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20 Great Jobs Without a College Degree

20 Great Jobs Without a College Degree By

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.

No College Degree vs. Jobs Requiring 4-Year Degree or Higher

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:


  • 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.

Join the Discussion

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Try joining the US Army. Guaranteed pay and benefits.


I'm in the Army as a parachute rigger but I have been put on Recruiting duty. It is great pay and benefits but I will say it is harder to find young people who can pass the asvab and join. I thought when I was put on Recruiting it would be easy but found out it is a hard assignment. 

No degree

I never took a college course in my life.  Right out of high shool, I took an airline career course and became a travel agent. I have since worked in a corporate job for major hotel brands and two top OTAs (Online Travel Agencies).  I've pretty much traveled all over the world and my current job pays $70k. There are great jobs out there if you have the drive and determination.  "Surprised IT", you hit it spot on!      


Where did you take an airline course? how long have you been working there? and what exactly do you do?

live near the coast?

Lots of great jobs in trade ports around refineries and such. I will not be attending college. Im a dock operator. I'm 20 years old making 20 an hour which comes out to 60k a year with all my overtime (yeah I work a lot of hours but its hardly any work. Maybe 1 hour out of every 10 is work the rest is sitting on my ass reading or watching movies) and come January I will start training to be a shore tankerman. Also a lot of hours but not hard work. Will be starting at 30 an hour. So if my math is right working a similar amount of hours I should be about 90k a year. And I can live with that. Plus raises come in fast. And I didn't add the per diem into that 90k figure either. I don't get any with this job but next year after the 4 months of training..... Well I can't wait. Should break 100k easy by 2018

I assure you that 30/Hr is

I assure you that 30/Hr is not 90k a year lol

I assure you that you can't

I assure you that you can't do math. If with overtime currently he makes $60K a year then he most certainly will make $90k at $30/hr working the same number of hours. 

lucky ?

you must be lucky then..if you have college degree without experience you get no jobs...if you have experience but no college degree, well guess what, no jobs for you too.Most employer will pick people who has experience and college degree. The fact that you got hired means that you had no competition when you try to apply, either that or you know someone that can help you get the job. It's common sense that someone would hired the guy who has college degree than those who don't have. And lets be real here..It is also common sense to assume that people who has a degree are smarter than people who don't ( sure there are some people whos also smart without a degree, but that percentage is very small )I have a college degree in IT, i know how to program in java, php, RDBMS and mysql..but hey they said i need to have 3 years of work experience as a junior database to get into database work. but how can i get database job if most jobs require the people to have experience?so rte now i'm doing warehouse work while waiting for that oppurtunity to come. The morale of the story is that college degree is not worthless.What worthless is how the HR system work and how picky they are when it comes to employment.Back in 1950s My dad got his job simply because he applied directly face to face, in have to be really lucky if they even want to email you back. 

Smarter? College Degree....

Maybe you have a point. However I find it highly entertaining that while stating your case, you used extremely broken English. Either your degree didn't require an English prerequisite or English is your second language. QUOTE: "It's common sense that someone would hired the guy who has college degree than those who don't have."And lets be real here."It is also common sense to assume that people who has a degree are smarter than people who don't" It's a tough economy buddy but the opportunity  doesn't just doesn't fall in your lap. You have to make the opportunity  regardless of your education. Get in the door at somewhere you want to work and show them what your worth. Then that education becomes more appealing. If the door is closed, then open it yourself, there's no waiting involved. Companies want to see someone that doesn't mind getting hired with qualifications and working there way up. Everyone wants to be hired into a position with high pay right away because they went to school for exactly for that position. Reality is that you need experience. Start as a tech or something your overqualified for and work your way up. You will stand out with hard work.  That's on you though if you want to keep waiting.

People with out there college

People without theircollege degree shouldn't have a job.

Sorry most of us aren't rich

Are you going to pay for my college?

May God bless you child

Why would you say that. I see you don't have common since dear.


What is wrong with you making that comment?? Very rude!!   To people without a college degree!


I don't have a college degree and I work within one of the 3rd largest telecommunication companies in the US! Your rude comment was uncalled for! I actually started college but due to life events was unable to finish. I would rather not put myself in debt that I would be paying for while my kids are in college!!!! Hope if you have a good job your employer sees this and has a little chat with you. 


I suppose your college degree taught you not to proof read before submiting? "People without theircollege degree shouldn't have a job."People without their college degree shouldn't have a job.---- Space required ^ ----     :) Idiot.

Ignorance is bliss.

so because they were unable to afford or due to family complications that made it difficult to go to college and better their life they should do what???!!! sit under a bridge because they struggled. this economy makes things difficult for many to better their situations. i had was attending college at one point until my mom become ill. i had to leave and take care of her. i was unable to finish a year of college and i work my ass off to provide for her and my family. 

Ha! Just because you're 

Ha! Just because you're  a loser who fell in the trap of the system doesn't mean everyone else should drown in debt to follow your steps!



I'm trying to get good job

I'm trying to get good job but at school my grades are low at sciense and math. PLZ can some one tell me what kind of job I can get

if you like driving and to

if you like driving and to travel truckers make pretty good bank 6mnths to complete schoolingand youre on your way

I'm in college but I just need work

I'm 18 and I'm more concerned about work I don't want to pass through college and all that I need advice and if there's any work available please contact me.

looking for jobs

I'm just looking for job

Future career

Hello, my name is Christopher. I'm 20 years old, I have a high school diploma,  but no education beyond that, I have automotive collision experience, but I'm not ASE certified, I did a career program while in high school, I work full time at this moment, but what I do and am making an hour is not doing me any good, I want to be in a good work environment with people who understand what it takes to get things done. I don't do drama.. I'd really appreciate a response! I hope God puts me in the right job and future for me!! Thanks


Im 16 right now but really hate school. I am not like everyone else who say they "hate" school, it truly makes me want to kill myself. I dont want to gonto college or work but then what do i do once out of school. Nothing...I have ab interest in Computer programming i guess but really i dont want to go to college. I could learn myself but who would really hire me with only a high school diploma.

16 & hating school! I was in your situation so read this!

 I hope you read this! When I was in high school I was always depressed even being a popular kid with lots of friends I just hated school. I also booked concerts & made lots of money doing it for a teenager, even a young adult, and sang in a band. But with school I hated the 99% of the lessons because it wasn't education, most of it was indoctrination! I was always longing to get out into the real world & make my own way. My second half of my senior year I left school. I was depressed and suicidal & even worse I was addicted to Oxy-Contin. I got clean and got a manual labor job and realized I made so many mistakes!!!I went back to school the second half of school the next year and it was embarrassing but I swallowed my pride and went back and it ended up being great. I had a whole new attitude and was in a much higher state of mind, and much more mature.I enjoyed my classes, enjoyed spending time with new friends & even being an example for troubled kids. I graduated high school & went on to community college, I didn't get a degree but after I took some classes and ended up graduating broadcasting school I've had an amazing life and even got to tour the US with my band and get signed to a record label. Now I have my own house and a beautiful wife and daughter. Sure it's never easy and I struggle everyday but I am so happy I never gave up & finished high school and still got to choose my own path but with much more opportunity! Thank you so much for reading & best of luck to all young ppl who are depressed, lost, or doubtful about themselves. You can do anything you truly want to do!!! -Pat Bernardo 

What can I do???

Was working for the same company for 33 years. Then, poof, laid off.  I am a 53 year old woman with no college degree. Have looked for jobs but what do you know? They want college degrees on the job I have been working at for 33 years.  What can I do???

For finding a job

Hi I m 42 year old man and I m undergraduate and I can do any job related to sales...
Thank you

Put in context that as of

Put in context that as of last year, the mean annual salary was $48,320




Need of a job I am a very good work




I need job ..

No solo

I dont Think we needhink to go to school because there are jobs 




what courses can i take


i hate going to school but you "need" to i don`t think you should because you can get plenty of jobs without a degree like a dental hygenist they get paid a lot and i looked up more jobs and some of them pay way more then a job that requires a college degree.


I dropped out of highschool and started at a cabinet shop with no experience. I worked hard and caught on quickly, now I make over $50 000 a year and train college graduates. A company of about 200, many of whom did go to college with big dreams, yet I make more than most of them. My father taught me to work hard, be diligent and not complain, any boss will recognize those traits. Good luck to you all.

For those with degrees under

For those with degrees under the age of 29 look at military service as an officer. Or look enlisted to pay off student loans. I'm 42 just retired out of the Army after 22 years and walked into a job making 70K. I don't have a degree but have the experience employers are looking for. You control your future, make yourself more marketable.

I need a new job!

I'm 49 years old, and I need to get out of this place! I have been here for 11 years. I make about $50,000/yr, but that is before taxes, and before the $400.00 PER MONTH I pay for insurance...which means I end up with about $500.00/wk. Sound like a lot? Trust me, it isn't. Not when you realize that I have a $4000.00 deductible to fulfill for insurance, and LOTS of medical bills. Not when you realize I pay my rent, gas heat, electric, car payments, car insurance, gas for car, cable/internet/phone, clothing, food, and anything else I need out of that. I don't have a degree, but I am only shy by TWO classes...had to quit school to be able to live, but was never able to afford to finish. At my age, nobody else will hire me, because face it, I'm too old for them to want to invest time and training. It's illegal, but yeah, so what...prove it. They'll deny that's the reason even when there is no other logical reason. The place I work with gets more stingy every year, and I work with a population of people that becomes more and more difficult to work with as I age...can't be restraining 250 lb aggressive autistic men at my age. I have given up my health, sanity, and happiness for this place for 11 years, but it's getting to the point where I can't afford to work here, but I'm too old to go anywhere else. I'm serious, I can't even afford to go ONE WEEK without a paycheck, and don't dare quit without another place to go. I've applied for 75 other positions, but all I hear is "No experience" (if I apply for something in a new field) or "No degree", even though I have doing my job all this time. I need to make similar or better money, so I WON'T be flipping burgers, but if I have to stay here much longer, I may have to just kill myself so I won't have to pay any more bills. Those are my choices. 

What about truck driver. I

What about truck driver. I make 68,000 a year. If you have a good driving record, you can drive for Walmart and make 80,000.

Truck Driver

I cant believe this is not listed, all you need is the lisences and that takes less than 3 months. Reguardless of the company you work for they make at least 15 dollars and hour but you have to be extremely carefull an accident can get you blacklisted! I am not confortable driving a car due to unforseen problems that arrise a person has  no control over so I take to bus to my warehouse job everyday for minimum wage.

New parents that need a job

Are there any other good jobs with out college so we can support our little one better. I have a job, but my husband needs one badly. Please let us know if you know of one in Kansas.

UPS driver make up to $36 an

UPS driver make up to $36 an hour in 4 years. With a 6000 pensiod a month aftwr 25 years

A corrections officer at the

A corrections officer at the state level in a prison is a great pay/benefit job. Not sure what state you reside but most only require H.S. diploma and no criminal history. 

urgent job needed

I am an international student who haven't even started her degree, still going through IELI at UNT. I badly need a job and really don't have any experience. What kind of job can i do and how do i go about it?

You can work in retail, like

You can work in retail, like at a major department store.. Or at a restaurant as a waitress/waiter. 

show me nuns 

show me nuns 

Yeah Right

A college grad making 51,000 right out of college, we all wish. These jobs barely want to pay you, and many wouldnt think twice about hiring you. You need experience to get a job, but I can't get a job because I do not have any experience. Straight out of college I started working for AT&T and even with my B.A i was paid the least out of all my employees. The funny thing is they tell you go to school, but many of the people I know are finding job placement hard. My friend works at TD bank and she has a B.S in accounting 12 an hour. Another person I know works for a daycare making 13 an hour with her B.A in education.  My old rommate a B.S in Psychologyand she works for L.A fitness making 11 an hour. We dont vaule education anymore, and job are slapping us in the face with these lowball numbers. It suckens me that after 4 years of college double majoring doing internships extra curricular activies building my resume and i still cant find a job.

your right

I have a masters degree in Education.  I cannot find a job.  For every 1 opening, you have 400 or so applications.  Therefore, if you don't know someone personally, forget it.  I refuse to work for 10/hr.  I am becoming so discouraged.  I feel your pain!  College seems like a scam.  Those jobs "requiring" a degree that average out that salary are Md's, and attorneys.  Don't be fooled!

Come to Louisiana...we need

Come to Louisiana...we need teachers here like you wouldn't believe :( 

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