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24 Lucrative Paths Without a College Degree

Introduction:

Every year, countless young Americans embark on four-year degree programs, assuming that the financial benefits of these degrees outweigh the downsides of accumulating significant debt. However, many four-year college graduates find themselves underemployed or working in roles that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, there are high-paying jobs that don’t necessitate a college degree, offering viable alternatives for those who are not sold on the traditional educational path or are considering a career change.

  1. Physical Therapist Assistant

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Associate degree

Median Salary (2021): $49,180

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 24%

  1. Occupational Therapy Assistant

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Associate degree

Median Salary (2021): $61,520

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 25%

  1. Respiratory Therapist

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Associate degree

Median Salary (2021): $61,830

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 14%

  1. Dental Hygienist

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Associate degree

Median Salary (2021): $77,810

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 9%

  1. Diagnostic Imaging Workers

Degree or Certificate Requirements: One-year certificate

Median Salary (2021): $75,380

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 10%

  1. Web Developer

Degree or Certificate Requirements: No formal education credentials required for self-employed developers; associate degree preferred

Median Salary (2021): $78,300

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 23%

  1. Radiation Therapist

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Post-secondary certificate

Median Salary (2021): $82,790

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 6%

  1. Computer Support Specialist (Network Support Specialist)

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Entry-level roles may require post-secondary coursework; associate degree may be required to advance

Median Salary (2021): $57,910

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 6%

  1. Radiologic & MRI Technologist

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Associate degree

Median Salary (2021): $61,980

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 6%

  1. Commercial Makeup Artist

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Post-secondary certification preferred; self-employed artists may need no formal credentials

Median Salary (2019): $75,730

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 7%

  1. Elevator Installer and Repairer

Degree: High school diploma

Median Salary (2021): $88,000

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 9%

  1. Plumber

Degree: High school diploma

Median Salary (2021): $56,330

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 4%

  1. Electrician

Degree: High school diploma

Median Salary (2021): $56,900

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 8%

  1. Construction Manager

Degree: High school diploma

Median Salary (2021): $97,180

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 8%

  1. Executive Assistant

Degree: High school diploma

Median Salary (2021): $63,110

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 10%

  1. Air Traffic Controller

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Associate degree; completion of an FAA-approved education program

Median Salary (2021): $130,420

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 1%

  1. Commercial Pilot

Degree: High school diploma or equivalent; must obtain a commercial pilot’s license

Median Salary (2021): $93,300 (for airline pilots)

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 9%

  1. Wind Turbine Technician

Degree: High school diploma; specialized training or an associate degree may be required

Median Salary (2021): $58,000

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 68%

  1. Court Reporter

Degree or Certificate Requirements: Postsecondary non-degree award or associate degree in court reporting

Median Salary (2021): $61,660

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 9%

  1. Power Plant Operator

Degree: High school diploma or equivalent; on-the-job training or apprenticeships are common

Median Salary (2021): $82,510

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 1%

  1. Claims Adjuster

Degree: High school diploma

Median Salary (2021): $68,490

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): -6% (decline)

  1. Insurance Underwriter

Degree or Certificate Requirements: High school diploma

Median Salary (2021): $71,790

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): -5% (decline)

  1. Real Estate Broker

Degree: High school diploma or equivalent; licensure and additional coursework required

Median Salary (2021): $60,370

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 2%

  1. Commercial Diver

Degree: High school diploma or equivalent; commercial diving training and certifications are essential

Median Salary (2021): $54,210

Growth Outlook (2021 – 2031): 5%

Conclusion:

These 24 high-paying jobs without a college degree provide diverse opportunities for individuals seeking alternative paths to career success. Whether through apprenticeships, vocational training, or specialized certifications, these professions demonstrate that success and financial stability can be achieved without pursuing a traditional four-year degree.

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