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HomeFinance42 High-Earning Careers, No College Degree Required

42 High-Earning Careers, No College Degree Required



Do you need a four-year bachelor’s degree to score a high-paying job? More and more the answer seems to be no. Employers are seeing “skills gaps” — or the need for talented employees — in well-paying professions across the board. Many expanding, challenging job fields don’t require a bachelor’s degree from entry-level candidates. Instead, employers consider skills, competencies, and commitment.

We’ve rounded up 42 well-compensated careers that don’t require a college degree (or, at least, a four-year-degree). Each job is in a stable or growing industry, which means plenty of opportunities in the near future.

Some jobs on this list require an associate’s or two-year degree. But these degrees are almost always less expensive than bachelor’s degrees. You can work part-time while going to school and possibly get an employer to underwrite some of your education if it’s career-centered.

Salary details represent a projected annual salary as of May 2021. Each figure is the median or average annual salary you can expect to make on the job — in many cases, you can earn a lot more after several years’ experience.

Job outlooks indicate whether opportunities are expected to grow or decline in the field over the next 10 years. These are broad estimates; if a field is declining, there could still be plenty of open jobs in your area.

The salary stats are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics unless otherwise noted.

For Math, Statistics, and Technology Buffs

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician

  • The pay: $73,580.
  • The outlook: Growing at a 9% rate.
  • The training: For most employers, you’ll need an associate’s degree in an engineering-related field. A certificate program may also be an option.
  • The details: You’ll run equipment that tests and produces aircraft and spacecraft.

Engineering Technician (Electrical, Mechanical, or Civil)

Electrical

  • The pay: $63,640.
  • The outlook: 2% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree.
  • The details: You’ll help develop, test, and repair electrical equipment, like computers and navigational tools.

Mechanical

  • The pay: $60,460.
  • The outlook: 6% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree.
  • The details: You’ll help mechanical engineers develop engines, tools, and industrial machines.

Civil

  • The pay: $58,320.
  • The outlook: 2% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree.
  • The details: You’ll help civil engineers design bridges, highways, utilities, and other important infrastructure.

Read more: College Alternatives: 7 Different Paths to Take

For Tinkerers and People Who Love To Fix Things

Elevator and Escalator Installer and Repairer

  • The pay: $97,860.
  • The outlook: Growing at a 6% rate.
  • The training: High school diploma and apprenticeship. Licenses are required in most states.
  • The details: You’ll install and maintain escalators, elevators, and moving walkways.

 Wind Turbine Technician

  • The pay: $56,260.
  • The outlook: This field is hot — it’s growing at a 68% rate!
  • The training: Technical school and on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.

Electrician

  • The pay: $60,040.
  • The outlook: Growing at a 9% rate.
  • The training: High school diploma or equivalent, apprenticeship.
  • The details: Electricity keeps the world going. You’ll wire buildings for electrical power and maintain lighting and communications systems.

Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairers

  • The pay: $78,310.
  • The outlook: No change expected.
  • The training: Apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll install and fix electric power systems and telecommunications cables.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration) Mechanic

  • The pay: $48,630.
  • The outlook: Growing at a 5% rate.
  • The training: Some postsecondary education or an apprenticeship is recommended. A license may be required.
  • The details: You’ll fix appliances like heating and air conditioning systems.

Plumber/Pipefitter

  • The pay: $59,880.
  • The outlook: 5% growth expected.
  • The training: Apprenticeship or trade school. Local license usually required.
  • The details: You’ll install and repair pipes.

For Builders

Carpenter

  • The pay: $48,260.
  • The outlook: 2% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma or equivalent, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll be building and repairing both outdoors and indoors, on small and large scales. If you enjoy working independently, this could be a great fit — many carpenters run their own businesses.

Structural Iron and Steel Worker

  • The pay: $58,550.
  • The outlook: 6% growth expected.
  • The training: Apprenticeship and on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll install iron and steel for roads and buildings.

Insulation Contractor

  • The pay: $53,440.
  • The outlook: 4% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma, apprenticeship and on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll install materials used to insulate buildings.

Solar Photovoltaic Installer

  • The pay: $47,670.
  • The outlook: 52% growth expected — this field is growing quickly!
  • The training: High school diploma and on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll set up rooftop systems that convert sunlight into energy.

Read more: 7 Reasons to Consider an Apprenticeship Before Going to College

For Medicine and Medical Science Enthusiasts

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist

  • The pay: $77,360.
  • The outlook: 9% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree and experience in healthcare or a related field. Certification is usually preferred.
  • The details: You’ll operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners in hospitals or other healthcare facilities.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

  • The pay: $78,760.
  • The outlook: 8% growth expected.
  • The training: This job requires more formal training than most on this list — an associate’s degree from a nuclear medicine technology program, certification, and, in some cases, licensing.
  • The details: You’ll prepare and administer radioactive drugs for healthcare patients.

Hearing Aid Specialist

  • The pay: $59,500.
  • The outlook: 11% growth expected — faster than average.
  • The training: High school diploma and on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll select and assess hearing aids for patients and give hearing tests.

Registered Nurse

  • The pay: $77,600.
  • The outlook: 9% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree or diploma from nursing program. Licensing is required.
  • The details: You provide care for patients in healthcare settings. Nurses work in all kinds of places besides hospitals — schools, doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, even the military.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

  • The pay: $77,740.
  • The outlook: 14% growth — much faster than average.
  • The training: Associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate, along with certification.
  • The details: You’ll operate ultrasound imaging equipment in healthcare facilities.

Dental Hygienist

  • The pay: $77,810.
  • The outlook: 11% growth expected, faster than average.
  • The training: Associate’s degree. Licensing required.
  • The details: You clean teeth and check patients for signs of oral disease.

Radiation Therapist

  • The pay: $82,790.
  • The outlook: 9% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree, certification and licensing required.
  • The details: You’ll give radiation treatment to cancer patients.

Read more: Go to College or Go to Work: Which One Makes Financial Sense for You?

For Problem Solvers

Detective/Criminal Investigator

  • The pay: $83,640.
  • The outlook: 7% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree and/or some college coursework preferred. Graduation from a training academy. Most detectives and criminal investigators begin as police or patrol officers.
  • The details: You’ll build cases against suspected criminals by gathering facts and collecting evidence. Despite TV portrayals, this isn’t a glamorous job — it’s physically demanding work with long hours.

Paralegal/Legal Assistant

  • The pay: $56,230.
  • The outlook: 12% growth expected — faster than average.
  • The training: Associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
  • The details: You’ll help lawyers with research, document drafting, and administrative duties.

For Fans of Transit and Travel

Railroad Worker

  • The pay: $64,150.
  • The outlook: 5% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma, on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll keep passenger and freight trains running smoothly by driving trains or coordinating train activity.

Signal and Track Switch Repairer

  • The pay: $80,570.
  • The outlook: 6% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma, on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll be in charge of the gate crossings, track signals, switches, and other systems that keep railroads running.

Subway and Streetcar Operator

  • The pay: $81,180.
  • The outlook: 10% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma, on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll operate subways, trains, and streetcars in urban settings.

Water Transportation Worker

  • The pay: $62,760.
  • The outlook: 12% growth expected, faster than average.
  • The training: For some jobs, a Coast Guard-approved training program may be required.
  • The details: You’ll operate boats that carry passengers or cargo.

Air Traffic Controller

  • The pay: $129,750.
  • The outlook: 4% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Long-term on-the-job training including Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exams.
  • The details: You monitor and direct aircraft to ensure safe passage of each plane. This is one of the best-paid jobs on the list, but it requires the most specialized training, and it’s a hyper-competitive field.

Commercial Pilot (Non-Airline)

  • The pay: $99,640.
  • The outlook: 13% growth expected, faster than average.
  • The training: High school diploma or equivalent. Commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). On-the-job training.
  • The details: You fly non-scheduled routes and charter flights, give aerial tours, and may fly for medical services and evacuations.

Transportation/Storage/Distribution Manager

  • The pay: $98,230.
  • The outlook: 8% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma or equivalent. Five years of on-the-job experience usually required. Industry certification usually required.
  • The details: You’ll manage the transportation of all kinds of goods around the country. The best way to get a manager position is to start out in logistics, transportation, or supply chain operations and learn on the job.

Read more: College vs. Trade School – Which One Is Right for You?

For Computer Aficionados

Web Developer

  • The pay: $77,200.
  • The outlook: 13% growth expected, faster than average.
  • The training: High school diploma or associate’s degree. Prior knowledge of programming required.
  • The details: You’ll build and maintain websites and web applications — including their look, their technical aspects, and sometimes their content.

IT (Information Technology) or Computer Support Specialist

  • The pay: $57,910.
  • The outlook: 9% growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree, some college coursework, or certifications. Continuous on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll help people and offices troubleshoot their computer equipment.

Network Systems Administrator

  • The pay: $80,600.
  • The outlook: 5% growth expected.
  • The training: Some postsecondary education or an associate’s degree usually required.
  • The details: You’ll handle the daily needs of organizations’ data communications systems by installing and supporting hardware and software networks.

For the People Person

Funeral Home Manager

  • The pay: $74,000.
  • The outlook: 4% job growth expected.
  • The training: Associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science is usually required. Licensing is required.
  • The details: You’ll organize funeral services and help people honor their deceased loved ones.

First-Line Supervisor of Non-Retail Sales Workers

  • The pay: $79,680.
  • The outlook: 5% decline projected.
  • The training: High school diploma, some work experience in sales.
  • The details: You’ll be in charge of sales representatives working in non-retail settings.

Theatrical and Performance Makeup Artist

  • The pay: $134,750.
  • The outlook: 37% growth expected — this is a hot field!
  • The training: Some postsecondary education recommended.
  • The details: You’ll apply makeup to theater and film performers to get them ready for their roles.

Advertising Sales Agent

  • The pay: $52,340.
  • The outlook: 3% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma.
  • The details: You’ll sell advertising space to individuals and businesses.

Insurance Sales Agent

  • The pay: $49,840.
  • The outlook: 7% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma and state licensing required.
  • The details: You’ll sell one or more types of insurance to customers.

Real Estate Sales Agent

  • The pay: $48,340.
  • The outlook: 4% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma or equivalent. Real estate license required, including courses and an exam. On-the-job training.
  • The details: Help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. You’ll be self-employed and work with a real estate broker.

Flight Attendant

  • The pay: $61,640.
  • The outlook: 30% growth expected; this field is growing quickly!
  • The training: High school diploma or equivalent. Moderate on-the-job training. Certification from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required.
  • The details: Fly around the world while ensuring passengers’ safety and comfort.

Read more: 21 Steps to Landing a Higher-Paying Job

Other High-Paying Careers with No Degree Required

Petroleum Pump System Operators, Refinery Operators, and Gaugers

  • The pay: $79,540.
  • The outlook: 6% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma and on-the-job training.
  • The details: You’ll operate oil or petroleum units.

Firefighter

  • The pay: $50,700.
  • The outlook: 8% growth expected.
  • The training: High school diploma and emergency medical services training. Emergency medical technician (EMT) certification may also be required.
  • The details: You’ll control fires and respond to fire emergencies.

Summary

There are plenty of careers that don’t require a college degree.

Just because you aren’t paying for a college education doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything. You’ll need to acquire training, specialized skills, and plenty of practice. But the payoff is a uniquely valuable skill set — and most likely a much higher salary down the road.

Source: Virrage Images/Shutterstock.com

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