10 Best Jobs Without a Four-Year College Degree

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Do you want a high-paying, fast-growing career in a field that offers a chance to gain new skills? You don’t necessarily have to commit four years to post-high school study to get started.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook offers insight into hundreds of careers. Many of the highest paying and most secure require years of education and training—but not all. We compiled a list of the top jobs where a four-year college degree is not required.

The careers in this list are varied—from dental hygienist to elevator repairer to web developer—so there is potential for all skill sets and personality types.

Some of the jobs may require an associate's degree, certification, or training, but they are jobs that pay a decent wage and have good earning potential. With others, you may be able to get on-the-job training or even be self-taught. In some cases, you may be able to get hired by meeting the experience requirements even if you don't have a degree.

Explore these leading jobs and consider them as you investigate your career options. There are great options available for everyone, and you don't necessarily need to start by going down the traditional college route.

Radiation Therapist

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Radiation therapists administer radiation treatments, primarily to cancer patients. They work as part of an oncology team that typically includes radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, and medical physicists.

Radiation therapists do more than just operate the machine that provides radiation treatment. They educate patients about their treatment plans and monitor patients for adverse reactions, as well as keep treatment records. Most states require these medical professionals to be licensed and/or certified, and most therapists have at least an associate’s degree.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: $85,560 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 9% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Elevator Installers and Repairer

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Elevator installers and repairers install and maintain all kinds of mechanical lifts, including escalators and yes, elevators. Most people in this job complete an apprenticeship and 35 states require installers and repairers to be licensed.

You’ll do well in this job if you have mechanical aptitude, a high tolerance for small spaces and heights, and respect for safety requirements and regulations. There’s a high risk of injury in this job from falls and electric shocks, among other hazards, and elevator installers and repairers must be physically strong to lift equipment.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: $84,990 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 10% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Dental Hygienist

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Dental hygienists clean patients' teeth, examine them for oral diseases, and provide other preventative dental care. They are often the first people patients see during a visit and help guide a busy dentist in the needs of each patient.

Dental hygienists don't need a four-year college degree, but they do typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene.

Every state requires dental hygienists to be certified.

Given the nature of the job, hygienists should have strong communication skills and be willing to work very closely with all types of people (and teeth). An attention to detail and a caring touch is also important because many patients fear dental work.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: $76,220 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing much faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects an 11% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028. 

Web Developer

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Web developers design, develop, and maintain websites. Some web developers are self-employed, working for a variety of companies and individuals. Others work in computer systems design, information services, finance, or education for large and small companies.

This is a good career choice for individuals who are both technical and creative and if one of those is not your strong suit, you can concentrate on the other. Web developers are needed for various projects and many become specialists in specific skills.

Be ready to continue learning throughout your career because technology changes fast and you need to keep up with the latest trends.

Web developers typically need an associate’s degree in web design or a related field such as programming or graphic design.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: $73,760 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing much faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 13% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028. 

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

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Diagnostic medical sonographers use instruments that create sound waves, which produce images of the interior of the body. The images and the summary provided by sonographers help physicians diagnose and treat diseases.

Most diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, labs, and outpatient care centers. This is an ideal job for someone with patience, technical aptitude, and physical strength.

Salary and Job Outlook 

  • Median Annual Salary: $68,750 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing much faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 14% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028.

MRI Technologist

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MRI technologists use magnetic resonance imaging scanners and contrast dyes to create images of various parts of the body. These images are used to diagnose and treat diseases or injuries. 

Most MRI technologists work in hospitals or diagnostic laboratories. Some may work in doctor’s offices or outpatient centers.

This job typically requires an associate’s degree and many employers require certification.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: $62,280 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing much faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 9% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Respiratory Therapist

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Helping people with respiratory issues is essential, fulfilling work. As a respiratory therapist, you can give comfort to young and old patients with asthma, emphysema, or other ailments that make breathing difficult.

Respiratory therapists work in hospitals—from the ER to pediatrics—as well as nursing homes and some also make home visits. It is a job that requires technical knowledge, a caring touch, and compassion.

Training and certification are required for respiratory therapists, and an associate's degree is often part of those requirements. Though it involves minimal training in comparison to other careers in the health industry, it can be just as rewarding.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: $61,330 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing much faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 21% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Electrician

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From factories to offices to homes, electricians are in charge of supplying power to our world. They install and maintain electricity, lighting, and communication systems for a variety of industries and needs.

Electricians can be employed in jobs that are indoors or outdoors, or both. They may also be asked to cover emergency situations and be on call regularly.

As well as training programs offered at vocational schools, electricians typically have an on-the-job apprenticeship. Attention to detail, a steady hand, and the ability to troubleshoot problems are good skills to bring to this job.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: $56,180 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 10% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Computer Support Specialist

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Computer support specialists (also known as computer service technicians) help and advise people and offices with computer software and equipment. In this role, you are responsible for figuring out a variety of information technology (IT) issues like why the Wi-Fi isn't working or why emails won't go through.

Computer support specialists need to have a strong technical know-how, patience, and excellent communication skills. An ability to figure out a problem quickly and efficiently is also good to have.

An associate's degree is often sufficient for this position, although sometimes a high school diploma will suffice with the right skills.

These jobs can have traditional 9-to-5 hours or require working late nights, early mornings, and weekends.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Salary: $54,760 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Above average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 10% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant

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Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of work to support lawyers including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.

An associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies is typically required for entry-level candidates. If you have excellent communication skills, are detail-oriented, and enjoy an ever-changing and always-challenging work environment, a paralegal career may be a good choice.

Salary and Job Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: $51,740 (2019)
  • Job Outlook: Growing much faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 12% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Article Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Radiation Therapists Do." Accessed March 9, 2020.

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Radiation Therapists." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Elevator Installers and Repairers Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Elevator Installers and Repairers." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Dental Hygienists Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Dental Hygienists." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  7. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Web Developers Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  8. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Web Developers." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  9. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Diagnostic Medical Sonographers Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Diagnostic Medical Sonographers." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  11. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Radiologic and MRI Technologists Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  12. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Radiologic and MRI Technologists." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  13. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Respiratory Therapists Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  14. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Respiratory Therapists." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  15. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Electricians Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  16. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Electricians." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  17. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Computer Support Specialists Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  18. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer Support Specialists." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  19. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Paralegals and Legal Assistants Do." Accessed May 9, 2020.

  20. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Paralegals and Legal Assistants." Accessed May 9, 2020.