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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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Im 18 and I recently

Im 18 and I recently graduated from high school, I have little work experience, where should I apply for work? I want a job with a good starting wage. Please help  

Really good job.

A really good place to start is Amazon idk where you live but I'm from KY minimum wage here is 7.25 and Amazon starts out at 12.25 and it's easy work.

Most of these jobs suck.

Most of these jobs suck.  The ones I am interested in aren't available in my pathetic small city.  Unfortunately, I can't move.  Isn't there ANYTHING out there that doesn't require a 2 or 4 year degree, but still pays at least $20,000 annually?

20k annually is about 10$ an

20k annually is about 10$ an hour. If you can't find a job for 10 bucks an hour you need to move. Most retailers and fast food start around 8 or 9 bucks an hour which is about 17k annually. Find a retailer such as Walmart, Sam club, costco and work your way up. I started as a cashier at a local retailer and in 3 years I have worked my way from 8 bucks an hour to over 20$ hr by applying internally after showing them I'm worth their time. Everybody starts as the low man on the totem pole unless you're born into money. Shift managers at fast food joints are 12-18 bucks an hour. Get out there and stop being picky about what you want.

Jobs making 20k

Making 20K isn't hard, it's making more than that- now that's hard these days!I've had these jobs and they pay 20K or a little over 20K: Hotel Front Desk, easy. Casino job, also easy, but I hard to deal with a lot of bullshit and all my coworkers were sleeping with each other like it was no big deal (weird work culture). 


The median annual salary for mechanic and automotive technicians is $37,120 . The highest earners in the field made about $

can you help me?

If you know a good  and easy way to go to Canada or US for work , please help me! 

i m done my B A now

I want Aa job

NDT technician

Hi Everyone, I'm very surprised to not see NDT technician on this list. Based on the 2015 salary survey (found Here: on average a level I tech makes about $65,927 per year at $20.97 per hour. And that’s something you can achieve in months, not years. You do not need a degree to do this job. In fact you can get you entire education for around $7,000.00-$9,000.00 dollars and in less than 8 months. There are even online schools so you don't have to change your whole life around to get your required education. Most people start around $20.00 per hour and get into the mid 20's to 30's per hour after several months. I personally know several people who got their full education within 6 months and got starting wages in the 30 dollar per hour range at their first job out of school. I don't understand why is this such an under represented industry on job lists such as this. It is extremely important work. NDT Technicians do inspections on the vital infrastructure of our country; from Bridges and railways to oil/gas pipeline, brake pads, landing gear and plane wings. Our daily safety is dependent on these technicians. If you want to learn more about how to become a Non-Destructive Technician try googling "NDT online school" and check out what's available. We need high quality people in this high demand high paying career field.Visit for more information about a career in Non-destructive testing.

would you suggest this career

would you suggest this career for a High School graduate?

My Son

This looks like an interesting, direct and a solid career.  My son is 18 and so not interested in much.  He's very sharp but disinterested in school.  I would like to see him explore this instead of attending a state college and flounder like he is in his present senior year.  Would you suggest this career for a High School Graduate fresh out of school?   

NDT Tech

Thank You for this info.  By chance do you know any NDT's in the San Diego area willing to talk to high schoolers?

Which NDT course should you take

There are so many NDT courses online, radiographic, sight inspection, etc. Which one would be the best paying, and in most demand? Very interested! Which one did you take? Thank you!  

No schooling, even no high

No schooling, even no high schooling, if you have the balls and physical ability, be a pipe welder, or any kind for that matter, I have high school diploma that's it. I make damn good money at 25 and have been for past 7 or 8 years, how far ahead am I been making that for that long allready rather than spend those years in college not making anything.  For a good welder expect no less that 50 000 a year, on to upwards of several hundred gran.....and there is always work a good welder won't go without work

My size is a curse

I am 22 and tried college (mainly to play football). Quit middle of second year to play arena football. Awesome at first but politics and low pay was not worth it.  Had some jobs through temp agency but need something permanent. I am 6ft 8" and 355 lbs and would like a good paying job that will suit my size. Don't want to live with my parents forever. Would like to know I could support myself and possibly a family someday.  Feeling a little lost as my temp. Job ended Tuesday. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated. Where do you look for a high paying job without a degree and land an interview

God has a plan for you...

Your size is not a curse.  God made you perfect and has so much for you.  Find out the path that God has for you and receive insurmountable blessings in many ways.  I go to the Potter's House Christian Fellowship, and if you want you can look up the nearest church near you and attend.  He (God) won't let you down.  


I am 18 and have completede my schooling but cannot get into a college what to do

I work at the postoffice with

I work at the postoffice with just HSD. I work with people who have degrees doing the same job. You should try USPS, UPS and FED-EX. 

I recently had back surgery

I recently had back surgery and was told I probably won't ever be able to do a standing all day or lifting job of any kind again. I've been a retail clothing store manager and a restraint manager. Can't do those now because I can't stand all day or lift or unpack shipments anymore. I have medical office and and financial loan officer experience. I have no degree. Did some college but didn't graduate. I am having a terrible time fin ding a decent paying desk job. Suggestions? My credit stinks so that's a challenge too.

P/T Employment. Have CSR and Driving Experience

I am a HS grad and have some college experience. I am currently retired. A Im bored. I was a school van driver for almost 10 years when I retired. Before that I was a CSR with Astoria Bank but, due to a family emergency, I had to leave. Before that, many years ago, I worked in several banking departments. I am currently looking for part-time emplyment. I am in good health and have a strong work ethic and am very reliable, prompt and people-friendly. Looking for a someplace that could use my knowledge, experience and enthusiasm.

Hey. I m a new immigrant with

Hey. I m a new immigrant with a green card. I know nothing about US. I have civil engineering masters degree from Ethiopia.  I need advise on what type of work I can get. 

Go to school and transfer

Go to school and transfer your Master degree to us standard

School Wasn't For Me

I dropped out of college my sophomore year. I held a 4.0 average and was a member of numerous honor societies. However, the illogical nature of academia became too much. I had to put my family first, my health first, and my profession first before academia. If one does not pay the bills the paper due Friday will not mean very much at all. Academia could not even begin to grasp this concept, therefore I dropped out. Now, I make more than approximately 90% of my classmates who went on to complete their degree. This success was not instant however. The preditory student loans I took nearly destroyed me. It took nearly eight years, but I got back on my feet. 

What do you do for a living?

What do you do for a living? Thanks.

High school drop out.

My sister was a high school drop out. she was a little on the rebellious side when we were younger. But shes a smart girl. no degree, no nothing but she is now a project manager for one of mark wahlbergs business. My sister is making 105k a year. Lol She also told me that mark wahlberg didn't finish HS. And so as Johnny depp and many more. I just thought I'd share. 

what even.. 

what even.. 

Government controlled college is a Joke !!

I am a high School drop out and make over six figures for the past 10 years and own 2 homes one with an indoor pool . I did get my GED at 16 and got a associates In Computer information systems. Would have gone into debt if i went for my bachelors Got a Union job with the Teamsters full benifits And will retire stress free at 57 . College was more essential 15 20 years ago . Now most majors are a joke and jobs are going overseas I was laidoff several times before I went blue collar Union . 

Didnt you're retirement just

Didnt you're retirement just get cut in half


please tell me how I can attempt to do the same thing. I'm in college but I just dont enjoy anything about it and I'm already in debt. Help!! 

Well can you mentor me. I am

Well can you mentor me. I am 19 and completed my first year of college. However, I talk to people and almost none of them are even using their degree. I know there is more out there for me, but I just need guidance? and advice ???


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

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