Top Stories
Top Stories
Careers

These good-paying jobs don't require a bachelor's degree

Erik Isakson | Getty Images

For many Americans, well-paying jobs that don't require at least four years of college can seem scarce.

The median annual income for workers with an associate's degree, which generally takes two years to complete, is $42,590, according to 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. People with a high school diploma bring in $35,990 annually; non-diploma workers have even lower earnings at $26,210.

All of those salaries are below the median weekly pay for the nation's 113.4 million full-time workers: As of June 30 of this year, that was $859, which translates into $44,668 annually.

By comparison, a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years to complete, comes with a median annual salary of $60,110. Advanced degrees often bring even more.

And while Census Bureau data released earlier this year shows that 33.4 percent of Americans age 25 or older have earned a bachelor's (or more advanced) degree — the highest rate it's ever been — it nevertheless means the best-paying jobs are generally out of reach for 66.6 percent of workers.

A new report from jobs site CareerCast shows positions that come with decent pay and a good growth outlook without requiring a bachelor's degree.

"We wanted to showcase some of the opportunities out there that for the many Americans without a [four-year] college degree," said Kyle Kensing, online editor at Careercast.

1. Web developer

Anyaberkut | Getty Images

Median annual salary: $66,130

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 27 percent

Recommended minimum education: associate's degree

For people with a knack for computers and an eye for design, this is one info-tech job that comes with an above-average salary without requiring a four-year haul at college. While a two-year degree is recommended, self-taught experience with website and app development, along with familiarity with programming languages (i.e, HTML or XML) can lend itself to a portfolio that's worth as much, if not more, than a degree, Kensing said.

2. Diagnostic medical sonographer

Sonographer and young woman looking at ultrasound scan on computer screen.
REB Images | Getty Images

Median annual salary: $64,280

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 26 percent

Minimum education: associate's degree

These are the people who capture those magical screen images of a pregnant woman's unborn baby through the use of sonography (i.e., an ultrasound machine). In addition to obstetrics and gynecology, other areas of specialty for sonographers include the musculoskeletal system or working with children (pediatrics). They also are often the first line of defense in early detection of abnormalities in tissue and organs.

3. Respiratory therapist

Science Photo Library | Getty Images

Median annual salary: $58,670

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 12 percent

Minimum education: associate's degree

As with the growth in many health-care-related jobs, an aging population is expected to drive the need for these providers, who serve people with breathing problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia. While some respiratory therapists have a bachelor's degree, some employers will accept those with an associate's degree. In addition, all states except Alaska require a license, which typically means passing a certification exam, according to BLS data.

4. Executive assistant

vladans | Getty Images

Median annual salary: $55,860

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 3 percent

Minimum education: high school diploma or the equivalent

For people who are expert multitaskers and enjoy a range of administrative responsibilities, this job can be a good fit. Duties can involve high-level support such as conducting research and preparing statistical reports or clerical functions such as scheduling meetings and writing letters. While its expected growth lags behind the average of all job growth over the decade of 2014-2024 (7 percent), the position comes with an above-average salary and a lower education hurdle.

5. Electrician

Joho | Cultura RM | Getty Images

Median annual salary: $52,720

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 14 percent

Minimum education: high school diploma or the equivalent

This is a job that offers a solid salary and the potential for being your own boss after paying your dues, so to speak. Many electricians learn the tricks of the trade through a three-to-five-year apprenticeship, while others attend a technical school before on-the-job training. The anticipated high growth is due to continuing demand for people who know how to do things from rewiring an outlet to an entire commercial building, not to mention employers reporting a hard time finding qualified applicants, according to the BLS.

6. Plumber

Paul Bradbury | Calaimage | Getty Images

Median annual salary: $51,540

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 12 percent

Minimum education: high school diploma/equivalent

Like electricians, becoming a plumber can put you on the path to owning your own business. Although specific certification requirements vary, most states and localities require workers to have two years to five years of experience and to pass an exam that shows their knowledge of the trade and of local plumbing codes before they are permitted to work independently.

7. Paralegal

Getty Images

Median annual salary: $49,500

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 8 percent

Minimum education: associate's degree

Sometimes called a legal assistant, this a job that involves research, document preparation and other duties to help attorneys represent their clients in court, at hearings and in meetings. While some law firms prefer a bachelor's degree for their paralegals, others will hire those who have a two-year degree.

8. Industrial machine repairer

Gerenme | Getty Images

Median annual salary: $49,100

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 16 percent

Minimum education: high school diploma or equivalent

For people with a fascination for how machines work, this is a job that can fulfill that interest. While some industrial machine repairers get on-the-job training, others attend a technical school to learn the skills needed for this job. The growth outlook is strong due to the need to keep increasingly sophisticated machinery running smoothly and efficiently.

9. Broadcast or sound engineering technician

Mediaphotos | Getty Images

Median annual salary: $42,550

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 7 percent

Education: associate's degree

This is one of those behind-the-scenes jobs that makes radio programs and TV shows go smoothly. They set up, operate and maintain the equipment that does things like regulate signal strength and quality, and edit audio and video. While most broadcast technicians earn at least an associate's degree, some entry-level positions forego that requirement.

10. Medical records technician

Getty Images

Median annual salary: $38,040

Growth outlook 2014-2024: 15 percent

Education: non-degree certification technician

This is yet another job whose strong growth outlook can be attributed to an expanding health-care system accommodating an aging population. While not involved directly with patients, medical records technicians are charged with managing a system that maintains the quality, accuracy and privacy of patient data, among other responsibilities.

Related Tags