DEAR JOYCE: My son isn't ready to spend four or five years in college going into debt to get a bachelor's degree that may or may not lead to a good job. What alternatives not requiring a four-year bachelor's degree would pay well? -- W.T.T.
DEAR -- W.T.T. Your question has moved to the front burner on many family stoves for the reasons you give. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor offers answers. Consider these annual median wage figures that are grouped by academic requirements to enter the industry:
-- Two-year associate degree: air traffic controllers $108,040, general and operations managers $94,400, construction managers $83,860, dental hygienists $68,250, mechanical engineering technicians $50,110.
-- Postsecondary non-degree award: first-line firefighters $68,240, commercial pilots $67,500, powerhouse electrical repairers $65,230, auto insurance appraisers $56,230, first-line production supervisors $53,090.
-- High school diploma: various managers $96,450, transportation and distribution managers $80,210, first-line police supervisors and detectives $78,260, nuclear power reactor operators $75,650, fashion designers $64,530.
These 15 examples are drawn from the 80 occupations identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in a new report, "High wages after high school -- without a bachelor's degree" by Elka Torpey. You can read it online in the Summer 2012 issue of the Occupational Outlook Quarterly (bls.gov/ooq).
DEAR JOYCE: My supervisor is a control freak who second guesses every single thing I do, but I can't afford to quit right now. What can I do to keep him out of my face? -- A.T.
DEAR --A.T. Does your work history suggest you need joined-at-the-hip supervision? Be honest. And what are the penalties for your boss if you mess up?
In your defense, here are a few suggestions to gain more autonomy in your workday:
-- Listen attentively when your boss is speaking. Repeat back what you hear. Confirm that you understand what is being required of you.
-- When appropriate, say, "You're the boss. I support your high standards and hope to free up your time to achieve even more by giving you less to worry about."
-- Keep your supervisor in the loop and provide progress reports regularly while keeping your activities in plain sight. Maybe even bury your micromanager in reports.
When your situation demands more to repair than a few slick tips, a good next step is to read an online Forbes article, "How To 'Manage Up' a Difficult Boss" by Susan Adams.
DEAR JOYCE: My partner has been offered a significant promotion, but he would have to relocate to another state. I'm of two minds about relocating with him -- I love my job. What have other couples done in similar situations? -- R.P.
DEAR -- R.P. I'm not aware of a recent data-driven study of the family relocation issue, but I think the dilemma is most often solved by prioritizing the career that offers the highest compensation or the greater long-term potential. The other person goes along and searches for a job in the new location.
Some couples make a different decision: One partner stays behind, and the mover commutes or visits. The complexity of the decision increases when children are involved, especially teens.
You're uncertain because you face an emotional choice as well as a career decision. I wish you well in choosing wisely for your entire family.
DEAR JOYCE: I need to rethink my career choice but I can't afford to pay for professional help to see what I might like and do well. Didn't you once write about free online tests that I could try? -- J.F.
DEAR -- J.F. More than once. But you ask a popular question. Here are two resources to explore:
1) Checkster (checkster.com) is a free assessment of optimal job fit developed by Yves Lermusi and "What Color is Your Parachute?" author Richard N. Bolles.
2) Keirsey Temperament Sorter (keirsey.com) is a free and well-regarded assessment tool.
(E-mail career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at email@example.com; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.)