When you're work-bound, it can seem like your options are limited. Either start in an entry-level position and try and work your way up, or start your own business and go it alone. And hey, both those options are amazing for some: But they're not your only choice.

There are some killer careers out there for people willing to train and get certified – no degree necessary. The real benefit, though? You could make big bucks doing and hands-on job that you really love.

Check out five of the most amazing degree-optional jobs with big paychecks and major coolness factors.

1. Air Traffic Controller

Often cited as one of the more stressful careers, if you have laser-like focus and are obsessed with details, becoming an air traffic controller might be a no-brainer. You'll definitely need training, since air traffic controllers need to be certified with the FAA. But once you go through a few months of certification, you're ready to take on a high-paying, super-rewarding career.

2. Court Reporter

Let's be honest: It just sounds cool. Court reporters are the people who listen in on court proceedings and compile a detailed account of what happened. You'll have to be a pretty stellar typist and be registered through the National Court Reporters Association for the best shot at employment, but once you're in, job growth skyrockets. Hello, juicy cases and major job security!

3. Fire Chief

Taking care of an entire fire station isn't easy, but fire chiefs make almost double a general firefighter for the task. Whether it's making schedules or making judgement calls, you'd be a great fire chief if you're leadership material and you're willing to put in the work. Fire chiefs are typically chosen from the pool of firefighters, so training and getting hired is where you'll need to start. After that, it's working up the ladder – without sliding down the pole.

4. Commercial Diver

If you're obsessed with the movie Finding Nemo and you love being in the water, consider becoming a commercial diver. They're the experts who repair, maintain and observe deep sea equipment for anyone from labs to petroleum companies. Cool, right? You'll definitely need to be trained and certified, which takes a few months. But when your office is the coral reef, it's totally worth the work.

5. Ethical Hacker

Finally, a way to use your brilliant hacking skills for good: Ethical hackers are hired by companies to see if their digital security is totally bulletproof. It's a way to ferret out potential problems to ward off major unethical hacking and losing classified information. You can become certified with the E-Commerce Council after proving your hacking merit, which can open doors to freelance work or even full time employment.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that going degree free should limit your options. Instead, think outside the cubicle: Hands-on jobs, trades and just plain awesome careers await those who are willing to get to work right after high school.

By Jae — Rocket Scientist


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