10 high-paying jobs that don’t require a degree
While employers are talking about “the Great Resignation,” it’s what career-seekers do next that matters.
While employers are talking about “the Great Resignation,” it’s what career-seekers do next that matters.
If sitting down to watch a scheduled cable television program seems outdated to you, then consider the university degree: literally a Medieval invention created for people who’d mastered their subject matter and proven themselves ready to teach, usually Church doctrine, to others.
Of course, streaming services like Netflix have replaced “appointment viewing” with the ability to binge your favourite shows on-demand. Yet the university degree endures nearly a thousand years on. In many cases, that’s justifiable; in others, however, it’s proving to be a less durable format, as ill-suited to preparing people for the future as TV tubes and dials are for accessing the Internet.
Just a few years ago, researchers at Harvard Business School warned of a “degree gap,” in which employers were posting for jobs that demanded degrees a significant percentage of those currently in such roles didn’t have.
Fast forward to today and a growing number of high-profile companies—from Apple and Google to Penguin Random House and Bank of America—are dropping degree requirements for many roles altogether.
This shift is being fuelled in part by the rising volume of unfilled jobs, a challenge that has only intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19. Just look at the data from StatsCan, which reported 815,835 vacancies in its most recent report in June 2021.
Meanwhile, a survey of 4,000 Canadians by Indeed revealed 18% of those currently without a job describe their search as “not urgent,” and only 27% were actively looking at all.
For those still actively engaged in the job market, including those who want to upgrade their skills or change careers, shorter, more flexible learning options that offer work-integrated learning opportunities are becoming more popular. A report from StatsCan in the spring of 2021, for instance, showed that even among those who earn a bachelor’s degree, 14% wind up continuing their education at college.
This confluence of events—early retirements and labour shortages, changing hiring attitudes and policies, and a pandemic-induced exodus of workers from the job market, not to mention the digitization of, well, just about everything—is creating an urgent need to re-examine the ways in which some workers are trained, along with the credentials accepted as proof of expertise.
Below are 10 examples of fields that already offer a fast-track, or at least unconventional path, to high-paying employment—no degree required.
The pandemic has only accelerated our use of digital technologies for everything from banking to shopping for groceries. This could explain why the Government of Canada’s Job Bank reports nearly one-quarter of web developers today work for non-tech firms in retail, finance and even arts and culture.
On average, StatsCan says web developers in Canada are paid $67,432 annually. Although some web developers are self-taught, those who don’t have a computer science degree (and even some who do) are exploring free online resources before pursuing part-time web development courses, full-time coding bootcamps or short duration college programs in IT and computer programming.
Tuition can range from just a few hundred dollars for a college course, plus the cost of textbooks, to $15,000 for a full-time mentored coding bootcamp, where learners can earn a diploma in as little as three months.
Success online is about much more than developing an eye-catching website. It’s fundamentally about designing products and experiences that are easy and even delightful to use. That’s the essence of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design.
This is probably why LinkedIn listed UX/UI as one of the most in-demand skills in 2020. It also explains why PayScale estimates you can earn an average of $67,703 annually without university-level training in the field. Digital designers, like web developers, are increasingly being hired, based not on their credentials but on the strength of their portfolios and the skills they can demonstrate during a job interview.
Unfortunately, the surge in online activity also means we’re putting more personal and corporate information at risk of loss or theft by bad actors. Malicious software (malware), phishing scams and other threats are only getting more sophisticated and widespread.
According to data from the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), Canada will need to fill approximately 40,000 to 53,000 cybersecurity jobs between now and 2023. The average salary for a cybersecurity professional is $87,728, according to StatsCan.
Cybersecurity courses to get you started can range from introductions to common threat vectors, to specialized certifications offered by companies and non-profit trade organizations. In combination with on-the-job training, many cybersecurity professionals today are moving up in the field without a relevant degree.
We don’t just need to protect information; we also need to collect and make sense of it in order to inform smarter decision-making. This is the crux of working in big data and data analysis. ICTC reports a total of 56,000 Canadians are currently employed in big data roles in Canada alone.
Average salaries for data analysts and data scientists range from $71,613 to $82,713, StatsCan reports. Fortunately, there is no shortage of data science or data analytics certification programs and bootcamps to get you started, whether you are a business professional interested in learning advanced Excel or a developer upgrading your skills with Python or machine learning courses.
The Canada Job Bank projects demand for 19,400 marketing jobs over the next seven years. It’s safe to assume that most of those will require digital proficiency of some kind, not to mention all the adjacent roles that touch the digital marketing function, which will demand some degree of digital marketing literacy. And employers are willing to pay well, with an average salary of more than $60,000, according to data from Indeed.
While business schools have offered marketing degrees for years, many of today’s digital marketers are using specialized digital marketing courses in combination with on-the-job training to advance into senior positions.
The average dental hygienist in Canada earns an impressive $71,173 per year, reports Talent.com, with job prospects remaining stable over the next 10 years.
Dental hygienists are responsible not only for assessing patients’ teeth, charting and cleaning—they can also administer local anesthesia and perform oral X-rays. With just two years of full-time study required to earn a diploma, dental hygiene programs represent one of the best returns on investment of any educational program in Canada.
Ultrasounds are vital for ensuring the health of unborn babies, and they’re important tools in diagnosing cardiac, ophthalmic, vascular and other medical conditions. StatsCan estimates that medical sonographers (or ultrasound technicians, as they are also called) will enjoy one of the highest rates of job growth across all sectors, at 12% over the next 10 years.
Medical sonographers can expect to earn more than $67,844 per year. Graduate from an accredited two-year college program in medical sonography, and you could work your way towards a focus on obstetrics and gynecology, vascular technology and other specializations, where salaries can exceed $100,000 annually.
If you enjoy working outdoors, contributing to the creation of major projects and making good money, this is one of the most lucrative skilled trades in Canada.
Just remember the number “80,000.” That’s both the approximate number of heavy equipment operator jobs forecast by the Canada Job Bank, as well as the approximate annual salary you can earn in the year you are certified.
As the economy continues to reopen, the outlook for new builds and projects to maintain existing infrastructure is strong. Courses of study for heavy equipment operators often range from one to two years, but include paid apprenticeships that allow learners to gain hands-on job experience while they learn.
There were a staggering 93,300 electricians employed across Canada in 2018, and government labour market data suggest that level of demand will continue through 2028.
Industrial electricians, in particular, are well-compensated at an average salary of $80,000 in the year they are certified. You can start either with a more general construction or trades fundamentals program, or a specific electrical techniques course that spans six months or more. And as with all high-demand skilled trades, paid apprenticeship opportunities will be available to you on your journey to becoming a certified electrician.
The terms “industrial mechanic” and “millwright” are often used interchangeably, although millwrights have a wider focus. These professionals are high-precision craftspeople who install and maintain machinery vital to manufacturing, energy, construction industries and many more.
StatsCan reports that millwrights can earn $76,000 in the year they are certified. While the time commitment required to get certified at a trade school is similar to the time it takes to earn a university degree, you’ll spend much of it getting paid as an apprentice while you learn from skilled tradespeople on the job.
For the first time in history, no one truly knows what the job market will look like in 20 years. There’s no reason to believe a university degree can’t evolve and continue to provide people with a solid foundation to pursue the career of their dreams. Plus, a university experience offers countless benefits beyond job-ready skills.
But the pandemic has been a stark reminder that we’re never done learning. The old modalities—semesters, massive in-person lectures, paper-bound course material—are as susceptible to improvement as television sets and the economy itself.
So, we can look past headlines about “the Great Resignation,” and kick-start the Great Re-imagination—where Canadians give themselves permission to explore and carve out new paths to career success.
Robert Furtado is the CEO of CourseCompare, Canada’s marketplace for education. Robert is a former marketing agency executive and instructor at the Humber School of Media Studies. He created CourseCompare to make it easier for people to identify and pursue in-demand skills across Canada and beyond.
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