Jobs (Without College)•
Posted on July 01 2011
For those looking for work right now, a “good job” might be any job at all. The economy is still struggling to get back on its feet, and while those at university are worrying about how useful their degree will be in such a stunted, competitive job market, the newly laid off are considering heading back to school as a good investment and for a safe haven for the foreseeable future.
In the long-fought duel between education and experience, it’s common for “experience” to get the short end of the stick. It seems that the (educated) population at large have decided that, yes, there are careers that demand little more than an ability to read and write, but you’re likely to get your hands dirty doing them. Why is it that when we think of jobs without college we always come up with titles like plumber, mechanic and fireman, but forget about great self-made men like Simon Cowell, Bill Gates and Frank Lloyd Wright?
Let’s just say it: Those of us who went for an expensive university education may have been duped. We often come out of the other end of the system with little more to show for it than a short resume and substantial debt. How is it that graduates are over-educated for the jobs they land and employers are complaining that there is a shortage of highly skilled labor?
A recent LinkedIn poll asked recruiters, “What do you value more: education or experience,” and the consensus was overwhelmingly on the side of hands-on practice. Recruiters feel that while some degrees may open doors, it’s experience that will land you the job. One respondent wrote, “I have found that colleges are teaching theory, and from a personal experience, theory only works in theory.”
Another said: “As a hiring manager and the final decision-maker, I can only give you one gem of wisdom I've learned over the years: There is a reason why education and degrees are listed at the 'bottom' of the resume… A degree is just a piece of paper. It does not reflect on the candidate's ability to excel in the position… It does not mean you have the experience of learning from the school of hard knocks.”
So without further ado, here are five great jobs you can land without college.
Jobs Without College
There’s no doubt that if you walk up to a newspaper with a masters degree in journalism but no published clippings you’ll be turned away in favor of the guy who was making coffee in the newsroom at 17 and worked his way up the food chain. Most successful media hounds have talent and determination, not a framed university certificate, so whether you’re dreaming of reporting as a war correspondent or cushy writer, skip the classroom and start befriending editors. Some of the world’s richest media moguls are college dropout (Ted Turner was kicked out of Brown and Dreamworks founder David Geffen flunked out of two colleges) and the vast majority of award-winning editors, photographers, radio presenters, and producers have spent more hours in a newsroom than dollars on a degree.
Luxury Hotel Manager
Sure, you may start out waiting tables, but because the hospitality industry is such a transient field, if you’re determined to make a career out of it, it won’t be long before you’re managing a boutique hotel. Experience here is everything. Hospitality is the art of making people feel welcome and comfortable while problem solving and innovating in order to stay ahead of the competition. Years of experience and familiarity with the profession are worth a lot more than formal training in most cases. One luxury resort manager says the common wisdom in the business is “hire for attitude, train for skill,” and although pay at the lower end of the scale may be a deterrent, bear in mind that the average U.S. salary for a hotel general manager is almost $150,000 per year.
IT Security Specialist
Education tells an employer what you have learned, but experience tells them what you can do. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the fast-moving world of IT, where your work speaks for itself and Ivy League letters after your name are no match for your hacking abilities. When a business or organization has sensitive data that it wants to protect, they’re going for the guy with experience. You can go get a diploma in computer science, but if you’re already familiar with networking technologies and can take care of computer programming in your sleep, then all you need is familiarity with risk management, and you’re good to go. Pay for network/systems security administrators and data security analysts is six figures at the top end of the scale, and, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer-security specialists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. As a bonus, if you’re working in the right place you could end up doing cool day-to-day tasks like gathering data and evidence to help fight sophisticated cyber crime.
Musician is an obvious choice when it comes to jobs without college. But if you have Mozart’s ear for music and feel like you should be the one putting big projects together, then you’ll want to be sitting in the producer’s chair. Sound engineer producers will have to have practical skills , like soundboard and postproduction experience, but an executive producer just needs to know the business, have great instinct when it comes to new sounds and be friends with the right people. Salaries vary widely depending on success, but if nothing else, the lifestyle and benefits keep players in this game. Falling sales in the music industry may seem discouraging, but if you jump into the potential of online business and hit on the right act, you could still do pretty well for yourself.
Experience in the police force, knowledge of “the streets” and a good network of informants are all things that matter far more than a university degree when criminal-investigator positions open up. At the federal level (DA of FBI investigators, for example), higher education is usually preferred, but in some cases, law-enforcement agencies will place just as much emphasis on GPA (should be above 3.5), physical fitness, work experience, polygraph/psychological testing, knowledge of the law, knowledge of languages, and excellent communication skills. Your best bet is to start in the police force and get five years basic experience, then move up to investigations. Alternatively, you can always open your own private investigator business. If you’re good at what you do, word of mouth will keep you in business. According to nationwide salary polls, the average pay for a criminal investigator is $65,000, with top detectives netting over $100,000.