Fact: College isn't for everyone. Despite what society (and high school guidance counselors) tell you, it’s still possible to succeed without a degree. If you're willing to start at the bottom and work your way up, you can ultimately achieve a secure, high-paying career — without the student loan debt.
All it takes is a little elbow grease and a willingness to learn. Sound good? Check out these top paying jobs, all requiring nothing more than on-the-job training or a certificate program.
The list of good reasons for becoming a firefighter is long. If you have a desire to serve others, the work is physically demanding and often dangerous, but saving lives and helping people in need can be extremely satisfying. It’s also great for people who want to steer clear of the 9-to-5 life in favor of a flexible schedule.
If you've ever taken an aerial tour of your favorite city, you have a commercial pilot to thank. They fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters and jets and provide charter flights, rescue operations, photography and other services to private companies. Duties, such as communicating with air traffic controllers, are shared with the flight crew.
Real Estate Broker
Like a real estate agent, a real estate broker can help clients buy, sell and rent properties. The difference? A broker has passed a special exam and received a license that allows them to own a real estate firm and hire other agents to work for them.
If you love health and fitness and want to share that passion with others, a career as a personal trainer might be the right choice for you. Helping people achieve their wellness goals can be incredibly rewarding — and demand for trainers is expected to grow.
Are your friends and family always raving about your chocolate cake or your mouth-watering souffle? If you love to cook, becoming a chef can be a fun career choice. Despite the often long and grueling hours, many people love being in the kitchen.
Long-Haul Truck Driver
Did you know that the trucking industry provides one out of every 16 jobs in America? There's a reason so many people choose to pursue this career! The average new driver earns about $35,000 a year, but bonuses can significantly increase that number. Got your own truck? You can expect at least $180,000 a year. Wow!
You know what a hair stylist does: shampoos, cuts and colors your hair at the salon. They may even change your texture with a straightener or perm or add length with extensions. Being a stylist also means having a good eye and the ability to analyze hair and recommend styles and treatments.
Auto mechanics are always in demand, and a career as a mechanic means you're practically guaranteed steady work. Even when people don't have the income to buy a new car, the vehicles they already own will always require maintenance and repairs.
Many people would automatically reject the idea of being a garbage man. They think of all the stinky trash, physical labor and long days outside, and they immediately say no. Waste management workers are essential to keeping our communities clean and safe — and they are rewarded with some pretty serious cash.
Have you ever wondered about that person with the little typewriter in the courtroom? Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions and other legal proceedings. Some even provide captioning for television or real-time translation services for those with hearing impairments.
Electric Power Line Installer
Electric lineworkers make $70,000 a year, on average, and handle a variety of duties every day. Some of their responsibilities include testing electrical circuits for proper functioning, controlling power supply connections and climbing equipment to access work areas. Conditions are often dangerous, sometimes even life-threatening.
If you want a career that will offer a constant stream of work, consider becoming an electrician. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for electricians is expected to grow. Unfortunately, electrical contractors have reported declining numbers of qualified workers — meaning there aren't enough new workers to replace those who retire.
Did you know an architect doesn't do everything on their own? They employ architectural drafters who use software to convert their original designs into technical drawings. Although drafters spend much of their time working on computers, they may also visit job sites to collaborate with architects.
Plumbing is another profession that is always in demand. They handle emergencies like clogged toilets and leaky dishwashers along with routine tasks like installing new sinks and bathtubs. Although they often work as independent contractors, some work alongside other construction workers as part of a team.
Perhaps you like the idea of working for the U.S. Postal Service, but you don't want to walk or drive a mail route every day. Postmasters work inside the post office and are responsible for managing day-to-day operations. They hire, train and supervise employees as well as handle customer service and administrative tasks.
Does anything sound cooler than becoming a private investigator and cracking unsolved cases? Private investigators (PIs) are hired to locate missing people, help solve crimes and find missing or hidden information. They work independently or for law enforcement agencies and private companies.
What's more fun than hanging out with adorable doggies all day long? That's one of the reasons so many animal lovers choose to become pet groomers. In addition to steady work, minimal education requirements and relatively good pay, they get plenty of therapeutic pet time.
Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers are critical to safe travel. They coordinate the movements of aircraft in the sky (and on the ground). The job is considered one of the most stressful careers out there, but the pay is good: The median annual wage for air traffic controllers is $124,540.
Typically, when you go in for a dental exam, you only see the dentist briefly at the end of your appointment. The person who takes care of you for most of the appointment is the dental hygienist. They clean your teeth, examine your mouth for signs of oral diseases, remove tartar and stains and more.
Brick masons — also referred to as bricklayers — repair and build a variety of brick and stone structures, including walkways, walls and floors. They must be strong and capable of physically demanding work as well as be adept at mathematics, sketching and blueprint reading.
Automobile Insurance Appraiser
Insurance appraisers play a vital role when you are involved in an automobile accident. They are the ones who decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim and how much the claim is worth. They also ensure that claims are not fraudulent. The job often takes place in the field, going to different locations to inspect damaged automobiles.
Ultrasound technologists operate special equipment that uses high-frequency sound waves to record images of internal organs. Although the procedure is often associated with pregnancy, it's used for a variety of other purposes, such as abdominal, breast, vascular and cardiac sonography.
Executive assistants are similar to administrative assistants. Their work revolves around completing office duties to support someone else. The difference is that an executive assistant is specifically assigned to work for a top-level executive. Their job involves supervising and training other staff, including lower-level administrative assistants, as well as accounting, meeting organization and client relations.
If you own or lease a car or home, you have probably spoken with an insurance agent. They act as a middleman between you and the insurance company to help you obtain appropriate coverage at a reasonable price. Their products typically include health, long-term care insurance and property and casualty.
In today's economy, big-name companies often look to freelancers for many jobs, rather than hiring in-house staff. One of the most frequently needed roles is a web developer — someone who can design and code web pages. They not only create new websites but also troubleshoot problems and update and maintain existing sites.
Radiation therapists administer life-saving treatments to patients with cancer and other diseases every day. They often work with radiation oncologists, oncology nurses and radiation physicists. Their duties include explaining treatments to patients, completing x-rays and operating the machine that administers radiation. They are often on their feet for hours at a time.
A lot of controversy surrounds nuclear power, but many people believe it’s the energy of the future. Demand for nuclear operators (the people who control the flow of electricity generated) is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
Elevator Installer and Mechanic
Next time you ride an elevator safely from one floor to the next, thank an elevator installer. Elevator installers and mechanics are responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing elevators, escalators and moving walkways. Workers need to have flexible schedules to be on call in case of emergencies.
Think of things in your life that are made of metal: bridges, automobiles, bicycles, even the oven in your kitchen. A welder bonded each of those items together so they could withstand weight, heat and pressure without falling apart.
Have you seen that "If you ate today, thank a farmer" bumper sticker on anyone's car recently? It's not a bad idea. Farmers directly impact your life every day through the food you eat, and they often work long, hard, back-breaking hours with little time for themselves.