15 Decent Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Four Year Degree

jobs-no-college-degreeSince the mid ‘80s in the US, overall inflation has only increased by 115 percent. And yet college tuition rates have increased by an unbelievable 498 percent.

We could spend hours talking about why. A larger number of young adults entering college (supply and demand), perhaps. Or the Clinton Administration’s action to un-tether Student Loans from parental income, creating a flood of “free money” for students. In either case, academia spotted a path to even more profits – and tuition rates went through the roof.

Here we are going into 2016, and it seems the genie will ever be put back in the bottle. We can’t make our higher education system become reasonable overnight. As a result, the average college student today graduates with $30,000+ in student loan debt.

But what if college wasn’t required for a fulfilling career? What if a young adult could spend four years working at a great job instead of attending college? Well, they can!

Here are 15 well-paying jobs that don’t require a four year degree…

1. Engineering Inspector (also known as Industrial Engineer)

Description: According to MyMajors.com: Design, develop, test and evaluate integrated systems for managing industrial production processes, including human work factors, quality control, inventory control, logistics and material flow, cost analysis, and production coordination.

Education required: High school diploma or equivalent; additional job training and certificates are usually required.

Approximate annual wage: $47K and up
Source: Glassdoor.com

2. Mortgage Broker

Description: Mortgage brokers match a borrower with a lender. Brokers work with multiple lenders and then step out of the process once they’ve initiated a match.

Education required: According to Investopedia: High school diploma, at minimum. Additional education in real estate financing and law may be required by some agencies, including a state real estate license.

Approximate annual wage: $60K – $90K
Source: Chron.com

3. Real Estate Agent

Description: Help people buy and sell houses and/or commercial properties, land etc.

Education required: High school diploma or equivalent, plus licensing by State agencies.

Approximate annual wage: The average salary is $41K, but can be much higher.
Source: Schmoop.com

4.  Skilled Laborer (including Electrician, Carpenter, Plumber, Tile Installer)

Description: A variety of highly-skilled labor jobs fall into this area; many are self-employed. As there is a shortage of skilled labor in the US, work is plentiful. And if you hate the idea of sitting in an office all day, this may be a great career option.

Education required: High school diploma, but many jobs such as electrician and plumbers require licensing and continued recertification.

Approximate annual wage: $40K and up
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

5.  Military Service

Description: Serving in the armed services can provide on-the-job training and career preparedness, as well as education benefits after service has ended.

Education required: High school diploma or equivalent.

Approximate annual wage: Salaries vary widely, but may start as low as $18K annually (along with room and board, medical expenses fully covered, and more).
Source: Chron.com

6.  Chef

Description: Chef duties range from an Executive Chef, who manages the operations a commercial kitchen, including staff, and food preparation to front line cooks, who handle much of the actual labor.

Education required: High school diploma or the equivalent; many chefs earn Associates and BAs, but many learn on-the-job.

Approximate annual wage:  $44K and up
Source: Chron.com

7.  Salesperson

Description: At its most basic level, a sales career entails finding customers and selling products to them, but it is much more complex than that. For example, wholesale sales reps often are more like customer service associates, building relationships over a long period of time and selling to the same customers for years.  

Education required: High school diploma or the equivalent; many sales people continue their training individually, learning from mentors and thought leaders.

Approximate annual wage: $21K – $81K on average nationally; can be much higher.
Source: Payscale.com

8.  Graphic Designer

Description:  Graphic designers create a wide variety of visual art, including logo design and business collateral.

Education required: Many graphic design jobs in Fortune 500 companies require a college degree, but there are a vast number of self-trained graphic designers both self-employed and working for larger businesses.

Approximate annual wage:  $50K
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

9. Nurse

Description: Patient care in a variety of healthcare settings.

Education required:  An RN must have an Associate’s Degree at a minimum, and state licensing and certification is required as well. LN’s require a yearlong training program and state licensing.

Approximate annual wage: $43K – $69K
Source:  Study.com

10.  Medical Laboratory Technicians

Description:  Medical lab technicians conduct lab tests and a variety of procedures including blood work, determining a patient’s prescription drug use, blood samples, etc.

Education required:  Requires high school diploma or the equivalent, various certificates and/or Associates degrees, passing of national exams and generally, on-the-job training.

Approximate annual wage: $45K
Source: Salary.com

11.  Digital Marketing

Description:  Online marketing, including SEO, SEM and Social Media Marketing with an emphasis on strategy to meet an organization’s goals.

Education required:  Although there are Marketing and Communications Degrees that may serve you well in a Marketing Career, the truth is that there are many self-taught Marketers who earn their knowledge through a variety of certifications, including from Google and Microsoft. In this career field, technology is changing so fast that keeping up with it is more important than a degree.

Approximate annual wage: $64K
Source: PayScale.com

12. IT – Information Management

Description: IT employees do everything from deal with the basic technological needs of employees to create an organized strategy to help businesses stay on top of ever-changing technology and security issues.

Education required:  Most IT Managers have a Bachelor’s Degree, but many employees working in the field have a high school diploma with additional technical education from 2 year programs to ongoing certification.

Approximate annual wage: $50K and up
Source: Payscale.com

13. Draftsperson

Description:  Working primarily in CAD, draftspersons create designs electronically for architects, engineers and mechanical engineers.

Education required: While some drafts people have 4 year degrees, many have 2 year Associates of Applied Science and/or certification and on-the-job training.

Approximate annual wage: $30K and up
Source: Chron.com

14. Paralegal

Description:  A paralegal provides support to an attorney, including research and helping to solve routine legal issues.

Education requirement:  A 2 year degree and on-the-job training.

Approximate annual wage: $50K and up.

15. Retail Sales Manager

Description: Directs the day-to-day operations of a retail store, including hiring forecasts, local marketing strategy, networking, oversight of display, etc.

Educational requirements: Although there are four year degrees for Retail Management, many Retail Managers worked their way up from the retail sales floor with a high school diploma.

Approximate annual wage: $52K
Source: Salary.com

Now, don’t get us wrong: We aren’t saying, “don’t get an education.”

But we do want to open your eyes to other options. And especially for those who can’t afford the prices highered is charging for traditional education – and for those who don’t want to start their adult lives with $1,000 monthly student loan payments – we want you to know there’s perhaps a less expensive way to start a fulfilling career.


Amy TobinAbout the Author: Amy McCloskey Tobin is a content strategist and creator. She specializes in generational insights, the future of work, the remote workforce, workplace diversity, and how tech has changed the business world. Amy has worked with major online publications to develop content and content strategy. A devotee of social media, Amy believes firmly that great content begets social media community. Find Amy on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter!



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