Feb 1, 2013 9:39 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

Tucsonans cash in on careers that don't necessarily require college degree

TUCSON- Life is pretty sweet for Iliana Castilblanco.

The wedding pastry chef started her business "Sweet Creations" about five years ago and it keeps her pretty busy. "I did 120 weddings last year," Castilblanco says.

But frosting and flowers weren't always in her future. "I thought I was going to be a teacher," Castilblanco says.

She majored in education at The University of Arizona. But a few years after graduation, her long time passion for pastries kicked in and now it's earning her big money. She says she can make about $80,000 a year. "It's amazing that you get paid well for something that you love to do," Castilblanco says.

And she says it's a job that doesn't even require a college degree. "If someone wants to get out of high school and this is what they love to do, definitely, they can just start doing that," Castilblanco.

Personal Trainer Mark Saunders was in the United States Air Force for a few years, before turning his passion for fitness into a career. "In the beginning I never even thought it could be a possible career," Saunders says.

But nearly 20 years later he's working as his own boss, making about $60,000 a year. He never received his college degree. It has been great and rewarding and I love it," Saunders says. "I wouldn't change it."

But both Saunders and Castilblanco defy the norm.

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a person who didn't finish high school is $24,856, for a high school grad it's $33,644 and for a college graduate with a bachelor's degree it's $60,736.

Dolores Duran-Cerda, who works as Senior Assistant to the Provost at Pima Community College, says the wage gap, particularly between high school and college grads, happens because college gives students more time to develop critical communication and thinking skills.

"All those skills really need to be developed and fine tuned so they can be successful and not just work locally, but also nationally and globally," Duran-Cerda says.

Saunders and Castilblanco have obviously mastered their skills, however they say skipping college won't immediately get you on to the fast track to success. "You have to be passionate about it, you have to love it and you have to be determined," Castilblanco says.

As long as you have those key ingredients, you can have your cake and eat it too.

According to PayScale.com, other jobs that don't necessarily require a college degree, but can pay well, include a massage therapist and handyman.

To contact Iliana Castilblanco you can email her at sweetcreations09@hotmail.com, call her at 520-275-8413, or visit www.sweetcreations-az.com/?page/77137/home

To contact Mark Saunders you can email him at financialsocialnetworking@gmail.com, call him at 520-400-9573, or visit www.TheTucsonPersonalTrainer.com


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