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

Photo (cc) by Army Medicine
Photo (cc) by Army Medicine

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

Photo (cc) by Eric Hamiter
Photo (cc) by Eric Hamiter

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

Photo (cc) by Jeff Zeldman
Photo (cc) by Jeff Zeldman

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

Photo (cc) by NAVFAC
Photo (cc) by NAVFAC

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

Photo (cc) by Chris Potter
Photo (cc) by Chris Potter

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

Photo (cc) by Suga
Photo (cc) by Suga

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

Photo (cc) by Garry Knight
Photo (cc) by Garry Knight

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

Photo (cc) by Cambridge Brewing Co.
Photo (cc) by Cambridge Brewing Co.

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

Photo (cc) by Inside CCA
Photo (cc) by Inside CCA

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

Photo (cc) by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Photo (cc) by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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

Photo (cc) by Joe Gratz
Photo (cc) by Joe Gratz

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

Photo (cc) by PEO ACWA
Photo (cc) by PEO ACWA

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

Photo (cc) by Pictures of Money
Photo (cc) by Pictures of Money

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

Photo (cc) by Alberta Motor Association
Photo (cc) by Alberta Motor Association

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

Photo (cc) by Army Medicine
Photo (cc) by Army Medicine

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

Photo (cc) by Mossy Carey
Photo (cc) by Mossy Carey

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

Photo (cc) by Mike Gifford
Photo (cc) by Mike Gifford

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.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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