Higher education is expensive. In the traditional sense, it captures time and money in a concentrated, four-year, intellectual marathon. For some, that isn’t a problem. For an increasing number of high school graduates, it is becoming a disappointing fact of life: they simply cannot afford it. Others are weighing their options and deciding in favour of careers that do not require that up front investment.
If college is not an option for you, there are a number of career paths that allow you to learn on the job, rewarding you with increasing responsibility as you advance. There are others that require some technical or people skills, but due to the nature of the particular industry do not require a formal degree. All are more accessible than careers requiring a four year diploma. Let’s review.
Computers are not going away. If you’d like a job with security, learn a skill related to these powerful electronic tools, and keep it polished, current, and ready. There are certainly secondary degree programs that grant status, but many computer companies would jump at the chance to hire an industry-engaged high school grad, aggressively pursuing the latest and greatest technologies. Plenty of software developers and web programmers began their careers without a four year degree. It’s not likely that you’ll land an impressive spot out of the gate with an industry giant, but working as a software developer or web programmer with a young company that has potential could be a perfect fit. And who knows where the company will ascend to in a decade?
Sales reps often work on commission and usually are not required to have a four year degree. If you’re good with people, intuitive about what they need and want, and know your product, you can earn a good living. Pharmaceutical and technical companies may require that reps have a degree, but heavy equipment, service groups, food and beverage suppliers, construction companies, sports teams, and in a general sense, local or regional companies, usually find a high school degree sufficient.
Bookkeeping skills are always in demand, and any responsible worker with solid knowledge of computer bookkeeping programs will find plenty of work. Businesses are good at making, selling, and promoting their products, but often not very good at managing their finances. Their need to hire someone to keep an eye on that for them makes this a lucrative line of work, especially if you have good referrals from prior clients. This choice also offers great stepping stones to becoming an accountant, or even a CPA, as expertise, resources, and desire to improve enter the picture. Certification for all levels is available, as are degrees, but not every business needs a CPA. If you’re good with numbers, this can be a great career, even if you don’t have a degree.
Heavy equipment operators and truck drivers usually do not require degreed personnel. There are technical schools that provide certification in short term classes, enabling students to pursue careers quickly. While not an executive wage, many earn substantial salaries in this field that often does not even require a high school diploma.
Captaining, piloting, and deckhanding on water vessels is an exciting opportunity that embraces a variety of educational backgrounds. Certification through a training program is an advantage here, but experience and practical skills count for a lot. Beginning as a deckhand and learning the ropes on the way up is a good way for a young person to begin. Responsible, eager, and able workers will earn their way to the pilot’s or captain’s seats by executing their duties well. Private yachts, both power and sail, also offer opportunities that start from the bottom up. Websites seeking to match boats to crew abound, so if travel, adventure and learning a new career is in the cards, take a peek.
The labour trades all offer young workers entry level positions, signing new apprentices to learn from experienced workers. Degrees are rarely required in this field, which is instead focused on ability, coordination, and logical, practical thinking. Carpentry, plumbing, electrical, masonry, and finishing trades do experience fluctuations with the markets, but if you’re willing to travel, there are always construction sites gearing up somewhere in the world. Moving into management after you gain experience can have substantial financial advantages.
Commercial pilots, while required to complete a prescribed number of flight hours and training, are not required to be degreed. It is also unlikely that people will quit flying around the globe, but the airline industry does have its ups and downs, as well as risks and rewards. Still, it remains an interesting, highly valued position worth investigating if taking to the air sounds inviting to you.
Some jobs are so new that formal degree programs cannot fill the posts required. Those cutting edge industries frequently hire employees with background knowledge as opposed to a formal degree. Consider 3-D printing, writing apps for electronic and mobile devices, and any web programming or coding.
Private investigator, event coordinator, fashion designer, private chef, house painter, yacht concierge, wine and spirits sales, and an ever increasing list of new product developments in the world of computing, all offer opportunity for those with initiative and drive to earn a good living. In these fields, degrees are becoming less important than demonstrated expertise, especially if you set out on your own. A few loyal clients and some praiseworthy work under your belt will work hard toward building a solid business.
The important thing is to get out there and do something to show the world what you know, then network it like there’s no tomorrow. Recommendations that link you to successful people can get you in the door for an interview. What you do with that interview once you’re in is all up to you, so choose your niche, polish your brand, and know your mission. Are you ready?