You might have been told that to get a good-paying job, you need to complete a four-year college degree program. While it’s true that the median weekly earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree are higher than they are for someone with only a high school diploma, it’s also true that there are many high-paying jobs out there that may not require a four-year degree.
Whether you’re about to graduate from high school, are a recent high school graduate, or are looking to change careers without taking on four years’ worth of student loan debt, here are some of the best-paying jobs that may not require a bachelor’s degree.
1. Healthcare Jobs
As the population gets older and people need more medical care, and as more medical treatments become available, the need for employees in medical and healthcare settings should increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment opportunities in healthcare will grow much faster than average by 2029. The BLS also notes that the median annual salary for healthcare professions is $68,190 – higher than the median annual salary for all professions combined.
While there are many healthcare professions that require extensive training and education beyond a four-year degree, there are also many that can be obtained with a postsecondary certificate or training in a two-year associate’s degree program. If you enjoy working with people and have an interest in health and medicine, one of the following jobs might be a good pick for you.
Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists
Dental assistants and dental hygienists work in dental practices and help patients throughout a dental appointment. A dental assistant helps out the dentist in several ways. They might hand the dentist tools during treatment. They can take X-rays and help patients get comfortable in the chair. They also perform some administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments and taking payments.
Dental hygienists will usually work directly in the mouths of patients. They clean patients’ teeth, removing plaque and tartar. They might also give patients fluoride treatments or dental sealants to protect against cavities.
To become a dental assistant, a person usually needs to complete a certificate or diploma program, which often takes less than two years. The median annual salary of a dental assistant is $40,080 as of 2019. The number of available jobs for dental assistants is expected to increase by 7% by 2029, which is faster than average.
The median annual salary of dental hygienists was $76,220 in 2019. The number of job opportunities is expected to increase by 6% by 2029. The BLS points out that hygienists who are willing to work in under-served areas, where there’s a greater demand for dental care, are more likely to find work.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists
Sonographers and cardiovascular technologists operate the equipment used to take images of the body. If you’ve ever been pregnant and had an ultrasound, you’ve likely worked with a sonographer, who performed the scan. Sonographers also take images of the blood vessels, heart, and muscular systems. Some specialize in cardiovascular sonography, while others might specialize in pediatric imaging.
You can earn an associate’s degree to become a sonographer or cardiovascular technologist, or you can complete a postsecondary certificate program. Often, the goal of a certificate or degree program is to prepare you to take and pass the exams needed to earn a license to practice in your state.
As of 2019, the median annual salary for sonographers was $74,320. Cardiovascular technologists had a median annual salary of $57,720. As the need for ultrasound imaging increases, the demand will increase for sonographers. The BLS anticipates that job openings will increase by 17% by 2029. Demand for cardiovascular technologists will grow more slowly, but still faster than average. The BLS expects the number of cardiovascular technologist positions to increase by 5% by 2029.
Licensed Practical Nurses
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work under registered nurses (RNs) and doctors. They provide basic care to patients, which might include helping patients bathe, inserting catheters, and changing bandages. Some LPNs can insert IVs or distribute medication, as well.
The education required to become an LPN is less than what’s required to become an RN. Often, an LPN earns a diploma or certificate through a program that takes about a year. Once you’ve completed the certificate program, you need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to earn your license and begin working as an LPN.
As of 2019, the median annual salary for an LPN was $47,480. The number of job opportunities for LPNs is expected to increase at a much-faster-than-average rate by 2029. The number of LPN jobs should grow by 9%. An aging population and an increase in the number of people living in nursing homes will fuel the demand for LPNs.
As a massage therapist, you’ll work directly with clients, manipulating soft tissue and muscle to help improve their overall well-being. You might work as a self-employed person, at a spa or salon, in a medical provider’s office, or at a hotel or resort.
Usually, you need to complete a postsecondary certificate program before you are eligible to take the exam required to earn your massage therapy license. Many states, including Pennsylvania, require massage therapists to have a license to practice.
The median annual salary for massage therapists was $42,820 in 2019. Since many massage therapists receive tips from clients, as well as an hourly wage, it’s possible to earn considerably more.
The future seems very bright for people interested in becoming massage therapists. The BLS expects the number of job opportunities for massage therapists to increase by 21% by 2029. Elevated respect for the benefits of massage therapy, increased focus on wellness, and more stringent license requirements are both expected to contribute to the growth in the profession over the next few years.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists
Although the role of “nuclear medicine technologist” may sound complex, it’s fairly straightforward. These technologists are responsible for administering radioactive medicine to patients. For example, a nuclear medicine technologist gives cancer patients radiation treatments. They might also give patients radioactive medicines to make certain organs more visible on imaging.
If you’re interested in becoming a nuclear medicine technologist, you do have the option of earning a bachelor’s degree. But generally, most companies will hire those who’ve completed a two-year associate’s degree program. Many nuclear medicine technologist jobs also require you to earn certification or a license.
There’s a considerable range in the median annual salary that nuclear medicine technologists earn. The median salary for the occupation as a whole was $77,950 in 2019. Those employed by outpatient care centers had a median salary of $107,070. Demand for nuclear medicine technologists is expected to increase by 5% by 2029.
2. Technology Jobs
Technology is another fast-growing sector with plenty of high-paying jobs, a few of which don’t require a four-year degree. In fact, a survey of the industry revealed numerous stories of creative people coming up with ideas for businesses after dropping out of college or immediately after high school.
While you might not be the industry’s next billionaire entrepreneur, it’s possible to find a well-paying job in tech that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree.
Computer Support Specialists
A computer support specialist is often the person you talk to when you’re having a problem with your laptop or software program. They’ll walk you through the process of troubleshooting in an attempt to solve the issue. If you can’t solve the problem on your own, they’ll tell you what to do next.
Although some computer support specialist roles do expect candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, not all do. You might qualify for a position based on your past work experience and your skill set. For example, if you have a fair amount of customer service experience, you might be a good fit for a computer support specialist role. If you’re interested in a computer support specialist position, it can be worthwhile to take computer courses at a community college to become familiar with the basics of technology, if you aren’t already.
How much you can earn as a computer support specialist depends on whether you primarily help users or if you provide support for the overall network. The median annual salary for user support specialists was $52,270 in 2019. Meanwhile, network support specialists earned a median salary of $63,460 in 2019. In general, the number of job opportunities for computer support specialists is expected to increase by 8% by 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
If you’re reading this online, you can thank a web developer. Web developers design and build websites. They create the look of a website, ensure the site loads quickly, and make certain the site can handle an appropriate level of traffic. A web developer is also responsible for making sure a website performs well in a variety of formats, such as on a laptop or desktop and on a mobile device.
You can often learn the skills and technical knowledge required to be a web developer on your own. There are boot camps available that aim to teach people the basics of coding in a short amount of time. You can also teach yourself to code. Since web development also usually requires some design elements, it can be helpful to have a background in graphic design.
As the use of the Internet continues to grow, the need for web developers will also continue to grow. The number of available jobs should increase by 8% by 2029. A candidate can improve their chances of landing a job as a web developer by learning multiple coding languages.
3. Jobs in Professional Fields or Trades
In addition to jobs in healthcare and technology, there are numerous other professions that traditionally don’t require a four-year degree, but offer good salaries. Usually, these jobs require some training beyond high school, which can be earned through a certificate program or an apprenticeship.
A carpenter does many different things when it comes to constructing buildings and other structures. They might work exclusively on the construction of residential homes or build commercial structures. Some might focus on detail work, such as building cabinets or installing finishes.
Usually, a person doesn’t need to complete a degree program to become a carpenter. The exact education requirements can vary from position to position, though. Some companies provide apprenticeship programs, allowing trainee carpenters to learn on the job while earning an entry-level salary. There are also postsecondary certificate programs available that provide training to aspiring carpenters.
The median salary for carpenters was $48,330 in 2019. Generally, carpenters who work in commercial construction earn higher salaries compared to those who work in residential construction. The demand for carpenters is likely to remain steady over the next decade, although there’s a chance that a building boom will lead to an increase in the number of available positions.
If you regularly tune in to courtroom dramas, a career as a court reporter might be interesting to you. Court reporters transcribe the events of a trial, hearing, or deposition. They provide written, word-for-word documentation of what happened during a legal proceeding. The transcript created by a court reporter becomes the official record of the proceeding.
Most court reporters complete a certificate or associate’s degree program, through which they learn legal terms and procedures and develop a better understanding of grammar. Most states require court reporters to have a license.
Court reporters earned a median salary of $60,130 in 2019. Many work as freelancers, charging an hourly rate for their services, as well as a per-page rate for printed transcripts. Job openings in the occupation are expected to grow by 9% by 2029, with around 1,400 new jobs added.
A heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) mechanic installs and services HVAC equipment, such as air conditioners, furnaces, and humidifiers. They work in commercial or residential settings and might specialize in a particular area, such as refrigeration, radiant heating, or solar panels.
Becoming an HVAC mechanic or technician does require some special training, but not a four-year degree. Usually, you can complete a certificate program in less than a year, or you can earn a two-year associate’s degree. You may also be able to complete an apprenticeship program, allowing you to train on the job.
In 2019, the median annual salary for an HVAC mechanic was $48,730. The number of jobs available should increase by 4% by 2029, although there’s a chance that an increased interest in, and need for, efficient heating and cooling systems will create more of a demand for HVAC technicians to install and maintain them.
Insurance Sales Agent
An insurance agent helps people find and purchase the insurance policy that’s right for their needs. A sales agent might sell just one type of insurance, such as life insurance, or they might sell a variety of policies, such as car insurance, homeowners insurance, and health insurance. Some sales agents work with their clients to bundle their policies and help them save money.
Often, all you need to start a career as an insurance sales agent is a high school diploma. Having some postsecondary education, such as taking business classes at a community college, can help to increase your job prospects. When you get started as an insurance sales agent, you might at first shadow a more experienced agent, learning from them and completing on-the-job training. You’ll need to earn a license to continue to work as an insurance sales agent. To earn your license, you might need to pass certain courses or an exam.
The median annual salary of insurance sales agents was $50,940 in 2019. Sales agents will typically earn their salary through one of three payment structures. They might earn a commission on sales, receive a base pay plus commission, or earn a salary with the option of receiving a bonus.
Although there are automatic tools that help clients choose insurance on their own without working with an agent, the profession is expected to grow by 5%, faster than average, by 2029.
Although becoming a lawyer requires you to earn a bachelor’s degree, then a law degree, becoming a paralegal is a much shorter process. If you find the law fascinating and like to do research, a career as a paralegal could be a good fit for you. Paralegals perform many tasks, including contacting clients and witnesses, helping lawyers during trials, and researching legal facts.
You can train to become a paralegal in a few ways. People who’ve already earned a four-year degree in another area can complete a certificate program in paralegal studies. Ideally, the program will be approved by the American Bar Association. Another option, if you don’t have a degree already, is to earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies.
Paralegals earned a median annual salary of $51,740 in 2019, although those who worked for the federal government had a notably higher median salary – $67,080. Employment opportunities for paralegals are expected to increase by 10% by 2029.
As a plumber, you’d be responsible for maintaining, repairing, and installing pipes in homes and commercial buildings. Your responsibilities could range from clearing drains to replacing leaking water pipes. You might also repair sewer lines and service hot water heaters.
Most likely, you’ll learn the skills needed to work as a plumber on the job, during a multi-year apprenticeship. After completing an apprenticeship, you can pass an exam to become a journey-level plumber.
In 2019, the median annual salary for a plumber was $55,160. The amount you can earn as a plumber increases the longer you’re on the job. Although you do earn a salary during your apprenticeship, it’ll be less than you’ll earn as a journey-level plumber. If you can continue to train and work as a plumber, you can become a master plumber, earning the highest salary.
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