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20 Great Jobs Without a College Degree

20 Great Jobs Without a College Degree By CareerCast.com

This is our report for 2012. For the 2013 Best Jobs Without A College Degree report, click here.

As millions of college graduates prepare to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas and join the workforce, they face an economy with high unemployment rates, increasing competition for jobs and mounting debt from their college expenses.

Compare that to currently working employees who didn’t attend college but have spent the past four years making money and honing their workplace skills while amassing little to no debt. Not going to college certainly doesn’t jive with what our parents and teachers drummed into us growing up. But it begs the question: does it really pay to go to college? Is it worth earning a minimum of a four-year college degree, at least financially speaking?

There’s no simple answer. In fact, there’s much more to consider before taking the position that college no longer is worth the investment.

Let’s Look At The Numbers

The annual cost for undergraduate tuition, room and board is estimated to be $12,804 at public institutions and $32,184 at private institutions for the 2010 academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. That means that even a modest education—a bachelor’s degree from a public university or college—will cost at least $50,000. That expense can quadruple if you attend a top-level private university. Add to this the “opportunity cost,” meaning what you could earn over four years of working at a job instead of studying full-time, and you’re talking real money! So how long, if it all, does it take new graduates to recoup all those college costs?

Assuming you have no degree but are willing to do some advanced training, such as attending a technical school, you could earn around $30,000 a year as a beginner, if you are sharp. That means that over four years, you’d earn about $120,000, while your counterpart who’s in college earns little or nothing, and may even carry the same amount in debt by graduation.

In fact, the average debt for student loans is about $25,000, according to the Institute for College Access & Success' Project on Student Debt. Debts of $100,000 or more isn’t unheard of either, especially for those going to prestigious schools or those earning advanced degrees.

The table below compares the incomes of the top jobs in the Jobs Rated report, based on educational attainment required to get hired.

AVERAGE INCOME LEVELS, TOP 20 JOBS
No College Degree vs. Jobs Requiring 4-Year Degree or Higher

 BeginningMidlevelTop
No College Required$28,350$47,200$79,150
4-year degree or higher$51,250$85,300$130,600


When it comes to the facts and figures, however, an advanced degree really does pay off even though grads will carry some debt into their new careers. The math is all there. In fact, the average American worker with a four-year degree will earn over one million dollars more than their non-degreed counterparts during their career.

That is, except for those college grads that opt for short careers (i.e., stay-at-home parents who begin families just a few years after graduation) where a degree doesn’t pay. It takes several years in the workforce, armed with a college degree, to make it worthwhile. And when it does pay off, it’s worth the effort.

Unless you’re Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, the only way it doesn’t pay to have a four-year degree is to have a career in one of the following highest paying jobs available for non-college grads:

TOP 20 JOBS REQUIRING NO COLLEGE DEGREE*
* RANKED IN ORDER OF OVERALL SCORES WITHIN “NO DEGREE-REQUIRED” CATEGORY

  • 1. Dental Hygienist

    Income Average: $68,000
    Income Growth: 109%
    Employment Growth: 37.70%
    Overall Rank: 4
    1 of 20
  • 2. Online Advertising Manager

    Income Average: $87,000
    Income Growth: 255%
    Employment Growth: 25.00%
    Overall Rank: 8
    2 of 20
  • 3. Web Developer

    Income Average: $76,000
    Income Growth: 179%
    Employment Growth: 21.70%
    Overall Rank: 15
    3 of 20
  • 4. Medical Secretary

    Income Average: $31,000
    Income Growth: 114%
    Employment Growth: 41.30%
    Overall Rank: 39
    4 of 20
  • 5. Paralegal Assistant

    Income Average: $47,000
    Income Growth: 159%
    Employment Growth: 18.30%
    Overall Rank: 49
    5 of 20
  • 6. Stenographer-Court Reporter

    Income Average: $48,000
    Income Growth: 250%
    Employment Growth: 14.10%
    Overall Rank: 52
    6 of 20
  • 7. Heating and Refrigeration Mechanic

    Income Average: $43,000
    Income Growth: 158%
    Employment Growth: 33.70%
    Overall Rank: 63
    7 of 20
  • 8. Surveyor

    Income Average: $55,000
    Income Growth: 190%
    Employment Growth: 25.40%
    Overall Rank: 65
    8 of 20
  • 9. Executive Assistant

    Income Average: $44,000
    Income Growth: 131%
    Employment Growth: 12.60%
    Overall Rank: 67
    9 of 20
  • 10. Insurance Agent

    Income Average: $47,000
    Income Growth: 342%
    Employment Growth: 21.90%
    Overall Rank: 68
    10 of 20
  • 11. Industrial Machine Repairer

    Income Average: $45,000
    Income Growth: 127%
    Employment Growth: 21.60%
    Overall Rank: 69
    11 of 20
  • 12. Cosmetologist

    Income Average: $23,000
    Income Growth: 163%
    Employment Growth: 15.70%
    Overall Rank: 100
    12 of 20
  • 13. Hair Stylist

    Income Average: $23,000
    Income Growth: 163%
    Employment Growth: 15.70%
    Overall Rank: 105
    13 of 20
  • 14. Tax Examiner - Collector

    Income Average: $49,000
    Income Growth: 207%
    Employment Growth: 7.30%
    Overall Rank: 106
    14 of 20
  • 15. Wholesales Sales Representative

    Income Average: $52,000
    Income Growth: 304%
    Employment Growth: 15.60%
    Overall Rank: 106
    15 of 20
  • 16. Construction Machine Operator

    Income Average: $40,000
    Income Growth: 173%
    Employment Growth: 23.50%
    Overall Rank: 108
    16 of 20
  • 17. Electrical Technician

    Income Average: $56,000
    Income Growth: 138%
    Employment Growth: 1.90%
    Overall Rank: 109
    17 of 20
  • 18. Architectural Drafter

    Income Average: $46,000
    Income Growth: 140%
    Employment Growth: 3.20%
    Overall Rank: 110
    18 of 20
  • 19. Teacher's Aide

    Income Average: $23,000
    Income Growth: 112%
    Employment Growth: 14.80%
    Overall Rank: 112
    19 of 20
  • 20. Sewage Plant Operator

    Income Average: $41,000
    Income Growth: 156%
    Employment Growth: 11.60%
    Overall Rank: 114
    20 of 20

The third row of data under each job refers to the following: “Income Growth” pertains to the percentage of increase from beginning earnings to top level; “Employment Growth” refers to the projected increase in number of jobs through 2020 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; “Overall Rank” refers to the rank of each job in the Overall Ranking of all 200 jobs in the Jobs Rated report for 2012.

Looking at the numbers, even most of the top-20 jobs above earn far less income than the average job requiring a four-year degree.

If you are seriously considering opting out of college, but still want to earn a lot of money, there are three professions that at least approach what a college a grad can earn: Dental HygienistOnline Advertising Manager and Web Developer. Of course, even these professions require either a lot of preparation or some special knowledge to make it to the upper echelon of the pay scale.

If getting your college diploma is not in your future or even an option for you, don’t worry. There are still plenty of decent jobs where you can still earn a good living.


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nice!

good stuff

COLLEGE IS WAY TOO HARD

I WANT TO QUIT COLLEGE BECAUSE I CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH MY LIFE OR WHAT TO STUDY. I LOVE CHLDREN (NANNY OR BABYSITTING) AND THEATRE (LIKE STAGE HANDS OR STAGE MANAGER OR PROP MASTER) AND VOLUNTARY SERVICE (LIKE WORKING AT ST EDMONDS (KIDS WITH MS AND DOWNS) FEEDING THE HOMLESS, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY, ETC). CAN SOMEONE HELP ME FIGUURE THIS OUT. IM ON EDGE.

Social work

, try social work , you can work in high schools and help teenagers with their emotional struggles . You ll be part of a dozen kids lives and you will matter alot to them. or study kids nutrition 

wtf these jobs do take some sort of traninging/college

This list is not true. most of these would take college or technical training to even be considered for the job.

i hate school so much so i am

i hate school so much so i am going to quit, or die! :)

Need a job

Hi!I'm 49 years old.  I have a Secretarial Diploma and a Travel and Conference Diploma.  Back in 1999 I stopped working to raise my two kids.  When they went full time in school no companies would and still won't give me a chance.  I've done retail and I hate it.  I've signed up with recruiting agencies and they are no help at all. They say they have jobs for me but they are at least 30 minutes from my home each way!  I gave them lists of towns that I'm willing to work in, they don't follow it.Now that I was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer and had a double mastectomy/reconstruction still no one will hire me. 

I went to school got a

I went to school got a college degree in Everest College. They payed a roll with me not letting me it was nationally credited instead regionally. So because I can't transfer credits, I'm working Uber to help me get by. Thanks Jesus for the breath I'm taking and God bless all!!!

Need a job!!

I'm 21 years old and have nothing more than my high school diploma. But I believe that just because one doesn't pursue in going to college, doesn't mean that they are screwed for the rest of their lice and can never make anything out of themselves. I did learn things in high school and I also have all my knowledge from life itself. You don't always have to learn what you can do from sitting at a desk all day. I'm hoping I can find a well paying job using the skills and knowledge that I already have. Hoping that whatever I find,the company is willing to train and work with me on getting to know everything. Would really like to get my life on track and start having some stability and I need to start with having a stable job. 

Surveyor

Professional Land surveyors require a 4 year full time degree and a further 3 years preparing projects for registration. A survey technician requires a 2 year diploma. This is true for Australia anyway.

Next chapter

Okay, hoping to get some advice. I'm a woman in my 30s, who lives in FL, and I've been doing customer service for at least 15 years, and I'm burnt. I make 36k a year now, and they could pay me a million, but I just cannot do it anymore. I have a general AA degree and an IT Security AS degree, with almost a 4.0 gpa, even graduated magna cum laude, but both degrees have done absolutely nothing for me. I need a fresh start and suck at making a decision. I get bored easily, so the quicker, the better, and I would like to make at least 50k. I thought about engineering, welding, respiratory therapy, rn, emt, forensics (yes!), police officer, and the list goes on, but I'm open, and pretty intelligent, not to be conceited. However, I'm scared to put in all this hard work, not to mention the money, and end up with nothing again like with my IT Security degree. I am also not sure how a woman would stand in some of these careers. I'm like a Jill of all trades, master of none. Open to any ideas/suggestions. Thanks for reading!

AN IDEA

Maybe look for temporary projects that arise out of natural disasters. Workers are needed in different capacities to work out the aftermath of a disaster (hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados, floods, wildfires, you name it).

Next chapter

Okay, hoping to get some advice. I'm a woman in my 30s, who lives in FL, and I've been doing customer service for at least 15 years, and I'm burnt. I make 36k a year now, and they could pay me a million, but I just cannot do it anymore. I have a general AA degree and an IT Security AS degree, with almost a 4.0 gpa, even graduated magna cum laude, but both degrees have done absolutely nothing for me. I need a fresh start and suck at making a decision. I get bored easily, so the quicker, the better, and I would like to make at least 50k. I thought about engineering, welding, respiratory therapy, rn, emt, forensics (yes!), police officer, and the list goes on, but I'm open, and pretty intelligent, not to be conceited. However, I'm scared to put in all this hard work, not to mention the money, and end up with nothing again like with my IT Security degree. I am also not sure how a woman would stand in some of these careers. Open to any ideas/suggestions. Jill of all trades, master of none --- true story lol. Thanks for reading!

yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

Tester

I am glad to say that I was able to secure a Tester job that pays pretty darn well in Ottawa without having a university degree. But to move up the corporate ladder I will probably need to go back to university.Cheers,Pat 

finding job

hi i am 24 yrs old and i am finding a new job..i am filipino IT graduate and now i have a 1 year experience in abu dhabi UAE being a website administrator and partime encoder...can you find me a job?..related for my experience?

jobs

i will be 19 next january and i will be looking for a full time job! what do think will be good for a 19 year old femal to do

Life

Did you go to college at all or just a year

Am I stuck?

Hey everybody. I'm Katy. I don't have a college degree nor dI'd I finish high school.. Am I stuck working at jobs like cashier my whole life?? Or is there any careers out there that doesn't even require high school diploma? 

I am a B.A graduate

I am a B.A graduate (correspondence)
girl and I think I have no career. But I don't want to be house wife after marriage, so what shall I do

Just believe in yourself and

Just believe in yourself and work towards  goal everyday. Get certified in someting or get a license and do your  best to get a  degree without falling into  College school debt. Attend a junior college beacause it is cheaper. Just  work at getting better each day. And meet the right peeple along the way and you should be fine. Build your credit also. Treat everyone with respect and it will comeback.

Dental Hygienist

I am a dental hygienist and have a B.S. in dental hygiene from Idaho State University.  This career DOES require a degree and a state license so this is inaccurate information.  Some programs are Associate Degree programs, but to get into a dental hygiene program, all of the prerequisites must be completed and that usually requires a minimum of one year.  So the length of time required to complete the training is at least 3 years.  Most schools are very competitive with applicants and a fairly high GPA is required to be accepted.    

join a job with the help of my graduation knowledge for money.

Hello,I am an engineer graduates. I am a hard worker with positive attitude. I want a place from where i start my career. Imy first priority is to getting an job in technical field then second priority will be achive a success position in today modern.my hobbies is writing story concepts for serials, movies, & novels. Also my favourite hobby is ttrave . I dont have money this time. I have zero amount money at this time. At this time i want getting an chance to proof myself. so please help out me after reading my situation. Thank you.

Felons

What kind of fast careers can felons have. Could I do a dental hygienist

Dental Hygiene

You do indeed need a degree for dental hygiene.  However you do not need a degree to become a dental assistant... though it is recommeded. :)

Bank job

Hi I m rajni I have no degree. Lost my degree. I have done Ma. I want to bank work. How can I do .plz help.

You can take a morgage class

You can take a morgage class it takes two weeks and then apply for a morgage broker at any bank 

Apply

I don't have a degree and started working in a bank (Santander) last March.  I had no banking experience.  They send you to training too!  Apply at Santanderbank.com Good Luck Rajni!

What can I do with my life!

hello my name is brooKe I'm 22 almost 23 I graduated in 2012 to very small school the education was not the finest, I was always at the top of my class when it came to art I love to draw people, I do cartoons as well, I literally can be asked to draw anything and I can draw it! I'm good at what I do, I did take a few college classes in high school for art but when I took these classes i felt like I wasn't learning anything new I already know what I'm doing so I never did move on to collage after I graduated high school, I'm not a fan of school I'm not a fan of being stuck inside a room all day long I like to get out and keep busy. I'm completely clueless on what I can do with my future I'm stuck in a factory just so I can pay my bills tell I find out what Im going to do and I need help what are my opinions what kinda job can I get with my talent with only a high school education and work my own hours 

Get a job at disney, with

Get a job at disney, with your drawing skills.

Pharmacy tech

I took a state board for pharmacy. I had previous experience in a retail pharmacy. Work at hospital started out at 15 2 years later I make 25.

I work at Childrens hospital.

I work at Childrens hospital. As a patient feeding worker. And I'm 40 something year old. And I want alot out of life. I want a home, another car. And a job that will help get them. Please help me. Or some suggestions. 

Need help

I work at Childrens hospital. As a patient feeding worker. And I'm 40 something year old. And I want alot out of life. I want a home, another car. And a job that will help get them. Please help me. Or some suggestions. 

a bus driver. if you get into

a bus driver. if you get into a school district, if your there for like 15 years you'll be making 30 dollars an hour

I want any job

I want any job in or any where in company ........anyother else 

job

I need job 

Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene DOES REQUIRE a lot of college and training! What the heck??!!! Two years of basic core classes and then two years of dental hygiene school.  PLUS, after the college classes, before you can practice dental hygiene, you have to pass a state board exam and a national board exam to become licensed and practice...

Exactly!

Exactly! Dental Hygiene is a very competitive program, universities in my state will ONLY accept applications for 4.0 gpa students, they accept 200 applications, out of which only 25 are chosen each year. I don't know which idiot wrote this article but they obviously don't have a brain.

not helpful

This information is not useful, as a majority of these recommended jobs actually do require a degree of some form or another. 

job

what are some jobs for 18 to 19 year olds 

Sewage plant operator.

I don't know about you guys but I'm going for the sewage plant operator, smells great. I mean sounds great!

:-)

Your comment made me smell, I mean smile 

Not true

All of the jobs that were listed here either require at least an Associates Degree, or licensed training.  You can't just jump into them as the article implies.  VERY misleading!!!

DUMMIES

You do not need degrees for all of these.  You may need a certification, but not degrees.  And i can assure you that you do not need anything to drive machinery at a construction site.

Wrong! Dental Hygiene DOES

Wrong! Dental Hygiene DOES require a degree! Don't be an idiot! I think you're thinking of "Dental assistant", assistants can be trained on site or attend technical schools where they get a certificate in less than 9 months or so. The interenet is a very dangerous place...it's full of morons speaking out of their rear ends!

Degree

You are wrong, #1 job listed, you need a college degree fir Dental Hygiene. That is not a certificate.

To become a dentist, a

To become a dentist, a student needs to graduate from dental school (approximately a four year program), then pass licensing exams. Most students first get a bachelor's degree since dental programs prefer applicants who have completed an undergraduate degree.

It didn't say dentist.

It didn't say dentist.

yes it did  

yes it did  

help

i have completed my my 12th but due some eligibility my admission got cancelled at the end of academic year. is there is anything i can do. 

All i have is a high school

All i have is a high school diploma. I drive trucks (locally) going on 4 years working on average 50hrs a week mon-friday and the lowest i made in a year which was my first year was 68k last year i made 77k with same amount of hours all i do is hazmat tankers.. im 25 btw

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