Careers

Top 3 jobs for millennials: 4-year degrees no longer required

Code it, clean it, build it.

The three jobs topping U.S. News and World Report's 2017 Best Jobs for Millennials are web developer, dental hygienist and software developer — jobs that don't require you to rack up four year's worth of student loan debt if you don't want to or can't afford to.

The rankings are based on the responses of more than 1,000 20- to 34-year-olds who were asked what mattered most in their career choice. Salary ranked as the most important to millennials. Work-life balance and stress level followed.

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1. Web developer

Some web developer positions may require a bachelor's degree, but others may require only a high school diploma or specific training, which is more easily accessible with the proliferation of code schools or boot camps since 2011 — schools that promise to teach professional coding skills in just weeks.

But be selective if you go the route of boot camps, which are often offered by for-profit schools. Reuters reports that closures are up, as competition has begun to squeeze out some code schools in an overcrowded field. And the costs can still reach upwards of $24,000 for a 14-week course. Make sure you research the school and its job placement rate.

It's easy to see why this profession ranked so high — it's in-demand, and out-of the-gate salaries are promising.

The median salary for entry-level web developers is about $54,000 a year, according to PayScale. If you're a top performer, your starting salary could be more like $79,000. And if you stick with it and progress to become a senior web developer — meaning you might have 10 or more years of experience under your belt – you could earn significantly more. The median salary of a senior web developer, according to PayScale, is about $87,000 a year, with some peaking at nearly $126,000 depending on individual performance.

Like freedom? In 2016, one in six web developers were self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.)

The BLS projects that employment of web developers will grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, driven by the popularity of ecommerce and mobile devices.

2. Dental hygienist

Dental Hygienist
Portland Press Harold | Getty Images
Dental Hygienist

Becoming a dental hygienist generally requires two years of education, available at a community college, technical college, dental school or university. Once you receive your associate degree, you take licensure examinations at the state, regional or national level, allowing you to work in a dental office. (All states require licenses, but requirements vary.) Higher levels of education are available at universities, if you wish to learn more or earn a higher degree.

The median pay for an entry-level dental hygienist is about $31 per hour, and dental hygienists typically claim high levels of job satisfaction, according to PayScale.

The word is spreading that dental hygienists are happy and make as much money as nurses with a lot less stress, CNN recently reported. Add that to the fact that you don't have to be saddled with four year's worth of student loan debt, and this job choice is booming. Plus, as CNN reported, it can be an affordable way for some students to test the waters to see if they like the dental field, while earning money to pursue a degree to become a dentist.

The future is bright for this profession, with the BLS projecting employment growth of 20 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. The aging population and research that increasingly links oral health to overall health are driving demand for this occupation.

3. Software developer

A computer science degree is the classic educational background for software engineers, but the proportion of new software developers entering the workforce who've earned computer science degrees has declined, according to Stack Overflow's annual developer survey, a sampling of about 64,000 software industry workers.

A recent report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine noted the same trend on a broader level. The growing number of jobs in the computing field — such as software developers — far outpaces the number of students earning bachelor's degrees in computer science and related fields. Students worried about the high cost of universities and wanting to enter the workforce sooner are driving the trend toward low-cost online courses and boot camps, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Of the three top jobs in the U.S. News and World Report list, software developer has the brightest job outlook, with the BLS projecting job growth of 24 percent from 2016 to 2026. And it also ranked as the second best technology job in U.S. News' list of Best Technology Jobs, behind computer systems analyst.

The median entry-level salary for a software developer is $65,044, with the specific employer being the biggest factor affecting pay for this group. The median salary for all software engineers moves up to $81,463, with PayScale noting that most people move on to other jobs if they have more than 20 years' experience in this career.

While some software development jobs don't require a four-year degree, it's important to note that many do. While the marketplace may be flush with software developer jobs, you still have to know what you need to know to do the job, and the degree can be valuable.

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This article originally appeared on PayScale.