20+ High-paying, Low-education Jobs: Tips from a perpetual career-changer / hiring manager

by phil on Wednesday Jun 23, 2010 12:56 AM

Someone asked on MetaFilter whether it's possibly to get a high-paying job without a college degree or extensive credentials (like going to nursing school). As I started to answer his question, ideas kept popping up in my head. Perhaps its because I've been a perpetual career-changer, or perhaps it's because I spent six months working as a Hiring Manager at Mutual Mobile, but this was a really easy and fun task for me.

So I took the list of job categories on craigslist, and wrote down anything that came to mind. Ultimately, I found a handful of ideas in more than half of the categories:

accounting+finance: Most people don't understand what financial advisers do, which helps them keep their fees high.

arch / engineering: It's easy to get CAD-certified and get some middle-class level paying jobs shortly thereafter.

art / media / design: Wedding photographers just need a portfolio. And the wedding photographers I know make a lot of money for what seems like a short amount of work.

biotech / science: You could (the keyword is could) be a human guinea pig.

business / mgmt: People who hire managers usually care most about prior management experience. Getting prior management experience is easy if you start in retail or restaurants. One of our best project managers at Mutual Mobile impressed us with managing and expanding a restaurant chain over six years, working his way up from busboy. At most low-level jobs you start at, you can step up to management in six months to a year. Even better, by that point, you'll know enough about the ins-and-outs of that industry to set up your own shop. Being an entrepreneur requires no credentials, and the pay potential is unlimited.

education: Tutoring pays, even if all you have is "I got a 5 in AP Calculus BC" or "My SAT score was 1500+." Teaching music also pays well if you're aggressive at selling yourself.

general labor: Landscape designers and garbage men do well for themselves.

internet engineering: None of these positions require college backgrounds. My web programmer friend was already making more than the average University of Texas graduate before he got accepted there.

real estate: I still believe there's a lot of money to be made in real estate. You could start out as a property manager and then transition to being an agent.

sales: The sky's the limit with commission sales jobs. I heard of a guy who eventually made $10K/mo. selling vacuum cleaners.

salon/spa/fitness jobs: Physical trainers don't need much in the way of certifications. Same with Yoga instructors.

security: I'd imagine if you develop some expertise in installing security systems, you could make a lot of money. Their prices always seem like a rip-off, but someone must be paying them.

skilled trades/artisan: Specialty service techs seem to make a lot of money for not much knowledge. There's people in town that charge an arm and a leg for just fixing washers and dryers. I looked into the knowledge bases for those devices, and there isn't that much too it. There's maybe 100 man-hours of experience to get a start, and then the rest is bonus experience. There's all sorts of specialty jobs in here, like HVAC (air conditioner) technicians etc.

software / qa / dba: As I said with web design, it just takes a portfolio or a track record to convince people to pay you to do programming. As long as you're reliable and reasonably competent, you're set. Especially if you know a special language or one that is uniquely in demand (like Objective-C these days).

transport: Someone talked about driving for Ryder and making $65K/yr. Tow truck drivers also make a lot of money.

web/HTML/info design: Web design has been and still is a high-paying job as long as you're reliable. See above.

So what are you waiting for? Perhaps its a kick-in-the-pants. The profile of someone reading this post is probably not looking for just a job, but career fulfillment. In which case, I recommend reading the following books:

What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success


Deepali said on September 15, 2010 6:52 AM:

hi.i am deeply interested in arts and cooking, fond of teaching and get along with kids reaaly well. but not very qualified. average on 10th level.

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