In the U.S. job market, not having a college degree is often seen as a handicap, limiting your chances of landing a high-paying position with the potential for career advancement. However, several jobs don’t require formal education, eliminating a potential entry barrier for many workers.
While a four-year college degree is generally beneficial for a job seeker’s career prospects, it isn’t strictly necessary outside of academic fields. Work experience, on-the-job training, and vocational schooling qualifications can all substitute for a bachelor’s degree, depending on the occupation, during your job search.
You’ll need to identify the kinds of jobs you’re interested in and what your personal requirements are, both regarding financial compensation and job satisfaction.
Jobs that Don’t Require a College Degree
Several industries and professions don’t require a formal education to enter or, if they do, it’s a two-year associate’s degree rather than a four-year bachelor’s degree. In addition to the educational and training requirements for the job you’re interested in, two of the most important factors you need to know are average salary or wage and job growth.
The growth rate determines the long-term viability of the profession, ensuring that it won’t become obsolete due to automation or outsourcing. High-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree include:
Machinists & Tool and Die Makers
Machinists use machine tools, such as manual and CNC (computer numerical control) lathes and milling machines, to create precision metal parts and products by removing material. As a machinist, you’ll also need to read and interpret blueprints and manufacturing drawings, including CAD/CAM files.
On the other hand, tool and die makers design and manufacture dies and molds for stamp pressing, investment casting, and injection molding. Both professions play a crucial role in manufacturing.
Machinists and tool and die makers usually receive on-the-job training, although many also learn these trades through vocational schools and tech colleges. To become a machinist, a high-school diploma is usually sufficient.
In 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for a machinist was $45,840. For a tool and die maker, it was $54,760. Both professions are expected to grow by 3% over the next ten years.
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use welding torches and brazing equipment to fuse or join metal workpieces to create new parts, repair damaged parts, and cut materials. A high-school diploma and vocational schooling or on-the-job training is required to become a welder.
According to the BLS, in 2020, the median annual wage for these related professions was $44,190.
Pharmacy technicians play a vital role in pharmacies and healthcare facilities, assisting pharmacists in dispensing medications to customers and medical staff. A four-year college degree is not necessary to become a pharmacy technician, as you’ll receive on-the-job training.
This profession may be regulated differently from one state to another, requiring the successful completion of a training program or exam. Unless state regulations dictate otherwise, the minimum entry-level qualification is usually a high school diploma or GED.
In 2020 the median annual wage for this profession was $35,100 ($16.87/hour). This job has an expected growth rate of 4% over the next decade.
Computer Support Specialist
Computer support specialists advise individuals and businesses regarding IT issues, from troubleshooting to parts replacement. As computer support specialists vary in the required skill set, depending on the job and the business, the educational requirements can include bachelor’s degrees. However, job seekers can break into this field with an associate’s degree or by taking postsecondary classes.
In 2020 the median annual wage for computer user support specialists was $52,690. If you work as a computer network support specialist, you can expect a median annual wage of $65,450. In the next ten years, these professions are expected to grow by 8%.
Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers play a vital role in the coordination of aircraft on the ground and in flight. Using radar and radio communications, air traffic controllers communicate instructions to pilots, ensuring the optimal flow of air traffic and that aircraft maintain safe distances from each other.
While an air traffic controller doesn’t necessarily need a college degree, you will have to pass mental and physical health requirements. This job can be highly taxing due to the level of concentration needed.
The median annual wage for air traffic controllers was $130,420 ($62.70/hour) in 2020.
Radiologic and MRI Technologists
Radiographers, or radiologic technicians, and MRI technologists perform X-ray and MRI examinations on patients for diagnostic purposes, playing a key role in preventive medicine. To work as a radiologic technician or MRI technologist, you will typically need some form of postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree rather than a bachelor’s degree.
The median annual wage for MRI technologists was $74,690 in 2020. For radiologic technicians, this was $61,900 the same year.
Every dream of flying professionally? You can become a commercial pilot, flying fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, without the need for a college degree. Instead, you’ll need a commercial pilot’s license, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and a high school diploma.
In 2020, the BLS reported that commercial pilots earned a median annual wage of $93,300.
A massage therapist manipulates the soft tissues of the client’s body to improve blood flow and relieve tension and pain. While a college degree isn’t typically required to practice this trade, you will usually need to complete a postsecondary education program. Examination requirements differ depending on the state.
In 2020, the median annual wage for massage therapists was $43,620. Massage therapy, as a profession, is expected to grow 21% over the next ten years.
Power Plant Operators
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers manage the systems that generate and distribute power, electrifying our homes and businesses. This profession requires comprehensive on-the-job training, both theoretical and practical.
While a high school diploma is often a minimum requirement, no college degree is necessary to work in this field. You’ll usually need to complete a background check and submit to drug and alcohol testing. In addition, if you intend to work in the field of nuclear power, you’ll need a license.
The median annual wage for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, according to the BLS, was $89,090 in 2020. However, while the demand for electrical power will continue to rise in the following ten years, changes in technology, including automation, are expected to reduce the employment rate in this field.
Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers
Elevator and escalator installers and repairers install and repair elevators and escalators and provide routine maintenance to keep them in proper working order.
Working in elevator shafts and machine rooms, workers in these fields shouldn’t have a fear of heights or confined spaces. Rather than requiring a college degree, you’ll usually receive the necessary training through an apprenticeship. The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma; however, many states require you to have a license.
In 2020, the median annual wage for workers in this profession was $88,540. With an expected growth of 7% over the next decade, this is a secure field that’s worth considering.
Law Enforcement Officer
Police officers enforce the law, interview and arrest suspects, investigate crime scenes, and deter criminal activity. If you’ve ever thought about becoming a police officer, the median annual wage was $67,290 in 2020. Overtime, however, is common in this profession, especially for senior officers.
A high school diploma is usually a minimum requirement; however, some police departments may require a college degree. You’ll need to inquire at your local department regarding eligibility criteria. You’ll also likely have to graduate from the department’s training academy.
Following graduation, you’ll receive ongoing on-the-job training, including familiarization with the department’s internal policies, which differ from one law-enforcement agency to another.
Find High Paying Jobs Without a College Degree
Various professions require completing a certificate program, apprenticeship, vocational schooling, or on-the-job training instead of a traditional degree.
At JobsFuel, we collect information regarding a wide range of occupations to help you find a rewarding job. Check out our blog to learn more about job hunting and how to make your resume stand out to recruiters and hiring managers.