A grim job market and crushing student debt have many people second guessing their higher education decisions. Nearly half of recent grads regret choosing their school or major.
A recent Reddit thread asked for some great careers that college kids have no idea even exist.
Here are some of the best potential alternatives to spending four years on a degree and racking up student loans, or potential alternative paths to people who graduate and find themselves working in retail.
Air traffic controller
"After school and training it pays an average of 100k a year, but there is an age limit to get accepted." – Kate1320
"My father is an ATC at Pearson. 200k a year with brilliant benefits. He provided a great quality of life for my family." – 1stOnRT1
Some caveats detailed here.
"I've been doing this for a few years and I'll pull in roughly 60-70k this year. It's great if you like working outdoors, like heights, and enjoy traveling. It's hard to get bored when you're in a new town every week working with guys who have your back.
"There's a big push in projects right now that's causing a lot of companies to hire on new guys. Starting wages should be no lower than $20 / hour and most places will give you plenty of overtime.
"The cool thing is you don't need a college degree, or any kind of education (personally, I have my Bachelors in an unrelated field)." – IClimbStuff
Geomatic engineering/Land surveying
"Most surveyors are old, for instance, the average age of a surveyor in the state of CA is in the mid to late fifties, which means you will definitely get a job out of college and you can quickly work your way up to a decent 6 figure income once you get your professional license." – TheGeomatician
"Yes. Definitely yes. My dad actually worked for a surveyor for a while and has done surveying off and on as a technician. Made a livable income for someone who dropped out of college after a semester and funded a very heavy smoking habit. I've considered getting a side job with a surveyor in a year or two since part of my current degree involves Geographic Information Systems." – da_asparagus
"People think I design factories when I mention it, and half the designers I know stumbled upon the field by chance themselves. I'm actually surprised, given how industrial designers have had a hand in pretty much everything that's ever been mass-manufactured.
"As a career, industrial design is a great fusion of art and engineering. The problems are challenging, the work is varied and creative, and design consultancies have some of the best work environments and cultures you could ask for. And at the core of it all, you're tasked with answering the question, 'what sort of future do we want to live in?' Design is so much more than making things shiny.
"How many other jobs pay you a starting salary of 50K+ to do this for a living?" – Grizzleyt
Unexploded ordnance technician
"Takes about 12k and a month and a half of school, then about 65k Starting, 80k In three years, and 100k plus in 8 years. Have to be willing to live out of a suitcase, and you get to blow things up." – Kriieod
"It's a three-year program (on average -- took me four to finish), but if you're proficient in grammar, have strong language skills, have solid finger dexterity from playing an instrument or video games, and are able to work independently, it's an incredible career.
"You work from home most of the time, lawyers very rarely schedule depositions before 10:00 a.m., you can make your own schedule, and the pay is great. Your pay reflects how hard you want to work and the jobs you're getting, but I made 65k my first year and nearly 80k my second." – Bad_Karma21
"There are only a few schools who offer this degree but the level of difficulty is not high and the unemployment rate after graduation is incredibly low. Also you are likely to be hired to Fortune 500 companies, (P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Bemis, etc.)" – Klarkson1273
"You have to do a premed track in undergrad, but then go to a 2 year masters program which has 100% job placement and the average starting salary is about 120k.
"I never knew about it as an undergrad and wasted a few years getting another masters in an unrelated field and working for a bit." – parallax1
Hearing aid practitioner/Audiologist
"I don't think many people realize just how many practitioners are going to be needed in [the] not too distant future. The baby boomers are getting older and a lot of them will need hearing aids. Along with that, you have the ipod generation who crank headphone volumes too loud." – the-d-man
"You mean an Audiologist? Jobs jobs everywhere. Same goes for speech pathologists. Requires a grad degree and a lot of clinic hours, state certification, but the pay is great and jobs are plentiful. Work is rewarding too, helping people communicate who otherwise couldn't is pretty rad." – PaleoVision
"The short of it is a 2-2.5 year long post-grad program, and then you're able to work in the industry with a comparatively high level of independence and earning 6 figures doing something that results in one feeling as though they're making some sort of difference.
"It's not an easy way out, of course, but it's so much less commitment than Medical School, and with the way Med School costs are going, it's very possible that throughout the entirety of your career you can out-earn many doctors who don't specialize in a particularly expensive specialty. And this also comes with the ability to change specialties without going back to school." – You_Dont_Party
Hospital technology repair
"My brother in law ( and hopefully myself after graduation ) works for a medical repair company. He made 55k starting, 15/hr during the internship, and owned his own house at 23. They fly him around for free whenever someone out of state calls." – CurioustoaFault
"As a former biomed technician, I can confirm that it's a very solid industry to get in on. Medical equipment (even on the smaller scale, infusion pumps, defibrillators, god damn portable suction machines) are ridiculously overpriced, and with this comes huge maintenance prices too. I remember one week in particular, our team of four technicians working on a particular job billed $35,000+ for our company simply doing routine checks on certain equipment in one of the nearby hospitals." – Bananaman_lives
"Fellow auditor here, and I couldn't agree more. Large companies have management training rotations in audit because of the risk/controls knowledge you get and the broad understanding of processes, so it's definitely a good track to leadership.
"I also find it financially rewarding. 6 years out of undergrad, over $100k/year." – Xomegaalpha
"Anything to do with the environment, it doesn't matter which party is in charge. If you don't get something private sector out in Alberta you can always go up to the territories for an easy 100,000$ a year. That doesn't mean it won't suck, but you're fresh out of university (college for all you weird people) you can't and shouldn't be picky for the first few years and it's good money." – pru555
"Sequencing technology is getting cheaper & amount of data is increasing while there [are] not enough people to analyze it." – bio-hack
"It can be cyclical (bit of a miner lull right now in my specific resource/location right now) but on a good year it is white hot. I signed on to a $100k salary (+bonus+benefits) straight out of my bachelors degree at 23 for a job that had me moving across the planet (Canada to Australia). The year I graduated we finished school in May and 80% of my graduating class had jobs lined up already and the remainder found jobs by the end of July.
"I was on the higher end for salaries (most making about $80k) There's worldwide options especially if you get educated in a Western University. Mining Engineers in the US make a little less (~$65k) but for the amount of people working for $30k on masters degrees in other industries, you can't really complain. You do have to be willing to live in remote areas." – truffleshufflegoonie
"My friends whole family are morticians and funeral directors. Not one of them makes less than $50k. One of them finished mortician science school at 20 and started making $60k as an apprentice and in a couple years he'll be a full blown embalmer making twice that." – Austronano
Geospatial/geographic information systems
"It's basically the 21st century version of cartography and it's a field that ranges everything from making maps (think Google Maps or Garmin), pollution tracking, civil planning, interpretation of satellite imagery, and countless other uses.
"It primarily centers around the use of GIS programs like ArcMap or GrassGIS to graphically represent quantitative data.
"Employers LOVE it and demand for it is high. It's one of the few jobs you can do well in with a bachelor's degree too, masters are rather specialized and go more into satellite work or high level statistics generally. Starting wages are generally 40-60k a year from what I've seen but there's a lot of room to move around and move up the ladder." – Shorvok
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