While attending college can be a great way to prepare for a successful career, it's a fact that not every occupation that pays well requires a degree. If you're thinking that college isn't for you, consider one of the career fields where you can earn strong wages without graduating from college. While some training may be needed to succeed in these fields, the time and expense required to enter these occupations is much less than those that require a degree.
Eight Lucrative Careers That Don't Require Degrees
The highest paying career fields that don't require a college education aren't concentrated in one type of industry. Opportunities exist in skilled trades as well as information technology, general business, healthcare and other fields.
According to CareerCast, the median annual pay for electricians is $49,840, and the need for skilled electricians is expected to increase 20% by the year 2022. The 24/7 Wall St. website lists electrician as one of the best high-tech occupations you can do without a college degree.
U.S. News & World Report includes this career in its list of the best construction jobs, indicating that working as an electrician requires four or more years working as an apprentice, followed by becoming licensed in accordance with state requirements.
Power Plant Operator
The Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that median wages for power plant operators were $68,230 per year as of 2012, though the number of people employed in this occupation is likely to decline by eight percent between 2012 and 2022. BLS specifies that graduating from high school or earning the equivalent of a high school diploma is sufficient for entry into this field.
This occupation is included on the BusinessInsider.com list of high-paying career options that do not require a bachler's degree.
Commercial Airline Pilot
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average pay for airline pilots and other commercial pilots was $98,410 as of 2012, with little to no change expected in the number of people employed in the field through 2022. An ABC News story mentioned working as an airline pilot as a good job that does not require a degree. This occupation is also included on Military.com's list of jobs that pay well without having a degree requirement.
CareerCast indicates that the median annual compensation for professional web developers is $62,500, and the occupation is expected to expand 20% by 2022. According to CNN Money, the reason wages are so high for this occupation is simply "because companies can't meet all the demand for workers. The job is still too new, and the labor pool is not quite large enough yet."
While coding skills are necessary to work in this field, formal education is not. As an article on the After College blog points out, what you really need to succeed in this field is "the determination and the stick-to-itiveness to teach yourself how to code."
Computer Service Technician
CareerCast indicates that the median earnings for computer service technicians, sometimes called computer support specialists, are $48,900, and the need for skilled workers in this field is expected to increase by 17% as of 2022. U.S. News & World Report lists this occupation on its list of the best technology jobs, and it's one that doesn't necessarily require a college degree.
According to TechRepublic.com, staying current with relevant information technology certifications is the most important factor for people who want to work in this field.
Insurance Claims Adjuster
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for insurance claims adjusters (combined with examiners, investigators and appraisers) was $59,850 as of 2012, with the field projected to increase 3% by 2022.
BusinessInsider.com included claims adjusters on its 2013 list of the best highly-compensated positions for which a college degree is not required. While most states require claims adjusters to be licensed, there is no higher education requirement for this occupation.
According to CareerCast, the median compensation for paralegals is $46,990, and the field is predicted to increase 17% by 2022. According to U.S. News & World Report, which includes this occupation on its list of the top jobs in social services, "There are no set requirements for becoming a paralegal."
It is possible to get the training necessary to work as a paralegal through a short-term certificate program, and ParalegalAlliance.com indicates that the "quickest route to becoming a paralegal is to go directly from high school into a certification program."
The median annual earnings for dental hygienists are $70,210, and the field is expected to expand 33% by the year 2022, according to CareerCast. HealthcarePathway.com describes this occupation as "a great choice for a secure, well paying job in healthcare without requiring a four-year degree."
While you don't have to have a college degree to become a dental hygienist, it is necessary to become licensed in the state where you will be working in order to be employed. While licensure requirements vary by state, the American Dental Hygienists' Association indicates that most states require at least successful completion of an approved dental hygiene certificate program, successful completion of clinicals and a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.
Making Your Decision
If you're searching for a rewarding career that won't require completion of a college degree, one of these occupations may be right for you. These occupations can also be good choices for people who already have a degree and are having trouble finding rewarding work with a strong salary.
The required amount of education and training isn't the only factor you should consider when selecting an occupation. Consider your aptitude, work environment preferences and the job market - present and future - in the geographic area where you would like to live and work.