Transitioning from the military into the civilian job market can be especially daunting if you don’t have a college degree. It seems that everywhere you look, employers look at a diploma as a critical credential. But what if you don’t want to go to college?
After all, it’s expensive, there’s a lengthy application process, and maybe you don’t want to burn too many GI Bill benefits before you figure out what you want to do. Never fear: Here are 12 good jobs you can get without a college degree.
1. Police Officer/State Trooper/Sheriff’s Deputy. Many law enforcement agencies actively seek veterans, because veterans already understand discipline, hierarchy, and have basic weapons skills. Also, in many ways law enforcement looks like the military: there’s a “boot camp,” a sense of camaraderie in the face of danger, and opportunities if you’re willing to toe the line and work hard. Big-city departments may require some college education. Income is around $40,000 a year, adjusted up or down for cost of living.
2. Truck Driver. One of the most common sights on an American freeway or interstate is a tractor-trailer. Some drive long hauls, from ports to major cities; others drive “express,” as an on-call package deliveryman. It can be a little hard on family life, and you’ll need a certification to drive a heavy truck – though many military bases have programs that offer the certification classes for free, which you can complete before your EAS. Truckers are paid by the mile, usually, and can earn upwards of $60,000 a year – which makes this one of the highest-paying jobs available to those without a college degree.
3. Welder. Welding is a skilled trade, and the more things are made out of metal – buildings, ships, cars, bridges, and so on – the higher the demand. Welders work on construction sites, in manufacturing plants, at shipyards, and as freelancers. To become a welder, you usually need to go to school, but many companies offer scholarships in return for guaranteed work. Or you can use GI Bill benefits to cover the cost, as welding schools are relatively inexpensive. Welders earn $50,000 to $70,000 a year.
4. Oil Fields. Work is expanding in the oil industry right now due to the growth of shale oil extraction (“fracking”), although both conventionally drilled fields and offshore oil rigs constantly seek new workers. It’s physically demanding work and often involves extended periods on the job, like a deployment. Most oil field jobs require some training, although the bulk of these courses are safety-related and can be taken online at free universities on base before the transition, or with GI Bill benefits after. Wages vary from average to fairly high, but with the constant overtime required oil workers can earn from $50,000-$100,000 a year.
5. Field Technician/Repairman. Mechanical equipment – from washing machines to heavy industry machines to cellular towers – needs regular maintenance. Field technicians and repairmen travel to homes, companies or remote sites to fix or check such equipment. Veterans have some unique qualifications for this kind of work: they are used to travel, don’t balk at adverse conditions, and are resourceful. This can be a dirty and unrelenting job, and certain employers require trade certificates (which you can acquire easily with GI Bill benefits). Field technicians and repairmen earn from $40,000 to $60,000 a year.
6. Tradesman (e.g. Plumber or Electrician). The word trade refers to a field requiring highly specialized knowledge, and often requires basic schooling and certification. However, such tradesmen are in constant demand by public works companies, construction crews and large industrial enterprises. Some companies may offer to provide certification in return for guaranteed work. Otherwise, GI Bill benefits can help pay for schooling. Tradesmen earn from $40,000 to $60,000 a year.
7. Medical Assistant. One of the fastest-growing industries in the United States is healthcare. There is a constant need for nurse assistants and medical assistants, which can be a good springboard for a career in nursing (which requires an associate degree at least). It may not sound very manly to a veteran, but there is definite job security if you can handle the long hours (four 12-hour days followed by 3 days off is a typical schedule). There is a certification process, and with overtime medical assistants earn $30,000-$40,000 a year.
8. Machinist. A great deal of manufacturing in the United States is done by machinery, specifically computer-controlled machinery. This is like being a tradesman in that you’ll have to earn certification, but the benefit is steady work for steady hours. Machinists earn from $40,000 to $60,000 a year.
9. Mechanic. Automotive mechanics work in traditional body shops, sure, but they also work in car dealerships, corporate vehicle departments, and construction equipment companies. Certification is required, and with overtime mechanics earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year.
10. Financial/Records Clerk. Many industries require administrative clerks. Positions are available in the medical industry, corporate offices, courthouses and many more. There is usually little overtime with clerking, and the payment is fairly low – clerks earn between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. However, many people work jobs like this while they apply to, or complete, college.
11. Construction. As long as houses, offices and roads are needed, there will be construction jobs. Some jobs on a construction crew, such as crane or heavy equipment operators, are less seasonal than basic labor (and pull in higher wages, too). Certification for operating equipment is required, which you will have to earn on your own – another good way to use GI Bill benefits. Heavy equipment operators earn between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.
12. Salesman. Any company that sells a product needs salesmen – people to travel to potential or current customers and convince them to buy the product. This is the most freelance of professions – some salesmen work on 100 percent commission, which means they only earn money when they sell product. Depending on how successful you are, and how much you work, you could earn north of $80,000 a year.