19 Good Jobs That Don’t Require a 4-Year College Degree

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

You can get a great job without going to college and getting a degree (BS or BA). That’s right.  You can get a fine career even if you haven’t got your degree.

If you (or someone you know) is interested in finding a job, bypassing college could be a really smart move right now. But this is a very individual mission. What’s right for Janice down the street may not be the best move for you.

Going to a trade school or getting an Associate Degree instead might be a brilliant move for you.  And you can land a wonderful career without any school at all if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work.  That’s right.  Many fine employment opportunities are open to those who get on the job training.

I read recently that only 1 in 4 college graduates are finding jobs. On top of that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 of the 10 fastest growing jobs don’t require a 4-year degree. As you might expect, these are service jobs and they’re difficult to outsource. Booyah! Even better. That’s why the opportunities are there.

The question is, how do you decide which trade to get trained in and how do you get the training at the least cost?

Here are the steps I suggest you take:

Flex Your Brain

Make a list of all the jobs you find interesting. Even if you ultimately want to be a business owner rather than an employee, be open-minded. If you want to own a fleet of plumbing trucks one day, start off as a plumber. In fact, you should look at it in reverse. Just because you might start off as a plumber doesn’t mean you can’t own a fleet of plumbing trucks one day. Good jobs without going to college for 4 years might lead to a great business opportunity!

Also, you can learn a trade now and go to college down the road if you so choose- just make sure that you don’t spend money you don’t have to when you get your degree. The point is, nothing you do now is irrevocable.


There are tons of high-paying no degree jobs. According to CNN, Salary.com and other sources (updated 5/17/13), here are 19 top careers that do not require a degree:

  1. Air traffic controller – Annual income: $108,000
  2. Nuclear Operator – $75,600
  3. Registered Nurse – $64,700
  4. Construction Manager $95,956
  5. Radiation Therapist $74,900
  6. Storage and distribution manager – Annual income: $66,600
  7. Transportation manager – Annual income: $77,762
  8. Police and detectives supervisor – Annual income: $64,430
  9. Non-retail sales manager – Annual income: $59,300
  10. Forest fire fighting and prevention supervisor – Annual income: $58,920
  11. Municipal fire fighting and prevention supervisor – Annual income: $58,902
  12. Real estate broker – Annual income: $58,720
  13. Elevator installers and repairer – Annual income: $65,893
  14. Sales representative – Annual income: $62,000
  15. Dental hygienist – Annual income: $66,221
  16. Radiation therapist – Annual income: $72,491
  17. Nuclear medicine technologist – Annual income: $71,212
  18. Child support, missing persons and unemployment insurance fraud investigator – Annual income: $53,900
  19. Criminal investigators and special agent – Annual income: $53,990


  1. Immigration and Customs inspector – Annual income: $53,990
  2. Police identification and records officer – Annual income: $53,990
  3. Commercial pilot – Annual income: $67,500

According to the the U.S. Department of Labor, 2 out of every 3 jobs only require on-the-job training.If you’re competing for one of these jobs, going to college for four years could actually hurt you. Why? Because the other people competing for that job will have had 4 years of experience while you were hanging out at Starbucks with your laptop and iPhone.


Now that you know what you want to do, make sure there is going to be a job waiting for you once you get trained. Just because there are jobs that don’t require a degree doesn’t mean you’ll get one. Investigate!

  • Talk to people in the industry – Ask them about job prospects. Ask what they like and dislike about their jobs. Ask what they think about the future of the industry. I guarantee that if you call 10 people in the industry, 7 will be more than happy to meet with you for a cup of coffee to give you a clear picture. Ask them how they got into the profession, where they got trained and what schools (if any) they’d recommend for you. Most important, ask who else you should meet to learn more. Meet with at least 10 people in the industry to make sure you’re view is accurate.

If you don’t know how to get in touch with people working in the field, no problemo – see step 4 below.


Interview the various trade schools that offer training. Ask to speak with alumni currently working in the industry. Ask if they started their careers without college. Then, when you meet with these folks, ask them for a few other references – people who didn’t necessarily go to the school they graduated from. Talk to those people too. While you’re interviewing the schools, ask about job placement assistance and success rates.

Remember that you only have to spend the money to get trained once but have a lifetime of earnings ahead. If one school costs more but has a far better success rate, it could still be a better bargain.

Oh, and one more thing. If you already have a degree from college and can’t find a job (or your retired and want to earn money) you can still follow these same steps to land one of these awesome jobs.


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