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15 High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree

A survey by Pew Research found that 70% of college graduates thought their degree opened the door to job opportunities. The survey illustrates the prevailing opinion that university-level studies lead to higher-paying jobs. 

However, some high-paying jobs disprove this viewpoint. These careers may require on-the-job training or technical studies, but they do not require a formal four-year degree. With competitive salaries and career advancement opportunities, these professions are attractive to those without a degree and people who want to enter the workforce quickly. 

1. Firefighter

Firefighters primarily focus on extinguishing fires and rescuing people from burning structures. They also respond to other emergencies and can render first aid or conduct rescue operations. 

Firefighting is a desirable career according to the following salary and growth statistics.  

  • Median salary: $51,680;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 4%

To become certified, firefighters receive instruction at specialized firefighting academies in addition to a high school diploma. These programs include firefighting techniques, physical training, and rescue practice. Many jurisdictions also require firefighters to gain EMT certification. 

2. Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers set up and maintain solar panels and related equipment. The job often requires fastening solar panels onto rooftops or in open fields. They also lay wiring, install inverters, and connect the system to the power grid for net metering.  

The following data offers insights into the future outlook for solar PV installers.   

  • Median salary: $45,230;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 22%.

PV installers may take a course at a community or technical school. These classes teach the basics in a few weeks or months. You can also enter this field through an informal apprenticeship, which lasts between a month and a year. 

3. Wind Turbine Technician

Wind turbine technicians specialize in the installation and maintenance of wind turbines. They make electrical and mechanical repairs and often work outdoors at great heights. Most turbines are more than 100 meters (328 feet) above the ground. 

Career outlook data shows the potential rewards and growth for this challenging career. 

  • Median salary: $57,320;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 45%.

This career path typically starts with a certificate or associate degree program in wind technology at a technical college. Technicians undergo long-term on-the-job training to develop the specialized skills required for maintaining and repairing wind turbines.

4. Diesel Mechanic

Diesel mechanics maintain and repair diesel engines. In addition to vehicle engines, diesel power also has industrial applications. Mechanics work with engines in agricultural, mining, construction, and manufacturing equipment. 

The job may involve repairing crankshafts or replacing cracked cylinder heads. The job can also involve remanufacturing widely-used diesel engines like the Cat C15

Here is the career outlook data for diesel mechanics. 

  • Median salary: $54,360;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 1%.

The career path for a diesel mechanic starts at a technical or trade school or apprenticeship program. Once employed, mechanics go through a three to four-year training period. After this, they reach journey-level status and can work independently. 

5. Hearing Aid Specialist

Hearing aid specialists select and fit hearing aids for patients. They work directly with patients and conduct tests to evaluate equipment performance. In this job, you work for healthcare providers or personal care retailers. 

The following career data for hearing aid specialists shows why it is an attractive career for those without a degree.

  • Median salary: $59,020
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 11% (this estimate is for audiologists, who refer patients to hearing aid specialists for fitting). 

There are two ways to enter this career. One is to complete an associate degree program, and the other is to find an apprenticeship with an organization approved by the International Hearing Society. 

6. Massage Therapist

Massage therapists use techniques to relieve pain, treat musculoskeletal conditions, and aid relaxation. In this career, you work one-on-one with patients or clients in a clinical or studio setting. Some therapists specialize in one technique, such as sports massage or shiatsu, while others can perform several techniques. 

Here is a look at the growth forecast and salary for this hands-on profession.  

  • Median salary: $49,860;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 18%.

Massage therapists undergo training in specialized programs and take licensing exams with their state massage therapy board to prove their knowledge before starting to work. 

7. Electrician

Electricians specialize in wiring and electrical fixture installation and repair in residential, commercial, or industrial settings. Electricians diagnose problems, fix them, and read blueprints to properly place wiring and fixtures. 

The following job information helps explain why tradespeople are attracted to an electrician career path. 

  • Median salary: $60,240
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 6%

Electricians undergo a four to five-year apprenticeship. The process may include classroom work at a trade school. Unions, professional associations, and trade organizations often offer apprenticeship opportunities. 

8. Plumber

Plumbers handle the installation, maintenance, and repairs of water and sewer systems. They install and repair piping, fixtures, and equipment in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. 

Here is a look at salary and growth projections for plumbers. 

  • Median salary: $60,090;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 2%.

Like other tradespeople, plumbers can take vocational school courses before undergoing a four or five-year apprenticeship program. In most states, plumbers then pass an exam to work independently. 

9. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) provides direct healthcare services to patients. In this job, you record vital signs, dispense medication, handle basic treatments, and monitor patient's conditions. 

The following data demonstrates why this job is a desirable entry point into the healthcare industry.  

  • Median salary: $54,620
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 5%

Even though this career is an entry point for nursing, it typically takes one year of study. LPNs need to pass the NCLEX-PN before receiving a license. LPNs often start working before pursuing an RN or other healthcare designation. 

10. Medical Records Technician

Medical records technicians create, maintain, and organize patient information for billing and providing information to caregivers. Technicians use Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes to record diagnoses and treatments. 

Here is a look at the promising career outlook data for medical records technicians. 

  • Median salary: $47,180
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 8%

Though some employers provide on-the-job training to high school graduates, others seek applicants with a certificate or an associate degree in health information technology or a related field. These programs take a few months to two years to complete. 

11. Community Health Worker

Community health workers (CHWs) focus on preventive care and health education within the community. They help members of the community access healthcare and improve their health through preventative care measures. 

Community health workers can expect the following career outlook:

  • Median salary: $46,190;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 14%

Community health workers can start with a high school diploma and on-the-job training. However, certificate and associate degree programs in social work or public health can also serve as an entry point for this career path. 

12. Truck Driver

Truck drivers carry cargo in heavy vehicles and trailers. In addition to driving long distances, this job involves route planning, ensuring vehicle maintenance, and making deliveries. 

Truck drivers can expect the following salary and job growth:

  • Median salary: $49,920;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 4%

Truck drivers need a high school diploma and a commercial driver's license (CDL). Three to six-month driving programs prepare students for a CDL exam, which they must pass to receive their license. 

13. Transportation Inspector

Transportation inspectors monitor aviation, railways, and highways to ensure vehicles, equipment, and operations meet safety standards. This job requires working in the field to check transit operations and equipment in the normal environment. 

Here is a glimpse of the pay and outlook projections for transportation inspectors.  

  • Median annual salary: $79,570;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 13%

Qualifications differ depending on where you work. For instance, certain aviation inspecting agencies require you to become certified with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) while vehicle inspection agencies provide on-the-job training. 

14. Flight Attendant

Flight attendants assist passengers, serve food and refreshments, and ensure security in the passenger cabin. They are also responsible for directing passengers in the event of an emergency. 

Here is an outlook on salary and growth among flight attendants:  

  • Median salary: $63,760;
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: 11%.

Flight attendants need to pass a physical exam and earn certification from the FAA to ensure they understand emergency procedures. 

15. Postmaster

A postmaster manages operations at a post office. They handle administrative duties and oversee staff, ensuring logistical efficiency and on-time mail delivery. Postmasters can also hire and fire staff and delegate tasks. 

Here is an outlook of the expected growth and salary among postmasters:

  • Median salary: $82,760
  • Employment growth rate by 2032: -8%.

Postmasters are often post employees who start sorting or delivering mail. They progress to senior roles after gaining on-the-job experience. The entry-level requirement for a postal job is a high school diploma.

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