10 Profitable Careers That Can Be Pursued Without a College Degree

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In today's job market, there's no guarantee that a college degree will land you a high-paying career. In fact, some people are choosing not to attend college even if they have the opportunity. While most reports still agree college is a wise investment, there are many profitable careers that don't require postsecondary education. Read on to learn more.
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#1 - Administrative or Executive Assistant

Administrative assistants can enter the workforce with only a high school diploma, and those who gain enough experience may become executive assistants. Professionals in this field who have a good understanding of the latest office software programs should have the best employment opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), general administrative assistants earned median annual wages of $32,410, while executive assistants earned a median of $47,500 per year as of 2012.

#2 - Electrician

While a college degree isn't required in this field, most electricians complete 4-year apprenticeships that prepare them for licensure. Electricians can work for themselves, start their own companies, or work for larger contracting groups. In addition, self-employed electricians can work flexible hours, which may be appealing to many people. As of 2012, the median salary for electricians was $49,840, per the BLS.

#3 - Web Developer

While many web developers hold a bachelor's degree, many others are either self-taught or have only completed a few college-level courses. Every company and agency needs savvy developers to design, implement, and manage their websites. Median annual earnings in this field came to $62,500 in 2012, reports the BLS.

#4 - Plumber

Plumbers can do much more than fix a leaky sink, and they are paid pretty well for most jobs. Many of these professionals gain the necessary skills through apprenticeships that last 4-5 years, after which they can pursue licensure. The BLS reports that plumbers took home median salaries of $49,140 as of May 2012.

#5 - Fashion Designer

Fashion designers have above-average earning potential, but the path to get there may be a little harder. You don't need any formal training to become a designer, but most professionals in this field start out as assistants, interns, or pattern makers. Experience and a strong portfolio that showcases your creativity is important for advancement. According to the BLS, the top 10% of fashion designers made $126,290 or more per year as of 2012, while the bottom 10% made $34,110 or less.

#6 - Insurance Sales Agents

If you like sales, going into the insurance industry might be a good choice. As of May 2012, the median salary was $48,150 for insurance sales agents, reports the BLS. The number of available jobs in this field was projected to grow 22% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the national average rate of 14%. Sales agents don't need formal education beyond a high school diploma, and they gain most of their knowledge on the job. State licensure is typically required.

#7 - Commercial Pilots

If you like to be off the ground and in the air, this could be a great job for you. Commercial pilots go through extensive training and licensing processes, and it's important to note that most airline pilots do, in fact, hold an associate's or bachelor's degree. As of 2012, the median salary for commercial pilots was $73,280, reports the BLS.

#8 - Detectives and Criminal Investigators

While there are some police detectives and criminal investigators who choose the college route, most start out as police officers and climb the ranks. Almost any qualified applicant can become a police officer in a few months time through a departmental training program (no degree required). According to the BLS, detectives and criminal investigators earned median salaries of $74,300 as of 2012.

#9 - Nuclear Power Operators

This job may not be as mainstream as some of the careers listed above, but nuclear power operators are often well-paid, and a college degree isn't required. However, extensive on-the-job training is necessary, and all operators must be licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The median annual income for professionals in this field was $74,990 as of 2012, per the BLS.

#10 - Power Distributors and Dispatchers

Most kids don't say they want to grow up to be power distributors, but this job can lead to a very decent wage. The BLS reports that these professionals earned a median of $71,690 per year in 2012. What exactly will you be doing in this field? Monitoring how electricity moves from power stations and re-directing power if there is an outage or emergency. This job requires on-the-job training, and certification is required for some positions.

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Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

What is your highest level of education completed?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
  • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
  • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MSCJ: Law
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • Master of Science in Computer Science
  • B.S. - Psychology
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

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Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Master of Business Administration: Taxation

What is your highest level of education?

Virginia College

  • Bachelor: Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor: Private Sector Accounting
  • Associate: Accounting Specialist
  • Associate: Human Resource Mgmt

What is your highest level of education completed?