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Top Ten Careers Without Much Schooling

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

The prevailing wisdom is that a bachelor's degree is an absolute necessity to finding a secure and well-paying job. The reality is that there are a number of fields and industries where a college education may not be worth the time and money spent for it. Hiring managers for some jobs and companies pay more attention to proven skills and background than to academic credentials. "Forbes" magazine compiled a list of the top ten highest-paying jobs that require little or no schooling. Each of the jobs listed offer salaries above $85,000 for the top earners.

Agent or Manager

Agents and managers to athletes, performers and artists together earned a mean salary of $84,070 in 2007. There is no standard educational pathway to becoming an agent or manager--many do have a bachelor's degree, but plenty of others do not. This is the kind of job where the right connections and the right personality will take you much farther than a diploma.


This one is a stretch for most people, but athletes and sports competitors earned a mean income of $74,440 in 2007. College is the typical starting point for an athlete who wants to get drafted by a paying sports team since recruiters visit universities to find new talent--but if you're really good you may not need to stay there long.

Elevator Mechanic

Elevator mechanics enjoy a secure job in the construction field and earn a median salary of $61,930. Though there's no formal schooling, potential elevator mechanics must complete a four-year apprenticeship.

Fashion Designer

If you have a great sense of style and can sew and draw well you can earn $69,270 yearly--that was the mean salary for fashion designers in 2007. Some clothiers do attend design school, but this is not mandatory--an apprenticeship with a great designer can serve you just as well if not better.

Film and Video Editor

If you have the technical skill to use cameras and video-editing software, you could earn $58,100 a year. Vocational schools offer film and video editing programs, but many film and video editors polish their craft through on-the-job training.

Flight Attendant

Airlines look for candidates who meet a minimum height requirement, are adept in dealing with the public and who ideally speak one or more foreign languages with competence. No college degree is required. Flight attendants earned a mean salary of $56,150 in 2007.

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

You'll need years of training for this career--but you'll get it on the job instead of in college. Nuclear power plants hire entry-level candidates who demonstrate strength in mathematics and the sciences, and though college courses in these subjects help, they aren't a necessity. Once licensed you can earn $70,800 a year.

Real Estate Broker

Real estate brokers must be licensed, but they don't need any degree. Sales skills are more important than college education for this job. The mean salary for real estate brokers as reported in 2007 was $80,230.

Sales Representative for Non-Technical Wholesale and Manufactured Goods

Being a sales representative is another career for which hiring managers pay more attention to sales skills and background than to college education. You can earn a mean income of $58,540 with such a position.

Sound Engineering Technician

Many sound engineering technicians do have some type of degree or certificate from a technical school or community college, but it's also possible to start your career with an internship. If you have the necessary skills in electronics, computer networking or broadcast technology, you can expect a mean income of $50,260 and can seek employment in the music or movie business.