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Ten Great Careers for People Who Don't Have a College Degree

Updated on August 29, 2016

Everyone knows that getting an education is one of the keys to securing a well-paying full time job. But what if you are lacking an education and don't have to financial or temporal means to procure one? Maybe you are one of the thousands of people in the American middle class whose family makes too much to qualify for financial aid, but not enough to pay for an education. With tuition prices on the raise and salaries that don't keep up, then maybe your best bet may be to simply start a career that doesn't require a degree. Combined with strong motivation and a disciplined approach to managing your money, the following jobs can help you start climbing the ladder of success without the benefit of higher education.

Security Guard

The path to becoming a security guard starts with little to no experience or education. Initially, a typical candidate for this job must pass a background check, be 18 years old, and complete the required training/certification. Training for this job sector typically requires 1-5 days of classroom education. People who successfully secure a job as a security guard will enjoy a potentially long and satisfying career of ensuring that valuable commodities are protected from thieves.

Average Salary: $25,000 to $34,000

Pharmacy Technician

Many great pharmacies in America employ high school students (and graduates) as pharmacy technicians. This is a great entry level position that will allow you to get your foot in the door of the pharmaceutical world. Who knows, this career could ultimately lead to salaried pharmacist position. People who obtain a job as a pharmacy technician will enjoy working with customers in a retail setting.

Average Salary: $29,000 to $36,000



Do you like working with your hands and/or tools? Do you like working outdoors? If you answered yes to both of those questions, then becoming a carpenter may be the right career pathway for you. Even though the construction industry was hit very hard with the economic downturn, there is still a demand for skilled carpenters. Many carpenters start out as laborers for a construction company and eventually work their way into becoming full carpenters. Apprenticeships are available, however most people succeed with on the job training. With a little patience, and some hard work, becoming a well compensated carpenter may be a very real possibility for you.

Average Salary: $33,000 to $48,000


If you are fluent in at least two languages, and have the ability to write well, then a career as a translator or interpreter may be for you. Worried about Google translator taking over? Sure it is useful, but full replacement of humans may never happen due to the dynamic nature of language. In addition to this, people will always be needed to check, verify, and possibly certify these systems. So rest assured that a job as a translator or interpreter will be a long lasting and rewarding career.

Average Salary: $38,000 to $50,000


Do you enjoy preparing food for the benefit others? If so, then becoming a cook at a restaurant may be the career pathway for you. As cook in a busy kitchen you will enjoy the splendors of ensuring that a patron's meal gets prepared in the best manner possible. You will prepare ingredients, follow recipes, fill orders, and do everything else necessary to ensure that the kitchen is run smoothly. If you choose a career at the right restaurant, there will most definitely be opportunities for you to move up the corporate ladder.

Average Salary: $24,000 to $34,000

Dental Assistant

Wouldn't it be great to work in a dentist's office? With a little training that normally takes less then a year to complete you can become a dental assistant. Sometimes the training is even paid and given on the job. Under the direct supervision of a dentist, you will sterilize equipment, assist during dental procedures, and help patients prepare for their visit. As a dental assistant you will enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you played an integral role in ensuring the health of clients teeth.

Average Salary: $29,000 to $36,000


Heavy Equipment Operator

Go ahead and live out your child hood dreams by becoming a heavy equipment operator. Construction, demolition, and excavation equipment are fun to operate and could make a great career for you. All you need to succeed is a commercial driver's license and some on the job training. And if you're extremely skilled, there are many opportunities for advancement as well.

Average Salary: $36,000 to $50,000

Retail Salesperson

Did you ever think that you could make a career out of retail work? Well it's true that you can. A retail sales person may start out with a small salary, but it could quickly grow into something that could easily support a family. Working in a retail establishment will afford you the many rewards of dealing with people and money on a daily basis. If you have great personal skills, and you choose the right company, you just may be off of the sales floor and into the office in no time.

Average Salary: $21,000 to $29,000

Personal Trainer

If you have a passion for health and fitness as well as a natural ability to motivate others, then becoming a personal trainer may be the career for you. Working as personal trainer will allow you the rewarding opportunity to stay fit and healthy while helping others to reach their fitness goals. Depending on which type of physical fitness you intend to teach (and where you wish to work), a certificate and license may or may not be required.

Average Salary: $35,000 to $65,000

Office Clerk/Secretary

Nearly every office requires someone to manage the phone calls, schedule meetings, and file paperwork. If you think you may enjoy working in an office, but lack the credentials for upper management, then a career as an office clerk or secretary may be the entry level job that you are looking for. For many people, a secretarial position is sure to eventually lead to more opportunities to climb the corporate ladder.

Average Salary: $29,000 to $35,000


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    • CWanamaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Wanamaker 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Angela - Yes that's true. There are many more opportunities out there than just this list. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Angela Kane profile image

      Angela Kane 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Great information, there are also some medical and computer related jobs that only require a certificate or 6 month course.

    • CWanamaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Wanamaker 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Soquioey10 - Sorry to hear about your bad luck. It sounds like your degrees would be perfect for a government job - however it's unfortunate the most municipal budgets are not doing very well in this economy. Eventually things will turn around and the jobs will come back. In Arizona I can see things are already turning around.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You speak the truth. I have two degrees and have had no luck with jobs in my field, land-use planning and public policy, in this area of the country, North Carolina. What's popular here is mathematician work and counting money.

      I was telling people that I got a Six Sigma certification, minor training, yellow belt training for experience. They didn't even know what that is. So yeah, that one can work without a degree is great. Great article.

    • YvetteParker profile image


      8 years ago from AUGUSTA, GA

      Great article! Very useful in that you included descriptions and salary ranges. Thanks for sharing. I envision this article being very popular for years to come!

    • Sonny Ellar profile image

      Sonny Ellar 

      8 years ago from Saudi Arabia

      Wonderful! this will help people figure out which career to pursue if they don't have a college degree.

    • freecampingaussie profile image


      8 years ago from Southern Spain

      Great hub, I left school at 14, Have been a sales rep for Insurance, Sales Manager at a storage unit place + other jobs ,now working at a supermarket !

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett C 

      8 years ago from Asia

      Just goes to show that although education is a help, hard work and persistence can get you to where you want to be and with a pretty decent salary.

      Thanks for SHARING.

    • CWanamaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Wanamaker 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Alocsin - These days the economic viability of college makes it a tough sell on many families. Hopefully people will see that sometimes college is not the answer and that there are plenty of decent jobs still available out there for new workers.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Quite a hopeful hub for those who don't plan on going to college. I like that you put the average salaries in each job. Voting this Up and Useful.


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