In a lot of ways, college is a great idea, for personal well-being, society, and of course, your career. But going to college doesn't necessarily mean that you will make more money than if you hadn't. There are many reasons to skip college. Maybe it will save money, or maybe you think the business of higher education is a self-perpetuating Ponzi scheme.
Either way, careers abound that allow you to make money without a degree. Lots of people who have these jobs also have a degree and working these jobs doesn't mean one must forfeit college altogether, but you can line you pockets while working around the system.
Payscale.com has a list of well-paying jobs you can skip college for, based on statistics based on compiled by and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but we've added a few of our own. By the way: Bounty hunters can earn up to $138,000 a year, tree trimmers average $32,090, makeup artists can average $45,000, and truck drivers can make $66,000. College is great, but isn't for everyone. Plus, even $32K is pretty darn good when exactly none of that money has to be sacrificed for student loan debt!
1. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator: $79,100
This job requires highly-specialized skills such as understanding aspects of engineering, physics and troubleshooting. So if you are disciplined and capable enough to learn math and science outside the classroom, $79K a year certainly makes this worth looking into. The title is enough to impress even the most thoughtful of highbrow linguists. Of course, the world's best-know holder of that title is Homer Simpson.
2. Landscape Architect: $65, 910
Although in 49 states a landscape architect is required to have a license, you don't need to go to a four-year college to become one. Another lucrative option in this field involves freelance architecture. Either way, you get to drop mad knowledge about horticulture and exercise your artistic muscles while you get messy in the garden and make some good, hard cash.
3. Director of Security: $62,400
This role is often referred to as the Chief Security Officer (CSO), and it means exactly what it sounds like: the CSO is responsible for an organization's entire security posture, both the physical aspect and operating the digital system. You get there by first being an assistant and then working your way up to Director of Security. Much better than being a bouncer, eh?
4. Air Traffic Controller (pictured): $60,200
Even though you don't need a degree to work as an Air Traffic Controller, it's a highly competitive field. Air Traffic Controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft in the air and at airports to prevent accidents and minimize delays, using radar and visual observation. Applicants must pass rigorous physical examinations, background checks, drug screening, and some may also be required to take aptitude tests. Stress levels are high, but so is the pay.
5. Elevator Mechanic: $61, 500
I've had some scary elevator situations in my life, but I've never been in an elevator that broke (knock wood). By my experience, most of elevator mechanics must be doing a pretty good job. It doesn't require a degree, but you do need to obtain a license. Successful elevator mechanics generally understand complex mechanical systems and follow safety standards. Elevator mechanics may also need to work odd hours, for example, to fix a broken elevator before the morning rush at an office building.
6. Private Detective or Investigator: $50,600
Critical-thinking, an understanding of the law and psychology are useful for anyone wanting to become a private detective. While watching endless episodes of "Law & Order" might not be enough preparation, social situations where you listen and read body language do give you good experience. Other responsibilities may include analyzing data, researching databases, questioning suspects or taking the stand at a hearing.
7. Freelance Photographer: $47,800
As any freelancer knows, being successfully self-employed requires discipline and a critical understanding of business practices. It also helps to be a skilled photographer, so don't go thinking just anyone can start their own photography company. I also know a variety of people who make a living with freelance video production. Think about all the possibilities you can start out with-- weddings, bat and bar mitzvahs, music videos, live performances -- you name it.
8. Fishing Supervisor: $43,720
Fishing boats, canaries, factory trawlers, floating processors -- these may be a dangerous jobs, but you can walk away with a boat load of money, and you likely only have to work one season on the year. To become a supervisor, you're likely to work as an assistant or crew member first, before being promoted.
9. Personal Trainer: $37,500
Many personal trainers have degrees or specialized certification in the field, although not necessarily a four year degree. It is, however, important to have an understanding of anatomy, nutrition, and first aid for safety reasons and to keep your clients well-informed. Similar to any entrepreneur, time-management and customer service skills are useful in this field. Physical stamina and a healthy lifestyle are also highly recommended.
10. Bus Driver: $35, 990
Inner-city bus drivers or train operators make a good amount of dough, and they are just required to get a license to do it. School bus drivers, on average, make a little less, but cash in at an annual mean of $28,050. Bus drivers have an important job, as they are responsible for safely transporting passenger to and from their destination. That means, to be a bus driver, you have to be alert at all times and have a keen eye for traffic and weather conditions.
Take the first steps to building your portfolio.View Course »