College tuition continues to skyrocket year after year, while salaries for those with degrees are not rising as quickly. Many people are often led to wonder if a degree is even worth the price of tuition. There are jobs that pay decent wages without requiring an upfront investment of at least four years and several thousand dollars. It's easy to see their point.
There are a number of careers that don't require a four-year degree that can still lead to lucrative income. Compensation experts at PayScale have provided five fields in which most workers don't have a college degree -- and in which the top 10 percent earn more than $100,000.*
For many of these careers, a high-school diploma or GED plus training on the job will suffice. Some may require prior technical or vocational education.
1. Executive Pastry Chef (90th Percentile Pay: $102,000; Median Pay: $45,100)
Have an artistic side and like to bake? Like to eat tasty desserts at work? Then you might be an excellent candidate for an Executive Pastry Chef position. To become an Executive Pastry Chef, you'll need at least an Associate's Degree in some type of culinary arts, and then approximately five years of experience as a pastry chef. The Executive Pastry Chef typically manages the other pastry staff and may manage expenses on that side of the kitchen as well. Often working in fine dining restaurants or hotels, Executive Pastry Chefs need to know how to make everything from a delectable mousse to a wedding cake.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't expect large increases in this field over the next five years and this industry is very competitive. You'll have to be passionate and work hard to be surrounded by sweets all day!
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2. Master Plumber (90th Percentile Pay: $102,000; Median Pay: $60,000)
By the time you're in a situation where you NEED a plumber, you'll pay almost anything to keep the sink, tub or toilet from flooding your house. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters also work in commercial and industrial settings installing and repairing pipes that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They travel many locations, sometimes have to work in tight spaces or at heights, and sometimes work on septic systems. It's not an easy job, but it can be lucrative.
Most plumbers attend vocational school and then complete an apprenticeship before getting their license, which is required in most states. The BLS estimates that because of increasing environmental concerns and water efficiency standards, demand for quality plumbers will rise as much as 26 percent by 2020.
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3. Licensed Massage Therapist (90th Percentile Pay: $141,000; Median Pay: $67,600)
Licensed massage therapists work in spas, hotels, salons, rehab or physical therapy clinics, massage centers or run their business independently and travel to their clients. They can specialize in more than 80 different types of massage, including Swedish massage, deep-tissue, reflexology, hot stone, acupressure and sports massage. The BLS predicts employment in this field will grow faster than average as more people learn about the benefits of massage in relieving stress, alleviating aches and pains, and promoting wellness especially as our population grows older.
This is a great career for people who need a flexible schedule. Therapists are often self-employed and set their own hours. Most states require formal training, as much as 500 hours after an Associate's Degree, before granting a massage license.
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4. Air Traffic Controller (90th Percentile Pay: $179,000; Median Pay: $87,300)
One of the highest paying jobs requiring only a GED, air traffic controllers are responsible for keeping the skies safe for travel. They typically work in control towers at airports, making sure planes take off and land safe distances from one another. The job requires 100 percent concentration at all times, so it can be stressful, but there are frequent breaks to ensure the staff remains alert at all times. Because airports operate 24 hours a day, night and weekend shifts are typically required.
To become a traffic controller, you must have prior experience (most likely military) OR be a US citizen, be under 31 years of age and pass a course taught by the FAA. People with prior experience are exempt from the age and course requirements.
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5. Court Reporter (90th Percentile Pay: $104,000; Median Pay: $59,700)
Court reporters attend public speeches, legal proceedings, meetings, and other events to create word-for-word transcripts. They typically work at these events, but some reporters have been able to work remotely doing broadcast transcription. The BLS says job prospects for court reporters will increase approximately 14 percent over the next several years, on pace with other jobs. Those finding the most lucrative jobs will be those who are certified (a requirement for legal proceedings in some states) and those who have training in techniques for helping deaf and hard-of-hearing people, such as real-time captioning and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART).
The BLS reports that most court reporters have an Associate's Degree with some type of training from a community college, and then learn more on the job. They may choose extra training to become a Certified Court Reporter or train in the CART technique.
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