Conventional wisdom states that college-educated workers earn higher salaries because their jobs require more education and advanced skills. In addition, fewer workers have college degrees, so they are harder to find in relation to workers without degrees. Indeed, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, 19 percent of Americans hold a bachelor's degree, while approximately 31 percent have a high school diploma.
Census data also show that the mean income for a college graduate is $58,613, significantly higher than the $31,283 mean income for a high school graduate. You might reason, then, that to bring home a sizable paycheck, you need to go to college. Although that's often true, there are exceptions. Many jobs pay workers well because their daily tasks are dangerous, difficult or extremely specialized. Experience also factors into the equation because many employers value years of experience more than years of education. These jobs not requiring a degree aren't necessarily easy to perform nor are they easy to land.
That's not to say you shouldn't earn a bachelor's or graduate degree if you want. However, if college isn't the right option for you or if it's not a plausible option in the short term, consider these 15 occupations that don't require a college degree but pay well:
1. Aides supervisor $63,231*
Aides supervisors supervise home-health aides, which involves setting their work schedules and monitoring their performance to ensure quality care for patients.
2. Air traffic controller $139,314
In order to ensure the safety of all flights, air traffic controllers monitor planes coming to and leaving an airport. They also monitor conditions to keep flights free of delays.
3. Assembly supervisor $66,034
In assembling and manufacturing plants, these supervisors oversee the flow of production work. Depending on the industry, assembly workers can produce anything from large mechanical and aviation components to small, technological devices.
4. Cable supervisor $76,739
Cable supervisors monitor workers who install, maintain and repair cables. Because these cables can be underground or overhead on poles, working on them can be dangerous and difficult.
5. Chemical supervisor $73,955
Chemical supervisors oversee workers who make chemical products, a careful process that involves handling dangerous substances and following strict safety guidelines.
6. Construction equipment operator $53,543
Construction equipment operators are in charge of the large-scale tools and equipment used on construction sites. They are also responsible for inspecting the equipment for safety and performance issues when necessary.
7. Credit and collection supervisor $66,847
Credit and collection workers calculate credit risks and collections information for consumers who apply for loans. Their supervisors monitor their performance and sometimes review client credit history to grant or deny extensions of credit.
8. Data control supervisor $66,554
Data control supervisors oversee the daily operations of data entry workers and are responsible for the completion and accuracy of their work.
9. Electrical repairer $58,960
Electrical repairers disassemble and fix electrical equipment and any related components. Depending on the job, the equipment can range from small mechanisms to large technological systems.
10. Elevator repair worker $67,538
Elevator repair workers perform routine maintenance on elevators and escalators and respond to any reported problems.
11. Home care aide supervisor $69,061
Home care aides visit homebound patients in order to assist with daily activities and some rehabilitation exercises. The supervisor ensures that all patients are being taken care of properly by their aides, according to legal regulations and quality standards.
12. Illustrator $60,060
Illustrators work in advertising agencies or as freelancers to design fonts and images for a variety of media, from websites to print campaigns and video.
13. Lead carpenter $73,055
Lead carpenters act as the head for carpentry workers on a specific task to keep the project on time and meet quality standards.
14. Payroll supervisor $72,951
Payroll supervisors oversee the calculating of compensation based on workers' hours, reviewing time cards, distributing pay and adhering to government regulations for payroll.
15. Real estate broker $79,494
Real estate brokers that help home buyers look for houses or condominiums. They research neighborhoods, find available homes, and assist buyers through the financial and legal aspects of the purchase.
*Salary data based on figures from CBSalary.com.
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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