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View Full Version : How Do People Survive Without Degrees!?



jwsthe3rd
08-05-2005, 01:13 AM
Ok, I have this interesting question that puzzles me... We as 'twentysomethings' are highly focused on finding careers with our degrees and also finding ways to climb up the corporate ladder so we can make salaries and afford a decent living and look successful as adults. My question is this... What about all the people who don't finish highschool, or the people who don't go to college? With my views of this current "real world" we live in, I don't see how it's really possible, but people do it all the time! Where are these people working? Do they wait tables, work in retail, or other wage based jobs? Does anyone know of someone who waits tables and lives on their own? How do they get ahead and how can they support families, let alone support themselves? I know my Father supported our family by working in a factory that makes tires, making about $15 an hour. I still don't know how we managed to get by sometimes... We did eventually file bankruptcy and the church was bringing us groceries at one point. We always lived in a trailer, then upgraded to a double-wide. Maybe I just don't understand how people do it because I am looking at apartments in the city, and the rent is quite high there. I mean even if I just made $12 a hour, I would barely be able to get by in the city with all the expenses and high rent. Is it just me, or do we make our lives harder than they have to be, with all these expectations of ourselves, all the degrees, all the high costs of living? It just completely blows my mind sometimes. If only our society was based on something else other than money and getting ahead, I think we would be so much happier and far better off. We as humans, create our own misery and our own poverty! It's ludicrous! Why can't it be more simple like it was in the old days? I know it has to do with technology, greed, and envy. I guess I am just thinking too hard again... I don't know, I just want a job that pays me enough to live on my own and survive. That's it! But it seems so damned impossible sometimes and seems as if it's the only key to my happiness. CAREER CAREER CAREER! I hate the word now! I may just have to work in a factory like my Dad did to survive, or work two minimum wage jobs. It seems so dreadful, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do I guess. I just wish America would pay it's minimum wagers more, so they could at least afford to live on their own and survive without having to work two to three jobs. Sorry, I am just in a mood tonight, and ranting/venting seems to help a tiny bit. Does anyone feel my frustration? LOL!

Kitty
08-05-2005, 01:16 AM
If you can prove yourself in a business environment - you will be successful. This usually means you have to start at the very bottom, and work your way up. My Dad doesn't have a college degree and he is a successful dude in the pharmaceutical industry.

After a certain amount of years, it won't really matter if you don't have a degree if you have a track record of success.

winneythepooh7
08-05-2005, 06:58 AM
My boyfriend doesn't have a college degree either and he started his own business in construction. It is a struggle right now because they are at the beginning stages. If they can get through these hurdles he will make more money than I ever will probably, and I have a Master's degree!

winneythepooh7
08-05-2005, 07:00 AM
I just wanted to add that having a degree too doesn't make you smarter or more knowledgeable. I have a little rant especially about someone in this situation but I am going to refrain because my paranoia has been coming out about who reads these boards ;).

biodork
08-05-2005, 07:24 AM
My bf doesn't have a degree (although he's working on it) and before taxes, he makes more money than I do (I have a fellowship, so I don't have taxes taken out of my paycheck although I'm required to pay them quarterly). He gets paid $13/hr plus overtime, while my salary translates into like $11.77/hr, no overtime. And I have a BS in biology. But hey, I work for the federal gov't! If you are low on the totem pole you make jack shit there. I'm getting great experience though in my job, and will come out with some excellent recommendations for grad school and beyond, so it's worth it to me not to make as much money.

And we are surviving. Yeah things are tight sometimes, but we are making it. Someday we might both be making more money, but for right now we have to make do.

lilyflower
08-05-2005, 07:45 AM
My bf doesn't have a degree (although he's working on it) and before taxes, he makes more money than I do (I have a fellowship, so I don't have taxes taken out of my paycheck although I'm required to pay them quarterly). He gets paid $13/hr plus overtime, while my salary translates into like $11.77/hr, no overtime. And I have a BS in biology. But hey, I work for the federal gov't! If you are low on the totem pole you make jack shit there. I'm getting great experience though in my job, and will come out with some excellent recommendations for grad school and beyond, so it's worth it to me not to make as much money.

And we are surviving. Yeah things are tight sometimes, but we are making it. Someday we might both be making more money, but for right now we have to make do.

Ouch, Elyse! Especially considering that you're in the DC metro.

I honestly have no clue how people live on less than $10/hour in any of the large/expensive metros.

biodork
08-05-2005, 07:50 AM
Ouch, Elyse! Especially considering that you're in the DC metro.

I honestly have no clue how people live on less than $10/hour in any of the large/expensive metros.
Yeah it sorta sucks, but this is where it comes in handy to have the combined income...at least we aren't paying $1065 EACH for the apartment we're moving into. It's still pretty expensive though, $532 each a month, on top of all our other bills we have.

lilyflower
08-05-2005, 07:54 AM
Yeah it sorta sucks, but this is where it comes in handy to have the combined income...at least we aren't paying $1065 EACH for the apartment we're moving into. It's still pretty expensive though, $532 each a month, on top of all our other bills we have.

Ugh, tell me about it, paying $1050 by myself for my apartment is hard enough on my income, I could never imagine doing it making a NIH type salary.

preludemd
08-05-2005, 08:04 AM
Damn, I thought it was expensive here, at least you get a 3 bedroom apartment for $900 here. But, i do think the cost of living thing is getting a little out of hand. It's them baby boomer fuckers overcharging us for their retirment. Bastards.

biodork
08-05-2005, 08:11 AM
Ugh, tell me about it, paying $1050 by myself for my apartment is hard enough on my income, I could never imagine doing it making a NIH type salary.
I had to move way the hell out to Ashburn (note: Loudon County, which is much cheaper than Fairfax county) to get the price I'm getting, without a deal. I'm almost wishing I would have just looked for places back in April, but then I wouldn't know what to do when my lease was up because I prob couldn't afford to just pay on a daily basis without a lease, esp because my parents are going to be selling their house pretty soon and moving into a 2 bdrm condo so I couldn't live with them. Plus I have no clue how long it takes grad school admissions people to get back to you to tell you if you got in or not.

biodork
08-05-2005, 08:13 AM
Damn, I thought it was expensive here, at least you get a 3 bedroom apartment for $900 here. But, i do think the cost of living thing is getting a little out of hand. It's them baby boomer fuckers overcharging us for their retirment. Bastards.
WOW I WISH I could find a 3 bdrm for that much! That would be sweet! :p I can't even find a 1 bdrm for 900 unless its those DAMN income restricted places, which SOMEHOW my bf and I combined make too much to live there. I think the most 2 people can make is like 42K, and combined we make $51K. Yeah, how fair is that???

preludemd
08-05-2005, 08:18 AM
LOL, i guess I could say welcome to the middle class....the class of the f**ked. :lol:

We make too much so we get no assistance, and we make good livings, but good is just enough to pay the bills. We're educated and taxed to death and there isn't a damn thing anyone can do about it. We want more money, but in order for out companies to be competitive have to move to other countries. And the people above our class who own the building have decided that they deserve double what the property is worth.

biodork
08-05-2005, 08:27 AM
Yeah more like lower middle class.

My bf was so upset this year for taxes, he JUST made it into a new tax bracket, so he got almost nothing back. It really sucked. But then I get nothing back every year past since my parents still claim me. According to my grandpa though I was SUPPOSED to get something back, my dad just hasn't cut me a check. How messed up is that????

Brillo25
08-05-2005, 10:27 AM
One of my friends has no degree, he started out working at a boot manufacturing place on the line, and three years later he's on the management team making 45K a year. He'll make way more money over his career than me with my master's degree and six years of college.

coll214
08-05-2005, 10:59 AM
I know of a few people without degrees... Some are scraping by with secretary jobs, one is still in the same job from HS living at home and a few who are HVAC technicians who are making more than I do. Just like anything else, it depends on what field you are looking to go into.

Angyl
08-05-2005, 11:10 AM
I know at least two people who quit college to go work in computers and all of them make significantly more than I do; but that's not hard to do.

I do'nt think a degree automatically means success. It helps in some fields, but not all.

RayJ1977
08-05-2005, 11:13 AM
Angyl. Was Bill Gates one of them...he did that too. He's doing alright.

shimmer728
08-05-2005, 11:32 AM
I make $11.40/hour with a B.A. and almost three years' journalism experience. Luckily, it's cheap to live where I do. Lots of people in manufacturing/blue collar jobs make significantly more. I don't think it's fair, but as my father delights in telling me, that's how the business market is.

preludemd
08-05-2005, 11:44 AM
I think it's perfectly fair for some of the blue collar workers to make more, especially if they've been doing it for a while. And being that it's in PA chances are it's "skilled" labor and that requires some ability that not everyone has such as machining, welding, told and die, steelworkers. All of those are highly skilled jobs and deserve the pay that they get. And being in journalism in Bedford? i wouldn't expect to pay that well anyway. It's not exactly a big city so whoever you write for has a limited audience therefore limited revenue. Now if you wrote for a bigger city paper like the Pittsburgh Post Gazette then I would expect higher pay because of larger audience, more advertising revenue, etc...

I'm an engineer and I work with some Machinists that make more than I do and I feel that it's well deserved, they are very talented and very skilled people and I know that they are hard to come by.

shimmer728
08-05-2005, 11:49 AM
I think it's perfectly fair for some of the blue collar workers to make more, especially if they've been doing it for a while. And being that it's in PA chances are it's "skilled" labor and that requires some ability that not everyone has such as machining, welding, told and die, steelworkers. All of those are highly skilled jobs and deserve the pay that they get. And being in journalism in Bedford? i wouldn't expect to pay that well anyway. It's not exactly a big city so whoever you write for has a limited audience therefore limited revenue. Now if you wrote for a bigger city paper like the Pittsburgh Post Gazette then I would expect higher pay because of larger audience, more advertising revenue, etc...

That's fair. I should hope that skilled blue-collar workers (many of whom also had to have some continued formal education) are making decent money for what they do. They probably also have a greater chance of getting hurt on the job.

I have a problem with unskilled workers making higher wages than I do. It does happen.

shimmer728
08-05-2005, 11:51 AM
Oh, and P-G reporters do make a pretty penny. But then, they have to live in Pittsburgh. ;)

temptation
08-05-2005, 11:52 AM
Angyl. Was Bill Gates one of them...he did that too. He's doing alright.


Yeah but it wasn't like University was not an option for him. He chose to leave Harvard in pursuit of a vision which became very profitable for him. It would be nice to think that I could scrap my education and become succesful but it is becoming less and less feasible. Many entry-level jobs require a Master's at the minimum. Of course there will always be exceptions but in most cases it is very hard to advance with no formal education. Especially in this North America where the markets are saturated.

Someone with a PHD and good connections has so many more opportunities to advance.

preludemd
08-05-2005, 11:59 AM
I rarely meet unskilled labor making over $10 hour. Usually those positions end up being filled by temps. At least around here anyway.

As for the P-G employees, yes Pgh is expensive. Talked to a realtor this past weekend and she said she showed a house where the taxes were over 4000/year....that's over 300/month just in friggen taxes. Personally I think the city is going to tax itself out of existance and all they'll have left to show for it is 2 shiny stadiums and no industry. But the alternative is you could live in Butler County where I grew up only 35 minutes north of Pgh and find some decent places to live and pay a fraction in taxes compared to the city.

midtwenty
08-05-2005, 12:00 PM
I have precisely 3 semesters of college to brag about. Whooooopdeeeedooo. I also make more money than my husband, who has a bachelor's degree and is Network+ and MCSE certified. For me, getting good jobs has always been a matter of not being afraid to work hard and look for something better. I've worked every sort of job from waiting tables to retail to executive sales, which is what I do now. Every time I've made a job change in the last 10 years, I've always gone to something that was better than what I was leaving. Better salary, better hours, better benefits. I always figured, if it wasn't better there was no point in doing it. But the REAL secret...the Holy Grail of making it in the world...is living below your means. Not above your means, not right at your means...below. Below below below. I have lived in shitty apartments, driven shitty cars, lived on nothing but cans of corn for dinner for weeks. I have been POOR. It's almost like a rite of passage for young people just starting out, if you want my opinion on the subject. Part of learning to be self-sufficient. Part of learning how to conduct your life in a way that will benefit you later. I'm GLAD I was poor. I'm GLAD I had to struggle so much for a long time. It makes me appreciate what I have now. It makes me that much more driven to keep what I have, protect it, hang onto it no matter the cost. I don't believe in the "buy now pay later" mentality of society these days. I believe in the "pay your dues now and reap the rewards later" idea of life.

spokes
08-05-2005, 12:04 PM
no degree here (except 98 degrees - that Nick L is so dreamy.....) and i started working at the bottom and triend not to complain too much and work hard and now i think i make as much as (or possibly more) than others in my office in the same position. as mid inferred, you have to be prepared to move from one company to the next..........

Winter Storm
08-05-2005, 12:14 PM
A lot of people have made it without degrees.

My sister for example skipped college and went to beauty school. When she got tired of that, she got a job as an office manager and worked her way up until this year when she got promoted as HR manager. Within only 6 months of training and only midway to her certification, she was just promoted to Director of HR.

She accomplished all of this on a high school diploma.

AmbrNrgy
08-05-2005, 12:59 PM
I think living in a capitalistic society as we do makes us less happy. We always want for more. I'm not saying that I'm personally unhappy and I am always wanting more, but that's the general feeling of many people in the population.

Depression rates in foreign countries are so much less, however their unemployment is higher and they have a very low productivity rate. When I went to Italy two years ago, I enjoyed how they shut down the stores for 2 hours at lunch. It was relaxing. The hustle and bustle of life just is put on hold - to relax.

Another funny story - in Italy I went into a cool little cafe to get some coffee and I wanted it "to go" and they didn't really do that there! They only serve them in glasses/china so you HAVE to sit down and drink it. That just shows how different our society is, and that we're always "on the go". No wonder why I'm an anxious nut all the time!

shimmer728
08-05-2005, 01:04 PM
I rarely meet unskilled labor making over $10 hour. Usually those positions end up being filled by temps. At least around here anyway.

As for the P-G employees, yes Pgh is expensive. Talked to a realtor this past weekend and she said she showed a house where the taxes were over 4000/year....that's over 300/month just in friggen taxes. Personally I think the city is going to tax itself out of existance and all they'll have left to show for it is 2 shiny stadiums and no industry. But the alternative is you could live in Butler County where I grew up only 35 minutes north of Pgh and find some decent places to live and pay a fraction in taxes compared to the city.

Oh, I wasn't talking about it being expensive to live in Pittsburgh. I just think it's a miserable city, and wouldn't want to live there even if it was dirt freaking cheap.

My parents live in Westmoreland County, where I grew up. Taxes are less there, I think.

tartytwenty
08-05-2005, 01:24 PM
My brother went into roofing. He didn't have a degree and he makes good money.

Mad Dawg
08-05-2005, 01:25 PM
People without degrees survive by living on less and trying to make ends meet. That's why Bill Gates eats Wendy's 99-cent cheeseburgers. You do what you have to in order to afford that $50-million dream home.

Bruiser
08-05-2005, 01:39 PM
I think living in a capitalistic society as we do makes us less happy. We always want for more. I'm not saying that I'm personally unhappy and I am always wanting more, but that's the general feeling of many people in the population.

Depression rates in foreign countries are so much less, however their unemployment is higher and they have a very low productivity rate. When I went to Italy two years ago, I enjoyed how they shut down the stores for 2 hours at lunch. It was relaxing. The hustle and bustle of life just is put on hold - to relax.

Nobody ever got rich off Socialism. I am sure the Eastern European countries had higher rates of depression 25 years ago than the US has now. Waiting on line for 8 hours for a loaf of bread will do that. Europe's unemployment rates are more than double ours, because we reward hard work. People that would rather sit comfortably on their collective asses here in the US can't, and that annoys those people.

Oh, and my friends who are union guys work their butts off outside in the heat & cold all year long in dangerous conditions. Humping construction materials around, wiring up buildings, laying bricks, paving, etc. They earn their keep and deserve their good pay, and don't need climate controlled office workers slagging them due to wage differentials.

jwsthe3rd
08-05-2005, 03:19 PM
Thanks for all the great posts guys. I enjoy getting many responses from so many different people with various views and opinions. It's really exciting! I know I'll find something eventually, to get me through this decision making period in my life, if I just keep looking and dedicating myself to it daily. ;):

heatherf
08-05-2005, 04:00 PM
Yups, people do it everyday.....IMO on the job training (for any job) is far more useful than a degree, it's just that some positions require a degree simply in order to be considered for the job that they will train you how to do (cause they want it done their way) anyway.

BUT - my only concern for those in blue collar jobs (say construction) is that their bodies will only be able to take the physical labor for so long, cause we all get older. So I'd think that if they don't have either something to fall back on or some nice retirement fund, there comes a time when they may kinda be up a creek.

bosshog
08-05-2005, 06:03 PM
Making good money without a degree can be done, but it also limits options once you get to a certain level in the business world. At my company the breakdown is that probably 25% have degrees, 25-40% have some college, and about 50%+ -, have a HS diploma. Mind you, these are entry level jobs and most guys make 40k on the low end and 60-65k in the higher end. This is also in a place where the cost to live is fairly cheaper.
The thing I notice is that there aren't a lot of babies here. It is basically survival of the fittest and you cannot really make the bigger bucks without putting in the hours, meaning 12-14 a day. So yeah, these "good" jobs for the less educated can be found, but it is usually reserved for like the upper echelons of this labor pool.
On a side note, not having a formal degree should not imply lack of intelligence. Most guys here could go on to college or plan on working till they can afford to do so. It is tough to find a "career" type here.

nlfl1
08-07-2005, 04:39 PM
Someone made an interesting point about blue collar people and their bodies not being able to take it forever. My stepdad is a high school drop out and has been a plumber for 40 years now. He makes darn good money but he probably averages 80 hours a week in often less than ideal working conditions. He always strongly encourages us not to be blue collar and go to college, this way we can make the same $$ and have a good back when we get to our late 30s (hes had back problems for many years now). Turns out a lot of blue collar parents say the same thing to their kids. Now a lot of these fields are seeing major shortages and there is now more potential to make money as a plumber, mechanic , and professions like that then just a few years ago as the older baby boomers are retiring or cutting their workload down.

lilyflower
08-07-2005, 06:20 PM
Honestly, location is rarely taken into account in these things. In the middle-of-nowhere town where I grew up, I know a lot of people that I went to school with who now own houses with actual property, most don't have degrees and work crap jobs like retail, etc. The cost of living there is so low that you seriously can own property making under $30K a year.

Meanwhile, I make probably more than they and their SOs do combined but because of where I live I can't afford to buy even the smallest condo because of price so I always wonder if in some way I screwed myself over.

wordsmith
08-08-2005, 11:22 AM
My dad, who has work toward a masters in education, quit teaching to start a carpentry business (which he would need no degree for), because he was making more in the summer when doing building projects than he was the other nine months teaching. But there are definitely tradeoffs.

My mom has a high school diploma, and has a secure job that she's good at working with special education students, and makes nearly what I make with a degree. But, she has limited options. I look to my degree to mostly open doors that would otherwise not be open to me. No guarantees. I didn't continue my schooling to have guarantees. I did it because I wanted to.