By Christine Laue, PayScale.com
Being degreeless doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll wind up in a low-paying job. Online salary database PayScale.com compiled a list of jobs that pay $25 an hour -- or $52,000 a year -- but don’t require a college degree. The list looks at workers with five to eight years of experience.
That pay level -- which is more than three times the minimum wage -- bests the typical college graduate's starting salary of $39,000, says Katie Bardaro, PayScale.com’s lead analyst. “If you work hard and move up to a higher-level job, you have the potential to do better than a recent college grad,” she says.
Oil pumper Pat Love of Lincolnville, Kansas, drives a truck through a 10,000-acre pasture in the Flint Hills of Kansas to check oil and gas wells. If they aren’t pumping correctly, he fixes them.
Love, who doesn’t have a college degree, learned everything he needed to know on the job and from a few classes. Many employers send workers to training conducted by heavy-equipment manufacturers.
Love urges anyone considering work as an oil pumper to be aware that the job is labor-intensive and dangerous. “They call me ‘accident Pat,’” he says. “There are plenty of burn scars on my arms.”
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Retail General Manager
Retail managers oversee day-to-day operations of a retail store. The work includes hiring and supervising employees, coordinating sales promotions, implementing policies and customer relations. Previous sales experience is essential for someone without a degree.
Alex Diimig, 25, landed a retail manager job at Jake’s Cigars and Spirits in Omaha without a degree. He was promoted a year and a half later to general manager, demonstrating that advancing in retail doesn’t always require a degree, “as long as you have tenacity and can work hard,” he says. “I don’t plan to stop where I’m at. I think there is a lot of opportunity for me in this job.”
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Director of Housekeeping
The director of housekeeping coordinates, schedules and supervises janitors and housekeepers in hotels, restaurants, nursing homes or private residences. The housekeeping director’s responsibilities include assigning tasks, inspecting employees’ work and preparing department expense reports.
While janitors and housekeepers without degrees can work their way into this role, they might be required to take some college courses or in-service training to advance to supervisor.
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Mulling if a millwright job is right for you? A millwright installs, assembles and dismantles machinery, conveyer systems and material-handling equipment in factories, power plants and construction sites.
Most millwrights enter the occupation through apprenticeship programs typically lasting four years and sponsored by local union chapters, employers or state labor departments.
That’s how Shane Harris of Warsaw, Indiana, became a millwright in the mid-1990s. The expanding wind-power industry is fueling demand today, he says. “Although we were slow a couple years ago, we are seeing a huge increase in work,” he says.
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Mobile Crane Operator
Crane operators use equipment to lift and move materials, machinery and other heavy objects at warehouses, storage yards, factories and construction sites.
Little or no formal training is required in most cases. Many employers require workers to be at least 18 and physically able to perform the work. Six cities and 17 states require crane operators to be licensed.
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Food Service Director
The food service director hires, trains and supervises the staff for restaurants or food service facilities. Responsibilities include ordering supplies and setting work schedules.
Most food service directors have prior experience in the food or hospitality industries and some postsecondary training; however, many experienced workers with less education can be promoted.
Peter Fischbach of Newark, New Jersey, served as director of food services for Gourmet Dining Services at the 9,500-student New Jersey Institute of Technology before being promoted to regional director of culinary development. He now oversees food service at 11 different colleges and universities.
While Fischbach entered the field as an executive chef, he says many food service directors don’t need culinary degrees. Smaller, privately owned companies especially promote from within and are less likely to require formal education, he says.
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Source: Salary data provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Jobs and pay are for full-time workers with five to eight years of experience. Job descriptions are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Learn more about skilled trades careers.