10 Cities With the Most High-Paying Jobs for Workers Without Degrees

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Where do you look for a decent-paying job if you don’t have a college degree?

Certain cities have more of these jobs than others, says a report released by the Cleveland and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks. They may not have powerhouse economies otherwise but a strong share of their workers are in solid jobs that don’t require a college degree.

The report lists metro areas with strong “opportunity employment shares” — the share of a local job market offering good jobs for workers without a college degree.

Fed researchers scoured job postings for education requirements, pay information and a city’s share of occupations to come up with at their ratings, says The Kansas City Star. The research focuses on the availability of jobs paying at or above the local equivalent of the national median wage — $37,690.

What follows are the metro areas whose job markets have the biggest share of “opportunity jobs” — good-paying jobs that don’t need a bachelor’s degree.

10. Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas

Kansas City, Missouri
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Opportunity jobs: 29.6%

Kansas City is known for straddling the line between Missouri and Kansas. It’s a pretty good place to look for a job even without a college degree.

Kansas City has been considered one of the best cities for opportunity jobs for a few years now. Strong “opportunity jobs” sectors in the metro include customer service, registered nurses, secretaries and administrative assistants and general and operations management, The Kansas City Star reports.

One of the reasons that is the case, according to some locals, is the strong community college system. This allows for more training and credentialing, rather than a focus on four-year degrees.

9. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Washington

Spokane, Washington by night
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Opportunity jobs: 29.7%

Spokane, in eastern Washington, across the state from coastal Seattle, offers a lower cost of living and a chance to earn at or above the median wage.

The Spokesman Review writes that, for example, for union apprentices in Spokane with Carpenters Local 59:

“… a decent wage means $17.22 per hour with a benefits package worth about $16.40 per hour, all while receiving classroom instruction and on-the-job training.”

8. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

Horse barn in Lexington, Kentucky
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Opportunity jobs: 29.8%

The unemployment rate in Lexington is 3%, or just about full employment. What that means is, if you want a job, there’s a good chance you’ll find one.

Manufacturing jobs are common in Lexington, as are those in areas of trade, transportation and utilities.

7. Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio aerial view
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Opportunity jobs: 30.1%

Close to one-third of the jobs in the Cleveland area fit into this classification, making this a solid place to look for work.

Cleveland 19 reports:

“In fact, believe it or not, there are plenty of high-paying jobs that will hire you as long as you have a high-school diploma.”

Vocational training is the key to getting better hourly pay, William Gary, executive vice president of workforce at Cuyahoga Community College, tells the channel.

6. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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Opportunity jobs: 30.3%

Cedar Rapids’ unemployment rate is a good, low 3.2%. And yet, Iowa’s second-largest city is experiencing an economic decline, driven mostly by weakness in the white-collar business sectors of finance, insurance and real estate, the Des Moines Register reports.

Still, the paper says, in Cedar Rapids:

“… manufacturing continues to inch ahead, while more white-collar sectors contract.”

5. St. Louis, Missouri-Illinois

Gateway Arch, St. Louis.
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Opportunity jobs: 30.3%

Looking for a bigger city with employment opportunities? St. Louis can be a good choice.

The St. Louis area’s cost of living is lower than average for the United States, with low housing costs the biggest factor.

According to Zillow, the median home value is $117,800 in the city of St. Louis. Values in the surrounding metro area are slightly higher but still affordable.

The median cost of rent is $1,095 in St. Louis and $1,100 in the larger metro area.

4. Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama

ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

Opportunity jobs: 30.6%

Birmingham is the cultural and entertainment capital of Alabama and one of the important banking centers in the Southeast U.S.

Income growth has been solid but not spectacular here.

The larger region outside Birmingham has plenty of manufacturing, including automotive assembly plants in the counties of Talladega (Honda) and Tuscaloosa (Mercedes). Many of those plants’ thousands of workers live in the Birmingham area, says a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Other strong employers in the Birmingham metro area include parts suppliers and local metal industries.

3. Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa
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Opportunity jobs: 30.8%

Des Moines’ low unemployment rate is 2.2%, and the city enjoyed GDP growth of 2.9% in 2017.

U.S. News & World Report names Des Moines, Iowa’s capital and largest city, the fifth best place to live in the U.S. due in large part to its low cost of living and high quality of life.

2. Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska skyline against mountains
Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock.com

Opportunity jobs: 31.5%

Despite Anchorage’s relatively high unemployment rate of 5.6%, the metro area holds promise for job-seekers without a college degree.

Construction is an area of growth in Anchorage, with a 10.3% change year-over-year. Additionally, the region employs many workers in the fields of trade, transportation and utilities.

1. Toledo, Ohio

Toledo, Ohio
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Opportunity jobs: 34.0%

Toledo offers job hunters who don’t have a college degree the best opportunity for finding a good-paying job.

What’s more, it has been cited as one of the best midsized cities for attracting economic development. Manufacturing is a major source of jobs, as are careers in trade, transportation, and utilities.

Toledo’s cost of living is low. Housing is especially affordable: The median home value in the city is $70,000, according to Zillow. The median rent is $800 in Toledo and $825 in the Toledo metro area.

Are you thinking of moving to another city for a better job? Tell us about it in a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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