The job possibilities are beyond the scope of this article. Even an undergraduate degree in any major will provide more job opportunities and in many cases, a higher salary. Of course, if you’re set on pursuing a degree in nursing, law or astrophysics, your job search will fit into a certain niche. But for those who are contemplating a degree just for the diploma, there are factors to take into account.

PayScale reports that the national average pay with an Associate’s degree ranges from $40,547 for a paralegal to $63,585 for an operations manager. This same compensation data site lists the pay range with a Bachelor’s degree between $30,633-$61,933 for an office manager and $54,113-$115,167 for a software engineer. At the Master’s degree tier, the ranges broaden from $50,495-$122,100 for Human Resources Manager and $56,171-$171,275 for a Human Resources Director. This data reported by employees in these occupations make a convincing case for earning a degree.

However, a college degree is not for everyone. It’s a long and costly endeavor to earn any degree, plus the benefits may not always warrant the effort. The following are examples of vocations to mull over that pay comparatively well and can be launched right out of high school. Some have nominal tuition fees, depending on the profession’s training and/or licensing requirements.

1. Realtor

As a realtor, you’re an independent contractor and control your own book of business. Your income is largely dictated by the time you invest. The average realtor income in the U.S. is $71,935 as reported by the job posting site, Since this is a commission sales position, higher value properties dictate higher commission dollars. Despite the unlimited earnings potential, this is not a job to trivialize as the time demands can be enormous: working weekends showing houses to clients; evenings researching listings; and attending closings are a few of the duties. In other words, realtors tend to work when most people aren’t. To qualify, you must be a legal U.S. resident, be over 18 or 19 (varies by state) and pass your realtors license examination. Of course, before you take the state exam where you intend on working, you’ll have to take a state licensing course. Again, this differs by state. Illinois, for example, requires a 90-hour Broker Licensing course.

2. Phlebotomist

There are many jobs in the healthcare field not requiring a degree-this is one example. A phlebotomist is someone who has been trained specifically in how to successfully draw blood, whether that be for a medical test or a blood donation. The only educational training needed to become a phlebotomist is the completion of a certificate or diploma program. Phlebotomists can also find work with just a high school diploma and receive training once they are hired. There are campus and online courses offered around the country; some have tuition of less than $500, others run into the $1,000’s. Average salary according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was $32,000 in 2015. Employees will almost always hire those who have been through a standard Phlebotomy program and have achieved certification from one of the current organizations offering them:

  • The American Society for Clinical Pathology
  • The National Center for Competency Testing
  • The American Medical Technologists (AMT)

3. Postal Worker

Applicants must pass a written exam that focuses on reading and memory skills. They must also pass a criminal history check, physical exam and drug test. For starters, the Mail Handler Grade 4 pay starts at $17.97 per hour or $35,948 annually plus benefits. You also have numerous pay scales for the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) that represents 220,000 postal workers that belong to the Clerk, Maintenance, Motor Vehicle, or Support Services divisions. The $17.97 hourly rate jumps to slightly over $26/hour for overtime, according to the November, 2016 USPA Wage Rates.  Employees may contribute to their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) on a tax-deferred basis, and may receive automatic and matching contributions (up to 5 percent of pay) from the Postal Service. Many entered the USPS for job security, regular raises, pension, and benefits. However, the truth is that postal worker jobs are declining. There has been a reduction of 300,000 postal jobs from 1999 to 2013. The U.S. Labor department predicts a 28% drop in job openings throughout the postal system through 2022.

4. Sales

The job prospects in sales seem infinite as does the income potential. You could be in retail sales, selling ideas or concepts to clients, or working in pharmaceutical sales. Some companies may prefer a degree, though there are numerous sales positions where a high school diploma will grant you an interview. Today, this need not be in-person sales, since there are self-employed individuals making money selling online. Whether its homemade, handmade, or a service they provide. For people who wish to make sales their profession, there are courses, such as the Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP) series offered by the National Association of Sales Professionals. This $595 course can be taken online. You’ll learn to how to use the eight styles of communication to close more sales and a host more tactics to make you more proficient in sales. To be successful will depend on how you manage the interpersonal relationships you encounter during each sale. The profession can also make you more introspective as you strive to better yourself in your quest for being a more persuasive salesperson.

5. Carpenter

Building things with wood, particularly shelter, may be one of man’s earliest professions. Today, there is a scope of jobs related to carpentry: residential and commercial construction, cabinet maker, furniture restorer, and woodworking machine operator. Those with a passion for this job may have started small projects at home using hand and power tools. These people love working with their hands creating and building something of substance. Some carpenters begin as assistants or apprentices working for a journeyman carpenter. Wages at the entry level can be around $14/hour and increase to $23+ for a journeyman, and up to $32+/hour for a construction supervisor or manager.  In 2015, the highest paid carpentry jobs offered yearly wages of over $76,750 ($36.90 per hour). The electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry paid carpenters the highest average wages—$68,200 ($32.79 per hour).  And think how handy you’ll be around the house building a deck, fence or gazebo, plus weekend work for friends for a price, of course.

6. Police Officer

In most states, the minimum requirement to apply for a law enforcement job is a high school diploma, US citizenship, valid driver’s license, and it’s imperative that you have no criminal record, not even a DWI/DUI conviction. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated the median salary of $60,270 or $28.97 per hour for police officers. However, there are wide discrepancies in police wages across America. It’s best to check where you reside for a clearer picture of the salary you can expect. As stated, a college degree is not needed, though a degree in criminal justice, for example, may enhance your career. Research has shown a college degree significantly reduces the likelihood that officers will use force as their first option to gain compliance. The study also discovered evidence of educated officers demonstrating greater levels of creativity and problem-solving skills. With the demands of this profession, eventually, you may want to look into one of our top online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

7. Auto Adjuster Trainee

Learn to appraise vehicle damage while being paid by one of the top insurers in the USA. High school diploma is the minimum required to apply before being selected to participate in an insurer’s rigorous 12 week training program. Interested individuals should have excellent communication skills, as you’ll be acting as the representative for a major insurer. One example is a job posting on by Geico that lists the starting salary at $41,000 with the possibility to be promoted to $47,513 within six months. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Geico offers associates training and career advancement in a financially stable and rewarding workplace. In addition to a 401(k), medical, dental, vision and life insurance. There are other job opportunities for those eager to be trained in a various positions in property and casualty  insurance, whether it’s property, medical, liability or personal injury claims.

8. Correctional Officer

Correctional officers have the primary role of maintaining order within a detention facility, such as a local jail or federal prison. The detainees a correctional officer will oversee can be incarcerated for any number of reasons, which run the gamut from awaiting a court hearing for a minor offense to serving on death row. The requirements in most states are to possess a High School Diploma or military issued General Education Development (GED). It’s imperative that you are a U.S. citizen or alien authorized to work in the U.S. There are other criteria to meet regarding criminal record, drug testing and background checks. The state of Texas, for example, has 100 prisons and employs approximately 25,000 Correctional Officers. Their minimum salary is $2,700/monthly (CO I) as of 2015 and goes up to $3,600 for a CO V. The BLS reported the average wage at $40,580 in 2014 with a turnover of 17,900 jobs from 2014-2024. Another example is Florida whose Department of Corrections pays a trainee officer $28,000. Some counties in this state pay an annual bonus between $1,200 and $2,500.

9. Plumber

Plumbing is a licensed and regulated trade, and you can choose to work your way all the way up to the master level if you have the ambition to do so. Choosing a trade like plumbing often means you can attend vocational school or a community college for significantly less money, and then enter an apprenticeship where you’re actually paid while you learn the trade. You may be able to skip the vocational school route, since there are paid apprenticeships for high school graduates. CNN Money cited the example in 2015 of a man in Queens, New York who dropped out of college to begin a plumbing apprenticeship. He enrolled in a 5-year apprentice program at Plumbers Local 1 in Queens. Every two weeks, he attends class one day and works nine days. Each of those days, including his class, are paid for by the program. As an apprentice, he earns $28/hour and as his program progresses, he’ll earn $42/hour.

10. Electrician

Electricians have a number of skills. For example, an electrician must have strong math skills to accurately calculate measurements of voltage. This is another occupation that offers you the means to earn a wage while employed in an electrician’s apprenticeship. According to, one of the fastest growing jobs and recruiting sites, apprentice electricians earn an average of $37,700. The site reports the national average at $30,480. However, the BLS data of 2015 state that California (60,620), Texas (57,540) and New York (40,300) employ the most electricians in the U.S. With respect to cities, the Greater Chicago and suburbs pay the highest at $79,650 median salary (BLS 2015). Most states and municipalities require electricians to be licensed. To obtain a license one must pass an exam that tests knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code and local electrical and building codes.

11. Crime Scene Cleanup Technician

As the name implies, this job involves cleaning up after a crime, known as trauma cleaning. It also entails biohazard remediation: bodily fluids from blood to feces, as well as bacteria and other biological materials. As you can imagine, this is a graphic, yet vital function. These cleanup professionals are required to wear OSHA compliant protective gear to prevent the transfer of contaminants onto their body. One company that keeps popping up at several job posting sites is Aftermath Claim Science that employs cleanup technicians around the nation. Another company is National Crime Scene Cleanup Association that employs  people who are or have been EMTs, Firefighters, Military Personal, Law Enforcement and Medical Professionals that are accustomed to blood as an everyday experience. Cleanup companies also do remediation of hoarders, meth labs, mold, tear gas, vehicle blood and tissue, and suicide/death. Therefore, there are many opportunities to seek other  positions nationally as you gain experience.

12. Medical Coder

Medical coding is the translation of medical reports into a short code used within the healthcare industry. This helps summarize otherwise cumbersome medical reports into efficient, data-friendly codes. While complex and detail-driven, medical coding really comes down to knowing how to navigate the three main code sets. This profession does require paid courses to earn various certifications as designated by the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC). They offer a Certified Professional Coder: CPC + ICD-10 for $2,195 for AAPC members for physician-based coding. The course also includes the exam, and 3 practice exams. Membership may be obtained at a student rate of  $90.  AAPC is the world’s largest training and credentialing organization for the business of healthcare, with over 155,000 members worldwide. Because of the numerous certifications for this job and experience levels preferred, the hourly wage can be from $14 to $35 nationally. (ICD-10 stands for: International Classification of Diseases)

13. Massage Therapist

There are currently more than 300 accredited massage therapy institutions in the United States. Many of them have multiple campuses. Training programs in massage therapy generally require a high school diploma, though post-secondary education is useful. To enter this profession, you must take a massage therapy course, become certified and in most states also be licensed. Accredited campus training cost can equal the tuition of one year in a state school’s bachelor program: $10,000 to $15,000. But there is a less expensive way and that is to take the course online, such as the one offered by U.S. Career Institute. Their tuition is as low as $2,489 if paid in full or $2,839 by installments. Upon graduation from their program, you will receive your U.S. Career Institute Certificate of Completion attesting to your accomplishment. U.S. Career Institutes Massage Therapy program prepares you to take the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx-in 38 states) administered through the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).  Median wage for massage therapists was $38,040 as of May 2015 (BLS).

14. Border Patrol Agent

Border patrol agents (BPAs) are law enforcement officers who enforce federal laws when people or goods travel into the United States. They work along the borders of Mexico and Canada as well as in the coastal waters of Puerto Rico and Florida to facilitate the flow of legitimate trade. The qualifications to become a BPA are stringent: background checks, be fluent in Spanish, polygraph exam, physical fitness tests, and written testing. If you can make it through all the preliminary testing, you’ll move on to the United States Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico. The academy consists of 58 days of training in physical fitness, U.S. immigration law, firearms marksmanship, defensive tactics and other law enforcement-related subjects. For those not fluent in Spanish, after you complete the 58-day basic academy you’ll attend another 40-day Spanish language course that will consist of instruction and immersion in the language. According to (official website of the U.S. government), a fully trained agent can earn $40,511- $73,000 depending on series & grade level (GL 05-07). A supervisor (GS 13) can earn $85,815 as a starting salary.

15. Military

Everyone who enlists in the United States Military, whether it’s for active duty (full time) or National Guard/Reserves (part time) incurs a minimum eight-year service obligation. However, most of these contracts are four to six years of active duty followed by the remaining years in the Reserves or Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).  The Reserves or National Guard duty is a part time obligation  but a way to complete your commitment with the military. It requires going to drill one weekend per month, and two weeks per year.  You are subject to be called to active duty should the need arise. A big plus for joining a branch of the military is that they teach you skills, educate you, and invest in your future. For example, the Army Nurse Corps consists of 11,000 men and women. You can earn your RN, Masters in Nursing (MSN) and doctorate all paid by the Army. Or chose any healthcare specialty from anesthesia to psychiatric. The Air Force and Navy have similar programs.

Your imagination is the only limit on the possibilities of jobs without a college degree. Perhaps you use your anticipated tuition to start your own business-be an entrepreneur where you run the show. Or if your parent(s) has set aside $15,000 to launch your college years, you convince them to give you this sum. A onetime investment in your future instead of a possible $60,000 over four years. You invest your $15k into a 6% compound annually annuity. By adding only $2,500 a year for 37 years or until the age of 55, it’ll have grown to $447,712!

If you do decide that college/university is the best choice for your aspirations, we invite you to review our top cheapest online Associate’s degree programs and top cheapest online Bachelor’s degree programs. If one of these online programs appeals to you, then you can work and advance your education at the same time. The best of both worlds!



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