Six Surprising Six-Figure Jobs: No Degree Required
How can you find a steady job that makes six figures without a four-year or associate's degree? You may think first of typical blue collar trades, like electrician or plumber. But, there are some other options that will surprise you. Would you believe that court reporters can make over $100,000 a year?
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
Median Annual Salary: $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.
-- Find Air Traffic Controller Jobs
2. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
Median Annual Salary: $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.)
Median Annual Salary: $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.
-- Find Security Jobs
4. Elevator Mechanic
Median Annual Salary: $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.
-- Find Elevator Mechanic Jobs
5. Court Reporter
Median Annual Salary: $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 closed-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.
-- Find Court Reporter Jobs
6. Fire Chief
Median Annual Salary: $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 data shows, there are plenty of qualified applicants for firefighting jobs so the competition is tough. The 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.
-- Find Fire Chief Jobs
Next: Highest Paying Trades >>
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Bridget Quigg is the web content editor for online salary database PayScale.com.
Located in Seattle, Wash., Bridget specializes in writing and editing content for blogs, websites and feature articles.
Bridget graduated from Stanford University with a degree in English. She teaches creative writing and is also a songwriter who regularly performs music and comedic story-telling in the Seattle area and beyond. Her most recent one-woman show was titled, "Almost Female: A Jockette's Awesome Journey."