Online salary database PayScale.com has come up with a list of six no-degree, six-figure gigs that you might not have considered. PayScale’s director of quantitative analysis, Al Lee, says, “All of these jobs require a lot of on the job training and experience to get to high levels of pay. But, if you’re the kind of person who can’t stand to sit in the seat in school, they may be a great way to get there.”
Lee adds that the jobs below are all fairly resistant to the ups and downs of the economy. And, they serve up regular income, so you have the big earnings of a business owner without the risk of running your own business.
If finishing your college degree isn’t something you either want to or can do any time soon, check out the list below for some inspiration on where to take your talents to fill up your bank account. The following list shows earnings for workers with at least five years of experience who are in the ninetieth percentile for median earnings among their peers.
1. Air Traffic Controller $159,000. Air traffic control work is often featured in films as high pressure and highly stressful. It is. It requires strong mental focus, a lock-tight memory and good decision-making skills. There are a number of routes to a career in air traffic control. To work for the FAA, as most controllers do, all applicants must pass through training at the FAA center in Oklahoma City, Okla. The process is rigorous and takes several months to complete. But, it can pay off. And, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a wave of retirement in the coming years that should open up more positions to younger controllers.
2. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator – $128,000. From brightly-lit computer screens to blinking street lights, your work as a power plant operator makes you a vital part of everyone’s day. According to the BLS, you’ll likely start as an equipment operator, eventually receiving more on-the-job training, getting licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and moving into a senior operator position. This job is also high pressure, as you are responsible for equipment that affects power to the reactor itself.
3. Director of Security (Physical, Personnel, Grounds, et al.) $123,000. If you have a mind for thinking of the worst possible scenario and how to prevent or control it, you may be the right person for a career in security. Once you arrive at the director level, you’re responsible for anticipating trouble before it comes and making sure that your staff is well-trained and managed. The BLS notes that competition for jobs at this level of security work is stiff and the conditions can be hazardous, but security management is likely to stay in demand in the future.
4. Elevator Mechanic – $109,000. Elevator mechanics may have some of the best job security around. Most people dislike heading for the elevator, only to see that it’s broken and they have to take the stairs. And, this work cannot be outsourced. Elevator repair jobs are expected to be more and more in demand in the future, according to the BLS. Most repair people learn their skills through a four-year union apprenticeship.
5. Court Reporter – $105,000. Like the jobs listed above, a court reporting gig requires you to take on a great deal of responsibility. Court reporters must prepare accurate and complete legal records of conversations, most commonly court proceedings. Job prospects for this work are expected to be good, as demand for close-captioning and real-time translation services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing grows. This career requires a good deal of training, which can be had through a technical school or the National Court Reporters Association. Some states require licensure, according to the BLS, and others may require court reporters to be notary publics.
6. Fire Chief – $121,000. To get to the position of fire chief, you’ll likely need to put many years in to fighting fires, exposing yourself to dangerous, stressful situations and staying in tip-top shape. And, you’re still not assured a chief spot because, as the BLS notes, there are plenty of qualified applicants for firefighting jobs so the competition is tough. BLS notes that fire fighter applicants with some postsecondary education are more and more preferred these days, but the opportunity is still available to candidates with only a high school degree.
Source: All salary data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience who earn in the 90th percentile for workers in their profession and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing. For updated salary information, click each job title in the listings.