You can land a well-paying job without a college degree

Published Oct. 28, 2012

Ever notice that most career advice is aimed at the college student or graduate? But let's face it, not everyone can or should get a four-year degree. I recently volunteered at a local job fair as a member of the Suncoast Human Resources Management Association, where we reviewed resumes for job seekers. I was struck by the number of people who felt their best shot was to go back to school to get a bachelor of science, bachelor of arts or even a master of business administration degree.

Truth is, there are many great well-paying jobs available that don't require a college diploma. Many employers are begging in areas such as the skilled trades, health care and food and hospitality industries. Note, however, that these jobs do require training beyond high school, many demand a license or certification, and some require an apprenticeship or on-the-job experience.

Numbers of people in our state, even with a four-year college degree, make between $38,000 and $50,000 a year (this may differ from one part of the state to another). Here is a list of some hot Florida careers that provide that income or better, don't require a four-year degree and will be around for years to come. Looking outside Florida? A quick search of the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and other resources will give you updated information for other states.


• Requires training beyond high school at a technical/vocation school or community college.

• Must take licensing exam and pass.

• Average income: $37,900 to $40,000 a year.

Respiratory therapist

• Must have a minimum of an associate of arts degree.

• Average pay nationally: $54,280 a year.


• Requires training beyond high school at a technical/vocational school or community college.

• Must be licensed and complete an apprentice program.

• Average income: $43,000 a year.

Heating, air-conditioning and refrigerator mechanic and installer

• Requires passing two exams and earning a license.

• Average income: $40,000 a year.

Sous shef

• Usually requires at least some culinary arts training in a college or vocational/tech school as well as hands-on experience.

• Average yearly pay: about $40,000 to $49,000 depending on duties and location.


•Requires graduation from an accredited American Bar Association-approved institution (many community colleges are on that list) and certification.

• Annual salary averages in the mid- to high $40,000s to high $50,000s depending on the location and your experience.

How to find these jobs

The best way is to get the word out and tell everyone you know. That includes family, relatives, teachers if you're still in school or former teachers if you've graduated. Once you've completed the necessary training and licensing, check out the websites listed below as resources and click on the job openings in your field. Use your social networking sites and spread the news to let people know you're looking for a job. If there are professional or trade associations in your field, join them and make contacts through the members.

Follow trends affecting the local economy

Follow trends affecting the local economy

Subscribe to our free Business by the Bay newsletter

We’ll break down the latest business and consumer news and insights you need to know every Wednesday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Finally, follow your heart. As Confucius said, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."


Marie Stempinski is president and founder of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business development and employee motivation. She can be reached at or though her website: