Top-paying jobs without a university degree

Top-paying jobs without a university degree

Looking for your first job just to help your parents with paying bills or have some extra pocket money, or considering a serious position as a life career, in any case, a university or a college degree will help you land a job you desire. But what if you do not have a degree and still considering your options whether to go for higher education or save the time and money, a lot of money on education and start working and actually making money right now.

If anything seems certain for high school graduates these days, it’s that the cost of the university will keep going up. The average annual undergraduate tuition fee climbed again this year — to $6,838 — as it has done for 29 years in a row now.

Parents and the future students themselves often are under the impression, that there is no way to get a career and well-paying job position without the diploma. Most people still think that you have to have a degree to even be considered for a good position. Overall, university graduates remain the top earners. The mid-range annual salary for degree holders working full time was around $68,600 in 2015, compared with $52,300 for those with a college diploma and $42,700 for those with a trades certificate or apprenticeship training, data from the 2016 census shows.

Young men with a trades certificate now earn more than those with a college diploma, while young women with a trades education are now earning almost as much as those who went to college.

At some provinces that are seeing a huge construction development in all the areas, people with certain work skills, like heavy equipment operation, hydro works and such are getting paid the same and in some cases even more than those with university diplomas sitting in the cozy office. Some make well into the six figures. For example, instrumentation technicians — who are in charge of installing and maintaining the measuring and control instruments used in manufacturing, petrochemical and other commercial settings — were making an average of $130,000 a year, the highest-paid trade in Canada.

Working in the trades wasn’t always this lucrative. The numbers show that stronger earnings growth started in the mid-2000s, coinciding with the onset of the oil and gas boom in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the real estate craze in Vancouver and Toronto.

While the demand for people like lineworkers, electricians and carpenters skyrocketed, the share of Canadians with the skills to fill those jobs ticked up just a tad, from 4.9 percent in 2006 to 7.8 percent in 2016. As a result, pay went up quickly. Data provided by Statistics Canada to Global News also shows that the wages of workers in the trades decline neither during the 2008-2009 financial crisis nor during the 2014-2016 recession in the oil patch.

So as you can see, in certain trades the demand for a high-skilled workers are very high, and the supply of such workforce is lacking the numbers, so some companies are actually ready to offer higher salaries to have their staff fully equipped with required specialists to be able to do the work non-stop and continue to get and finish contracts on time to make money overall.

No student debt, no lost earnings

The ability to get an education without paying for it is what got Koady Morris of Coldwater, Ont., into the trades.

When he graduated from high school, the now 25-year-old tried to get into college to become a paramedic but failed a required entry test. Catching up would have required taking around $3,000 worth of pre-health classes, which he ultimately thought wasn’t worth it, he said. Instead, he started working as a general laborer at a local construction company making $16 an hour.

The following year, he looked into becoming a firefighter but balked at spending around $16,000 in pre-service college programs. Instead, he kept working in construction and started training to become an electrician. It took him four years to earn a Certificate of Qualification, but that included 9,000 hours of apprenticeship, where he was learning on the job — and getting paid. And during the periods when he was in school, Morris said he could count on the government’s Employment Insurance program for Canadians attending full-time technical training, as well as $2,000 worth of apprenticeship grants for the first two years.

“You’re getting paid all the time,” he said. Instead of shelling out money for his education, Morris was making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year while earning his qualification. When going out for a beer with his peers who were in school, he joked, “I paid for pretty much everyone.”

Some people who made the same decision as Morris at the right time, actually earned much more during that period they were working full time, instead of going to university and in addition paying a lot of money for that education. So you have to consider it and look at the situation from both sides: first you are constantly working, meaning getting paid every month (every other week or so), instead of spending this time at school and in addition you don’t have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for that school, so you are making money and at the same time saving.

Nany Cote of Randstad Canada, one of the country’s largest staffing agencies, offered a similar assessment.

According to Randstad, which focuses on the manufacturing sector, warehousing, call centers, and administrative jobs, several of the best-paying positions that don’t require a university degree are usually filled with internal recruits. “Some of these are the kinds of jobs you grow into from within the organization,” Cote said.

In general, “the more education you have, the better,” Cote said. In the current tight labor market, however, employers are increasingly willing to train employees themselves or pay for them to go back to school.

So at this point, you can see that even though higher education is very important and needed to move up and be promoted, but a lot of companies in Canada are actually ready to pay for their existing staff to visit classes and get the needed additional education. So you keep your job, continue working, continue to bring money into the family and go to a school that is being paid for you. Also, very important point is that in such classes you will be getting all the needed or required classes only, because your employer paying for it, instead of dozens of classes, you will never actually need for work. Everyone knows those classes like philosophy and astronomy, even though it may sound cool and interesting, but it is not a must-do to get a job and get paid.

Trades jobs have benefited men much more than women.

If you’re a woman, the numbers suggest that a university education is likely to be your best shot. Data from the 2016 Census shows that the average woman with a bachelor’s degree earned around $68,300 in 2015, 41 percent more than those with a college diploma ($48,600) and nearly 80 percent higher than those with an apprenticeship certificate ($38,200).

The main reason for this is that women tend to work in trades jobs that have little to do with the oil and gas sector or housing. In 2015, for example, three in 10 had certificates in hairstyling.

Men working in the trades may also have unions to thank for their hefty and sticky wages. Of those aged between 25 and 34, some 36 percent belong to a union or work in a job regulated by a collective bargaining agreement. That compares to 30 percent among college graduates, 24 percent of high school graduates, and 22 percent among degree holders. For older men in the skilled trades (ages 35 to 54) the unionization rate is even higher, at nearly 40 percent.

The Canadian economy is growing at a healthy clip, but that won’t last forever. And when things turn south, data shows that more years of schooling tend to pay off.

So there are a lot of things to be considered, many options to choose from and every person needs to think for themselves. Are you ready and willing to pay thousands of dollars to get the higher education and spend 3-4 years in university to get a diploma, possibly get into a hefty debt while doing that and then look for a job, hoping to get a good position with a good paycheck or instead consider working and getting paid right away, but most likely starting pay will be under the average pay for university and college graduates in the first one-two years of your new career. 

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