17 High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a 4-Year Degree

At an early age, I was taught to study as hard as I could in school so I could get into college, land a high-paying job and retire with a hefty sum in savings.

That was the rule in my family, but some people don’t feel that getting a four-year degree is an option — or if it is, maybe they’re just not cut out that way. In any case, it’s certainly not the only way people land decent jobs or rewarding careers. According to the Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based private foundation committed to increasing the share of Americans with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials, only 19.83 percent of Americans hold a bachelor’s degree. Data from the foundation also show that 21.76 percent have some college education but no degree, and 26.37 percent didn’t pursue education beyond high school.

Consider these 17 jobs that don’t require a four-year degree and pay significant salaries or wages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Note: Some of these jobs require lengthy on-the-job training and apprenticeships. Search the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook for details.

1. Dental hygienist

Dental hygienist
michaeljung / Shutterstock.com

Median income in 2014: $71,520 annually ($34.38 hourly)

Income range (lowest to highest 10 percent): about $49,190 to about $97,390

Job growth outlook through 2024: 19 percent (much faster than average)

Required level of education: associate’s degree

2. Licensed practical nurse and licensed vocational nurse

nurse
Cryptographer / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $42,490 annually ($20.43 hourly)

Income range: $31,640 to $94,720

Job growth outlook: 16 percent (much faster than average)

Required level of education: post-secondary non degree

3. Web developer

woman software developer working from home
Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $63,490 annually ($30.52 hourly)

Income range: $33,790 to $112,680

Job growth outlook: 27 percent (much faster than average)

Required level of education: associate’s degree

4. Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic or installer

Installation of home heating insulation on a pipe
DUO Studio / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $44,630 annually ($21.46 hourly)

Income range: $27,630 to $70,820

Job growth outlook: 14 percent (much faster than average)

Required level of education: postsecondary non-degree award

5. Construction and building inspector

Female construction worker
Cineberg / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $56,040 annually ($26.94 hourly)

Income range: $33,970 to $88,830

Job growth outlook: 8 percent (as fast as average)

Required level of education: moderate term on-the-job training

6. Industrial machinery mechanic

Mechanic
Minerva Studio / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $47,450 annually ($22.82 hourly)

Income range: $30,130 to $72,400

Job growth outlook: 16 percent (much faster than average)

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent

7. Electrician

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Image Not Available

Median income: $51,110 ($24.57 hourly)

Income range: $31,170 to $85,590

Job growth outlook: 14 percent (much faster than average)

Required level of education: apprenticeship

8. Chef or head cook

Chef adding oil to food
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $41,610 annually ($20.01 hourly)

Income range: $23,140 to $73,720

Job growth outlook: 9 percent (faster than average)

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent

9. Correctional officer or bailiff

Prison guard with prisoner
LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $39,700 annually ($19.08 hourly)

Income range: $20,630 to $70,970

Job growth outlook: 4 percent (slower than average)

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent

10. Line installer and repairer

Telephone engineer
Kappri / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $61,740 annually ($29.68 hourly)

Income range: $36,090 to $94,030

Job growth outlook: 6 percent (as fast as average)

Required level of education: long-term on-the-job training

11. Paralegal and legal assistant

2 men business lawyers work talking
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $48,350 annually ($23.24 hourly)

Income range: $30,280 to $77,830

Job growth outlook: 8 percent (average)

Required level of education: associate’s degree

12. Plumber, pipe fitter and steamfitter

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Image Not Available

Median income: $50,660 annually ($24.36 hourly)

Income range: $29,470 to $88,160

Job growth outlook: 12 percent (faster than average)

Required level of education: apprenticeship

13. Insurance sales agent

Aflac insurance
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $47,860 annually ($23.01 hourly)

Income range: $25,710 to 119,170

Job growth outlook: 9 percent (faster than average)

Required level of education: moderate-term on-the-job training

14. Firefighter

Firefighter
VAKS-Stock Agency / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $45,970 annually ($22.10 hourly)

Income range: $22,130 to $81,450

Job growth outlook: 5 percent (as fast as average)

Required level of education: long-term on-the-job training

15. Chemical technician

STEM Jobs laboratory worker
ALPA PROD / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $44,180 annually ($21.24 hourly)

Income range: $27,100 to $73,160

Job growth outlook: 2 percent (slower than average)

Required level of education: moderate-term, on-the-job training

16. Optician, dispensing

Woman touching glasses
Mangostar / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $34,280 annually ($16.48 hourly)

Income range: $21,510 to $55,160

Job growth outlook: 24 percent (much faster than average)

Required level of education: long-term on-the-job training

17. Court reporter

Courthouse
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

Median income: $49,860 annually ($23.97 hourly)

Income range: $26,670 to $94,140

Job growth outlook: 2 percent (slower than average)

Required level of education: postsecondary non-degree award

Do you have any additional recommendations for job seekers who do not have a four-year degree? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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