It’s official: student loans have become a national crisis. Betsy Devos, United States Secretary for Education, said as much in November of last year, and with forty-four million borrowers now collectively owing a total of $1.5 trillion, even critics of the Trump administration agree. On both sides of the aisle, concern about how much money young Americans have borrowed in order to finance their education has fuelled widespread calls for reform.
But while it the 2020 election may in part be a battle about the future of higher education in America, with some prominent contenders arguing that college should be free, what should people who are deciding on their career path now do? Is there any way to achieve a solid middle-class income without taking on mountains of debt?
The good news is, there are plenty of ways of getting an education that will prepare you for the workplace without applying for student or private loans (you can click here for more information about affordable online courses that are designed to help you become a credentialed real estate professional, for example).
While traditional college paths are built around the idea of gaining a general knowledge in the arts, social sciences, humanities, or sciences, other career paths allow you to cut to the chase and start studying the work you are interested in immediately.
Because they involve less of a time commitment – and because they don’t involve going to an expensive institution with high overhead and a lot of hidden costs – they are also significantly more affordable to pursue than jobs in medicine, law, and pharmacy.
The post office is one of the most venerable institutions in the United States, but becoming a postmaster doesn’t require more than a high school diploma. Most postmasters start at the bottom and work their way up, and this generally takes about five years. But once you are familiar with the standards and operations of the post office, there are plenty of exciting opportunities in the world of mail delivery.
Furthermore, because the post office is a government agency, postal workers have the benefit of strong union protection, reliable employment, and a job that serves a much-needed public good. It can also be quite lucrative: most postmasters make around $75,000 a year. Not bad for a job that doesn’t require you to go to college!
If you’ve always been interested in a career that is also a calling, law enforcement may be right for you. Detectives play an essential role in the criminal justice system, but they don’t have to go to school for years to master the knowledge of their trade: instead, most learn what they know on the job.
Like postmasters, detectives-in-training will often spend years working for the organization before they are promoted to a leadership role. This means that if you want to become a detective, you will probably need to serve the police force as an officer while you learn the job and develop your skills.
While there are no education requirements beyond a GED to becoming a detective, there are limitations of other kinds. In order to become an officer, you will need to complete police training academy, which includes a physical assessment of your abilities as well as a polygraph and drug test. Unsurprisingly, if you have ever been convicted of a felony, this will likely bar you from joining the force.
However, most detectives make a healthy salary of between $75,000 and $80,000 per year, making it one of the better-paying jobs open to someone without a university degree.
3. Real Estate Agent
Unlike many of the other jobs on this list, real estate doesn’t come with a guaranteed annual salary. But nor does it have an upper salary limit. That’s because a real estate agent’s salary depends on the work they put in. For driven, ambitious salespeople, this is an exciting prospect. There is lots of opportunity in New York for real estate agents who are just starting out to make a name for themselves in one of the most diverse and lucrative markets in the world, and if you market yourself successfully, the sky is the limit.
Becoming a real estate agent is also quite straightforward: all you need to do is take a 75 hour NY real estate course online (other states may require longer courses — stop by for more info about the requirements in your jurisdiction), pass the real estate agent exam set by the state, and find a brokerage willing to take you on.
Once you’re working in the real estate world, you can focus on building a reputation as a realtor, or you can take the brokerage exam after three years in the field and start your own real estate firm. After gaining some experience, some realtors decide to become investors themselves, while others may move into parallel jobs like building manager or house appraiser.
One of the most exciting aspects of working in real estate is that your career can take you in a number of different directions — becoming a licensed realtor is simply the first step on the journey.
4. Commercial Pilot
Few jobs today have the same glamour being a pilot does. A life in the air flying from city to city and country to country is many people’s dream, and it is one that can be quite a bit easier to achieve than many people expect.
There is no one set way to become a pilot, but most candidates start by taking a ground school course (also called flight school) in which they learn about the principles of flight, the rules of the sky, and the technical information they need to master in order to safely pilot a plane. Some colleges offer aviation programs that include ground school as part of the syllabus, but it is also possible to study at Part 61 or Part 141 flight schools.
However, while pilot training is not nearly as expensive as a law degree, there are other costs associated with receiving your license. In order to qualify, pilots must log a certain number of flight hours, and if you don’t own an aircraft this can quickly become expensive. For example, to apply for a commercial pilot’s license, you need to have logged 1,500 total flight hours, with at least fifty of those hours being behind the joystick of a multi-engine plane.
For this reason, some people considering a career in aviation come to the job through the armed forces. Air force pilots receive free training, but are required to serve for at least ten years.
5. Funeral Director
While it might not be the first job most people think of when they consider careers, the funeral industry has a lot to recommend it. Not only can funeral directors rely on a steady income stream, running a funeral parlour is actually quite a creative job: funerals require an aesthetic touch, and working with grieving families to ensure that their loved ones receive a meaningful farewell and be very personally rewarding.
In most cases, becoming a funeral director requires one to two years of on-the-job training as well as some academic work. This means that you can learn the trade while making a paycheck, and for those who like to learn by doing it offers a perfect balance of technical knowledge and practical application.
According to the latest statistics, students are carrying more student loan debt in 2019 than they have at any other point in history. Despite the money they have invested in their education, many students struggle to find well-paying jobs upon graduation, and between the unchecked rise of tuition costs and an economy that some fear is headed for an imminent recession, this could spell disaster for millions of young people.
This is all the more reason to consider career paths that don’t require you to take on huge amounts of debt just to receive the most elementary credentials. If you want to find a job that you can become qualified for quickly and which will guarantee a reliable income, you may want to consider becoming a postmaster, funeral director, real estate agent, detective, or pilot.
And if you believe that a career in real estate is in your future, jump start your professional life today by taking one of RealEstateU’s tailored real estate agent courses. You can take these courses on your own time, and they will provide you with everything you need to pass the real estate licensing exam in your home state.
Email us today for more information, or sign up now for one of our specially discounted courses for states like New York, Texas, and California.