When you’re out in the real world and trying to provide for yourself and your family, it can feel like a four-year college degree is a necessity to earn anything more than minimum wage. However, this simply isn’t true. In fact, there are plenty of situations where a four-year degree is actually a hindrance to your success.
Consider the fact that 69% of today’s college students are taking out student loans. The average graduate is leaving school with a diploma on one hand and a debt amounting to $29,900 in another hand.
The fact that you don’t have student loan debt should be considered a blessing and an advantage. It allows you to utilize more of your resources and earning power to get ahead. The question is, which jobs offer the most promise for high earnings and career opportunities?
Here are a few to consider:
1. Real Estate Agent
If you’re looking for a career with unlimited earning potential, real estate offers numerous options and incredible flexibility. As a residential real estate agent, you can essentially control your own career and enjoy all of the freedoms that come from working for yourself.
The biggest challenge with becoming a real estate agent is that it can take a couple of years to make enough money to support yourself. Thus, you may have to work another job part-time and/or leverage a parent or spouse’s financial resources for a year before completely going out on your own.
To become a real estate agent, you’ll need to take an online real estate license course and pass the required exams. Once licensed, you’ll find a broker and start your career.
If you like working with your hands and want a job with guaranteed demand, you may consider becoming an electrician. You can either attend a technical school or apprentice under someone and learn the ropes through on-the-job training. The median salary for an electrician is north of $50,000, and job growth is considered above-average.
3. Dental Hygienist
Dentists aren’t the only ones making good money. Believe it or not, one of the highest-paying jobs a non-degree holder can get is that of a dental hygienist. The median salary is more than $75,000 per year, and you typically have a lot of flexibility with where you can work (small family-owned business, large practice, big city, rural, etc.).
In order to become a dental hygienist, you’ll need to complete a specialized program (typically three years) and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam.
4. Air Traffic Controller
It can be a high-stress, high-stakes job, but the role of air traffic controller is also one of the highest-paying opportunities for non-college graduates. The median salary is $122,990, and there’s no extensive educational requirement. (You will need an associate’s degree.)
If you’re interested in becoming an air traffic controller, you should be prepared to work nights and weekends (particularly when just starting out). And while the hours can be demanding, it’s meaningful and rewarding work.
5. Truck Driver
Did you know that truck drivers can actually make pretty decent money? The average salary clocks in somewhere above $61,000 per year. And depending on the company you work for, you can get a whole host of benefits and perks (including 401(k) programs, health benefits, paid time off, etc.).
Being a truck driver isn’t for everyone – it often requires you to be away from home for long stretches – but for people who like changes of scenery, it can be rewarding. It’s especially good for younger adults who maybe don’t have a family yet and can spend long stretches of time away from home.
Pursue a Career You’re Passionate About
It’s easy to get caught up in average salary figures and other shiny numbers. But at the end of the day, you have to contextualize any and all opportunities through the lens of what you’re passionate about.
If you pick a job because of the pay but don’t actually enjoy it, you’ll become burned out in a matter of weeks. It’s much better to go with a job that gets you excited, even if it means less pay upfront. Because eventually this passion will open up new doors and present you with more opportunities for higher pay and career growth.