5 Jobs in Demand That Pay Well and Don’t Require a College Degree

Five jobs in demand that don’t require a four-year degree and promise bigger paychecks than some jobs requiring a college education.


Conventional wisdom has it that, if you want to get a good job that pays well, you need a college degree.

But if you’re looking for jobs in demand, five of the professions expected to see the most new jobs this year not only don’t require a four-year degree, they can pay more than the average $46,000 salary of a college graduate. Get one of these jobs, and you may be the envy of a humanities major with a job paying less than $30,000 a year or no job at all.

The U.S. Department of Labor lists the fastest growing professions and the professions expected to have the most openings by the amount of education required. Some of those jobs require only a high school diploma, some call for short-term vocational training and some require a two-year community college degree.

Health-related jobs are in high demand, and many medical jobs that don’t require a four-year degree pay well. Moody’s Economy recently reported that the number of jobs in education and health services will rise 2.2% this year, double the national average of 1.1 % for all jobs.

Great Jobs in Demand

Here’s a look at the five jobs in demand that don’t require a college degree, pay well, and are expected to have the most openings:

  1. Registered nurse. The U.S. Department of Labor projects 103,900 new openings this year. Although you can earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, community colleges offer two-year RN programs. Registered nurses make an average of $47,700 to $69,800 a year. Top earners, however, take home an average of more than $83,400 a year, according to the Nursing Schools website.
  2. Licensed practical nurse and licensed vocational nurse. This group will see 39,130 more positions this year. Training takes about a year. The median pay is about $39,000 a year with the top 10 percent of wage earners taking in more than $53,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  3. Computer support specialist. The feds estimate this high-paying field will grow 23,460 jobs in 2010. Computer specialists usually need an associate’s degree from a community college. Their reward is a fat paycheck. The median annual salary for a network or computer systems administrator is $66,130, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent break into six figures or about $104,000 a year.
  4. Hair dresser, hair stylist and cosmetologist. You can’t outsource haircuts overseas, so hair dressers can expect more jobs to open up as the U.S. population grows. The job requires vocational training. Most make $30,000 to $50,000 a year but top earners can easily crack six figures. It helps to have people skills as many hairdressers rely on tips – which can be $300 or more a week.
  5. Auto service agent, technician and mechanic. This trade can be learned in high school or on the job. The average pay is about $40,000 a year, but many earn more.

Other jobs that pay well, don’t require college degrees and are expected to have openings are insurance salesperson; heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic and installer; real estate agent; welder, cutter, solderer and brazer; paralegal and legal assistant; dental hygienist; radiologic technologist and technician; and respiratory therapist.

Even for these jobs in demand, people may need to move to find work: Texas is strong in job growth while Michigan, no surprise, continues to shed jobs.

Stacy Johnson

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