"Go to college and do something with your life," may be what you've heard, but college isn't for everyone. Some people don't want to be cooped up in a classroom reading textbooks and taking tests. They're fine with not being a lawyer or an architect; instead of designing the building, they would rather be part of the construction team that builds it. They would much rather learn on the job. For those who don't have a passion for the university life, there are jobs out there for you. They don't require a lot of formal education, but as the cliché goes, the fee you pay goes to the school of experience.
TUTORIAL: Financial Careers
Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers are primarily responsible for safely routing aircraft to and from destinations. Recruits start at $17,800 per year, but once all on-the-job training is completed and the controller gains experience, they can finish their career making nearly $140,000 annually. If you're thinking of entering the FAA training program you must be no older than 30, if you have no prior experience as an ATC. (For related reading, see Top 10 Highest-Paying Jobs For 2011.)
Powerhouse Substation Mechanic
For those who enjoy working with electricity, powerhouse substation and relay repair personnel maintain the numerous relay stations that route electricity through the power grid to homes and businesses. The average salary is $61,700, but the top 10% can earn as much as $82,000. Although training is extensive for this hazardous career, they won't ask for your college degree when you apply.
If you're more of a desk job and numbers kind of person, but still don't have much desire to sit in a classroom, a career as a financial advisor may be perfect for you. Although financial advisors have to be certified, on-the-job training often takes place while studying for the exams. Financial advisors often start their career as an intern with a salary of $20,000 to $24,000 but after only five years advisors can make more than $100,000.
The North American oil industry is a modern day gold rush. Halliburton, an oil and gas exploration company, reports that jobs in the North Dakota Bakken Shale are paying as much as $130,000 per year after just two years of experience. Truck drivers transporting oil out of North Dakota are reportedly making more than $100,000 and, according to insiders, there are thousands of well-paying jobs available with many requiring little or no experience and no more than a high school education. (For related reading, see Top 4 At-Home Financial Jobs.)
When you step on to an elevator or escalator how often do you think about its reliability? This is one of the reasons why an elevator repair person or installer has an average starting salary of $67,000 and may top out their career at as much as $100,000. Not only is the job hazardous, but training takes four years of classroom and on the job experience. Next time you're on an elevator heading up to the 40thfloor, think of the mechanic who keeps that elevator in good working order.
54% of households living in New York City don't own a car and rely on public transportation for their daily lives. Any breakdown or safety issue concerning the public transportation system can cost Americans time and money, especially in large metropolitan cities. In worst-case scenarios, lives could be lost. This is why transportation inspectors, those who keep the public transportation system safe, start at $61,000 and earn more than $103,000 after just a few years of experience.
The Bottom Line
There's one trait that every successful person must have that formal education can't teach: an extraordinary work ethic. For those people who are willing to work harder than others in their field, a comfortable and prosperous salary will follow. Is there someone you know who seems to excel at everything they do? That isn't an accident. Education is important, but these jobs prove that there are big financial rewards for those who are willing to work hard. (For more on alternative careers, see Becoming A Financial Writer.)