Tuition at even the least expensive colleges and universities has gone through the roof in recent years, putting a four-year or even two-year degree out of reach for many. Yet every job posting requires a degree -- even if it's not really relevant to the job description.
Employers may be using this requirement to winnow down the job pool, and who can blame them. Every job posting brings in a flood of applications, so human-resources directors are looking for ways to prioritize applicants.
Does that mean, however, that those without degrees should be relegated to a lifetime of asking, "Would you like fries with that?" Not according to job-posting site CareerBuilder, which recently released the top-paying jobs you can get without a college degree. Take a look at the following results before you begin your job search. (All salaries represent the annual median salary.)
1. Network Administrator, $49,801 -- If you enjoy tinkering with computers and wireless-network routers, this may be the job for you. Network administrators are responsible for the maintenance of computer hardware and software that make up a computer network. This normally includes the deployment, configuration, maintenance and monitoring of active network equipment.
It can be extremely complicated or fairly easy, depending on the size of the company and the quality of their equipment.
2. Police Officer, $47,485 -- Did you run around your neighborhood as a kid, catching bad guys and dreaming of growing up to be a cop? Now is a good time to fulfill that dream. Basic training usually takes about four months and costs roughly $2,000. That would barely pay for one year at many colleges. Be prepared, however, to put up with a lot of jokes about eating doughnuts.
3. Court Reporter, $47,275 -- Television and movie courtroom dramas don't really reflect the true justice process, but real-life proceedings can be very interesting. If you look forward to serving jury duty and closely follow legal cases, consider a career as a court reporter. It's a recession-proof career with tons of job security, as courts must function in both good times and bad.
4. Clinical Lab Technician, $47,081 -- The work of a clinical lab tech isn't quite as dramatic as "CSI," but it can still be fascinating if you enjoyed biology and physiology in school. Clinical laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Happily, the continuing growth in the health care industry means opportunities are opening up every day, particularly as new diagnostic methods are developed. You'll need two years of training at a technical college or hospital and many employers prefer applicants who are certified by a recognized professional association.
For a list of accredited and approved educational programs, visit the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (www.naacls.org).
5. HVAC Installer, $44,814 -- If you're good with your hands and have an innate understanding of how things work, heating, venting and air-conditioning installation offers excellent salaries and much job satisfaction. While you'll need certification to get started, training can be completed in as little as nine months and may be done on the job. Three accrediting agencies have set academic standards for HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence; the National Center for Construction Education and Research; and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Accreditation.
6. Computer Numerical Control, $44,629 -- Basically, this position is a robot programmer for assembly-line work that builds everything from automobile engines to computer keyboards. Jobs can be found in areas with a strong manufacturing base.
You can qualify through an apprenticeship programs, informally on the job, or in secondary, vocational, or post-secondary schools. Many entry-level employees previously worked as machinists or machine setters, operators and tenders.
7. Solar Energy Installer, $44,460 -- Considered a "green job, solar photovoltaic (PV) installers are in high demand, thanks to the federal stimulus bill that funneled billions into energy conservation and alternative energy. An even bigger demand for installers is the result of federal tax credits available to homeowners who purchase alternative energy sources.
8. Correctional Officer, $42,795 -- Prison work can be hazardous, stressful and require shift work, but it pays well and offers a great deal of job security. Local and state prisons often accept high school graduates who have no further training. Be aware, however, that correctional officers have one of the highest rates of nonfatal on-the-job injuries.
9. Security System Installer, $41,417 -- As prices fall for home and business security systems, Webcams and fire alarms, installation-tech opportunities continue to increase. Training can be completed in less than two weeks, according to the National Alarm Association of America, and cost under $1,000.
10. Aircraft Mechanic, $39,584 -- Did you spend high school tinkering under the hood of cars? Do you live near an airport? Aircraft mechanics earn more than car repair work and requires between 18 months to two years of training. Make sure you receive training from one of the 170 aircraft-mechanic training schools certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (http://av-info.faa.gov/ MaintenanceSchool.asp).