Do you want to change careers without spending two or more years earning an associate’s degree? While higher education generally correlates with higher earnings, there are jobs out there that pay decent wages and don’t require years of additional schooling.
Some of these jobs require certificate programs, while others are open to workers with a high school diploma or equivalent and a few courses at a community college or vocational school.
All pay median annual salaries of at least $40,000 a year, and some offer greater earning potential with further training. Median salaries and Occupational Outlook below are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Labor.
10 Good Jobs You Can Train for in a Year or Less
1. HVAC Mechanic/Installer
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians install, repair, and maintain HVAC systems. HVAC techs typically complete an apprenticeship or course of study at a trade school or community college.
Training can take as little as six months, depending on the program. Some states require techs to be licensed, and all HVAC mechanics and installers must follow state and federal regulations with regards to handling and disposal of refrigerants.
- Median Annual Salary: $48,730
- Occupational Outlook (projected percentage change in employment) 2019-2029: 4%
2. Massage Therapist
Massage therapists help their clients by alleviating pain and tension, relieving stress, and promoting general wellness. Most states regulate massage therapy, and many require therapists to be licensed. Massage therapy programs typically require a high school diploma and involve 500 or more hours of study.
- Median Annual Salary: $42,820
- Occupational Outlook 2019-2029: 21%
3. Dental Assistant
While dental hygienists typically have at least an associate’s degree, dental assistants can sometimes acquire their training on the job. In some states, assistants must attend an accredited dental assisting program, which leads to a certificate and usually takes a year to complete. Depending on state requirements, dental assistants may also need to pass a certification exam.
- Median Annual Salary: $40,080
- Occupational Outlook 2019-2029: 7%
4. Court Reporter
Court reporters transcribe legal proceedings at trials, depositions, and hearings. To excel in this job, you must have excellent listening and writing skills, plus superior concentration and attention to detail. In many states, court reporters who work in legal settings must be licensed or certified. Many community colleges and technical institutes offer postsecondary certificate programs for court reporters. Court reporters also typically receive a few weeks of on-the-job training.
- Median Annual Salary: $60,130
- Occupational Outlook 2019-2029: 9%
5. Truck Driver
Long-haul truck drivers transport goods over long distances. This isn’t an easy job, as it involves long days of driving and sometimes weeks of travel. However, training takes only three to six months at a community college or private program. After completing their education and receiving their certificate, truck drivers must get a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
- Median Annual Salary: $45,260
- Occupational Outlook 2019-2029: 2%
6. Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Green energy jobs are on the rise, offering good salaries, soaring occupational outlooks, and often, short training programs. Solar photovoltaic installers, who install, repair, and maintain solar panels, can start their career with a high school diploma, community college courses, and on-the-job training.
- Median Annual Salary: $44,890
- Occupational Outlook 2019-2029: 51%
7. Construction Equipment Operator
Construction equipment operators use heavy machinery to help build structures, roads, and bridges. They may also be in charge of cleaning, repairing, and maintaining the equipment. These workers need a commercial driver’s license and may need other licensure as well, such as a crane operator’s license. While some construction equipment operators complete an apprenticeship or attend a vocational school, others get started with a high school diploma and on-the-job training.
- Median Annual Salary: $48,160
- Occupational Outlook 2019-2029: 4%
8. Real Estate Agent
Are you interested in a career in real estate? You can often get started by taking a few real estate courses, passing a state licensing exam, and getting on-the-job experience working for a licensed real estate broker. Later, with a year or more experience under your belt and some additional training, you may be able to become a real estate broker and run your own office.
- Median Annual Salary: $50,730
- Occupational Outlook 2019-2029: 2%
9. Private Investigator
Private investigators gather information and conduct investigations using specialized software, surveillance, and interviewing techniques. They may work for financial or insurance companies or private clients. Most private detectives and investigators learn through on-the-job training, typically lasting between several months and a year, and many of them have law enforcement or military experience. Most states require licensure for this occupation.
- Median Annual Salary: $50,510
- Occupational Outlook 2019-2029: 8%
10. Cargo and Freight Agent
Cargo and freight agents facilitate the movement of goods to and from shipping docks and terminals. You can get started in this job fairly quickly, provided that you have a high school diploma. Many agents learn their skills on the job.
- Median Annual Salary: $43,740
- Occupational Outlook 2018-2028: 8%
How to Get Started in These Jobs
Depending on the job you’re targeting, you may need additional work experience, skills development, and even certification or licensure. Therefore, the first step in your transition is to find out which qualifications and credentials you’ll need to acquire.
For example, to become a real estate agent or a private investigator, you’ll likely need to pass a state licensing exam. However, if you’re thinking about working as a cargo and freight agent or dental assistant, you may be able to learn on the job.
You can start your research by checking out the job profile in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. There, you’ll find an overview of each job’s duties, educational prerequisites, work environment, and more.
Requirements often vary by state, so check out your state department of labor’s website for specifics.
Get the Right Training and Certification
Need more information about training requirements and access to programs in your area? CareerOneStop is the U.S. Department of Labor’s career education resource. Check out its training resources to learn more about certifications, internships, and short-term educational programs.
If you’re looking for answers fast, try CareerOneStop’s tools:
- License Finder tells you whether you need a license for a certain occupation in a specific area.
- Certification Finder lets you drill down and search certifications by name, organization, industry, or occupation.
When you think of apprenticeships, you might picture a commitment to several years of training. But some apprenticeship programs prepare workers for new jobs and careers in as little as six months to a year.