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25 High-Paying Jobs That Don't Require a 4-Year Degree

Despite what you may have been told your whole life, going to college is not a requirement for earning good money in a career you enjoy. I hear from highly successful people every day on The Ken Coleman Show and The Ramsey Show who never earned a four-year degree. And believe it or not, yours truly never finished college.

To prove that college isn’t the only or even the best path for everyone, here’s a list of 25 high-paying jobs, listed from lowest to highest pay, that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. (By the way, that doesn’t mean they don’t require education—just not a four-year degree.)

25 Jobs That Don’t Require College

25. Solar Photovoltaic Installer

  • Median pay: $48,800
  • Education needed: high school diploma, on-the-job training
  • Job growth rate: 22%

These guys and gals install and maintain solar panel systems that convert sunlight into energy. This job involves traveling to various homes and businesses. If you like being active and outdoors, this could be a great fit for you. And as solar becomes a more popular energy source, we’ll see the demand for this job increase. Folks, 22% is an astronomical growth rate!  

[Note: All median pay calculations were collected in May 2024 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.]

24. Sound Engineering Technician

  • Median pay: $54,160
  • Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award or associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 2%

Sound techs set up and run sound systems for media events. The most common industries for sound techs are radio, TV, music and film. This is typically a high-energy, fast-paced job that involves lots of travel and weekend work.

23. Carpenter

  • Median pay: $56,350
  • Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
  • Job growth rate: 1%

This age-old profession isn’t growing much, but it’s not going away either. It’s a solid choice for people who like to create beautiful and functional things with their hands. Carpenters learn by working with a master of the trade in a formal or informal apprenticeship.

22. Real Estate Agent

  • Median pay: $56,620
  • Education needed: high school diploma, licensing requirements vary by state
  • Job growth rate: 3% 

Real estate agents (or brokers) work with clients to buy and sell homes. The neat thing about real estate is that it’s commission-based, so you eat what you kill. You can put in lots of hours and effort to grow your business, or you can work on a more flexible and part-time schedule. To really succeed as a real estate agent, you must enjoy sales and working with people. 

21. Firefighter

  • Median pay: $57,120
  • Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award
  • Job growth rate: 4%

Lots of kids dream of becoming a firefighter when they’re wondering what to do with their lives when they grow up. Because honestly, firefighters are heroes! They rescue people, animals, buildings and the environment by extinguishing dangerous fires. Becoming a firefighter is a competitive process and will also likely require becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT).  

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20. HVAC Technician

  • Median pay: $57,300
  • Education needed: trade school, long-term on-the-job training
  • Job growth rate: 6% 

These are the superheroes who swoop in to save the day whenever your heating or air conditioning unit goes out. And if you’ve ever lost AC in the middle of summer—or heat in the dead of winter—you understand exactly how big of a deal that is.

19. Hearing Aid Specialist

  • Median pay: $58,670
  • Education needed: high school diploma
  • Job growth rate: 14%

Hearing aid specialists work with audiologists to fit, fix and maintain hearing aids for patients. They also conduct screenings and tests to ensure that the hearing aids are working well. This position offers a mix of technical and interpersonal work. Best of all, you get to give people the gift of hearing, which is simply fantastic!  

18. Sheet Metal Worker

  • Median pay: $58,780
  • Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
  • Job growth rate: 0%

Sheet metal workers can be employed in construction or manufacturing. They create and install products from thin metal sheets. It’s a physically demanding job that requires lifting, bending and squatting.

17. Licensed Practical Nurse

  • Median pay: $59,730
  • Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award
  • Job growth rate: 5%

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work with doctors and registered nurses (RNs) to assist with patient care. They take vital signs, administer medication, and complete paperwork. Unlike RNs, LPNs don’t need a college degree. You can attend an accredited program at a vocational school to get the necessary training. 

16. Surgical Technologist

  • Median pay: $60,370
  • Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award or associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 5%

Surgical techs work with surgeons and nurses to perform operations. They make sure the room is ready for the surgery, prepare all the instruments, and provide the physicians with the tools they need throughout the surgery. 

15. Paralegal or Legal Assistant

  • Median pay: $60,970
  • Education needed: associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 4%

Lawyers need lots of help to work their cases—they can’t do it all alone! That’s where paralegals or legal assistants enter the picture. They support attorneys by performing all sorts of tasks like keeping files organized, writing drafts of legal documents, and even conducting legal research.

14. Plumber

  • Median pay: $61,550
  • Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
  • Job growth rate: 2%

Plumbers install and repair piping systems in homes, factories and businesses. Because plumbers often respond to urgent calls (nothing is worse than a busted toilet!), they’re expected to occasionally work nights and weekends.   

13. Electrician

  • Median pay: $61,590
  • Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
  • Job growth rate: 6%

If working with wires sparks your interest (sorry, dad joke), then you might consider becoming an electrician. You can attend a technical school or find an apprenticeship for on-the-job training. Electricians bring power to buildings, homes, transmission lines and a variety of equipment.

12. Wind Turbine Technician

  • Median pay: $61,770
  • Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award, on-the-job training
  • Job growth rate: 45%

Wind turbines are those huge white windmills that dot the plains of Kansas and other windy parts of the country. As they’ve become a popular source of alternative energy, the job demand for technicians is skyrocketing! Technicians work to install and maintain wind turbines. For this job, you must be willing to spend a lot of time outside, and it’s not recommended for people who are scared of heights.

11. Occupational Therapy Assistant

  • Median pay: $65,450
  • Education needed: associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 23%

Occupational therapy is all about helping people learn and practice skills to live and work. Most occupational therapy takes place after someone has had an accident or when elderly people need help performing daily tasks around their homes. Occupational therapy assistants work with therapists and doctors to help patients in hospitals, nursing homes and therapy offices. It’s an active and interactive job that gives you plenty of opportunities to work with people! Plus, the job growth prospects are looking solid.

10. Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representative

  • Median pay: $73,080
  • Education needed: varies, on-the-job training
  • Job growth rate: 1%

Sales reps can work with a lot of different products in a variety of industries. Many positions are available to people with a high school diploma, but if you’re wanting to get into a more technical product, like medical instruments, you might need a bachelor’s degree.

9. Police Officer and Detective 

  • Median pay: $74,910
  • Education needed: varies
  • Job growth rate: 3%

Law enforcement is a demanding, exciting and rewarding career. Obviously, it’s pretty straightforward: Protect those under your care, get the bad guys, and solve the case. Most positions don’t require anything beyond a high school diploma, but certain positions are more likely to go to candidates with an associate or bachelor’s degree, so going to college might be worth it.

8. Radiologic and MRI Technologist

  • Median pay: $76,020
  • Education needed: associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 6%

Both X-rays and MRIs are diagnostic tools that help physicians and patients understand what’s going on inside the body. Techs are the workers who actually run the tests and work with physicians to get the information needed in order to make a diagnosis and treat patients.

7. Aerospace Technician

  • Median pay: $77,830
  • Education needed: associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 8% 

If you’ve always had a fascination with airplanes and enjoy technical work, then you might consider becoming an aerospace technician. You’ll work with aircraft or spacecraft to test and calibrate systems, as well as install and repair various parts. 

6. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer/Cardiovascular Technologist

  • Median pay: $80,850
  • Education needed: associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 10%

Sonographers use medical equipment to create images of organs, tissues and blood vessels that allow people to understand what’s going on inside their bodies. Cardiovascular techs work with physicians to perform complex procedures related to heart health, such as inserting stents or pacemakers. They also help perform tests to diagnose cardiac health problems in patients.

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These jobs are experiencing higher than average growth, which means you should have plenty of employment opportunities if you go this route!

5. Dental Hygienist

  • Median pay: $87,530
  • Education needed: associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 7%

While cleaning teeth may not be for everyone, dental hygienists get a chance to impact their patients’ lives by taking care of their oral health. They screen patients, take X-rays, remove plaque from teeth, and counsel patients about good hygiene and nutrition habits. Most programs take three years to complete, and you must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in order to practice.

4. Web Developer

  • Median pay: $92,750
  • Education needed: technology training
  • Job growth rate: 16%

Web developers blend a unique set of technical and creative skills to design and build websites. This is a high-demand job that you can find in a variety of agencies or businesses. Or you can even strike out on your own as a freelancer if you’re willing to make solid connections. And the pay is great!

The typical entry-level education for a web developer is a bachelor’s degree, but there are plenty of coders with a full-time job out there who learned the craft outside of a college environment. (We have a ton of them here at Ramsey.) If you think this could be the path for you, reaching out to my friends at Bethel Tech is a great place to start.

3. Nuclear Technician

  • Median pay: $101,740
  • Education needed: associate degree
  • Job growth rate: -1%

Nuclear techs work in nuclear power plants and use computers and other equipment to monitor and run nuclear reactors. They work closely with scientists and engineers, looking at key factors like temperature, pressure and radiation levels. Even though the -1% growth rate for this job doesn’t look very promising on the surface, that just means the number of available positions shouldn’t change much, if at all, over the next 10 years.

2. Elevator Installer and Repairer

  • Median pay: $102,420
  • Education needed: high school diploma
  • Job growth rate: 1%

This is one of those random jobs that most people take for granted. As it turns out, elevator installers and repairers make good money working with their hands. They’re often required to be on call 24 hours a day for repairs. And it’s no surprise that they often work in cramped spaces around heavy machinery. (If you’re afraid of heights, this probably isn’t the job for you!)

1. Air Traffic Controller

  • Median pay: $137,380
  • Education needed: associate degree
  • Job growth rate: 1%

Air traffic controllers have the exciting, high-stakes job of directing air traffic from the ground. They sit in those towers with lots of windows that you see at airports. Air traffic controllers often work nights and weekends to keep up with travel schedules. It’s a demanding job with a rewarding result—making sure people take off, travel and land safely.  

What Career Is Right for You?

Don’t get me wrong—going to college may very well be the best path for you to pursue a career that lets you use your talents, perform your passions, and create results you care deeply about.

But it also may not be, and I want you to be open to that possibility.

College degrees have become a status symbol, and we’ve been told that we’re set up to fail in our careers if we don’t have one, or that we’re “less than” if we take a different route after high school. Don’t listen to that garbage, folks! The 25 jobs we just looked at—and plenty of others—are proof that you can excel and be fulfilled without a degree.

You are the secret sauce to your success in life, not a fancy (and expensive) sheet of paper.

Next Steps

1. Look through the list we just went over to see if any of those potential roles stand out to you. Do any of them fit within your talents or passions?

2. To really get clear on what role is right for you, grab a copy of my new book, Find the Work You’re Wired to Do (which comes with a code to take my Get Clear Career Assessment for free).

Get the Book

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Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is the author of the national bestselling book From Paycheck to Purpose and the #1 national bestseller The Proximity Principle. He hosts The Ken Coleman Show, a caller-driven show that helps listeners find the work they’re wired to do. Ken also co-hosts The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk radio show in America, and makes regular appearances on Fox News and Fox Business. Through his speaking, broadcasting and syndicated columns, Ken gives people expert advice, providing strategic steps to get clear on their unique purpose and grow professionally. Learn More.

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