Posted Jan. 29, 2008 - What do Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and entertainment mogul David Geffen have in common? Huge bank accounts and no student loans. These industry leaders are some of the most successful people in business and none of them has a college degree.
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The belief that you need a college education to have a well-paying and rewarding job is quickly fading. A four-year degree definitely has its benefits in the business world, but it’s not the only path to a successful career.
In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), eight of the 10 fastest-growing occupations through 2014 don’t require a bachelor's degree. And these jobs, which include health technology, plumbing, firefighting and automotive repair, are less vulnerable to outsourcing. After all, if a fire breaks out, you need the fire department to be a few blocks away, not halfway around the world.
While the educational requirements for many good jobs have risen, many occupations still don’t require a four-year degree. Several of these positions require vocational training or an associate degree. All of them require some on-the-job training or an apprenticeship.
Here are 25 of the top-paying jobs that don't require a four-year degree and their average salaries, based on data from the BLS and CBSalary.com.
1. Air traffic controller: $102,030
2. Funeral director: $79,517
3. Operations manager: $77,839
4. Industrial production manager: $73,000
5. Transportation manager: $72,662
6. Storage and distribution manager: $69,898
7. Computer technical support specialist: $67,689
8. Gaming manager: $64,880
9. First-line supervisor/manager of police and detective: $64,430
10. Nuclear power reactor operator: $64,090
11. Computer specialist: $59,480
12. First-line, non-retail supervisors/manager: $59,300
13. Nuclear technician: $59,200
14. First-line supervisor/manager of fire fighting and prevention worker: $58,920
15. Real estate broker: $58,720
16. Elevator installer and repairer: $58,710
17. Sales representative, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products: $58,580
18. Dental hygienist: $59,790
19. Radiation therapist: $57,700
20. Nuclear medicine technologist: $56,450
21. Power plant distributor and dispatcher: $57,330
22. Fashion designer: $55,840
23. Ship engineer: $54,950
24. Detective and criminal investigator: $53,990
25. Commercial pilot: $53,870
For some of these occupations, the highest earners in the field make a significantly higher amount than the national average. For example, the top funeral directors can make $225,500. Some non-retail sales representatives can earn as much as $114,540, nearly double the national average. Operations managers, who already rank highly on the list, can make $132,537. As with any occupations, location factors heavily into how much you earn. (For example, major metropolitan areas will probably pay more than smaller towns.)
"The thing to keep in mind is that there are something like 50 million jobs out there that don't require a bachelor's degree and pay upwards of $40,000 a year," says Harlow Unger, author of "But What If I Don't Want to Go to College? A Guide to Success Through Alternative Education."
He goes on to say that according to the U.S. Department of Labor, by 2010, almost two-thirds of all projected job openings will require only on-the-job training.
So while a college degree was de rigueur for the Baby Boom generation, that's not necessarily the case now. In today's highly technical and service-related market, workers are judged more on their skills than their sheepskins.