For now, in many fields, a college degree is required for entry -- you simply won't get in the door for a job interview without one. But there are a number of careers that don’t require a degree and where income potential is very high. According to compensation experts at PayScale, there are five fields in which most workers don't have a college degree -- and in which the top 10 percent earn more than $100,000.*
For many of these fields, all that's required is a high school diploma and on-the-job training; others require some technical or vocational training.
1. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator (90th Percentile Pay: $128,000; Median Pay: $86,200)
D'oh! Are you prepared to follow in Homer Simpson's career footsteps? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of nuclear power reactor operators is expected to grow faster than average due to new plant construction and new rules to prevent operator fatigue.
Workers with vocational degrees will have advantages in finding jobs as well as more advancement opportunities. These workers typically undergo extensive on-the-job training.
2. Director of Security: Physical, Personnel, Grounds, et. al (90th Percentile Pay: $123,000; Median Pay: $68,700)
A director of security manages teams, systems and procedures that protect people and property against harm, fire, theft, vandalism and illegal activity. Duties may vary from one employer to another, but attention to detail is key -- in addition to protection, security personnel often must write detailed reports, interview witnesses and testify in court.
The key to a high salary in this position is stick-to-itiveness. Many people enter this profession in security guard jobs, and according to the BLS, opportunities for advancement are good because turnover is high. Guards with management skills (or advanced training) will move up in the field, or they may open their own security agencies.
3. Licensed Massage Therapist (90th Percentile Pay: $112,000; Median Pay: $52,200)
This career really lets you reach out and touch someone. Massage therapists can specialize in more than 80 different types of massage, including Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, reflexology, acupressure and sports massage. The BLS predicts employment in this field will grow faster than average as more people learn about the benefits of massage.
This is a great career for people who need a flexible or part-time schedule -- many therapists work part-time or are self-employed. Most states require formal training before granting a massage license.
Find massage therapist jobs.
4. Elevator Mechanic (90th Percentile Pay: $109,000; Median Pay: $72,900)
You'll move up in this career. This is another job with great prospects. Elevator mechanics are typically less affected by construction slowdowns, since much of the work involves maintenance and repair -- and not just to elevators. These workers also assemble, install and replace escalators, chairlifts, dumbwaiters, moving walkways and similar equipment.
According to the BLS, most elevator mechanics belong to a union and enter the occupation through a four-year apprenticeship program.
Find elevator technician jobs.
5. Court Reporter (90th Percentile Pay: $105,000; Median Pay: $57,200)
Let your fingers do the talking -- and earning. Court reporters create transcripts of speeches, conversations, legal proceedings, meetings and other events. The BLS says job prospects for certified court reporters are excellent and that growing demand for real-time broadcast captioning will spur employment growth in the field.
The BLS reports that it usually takes less than a year to become a novice voice writer, although it takes at least two years to become proficient at real-time voice writing. Electronic reporters and transcribers learn their skills on the job.
* Methodology: Salary data provided by PayScale.com. Salaries listed are for experienced workers (at least five years of experience) and include any bonuses, commission or profit sharing. Median pay represents the national median; 90th percentile pay is a benchmark for the top earners: 10 percent of people will earn more, while 90 percent will earn less.
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