15 Great Jobs That Don’t Require a College Education

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Reconsidering college after seeing the price tag? Good news: Plenty of jobs don't require a degree – and you can always change your mind later if you want to move up.

College is a great time to figure out what you want to do with your life. But if you’re not on scholarship, it’s an expensive way to think things through. The Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt reports two-thirds of the Class of 2010 graduated in debt, owing more than $25,000 on average.

It’s not uncommon for students to change majors multiple times and still end up in a field different from their degree. I went from computer science to English to communication, briefly flirting with photography somewhere in between. And after I graduated? I went into journalism, which sort of combines them all, but isn’t what my diploma says.

This doesn’t mean college isn’t worth it – for those who pick a field and stick to it, it usually is. Having a degree usually leads to higher lifetime earnings, in part because leadership roles and higher-paying positions tend to require them. And there are plenty of ways to cut college costs, from attending cheaper schools to scoring lots of scholarships and recycling textbook cash.

But college straight out of high school (or ever) isn’t for everybody, and many people get ahead in life pursuing jobs that don’t require a degree. By the time bright-eyed graduates hit the job market looking for their entry-level seats, those grizzled workforce veterans are a rung or two up the ladder with four years of experience under their belts.

A degree may even be an entry barrier in some fields – because practical experience is prized over a piece of paper. Plus, you’re making money instead of spending it. Or, as job search site CareerCast puts it…

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.

With that in mind, here are 15 titles CareerCast says are great jobs making over $40,000 a year without a four-year degree

1. Dental hygienist

Income average: $68,000

Income growth (from entry-level to top): 109 percent

Employment growth (through 2020): 37.70 percent

2. Online advertising manager

Income average: $87,000

Income growth: 255 percent

Employment growth: 25.00 percent

3. Web developer

Income average: $76,000

Income growth: 179 percent

Employment growth: 21.70 percent

4. Paralegal assistant

Income average: $47,000

Income growth: 159 percent

Employment growth: 18.30 percent

5. Stenographer – court reporter

Income average: $48,000

Income growth: 250 percent

Employment growth: 14.10 percent

6. Heating and refrigeration mechanic

Income average: $43,000

Income growth: 158 percent

Employment growth: 33.70 percent

7. Surveyor

Income average: $55,000

Income growth: 190 percent

Employment growth: 25.40 percent

8. Executive assistant

Income average: $44,000

Income growth: 131 percent

Employment growth: 12.60 percent

9. Insurance agent

Income average: $47,000

Income growth: 342 percent

Employment Growth: 21.90 percent

10. Industrial machine repairer

Income average: $45,000

Income growth: 127 percent

Employment growth: 21.60 percent

11. Tax examiner – collector

Income average: $49,000

Income growth: 207 percent

Employment growth: 7.30 percent

12. Wholesales sales representative

Income average: $52,000

Income growth: 304 percent

Employment growth: 15.60 percent

13. Construction machine operator

Income average: $40,000

Income growth: 173 percent

Employment growth: 23.50 percent

14. Electrical technician

Income average: $56,000

Income growth: 138 percent

Employment growth: 1.90 percent

15. Architectural drafter

Income average: $46,000

Income growth: 140 percent

Employment growth: 3.20 percent

Already saddled with college debt? Check out What to Do If You’re Struggling with Student Loans. And for more on this topic, When a High School Diploma Beats a College Degree

Stacy Johnson

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