For job seekers without a four-year degree, breaking the $25-an-hour barrier can be a challenge. But with more technical certification and associate's degree programs than ever, many well-paying career options are accessible in a broad range of industries.
The following is a list of lucrative careers for those without a four-year degree, presented with median annual salary data from PayScale.com. That figure is then broken down to an hourly rate by dividing by 2080, the typical number of working hours in a year, according to PayScale.
1. Sales director
"If you are interested in a career change, but do not want to commit to further education, consider a sales career," says Sharon Reed Abboud, the author of "All Moms Work, Short-Term Career Strategies for Long-Range Success." Sales directors oversee sales staff to help meet objectives, plan and implement sales programs, and work to maintain budgets, among many other duties. While formal training is not a requirement for this position, sales experience and an outgoing personality are vital, according to Abboud. "Successful sales persons can often have the opportunity to climb the career ladder to increasingly lucrative management positions," she explains.
Sales director: $91,900/ $44 per hour
2. Security administrators, computer network
"As technology increases its reach, cyber crime is becoming a major concern for companies," says Debra Yergen, author of the "Creating Job Security Resource Guide." Security administrators work to prevent, troubleshoot, and repair security breaches while educating network users on cyber safety. Certification or relevant experience is essential to entry to this field, especially in absence of a four-year degree.
Security administrators, computer network: $72,000/ $35 per hour
3. Elevator installer/repairer
Elevator assembly, installation and maintenance are the main responsibilities of this position. Participating in an apprenticeship program coupled with paid on-the-job training is the standard, and workers must pass a licensing exam. Union membership is typically required by employers, and unions can help to ensure "an excellent salary, benefits, and pension," says Marky Stein, author of "Get a Great Job When You Don't Have a Job."
Elevator installer/repairer: $67,100/ $32 per hour
4. Real estate broker
Usually commission-based, real estate brokers' salaries are sensitive to shifts in the economy. Despite the current real estate market, Yergen predicts "resurgence in salary in 2010 with the extension of the housing tax credit." Brokers are tasked with understanding real estate markets, performing transactions, and advising buyers on their financing options. Additionally, real estate brokers must pass a written exam and maintain a license.
Real estate broker: $65,400/ $31 per hour
5. Nuclear medicine technologist
"Nuclear medicine technologists administer a type of drug called radiopharmaceuticals to patients and create diagnostic images that ultimately determine the presence of a disease," explains Yergen. With an increasingly large middle-aged and elderly population and advances in technology, job growth for nuclear medicine technologists is likely to remain steady. A certificate or an associate's degree is needed, and a license is a requirement for many employers and states.
Nuclear medicine technologist: $64,100/ $31 per hour
6. Radiation therapist
Administering radiation treatment to cancer patients is the main role of a radiation therapist. "As radiation therapists continue to be a critical part of the medical radiation oncology team, it will translate into an uptick of jobs," predicts Yergen. There is also room for personal advancement in this field, with opportunities that include teaching and research. Training through an associate's degree or certification program is necessary, and a license is required in many states.
Radiation therapist: $63,500 / $31 per hour
7. Construction manager
Construction managers oversee the construction of structures, facilities, and systems, and are often on call around the clock. On-the-job construction experience and/or completing a construction management certification program provide entry to this position.
Construction manager: $63,400/ $30 per hour
8. Air traffic controller
"As an air traffic controller, your job will be dedicated to keeping the skies safe. It is a very demanding and rewarding occupation." says Abboud. Providing an essential role in aviation, air traffic controllers ensure that planes maintain a safe distance between each other and help to coordinate efficient scheduling.
With most positions employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), air traffic controllers must complete a FAA-approved education program and pass a pre-employment test.
Air traffic controller: $63,000/ $30 per hour
9. Video game designer
Video game designers create the storyline and structure of a video game and determine the rules of play. They typically need to possess an understanding of software design and computer programming, and a degree or certification from a technical school can provide an advantage. Although currently at a point of high popularity, video games tend to go through phases of increased and decreased popularity, cautions Yergen.
Video game designer: $62,300/ $30 per hour
10. MRI technologist
MRI technologists train in programs available through hospitals, colleges and universities to earn a certificate or associate's degree. With more doctors' offices and clinics providing diagnostic services, demand is higher than ever, says Yergen. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "Health care will generate 3 million new wage and salary jobs between 2006 and 2016, more than any other industry."
MRI technologist: $61,000/ $29 per hour