deadlines.

6. Locomotive engineer

Average salary: $70,500

Responsibilities: Locomotive engineers drive trains. They control the mechanical operations of the locomotive, the speed and handling, and make sure safety regulations and schedules are followed.

Experience and training: Many locomotive engineers start as rail transportation workers and generally begin on-the-job training to become a conductor before they may be considered for an engineer position, which also requires a federal license and a minimum of a high school diploma, but not necessarily a college degree.

Qualifications: Locomotive engineers are required to have good hearing, eyesight, and color vision, as well as good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and mechanical aptitude. Applicants must be at least 21 years old. Engineers often have irregular schedules and the well-paying jobs are assigned on short notice and often at odd hours. Working weekends is common in freight train transportation. Those who work on trains operating between points hundreds of miles apart may spend consecutive nights away from home.

7. Real estate broker

Average salary: $79,500

Responsibilities: A real estate broker is an intermediary between sellers and buyers of real estate. They usually run their own real estate business and assist buyers through the financial and legal aspects of the purchase process. They have a thorough knowledge of the market in their community and spend significant time hunting for properties.

Experience and training: Some brokerage firms offer formal training programs for both beginners and experienced agents. In addition, much of the training needed to learn the practical aspects of the trade happens on the job, under the direction of an experienced agent.

Qualifications: Prospective agents must be high school graduates, be at least 18 years old, and pass a written test administered by the state. Personality traits are very important. Maturity, good judgment, trustworthiness, honesty, and enthusiasm for the job are required to attract customers in this highly competitive field. Brokers should be well organized, be detail oriented, and have a good memory for names, faces, and business particulars. A good knowledge of the local area and its neighborhoods is a clear advantage.

The broker’s job is sensitive to swings in the economy, as well as interest rates. During periods of declining economic activity or rising interest rates, the volume of sales and the resulting demand fall. Most beginners also face competition from well-established and more experienced brokers. Although the hours are long and frequently irregular, most agents and brokers have the freedom to determine their own schedule, if not necessarily guaranteed financial security.

8. Air traffic controller

Average salary: $139,300

Responsibilities: By far the most lucrative of all the well-paying jobs in this list, the air traffic controller’s duty is to maintain a safe and orderly flow of air traffic. They relay altitude, course, and timing information and determine the schedule to prevent traffic buildup on airport runways.

Experience and training: While a college degree is not required, many controllers learn their skills in the military or in related areas of aviation management and work their way into air traffic control as a career move. Nowadays, they are mostly required to complete a training through the FAA’s aviation related program.

Qualifications: Air controllers need to be very articulate to give directions clearly. They require an excellent memory, decisiveness, and concentration. They might enjoy financial security and a chance at early retirement, but they are often subject to high mental stress.

9. Elevator repairer

Average salary: $67,600

Responsibilities: Elevator repairers fix and maintain elevators, escalators, and dumbwaiters to meet safety regulations and building codes.

Experience and training: All the skills are learned from on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs. A high school diploma isn’t even required, but classes in math and science would help when competing for apprenticeship programs.

Qualifications: Good knowledge of electronics, electricity, and mechanical skills as well as good physical condition are important. Repairers carry heavy equipment, work in cramped spaces, and are subject to potential hazards like falls or electrical shocks. However, they are less affected by seasonality and downturns in the economy because much of the work involves maintenance and repair.

10. Web surfer

Average salary: $86,200

Responsibilities: Often working as freelancers, Web surfers are hired by companies to visit websites, collect specific data, and analyze and compare information to help understand online user behavior.

Experience and training: No experience or specific training is required.

Qualifications: Web surfers are required to have self-discipline, a keen eye for details, a logical mind, and good memory. Those who freelance generally work on a contract or job basis. They have to frequently adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines. Web surfers often work under pressure to please existing clients and have to be proactive to find new ones to maintain a steady income and financial security.

Do you know of other well paying jobs that don’t require a college degree? Share them in the comments.

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