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Contrary to parental and popular opinion, you can enter the workforce right away with a high school degree. Here are 10 ideas that don’t require classroom learning:

1. Get a job

Many of the following occupations don’t require a college degree, and some pay extremely well. A short list of positions that don’t require a degree include:

Casino gaming manager Commercial pilot Computer coder

Criminal detective Dispensing optician Farmer or rancher

Graphic designer Insurance sales rep Loan officer

Massage therapist Personal care aide Medical assistant

Physical trainer Power plant operator Retail/restaurant manager

Subway and streetcar operator Transport inspector Web developer

You will need to prove your skills for jobs like graphic designer and web development, and while your peers are paying tuition to learn in college, you’re getting paid to learn on the job. 

2. Pursue the creative arts

Fancy yourself acting on the big screen, singing on stage, or killing jokes in a comedy club? Go for it. It’s much easier to pay your dues when you’re younger than later on in life. Use your teens and twenties to pursue your goals of becoming a professional actor, singer, dancer, comedian, or fine artist. Audition for as many roles as you can and start small to build your skills. Split a studio with five friends. If it’s needed, relocate to a place like Los Angeles, Austin, or New York. The creative arts are truly a do-it-yourself position. 

3. Attend a trade school

A trade school education can lead you to employment in painting, woodwork, landscaping, masonry, forestry, construction, welding, and other trades. A traditionally “blue-collar” job through a trade school makes sense when you compare the numbers. Graduates of trade school make $42,000 on average compared to the $48,000 average salary of college graduates. A recent study found trade schools have nearly 100% job placements, and where ever you want to live, skilled trades are always in demand. 

4. Start a business

Addressing a lecture hall full of business majors, a famous consultant once said, “Each of you would have probably learned more if you had taken your tuition and actually started a business yourself.” Many lessons are best learned through doing. Having your own enterprise will force you to learn to:

Increase your critical thinking skills

Master time management

Learn sales skills from dealing with the public, overcoming objections to fulfillment

Communicate and work with groups of people other than your friends

Develop your creative skills through new business and marketing ideas

Develop business networks with other entrepreneurs

Experience failure and learn how to rebound. 

Plus, thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to start a business. Spend $50 to $100, and you’ll have your website up and running.

One major key to online business success is to find a challenge you’re passionate about, solve that challenge, and then master how to sell that solution to multiple companies. Know that it takes time and effort to grow. Don’t try to create the next Amazon or Apple. 

5. Take free online classes

Online learning sites like Coursera, Harvard Extension, edX and many others have made it cost-free and simple to learn about what interests you at no cost, except for time. Sign up, and you’ll have access to some of the best experts in their field. Should you decide to pursue college, you’re getting a taste of what areas you’re interested in before paying for college.

6. Travel the globe

Why sit in a lecture hall to learn about South American history? Forego college and visit Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires. Ponder what would happen if you traveled the world. You’d develop human relations skills from meeting other travelers and interacting with locals. You’ll be tested from travels to encounter whatever is before you: navigating language barriers, living in an unknown situation outside your comfort zone. Travel helps to build great levels of self-awareness, and you will avoid the “woulda’s, shoulda’s”  for not going. 

7. Enlist in the military

Serving your country is seen as a tremendous honor. There are several tangible benefits, including a $35,000 minimum salary with increases the longer you serve, access to several levels of career training, opportunities to have your future college paid, free health care and negligible living costs, a chance to travel across both the United States and the world, and a sense of discipline and organization that you can’t find elsewhere. Let us not sugar coat the downsides. You have no control of where you’re deployed. You could wind up in a war zone at any time. With this, there is the risk of death.

8. Become a real estate agent

As long as people continue needing a place to live, realtors will have opportunities. An average real estate agent makes approximately $51,000 without a degree. What attracts many to the residential real estate profession is that your earning potential has no ceiling. The smarter you work, the more you earn. The process to be official is quite forward. Take real estate courses, pass the state licensing test, and then get to work. You may want to look for an experienced agent to serve as your mentor to help you learn the ropes. 

9. Volunteer

Many volunteer and charity organizations would gladly have you volunteer at some level with no college degree needed. Some people feel they need a diploma to work in the helping professions. This is the furthest thing from the truth. If serving others is your bliss, organizations like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps are starting points for life-changing service. 

10. Become a content creator 

Looking to develop and publish content to build an audience and provide value to them? Ten years ago, people would have scoffed at the idea. Today, many of the most successful people using technology are content creators. Whether you want to create a podcast, blog, or video channel, thousands of people are making a living doing this. The key to success is knowing how to build a community of fans and followers around you. 

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