General Question

seekingwolf's avatar

Jobs/careers without a 4 year degree that ISN'T fast food?

Asked by seekingwolf (10407points) March 14th, 2012

This is for my boyfriend, as I am about to get my BS and then I’ll be going onto get my MS for a career in healthcare.

My boyfriend is a very smart, hard-working individual. Great work ethic but he is a TERRIBLE student and hates, hates, hates the school model. Graduated from high school but had bad grades. He does not have a college degree and doesn’t want to go back to school anyway. He also doesn’t have the money to do so and just doesn’t want to.

He does have work experience in your typical, crappy minimum-wage jobs, but he would like to have a career in the future where he can someday make 30k a year, hopefully with healthcare coverage. That’s it.

He feels that it would be best for him to complete a certificate of some sort for a job, rather than going back to school for 1–2 years. He is in good physical shape but very thin and a little short, which rules him out of being a security guard.

Any idea on what he can do? We are from a big city with a lot of healthcare opportunities but I am not familiar with non-degree type jobs.

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38 Answers

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Short and thin doesn’t rule out a security guard job. My suggestions are things like landscape work or tech work. He could go to a local tech school and get a certificate in something computer related or a veterinary or pharmacy technician certificate and work in a pharmacy or vet’s office. He might try to get a job in an insurance office as a clerk. If he learns a lot and thinks he might like to sell insurance, he could then work on licensure while still working. If he’s a self starter he could work at anything while he takes the requires courses and gets himself licensed to sell real estate. I hope you aren’t thinking about marrying a guy that you are already working on getting him working. It doesn’t speak well for him.

Bellatrix's avatar

@MollyMcGuire I don’t think @seekingwolf said he wasn’t working. She said he is looking for a new career but she also said he is a hard-working man. Perhaps they have moved to a new location or something if he is seeking work. Your last couple of sentences suggest the man is a layabout which is not what I took from @seekingwolf‘s post at all.

@seekingwolf, is it possible for him to look into some sort of apprenticeship? You didn’t mention how old he is? I don’t know how things work where you are, but here people can start training to become landscapers, bricklayers and those sort of more manual jobs at TAFE which is like a technical college. Much more hands-on than say a university. Tradesmen can make a lot of money these days. If he isn’t very young he would probably find it hard to get an apprenticeship with a tradesman but it isn’t unheard of here. If someone has the right aptitude and work ethic, it can happen. He might need to start off by doing some courses in a field he is interested in though. Good luck to him and you for being supportive of his future aspirations.

Can I just add too @seekingwolf, get him to look for opportunities to volunteer in fields that interest him. Animal shelters for instance. Sometimes volunteering in such places puts you in an ideal position to get a real job if one comes along.

seekingwolf's avatar

Thanks for the suggestions. I think he looked into vet certificates because he loves animals but there are no places here to get those certificates, and there is little dmand.

He does like healthcare that isn’t too gory and IT stuff, so those may be options. He also told me that he was looking into working for the cable company, and installing equipment. That’s also non-degree, right?

He already works and has been working but wants to earn more in the future. He got his first job when he was like 16. He’s doing a lot better than me right now money-wise since I am in school away from home atm and will start to work again (minimum wage even) once I leave here for good. No worries on the marriage thing, I don’t want to marry until I am all done with school and have a career going, so not until my mid 20s at least. Same for him.

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MollyMcGuire's avatar

@seekingwolf Any good sized city would have demand for vet techs. Where there are people there are pets, and where there are pets there are vets. You say you are from a large city with lots of healthcare job opportunities. He might even like to work in an ortho clinic—they always have guys doing the cast work. I wish the two of you well.

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augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Please remember: This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

seekingwolf's avatar


There are only 2 animal hospitals in the county and a very small handful of tiny vet offices that don’t have many staff members at all. There is also nowhere to actually get a vet certificate. I have a relative who t also wanted to do vet asst but realised she would have to travel over 100 miles to get the certificate! When I wanted to get things done for my animals, I had a long time to wait for an appointment. On the other hand, we have 5 major hospitals plus many, many nursing homes, urgent care centers, as well as homes for those who are disabled (but not necessarily elderly) and need care. Not all cities are the same.

Part of being in a relationship is supporting each other and trying to help. You’d have a point if he weren’t actually working but he is working, which I am not doing at the moment. If anything, I am the lazy one.

seekingwolf's avatar


I didn’t know that tradesmen like that could make good money. We have some vocational schools in the area that train for jobs like that, I know that.

I’ll mention to him about the volunteering at the animal shelter. We have a couple here. That’s a great idea!

He is 21 (I am 22). Nothing on his record, perfect driving record, has a car, good physical shape, etc.

Bellatrix's avatar

Oh yes! In Australia tradies (that’s what we call tradesmen) can earn as much as lawyers and the like! We have lots of work for tradespeople and not enough of them. You could also look at some sort of driving job. What about a driving instructor? Or a bus driver? Here bus drivers can earn quite a good living. Truck driving too. Hope he finds something great anyway.

seekingwolf's avatar

Yes, he has definitely mentioned that (being a driver). He said he wants to keep the option of being a delivery driver (probably for a private company, USPS – post office is cutting jobs, not hiring people). I told him he could definitely be a driver if he wants, especially considering he has no marks on his driving record. I wish I had that for myself!

inunsure's avatar

What about doing an apprenticeship

cookieman's avatar

Masons, Plumbers, Electricians all require some schooling – but it’s vocational style and very hands-on.

Contractors and construction companies hire young guys to do grunt work all the time. Over time he can learn basic carpentry, concrete work, drywall & plaster. Here in Boston, many of these jobs are unionized. No school needed.

Dog Walker/Groomer
If he loves animals, but vet techs are in low demand in your area, there’s probably plenty of call for walkers and groomers. Either check out big shops like Petco or get entrepreneurial and start his own van-based mobile service. Downside: no health insurance.

Does he like the outdoors? Have a green thumb? Many landscape companies look for entry-level labor and he can learn about planting, lawn and flower care along the way.

Truck Driver
He’ll have to go to a truck driving school for his Class A license, but it’s nothing like college. With that, he can drive local routes or work his way up to interstate trucking.

I personally know folks that do all of these jobs and while they are all hard-working jobs, they all pay well and many have health insurance.

tom_g's avatar

I know you’re asking a specific question, but I need to ask – where are you guys? Does he know that $30k is nearly impossible to live on in large parts of the country? For example, here in Massachusetts, you’ll need at least twice that to rent a crappy apartment – and even then, you’d be struggling.

I’d have him really investigate a trade, like some others have mentioned. You can make a good living.

dabbler's avatar

I’m with the folks recommending the “trades” like plumber and electrician. There is plenty of work for competent tradespeople and you can’t outsource that kind of thing to India or China.

augustlan's avatar

I’ve had a long and interesting career, without a high school diploma, even. Clerical jobs that started out as say, a receptionist, have led me to promotions right up the ladder. Office management is a skill that can be used in any field!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Where are you located in general. I’m in NY and there are vet practices all over the place. We have several colleges nearby that offer the vet tech programs.

prioritymail's avatar

Any trade, air traffic controller, pilot.

jerv's avatar

If he has math skills, mechanical aptitude, and a willingness to learn on the job, he can try for CNC Machinist. There really isn’t any formal schooling, but a qualified CNC Operator can make around 30k, and a full-on Machinist (one capable of setting the machine up for a semi-skilled operator) earns far more; the median income for a Machinist at my level is almost 40k.

As for health insurance, good luck . I have insurance, and my employer pays 90% of my premium, but only half my wife’s, so I lose about 15% of my gross income that way and it’s only going to get worse.

filmfann's avatar

My son didn’t get far in college, and got a job as an ironworker.
He went to the union hall, and got on as an apprentice.
Last year, his 2nd year doing this, he made over $30,000 and didn’t work for several months.
This job is dependant on building in the area, and is vulnerable to the weather. It is hard work, but it pays well, and has a great retirement program.

marinelife's avatar

Well, give him the bad news before he makes a final decision. A four-year college degree has just been calculated to mean more than half a million dollars ($550,000) over a 40-year career in increased earnings.

But if he really does not do well in school (learning disabilities, perahps?), he could learn a technician’s trade Here are a list of 11 jobs that do not require a college degree that are high paying. Oil derrick rigger is another one.

Silence04's avatar

I will also suggest focusing on a trade skill. You only really need vocational/technical training and/or certification.

I have been doing my trade skill for 10 years and I’m making more than people I know in the same field that got a 4 year degree for it.

snowberry's avatar

Does your area or country offer apprenticeships? Many jobs simply require on the job training such as bricklayer, stone work, and so on. If he could become “certified”,( whatever that means) in a trade like that I’d think he could make it work.

gailcalled's avatar

My youngest step-son started doing drugs in his early teens and eventually lost about 10 years to drugs and then rehab. During that time he bluffed his way through school, having the brains but no interest.

When he finally became clean and sober he went on to become a certified physical trainer. Initially, he put his equipment into a van and made house calls, but as his rep. built, he was able to manage his own gym.

He even has his 75 year old mother on staff as a teacher of the Alexander Technique.

Here and here.

Personal Trainer Certification A lot of the learning can be done without class time.

wundayatta's avatar

He might check out the apprenticeships available in local trade unions.

Normally, I would say you are going about this backwards. First, what are his interests? What are his skills? Perhaps most importantly, what does he like to do? But you do seem to be trying to go after what he likes to do.

I’d sit down and write down every think he has ever liked doing in his life. Not just work things, but everything. Then I’d look at that list and start grouping it into like areas of interest.

I’d do the same think with his skills. Brainstorm up a list of all the skills he currently has. Again, everything. Not just work related. If he’s a good lover, include that in the list. If he loves cigars, include that. If he can identify plants, include that. Again, organize the list into like groups. Compare to the other list.

What you’re looking for are areas where his skills and interest overlap. This becomes of a list you can start using to generate job idea. Using these topics, research on various websites a list of jobs related to these topics.

Then start targeting the jobs. Look for employers in your area in these jobs and start going after interviews with people in the company whether or not they have jobs to offer and whether or not they have the power to hire you. You want to find out about the company and find out if it’s a place you want to work.

Finally, after building a network of contacts and creating an idea of what you want your career to look like, you start asking people to hire you, or more likely, you tell people why it would be their good fortune to hire you.

Judi's avatar

Property Management. Commercial property management pays better than residential most of the time. To excel, a real estate license is required in most states, but that’s pretty easy. There are a lot of people who try to go into real estate management because they are failures at selling real estate, but the ones who excel are the ones who choose it for a career.

CWOTUS's avatar

I don’t have a college degree, although I do have three years of “university / engineering” education. I’ve never claimed a BS or Associates’ Degree on my resume; I’ve always noted the time spent in school, and no more.

In spite of that I’ve worked for 37 years (so far), mostly in professional / managerial / software occupations. There’s a lot in what @augustlan says. After my first forced layoff I parlayed a job as a temporary replacement for a quality control inspector into a brief but memorable and rewarding career into Oracle database / application implementation and HelpDesk. That was before I returned to the company I chose to leave in 1991, and back to construction management.

I have a young cousin who completed a one-year auto mechanic course of instruction, and has just taken his second job since completing that. He’s enjoying that budding career very much.

My daughter does have the university degree, but she’s not relying upon that: she started her own business, which anyone can do (and should do, in my opinion), but which very few actually do. She’s expanded a lot in under two full years of operation, and she’s been hiring since she started.

My son has also been a mediocre student at best, and his course of action was to enlist in the USAF. He’s now a tech sergeant and crew chief in charge of helicopter maintenance. (I’m presuming that his study skills have improved, since his choppers don’t crash, and he’s talking about using GI benefits to continue his studies “some day”.)

seekingwolf's avatar


We are in Upstate NY, in our early 20s. Housing costs are pretty cheap here. A lot of apartments cost 600–700 for a 1-bedroom WITH utilities, and not in the ghetto. I have a friend from highschool who lives with her girlfriend, and her girlfriend is the only one who works (although she makes a fair bit) and their apartment is 650/month and is pretty “upscale”. It’s big with very high ceilings. Things here are just different I guess. Full-time minimum wage, he makes like 12k/year now. He would definitely like to make more but that’s more out of a want than an absolute necessity. He doesn’t want children, already has a car, will be inheriting a small house outside the city, and he has never been a big spender or someone who blows through money a lot.

Interest-wise, he likes a lot of things a lot of things…music (he was going to get a music degree but realized it was worthless unless he wanted to teach), animals, computers, healthcare. He doesn’t consider construction/building an interest, but he has done landscaping work in the past and was good at it. He said he’d do that as a job if he had to and would be fine with it even if it’s not interesting to him.

The nearest place to get a vet asst certificate a few countries away, over an hour away. So he’s probably going to want to look elsewhere for work.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@seekingwolf Has he looked into the SUNY system? They have two year programs as well as four years. SUNY Delhi has a very good vet tech school, SUNY Morrisville has a first rate equine program.

JLeslie's avatar

He could be a phlebomitist
Xray tech
Ultrasound tech
All sorts of medical assistants and techs don’t take too much training.

Any other interests? Cutting hair, mechanic, maybe work for the post office, fedex, taxi driver, retail sales or management? Electrician. House painter. Lawn care.

seekingwolf's avatar


He doesn’t want to go to school for more than a year but it’s a good idea.


Right now he’s planning to go the phlebom. route. Certification here is cheap and only lasts 10 weeks, a couple classes a week.

JLeslie's avatar

@seekingwolf Oh, had you mentioned that? Sorry if I missed it.

seekingwolf's avatar


Nah I don’t think I did. That’s his current plan right now for the summer session, but he’s looking into other options in the meantime.

linguaphile's avatar

eyes wide
It only takes a couple hours training for someone to be qualified to stick a needle into my arm? gulp.

Massage therapist- 18 months hands-on training
ASE certificate for basic auto work- 12 months hands-on training
Hopsital/nursing home orderly- less than 6 months training depending on type of task, much of it on-the-job

saint's avatar

I am serious about this. I just met a guy who is an elephant trainer at the local (and world respected) zoo. I asked him where he got his training and he said it was OJT and he has been doing it for 15 years. Other than the potentially dangerous tonnage involved, what a cool job!! My point is, there are all sorts of interesting careers that require no intstitutional training. Its just a matter of knowing what you want and being creative.

snowberry's avatar

Farrier (shoeing horses)

tranquilsea's avatar

Two of my sisters became insurance brokers by obtaining the study material, studying at home and then challenging the exams. It pays pretty well too. My oldest sister did the same with her mortgage brokers license. None of them even graduated from high school but I know they all lied about that fact.

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