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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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how do i get job whne they are all bad?? :((((((-concerned child 

Under water Welding

you don't have to go to college to be a underwater welder you have to be a good welder and know about certain things. You can make about $300,000 after about 5 years. Before you are a well paid underwater welder you have to go to welding school for about 3 years and be a apprentice. Then plus 1 year for underwater swimming/ equipment use underwater. 

Because this job is very easy

Because this job is very easy to kill yourself doing and causes cancer/ exposes you to major radiation under water you cannot do it anywhere for very long because its so detrimental to your health your very well compensated for  slowly killing yourself  

You need school hours to be

You need school hours to be any kind of certified trade dummy.  



Technical school and college are very different...

.... to learn something you need some sort of training.

Career change

I am 43 yrs old and have worked in sales in the oil and gas industry for 18 yrs.  Just got laid off for the 2nd tim in 8 months.  Want a new career, any suggestions?

new careers

You should look for jobs in the medical marijuana profession. Its a legal trade now, and there are plenty of jobs online looking for sales and marketing reps, could be good for you...

Dental hygenist

Last I knew you needed to go to school to become a dental hygenist...



You need a 11 month Diploma.

You need a 11 month Diploma. Not a college degree....

No, you have to have a

No, you have to have a minimum 2 years in dental hygiene program, and one year pre-requisites. It's a 3 year associates degree. How people are saying it doesn't require an education are highly misinformed. An 11 month program for a dental assistant maybe, but not dental hygienist. A dental hygienist license also requires passing national and state exams, passing clinical exam, and continuing education every year. Definitely schooling involved with dental hygiene career! 

Getting a degree isn't the

Getting a degree isn't the hard part, it's working for a ethical dentist that follows rules 

Do your research!

You need an associate degree which includes prerequisites and 2 years of a dental hygienist so youre looking at about 3 years if schooling. 

THANK you. What is this list

THANK you. What is this list really about? 

well suck

average starting pay witha 4 year degree is 51,000? and that was 3 or so years ago.  dang.  i'm underpaid then.  i have a 4 year degree and i don't even make 30. and i've been in the job for 5 years.

Damn im making almost $30/hr

Damn im making almost $30/hr without a highschool diploma working an easy stressless labour job, this the kind of stuff that makes me not want to go to college

Where at?

Where at?

What do you do exactly?

What do you do exactly?

20 Great Jobs Without a College Degree |

Before taking out student loans of any kind, you should judge your ability to repay your debt after graduation. 


im look for a good paying job 

Advertising Manager

I am thinking of getting in advertising but there is no formal degree to learn about it. 

i'm just looking for a job to

i'm just looking for a job to do for fun

The best job is truck

The best job is truck diriving starters get $20 an hour pros get up to $40 an hour

truck drivers

how many hours do the truck drivers work for?

Lost, Very lost...

I am almost in my 30's and am very uneducated and completely lost in life. I don't know what motivates me anymore, I don't know what I am passionate about anymore, I don't know where I belong anymore. All I know is I don't want to live small paycheck to paycheck with shut offs every month and the feeling that I play no vital part in this world.

Go to a union hall and ask

Go to a union hall and ask about work then get into the apprenticeship program they offer its good pay and benefits 

Think of all the things you

Think of all the things you like doing for fun and write them down... There is a job in almost everything out there you may just have to relocate to do that job you will be happy doing. You got this

Keep your head up

Keep your head up man! God will give you your passion back!

I was in the

I was in the same position as you. I sat down 3 mornings per week with pen and paper and decided that i first needed to know who i am, what makes me happy, what i like, what i don't like, what fires me up, where do i wish i could live, what would i do if money were not an issue, what did i like as a kid, what are my hobbies if any and put that all i paper, I learned a lot about myself. I still am looking for my passion or purpose but i know what i want my life to be like and what makes me happy, now i looking for a place to use that information. Now i feel better and know something will come along. Good Luck

I am the same also!

Brad, What did you do to find yourself?  I am 46 and I still do not know what I want to do. I  have a Batchlors degree and it did not seam to help me either. I want a career that I can make a difference in.. Life is carzy and you sitting down to fugure it our enpires me to do the same. Good Luck!!

Not trying to b mean but how

Not trying to b mean but how do u have a bachelors degree but mispell the words "seem" and "inspire?" Does your resume look like that? Just saying...

Do something meaningful

What you guys need is to go volunteer with peace Corp or one of those organizations that send people to areas where it's poverty-stricken. One trip to one of those places will help you reevaluate your life and what you want to do with it. 

I totally agree with you. I

I totally agree with you. I have been a stay at home mom for amost 12 years. And now I am just tired of staying home and would like to do more to contribute to my family. So we have more of a financial freedom. 

i agree

I am in same exact boat.

Feeling Lost

Hi...Sorry for bothering you, but I was on this site looking for information on something completely different and I came across your comment.  I'm a career coach and I work with an organization called Raise Your Flag - you should go and check them out at   It's a site for those who don't have college degrees or diplomas and who are looking for hope to create a future that is more than what they have.  You won't find a magic wand, and I'm not going to lie - it does take some work to figure out what you want to do, but once you put that effort in you will be on your way to a career path that's rewarding andright for you.  There's no cost and no catch - just help from people who get it.  And you have nothing to lose so go take a look.  Going there may just help you find your way.  I hope it helps! 


Need a job

no job

no job no ins. need 75,000 yearly

what will i have to do for a

what will i have to do for a job that pays will as you guys


I need a job

In my opinion, the underlying

In my opinion, the underlying issue does not lie with ones ability to think critically and carry out any/all job related duties in ANY industry, with or without degree. The issue is that living expenses within many parts of the US do not match the available salary earnings related to jobs. It doesnt matter how many degrees you earn or not,; the bottom line is that we all want to earn more in order to live.College puts people in debt because its overpriced to begin with which discourages people from attending.  Poor people "feel" poor because they see that what they earn gains them little in terms of resources. And thats an issue for all of us in all income levels, struggling to go to the next level.If the US expects everyone to contribute to its economy, then school and proper education should be easier to attain for EVERYONE. I mean, can we at least make education free like it is in Denmark? Wtf.. that way you encourage an educated, healthy and productive population of people that can afford to live. I am an artist by heart but an entrepreneur by brain and I am currently in school pursuing 2 degrees, not just so I can gain access to opportunities but also so that I gain skills necessary to launch my own businesses.I dont really think about the debt that im building because I see college as a investment with a return that I will create & develop. Im not depending on just a job to sustain me...I want to own my own ..... What matters most is building a life that works for you. None of the jobs on the above list sound appealing...if they dont require college, some of them still require technical school and may not be guaranteed CAREERS ( something you can do till you retire). I would encourage anyone & everyone to be steadfast in their personal growth, learning and development. Dont let college be the only time that you learn something or study. There are plenty of online resources that can be used for self education...turn that self education into a freelance startup, a new passion or an entry level position. And furthermore, what this article says about opportunity costs is a sham imho....who says that you cant make money while youre in school?? Who says that you have to wait??And also be prepared to find work in other parts of the globe, especially if youd prefer to live somewhere that is less expensive. Dont let life dictate your worth...YOU dictate your worth. 

You could be a mentor

I wish I had someone like you in my life.  I'm very self sufficient but sometimes my goals seem like a distant dream.  When I was in my late teens/early 20s, I was inspired to soak up a lot of knowledge from books of all mediums.  Once I started working, all my zest for learning started to fade and all I wanted to do was make money and socialize.  Now that I'm 31 and still at the same job, I feel sad.  I'm still in school but my dream of completion is so far away.  Somedays I just want to quit and wish I had a cheerleader to keep me going.  

Pest Control Operator

Different states have different requirements for you to start your own pest control company. You will need to put in your time working for a licensed company. Once you get the experience and pass state licensing, you can easily earn $50-$100 per hour(with your own company).  If you are good with people and are not afraid to get a little dirty, look at some of the national companies to start.

Search of a good career

I am in search of a good paying job.  As of right now I am working full time at a company that deals with landscaping, irrigation, and construction.  I have been doing manual labor all my life and have pick up a good bit of skills.  If I don't know how to do something I can/will figure it out on my own or simply by watching someone else perform the task at hand.  I am eager to learn as much as possible.  If anyone can help me go further with my goals just reply back.


Anyone that can work that hard to make other people rich is extremely talented.Where there is a will, there's a way. Listen to motovational videos on youtube every single day. (My fav is Les Brown)  Start up a business,  but it has to be your dream. I know people with Master's degrees that I'm more successful than. I failed the 1st grade, daydreamed and copied my friends homework, and quit school in 9th grade. School wasn't for me but ADD/OCD, Faith, and determination makes everything possible. Luckily youtube and google can give you everything to make it happen (the hardknock college lol) You can have whatever you want in life but you have to believe it to see it!! Good luck... now go get your dream and stop working so hard making someone elses dream come true!!

Your attatude is great and

Your attatude is great and hard work does pay off. With this type of attitude you can do many things. However, I do disagree with you on one thing. Everyone can not have what they want if the just believe. That is so far from the truth. I know a friend that would love to become a firefighter, but can not because of physical limitations. A person that has no legs can not become a firefighter. A blind man can not fly a plane. How can a mute person be a call taker. You may try to say that there are people out there that have done things that may seem unachevible. I know of a man that gets up and does speeches to crowds of people without having arms or legs. That same man with that same drive could not do many jobs that do require arms or legs, say a police officer. But the attitude is right and with it one can achive many things. To say one can do anything is not true.  


I NEED A JOB THAT I CAN EARN $ 20.00 an hour . I have office experience,do download,billing ,redetermination,reconsideration,hearing ,scheduling,ordering office supplies,doctor rounds,PCT tools ,Registration, answering phones,Managing and scheduling times for therapist ,placing payors on the patients documents,verifying insurance ,putting charts together for a Rehab company . I need to earn more .


I have a college degree and barely make ends meet.I am looking for a career. I am very interested in finding a better job.

i need a job

i am barely scraping by. i need a way to earn money without any equiptment needed. if you know what i can do please write back as soon as possible. i am very kind and will do almost anything for money .thanks .   my friends call me homeless man 22 . you will eventually find me somewhere on the streets.

Looking for a job

Hi,I have flunked in 12th class but i have done with FRANKFIND Air Hostess training,some typing skill, & worked for Front office in hotel for a period of 5 years Thanks & Regardsmathew8884688862

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