7 Well Paying Jobs that Don’t Require a University Degree

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If you are thinking about making a career change, or spooked by the cost of a university education for yourself or your child, there are well-paying jobs that don't require university degree.

All offer above average pay and solid job security. Some require only the completion of a certificate program while others require an associate degree. None however require a four-year university degree for entry.

Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists earn an average of nearly $70,000 per year. You can enter the field with an Associates degree, and jobs are available throughout North America.

This is also one of the most flexible careers imaginable. Since dental hygienists are needed anywhere there are dentists – and that’s virtually everywhere – you can choose where you want to live. You also have the option of working either full-time or part-time.


Electricians earn an average of nearly $50,000 per year (depending on where you work, if you own your own company it can be much higher). Entry into the field is typically by apprenticeship but it can also include a technical school education. In most jurisdictions a license will be required. The field is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

Electricians can work in different capacities. Though they are most frequently associated with repair work in existing structures, both residential and commercial, they can also be involved in the installation of electrical systems in new buildings. Experienced electricians also have the option of becoming self-employed.


air traffic controllerAverage income for paralegals is nearly $50,000 per year, and entry is usually accomplished with an Associates degree in paralegal studies. The future outlook for paralegals is steady.

Paralegals assist lawyers by doing research, drafting documents and much of the back office preparation work. They can also work either full-time or part-time, and can be found in government and corporate environments as well.

Graphic designer

Graphic designers earn an average of close to $45,000 per year. Though a bachelors degree is often required for entry, experience and talent can be more important than a degree.

Employment is diverse, since nearly every industry needs graphic designers. Freelance work in graphic design is fairly common, and a portfolio of prior work and some strong customer referrals can be more important than more formal credentials.

Police officers

Police officers earn an average of $56,000 per year. In some situations a college degree is required, but in most a high school diploma and attendance at a police academy is the preferred means of entry.

Police officers are needed everywhere, so there almost no geographic restrictions. In addition, police officers can often find work in the private sector as investigators or in some security related capacity.

Elevator repair

Elevator repair technicians earn an average of over $70,000 per year. There is no formal education requirement for entry. Training typically consists of an apprenticeship, and sometimes the completion of certain technical courses.

Demand for elevator repair technicians varies by region, and is most common in urban areas with a large concentration of elevator buildings. Overall however, demand for the occupation is expected to be at least consistent with national employment trends.

Air traffic controller

The average pay for air traffic controllers nearly $110,000 per year. You can enter the field with an Associates degree, or with relevant military training.

Military experience as an air traffic controller is a common path into the field, however in its absence government required training will be necessary. Though the field is experiencing a slight decline in employment, pay levels are excellent if you're able to get in.
Not all well-paying jobs require a four-year university education, and the high level of expense that that brings. You can earn a high income in a field with a strong future by getting into one of the careers above.

Readers: Do you have any other ideas for careers that don't require a university education?

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Justin is the co-owner and grammarly impaired author of My University Money and Young and Thrifty. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.


  1. Calvin on December 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    In Canada, particularily Alberta, Technologists are very well paid. Depending which field you place your focus ie. Civil, Construction, Petroleum, Mechanical the average salaries range from $70,000 per year to $120,000 per year (And if you are willing to work on remote sites reach above $150,000)

    There is a very high demand for technologists in a wide variety of fields. The education required is a 2 year program offered at Technology Institutes across Canada.


  2. Teacher Man on December 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Cool information, thanks Calvin!

  3. krantcents on December 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Nice list I would add some of the other trades such as plumber, carpenter and auto mechanic. Auto mechanic can include truck and jet engine. Obviously all of these require post secondary training, but not college.

  4. Cassie on December 18, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    You can get hired on as a rig hand or an entry level construction labourer and work your way up the ladder over the course of your career. You can easily make 6 figures at entry level in these types of jobs if you’re in a booming area.

  5. Liquid on December 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Cool, I’m a graphic designer so I can vouch for that position ^_^ The way I got in was through a specialized training school, kind of like a technology institute with an artistic focus, and I came out with a diploma. My starting salary was $35K, but after 4 years in the industry my pay is more aligned with the average you mentioned. There are different ways to get into the field though, sometimes people can start off as a web designer for instance 😉

  6. Teacher Man on December 18, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    My buddy took this route straight out of high school, and will almost assuredly retire before 50.

  7. Patrick on December 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Not sure where you got your police salary numbers, but $56 000 is about what you make in Ontario while you’re doing your 12 week training period. I’d expect the actual average (~5 years on a force) is closer to $80 k

  8. Justin on December 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    In Manitoba they are actually lower then 56K when you’re starting out, but after 2 – 3 years you reach that amount. Like everything else, the salary is probably higher in AB. I forgot all about RCMP though. Within 3 years they can make 76K. I still wouldnt want that job though..


  9. Joe on December 20, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Sometimes, I regret not becoming an Air Traffic Controller. It’s an acutely high pressure position, although it does seem like a field that is increasingly vulnerable to automation.

  10. Jordann @ My Alternate Life on December 20, 2012 at 9:55 am

    There are lots of opportunities in Canada in the resource field that require no training but offer high salary.

  11. Teacher Man on December 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    You think so Joe? It’s interesting to ponder whether I would be more or less nervous about a machine controlling traffic automatically versus a human. Logic says a computer might do a better job, but there is something comforting in a non-rational way about having another human being directing things.

  12. Nukester on December 21, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Nuclear Operator, Minimum education is high school and if you complete the very difficult Authorized Nuclear Operator program you become licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to operate a nuclear reactor. Starting pay for an ANO is $160,000 and most make much more with shift work, license retention bonus and performance bonuses.

  13. Teacher Man on December 21, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Wow, I would have thought you needed a university education for sure to be a nuclear operator! I’m sorry I just can’t quit thinking of Homer Simpson right now…

  14. ATC Guy on December 21, 2012 at 10:21 am

    I’ve been a controller for nearly 7 years and have loved every minute of it. The pay you mentioned is pretty accurate, although I’ve never earned less than 120k per year. The associates degree isn’t required to get hired by Nav Canada. Since they do all their own training, it’s mainly the aptitude tests and interviews that determine if you can enter their training schools.

    While automation is mentioned often with our future as controllers (you may see the acronym CAATS, GAATS among others if you research), the automation isn’t what people would normally think. The automation is just the coordination between controllers when they hand off aircraft to one another. When an aircraft passes from one controller to the next, a phone call to the next controller indicating aircraft, time at a fix, and altitude was required. The automation uses complex calculations to determine which ATC sectors to notify about the aircraft, as well gives them an updated time to pass to the next ATC sector.

    Our jobs are secure, it’s just now with a bit more ‘heads up time’ to monitor the aircraft instead of being on the phone!

  15. Andrey on December 22, 2012 at 3:50 am

    What about sales?
    If you are good at selling, you can get a descent salary too.
    Based on my experience, you can get $60K+ in your first year being a car sales representative.
    Only 2 day VSA course required.

  16. brittney on February 20, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Hi, i was wanting to become a graphic designer too! but i want to know what your day to to activities are 🙂 thanks

  17. Liquid on March 3, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Mostly just create designs and assets in computer programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Google SketchUp. The work will sometimes be from scratch, and other times you will have a template to start from. You’ll learn most of the tools and techniques in school, but each company you work at will have their own process or ways to do things. Sometimes you’ll have casual talks with people on your team. Other times you will attend meetings with people in marketing, direction, or writers to discuss ideas and collaborate. But most of the time you work at your own computer. You can wear headphones and listen to music while you work, nobody cares. And occasionally throughout the day you’ll probably check your company email, but that’s pretty standard for any office job these days. Big studios have better benefits but it’s harder to get recognized. Smaller studios are easier to be friends with everyone but probably don’t pay as well 😉

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