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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Great Careers don't Require Degrees

The economy may have imploded somewhat over the course of the past 14 months, but you still have bills to pay, rent checks to write and a healthy drinking habit to support, which means you need money. "I'm not qualified for anything, I don't have my degree," you might say to yourself. That's loser talk. Whoever said that you need to write the letters B.A. after your name was full of BS.

The obvious answer to your problem is "entrepreneur," but we've decided to leave that off the list since we haven't seen too many postings for "entrepreneur" on Craigslist or CareerBuilder lately. In other words, you can’t apply to be an entrepreneur, you just have to do it.

Here are the nine best jobs that you can apply for and build a career around without earning a four-year degree. Plus, you might just get a parade in your honor with one of these. Try and guess which one.

1- Firefighter

Starting salary: $32,165 - $53,608

Being a firefighter is pretty much the embodiment of a hero. You're out there saving lives and property. You're the savior to everyone who didn't pay attention to the level of oil required to fry a turkey. You save California every three or four years from burning off the face of the earth. All the while, you're keeping in top physical shape.

With a high-school diploma, a little relevant experience and the ability to perform strength-draining exertions under intense pressure, you've got a future in firefighting.

2- Police officer

Starting salary: Varies by location

If being in close to firefighter condition when you start out is something you enjoy, but that penchant for sweet, fried pastries is a vice you just cannot control, starting out as a police officer might be more your speed.

Now, for most jurisdictions, you're probably going to need an associate's degree in criminal law or 12-18 months’ worth of experience in the law enforcement business to be a proper officer, but there may be entry-level positions available.

3- Mechanic

Starting salary: $30,584 - $40,564

Want to be the envy of all your worthless liberal arts degree-having friends? Become a mechanic. Being able to fix cars around these people is like having a license to print money. Plus, it's a damned respectable and professional career choice.

Starting as a mechanic usually involves being an apprentice. You know, how useful education used to be passed along before everyone decided you should have letters after your name?

4- Appliance Repairman

Starting salary: $37,345 - $56,285 (Varies widely)

Everyone has appliances that break around the house. It seems like every two months the clothes dryer decides that "blowing hot air" is no longer a part of its job description. Used to be that you'd just throw that under-performing piece of garbage out, but not in this economic maelstrom.

Working in the world of appliance repair is a lot like working in automotive repair. There are no specific education prerequisites, as most of the skill is acquired on the job. An extremely skilled repairman who isn't strictly on salary might bring in close to $50,000.

5- Plumber / Electrician

Starting salary: $35,575 - $48,833

Again, we're talking about learning a trade, so no matter how badly you screwed up in school, it doesn't matter. Granted, you can't be a moron and learn complex, potentially dangerous skills (in the case of working with live electricity) but it’s virtually guaranteed that you'll be in high demand. Not surprisingly, guys aren’t exactly lining up to work with high voltage or in sewers, so you should be able to find a niche in either, both of which are respectable trades.

Union benefits and becoming licensed are a few of the perks you have to look forward to.

6- Salesman

Starting salary: Who knows?

The salesman is truly the American job. Earn what you're worth, not a cent more. You don't need a formal education to be a salesman -- you need a brass personality and thick skin. Infrequent pay checks, constant rejection and an almost immediate repulsion from anyone you let know you're in sales are just a few of the givens of the profession.

That being said, earning potential is usually unlimited and setting your own hours can be a perk. Success or failure, this one is all on you.

7- Web designer

Starting salary: $43,591 - $57,167

Half computer hacker, half unappreciated artist, the web design field is an interesting blend of left and right brain skills that doesn't really translate into a relevant degree. If you have these seemingly opposite skills, you're in demand. With commerce, networking and research all being done on the web in large scales, the design of a website is absolutely crucial to success.

8- Occupational therapy assistant

Starting salary: $30,000 - $38,000

If you genuinely enjoy helping people (and not just saying that you do), then this might be a job to consider. Learning this position can be done either on the job, via a correspondence program or at a junior college. Rehabilitation can be a rewarding experience in and of itself.

9- Truck driver

Starting salary: $42,000 - $52,000

The lure of the open road can be the biggest perk of all. Not only that, but truck drivers are responsible for just about everything that happens in the economy. Sure, you can buy it online, but how are they going to get it to you? The truck isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Most truck drivers have at least their high-school degree and many more beyond that go to truck driving school to learn to drive 18-wheel behemoths


By James Griffin

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