15 Terrific Jobs That Don't Require A College Degree

Photo: flickr/brucemckay

College is a great time to figure out what you want to do with your life.But if you’re not on scholarship, it’s an expensive way to think things through. The Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt reports two-thirds of the Class of 2010 graduated in debt, owing more than $25,000 on average.

It’s not uncommon for students to change majors multiple times and still end up in a field different from their degree. I went from computer science to English to communication, briefly flirting with photography somewhere in between. And after I graduated? I went into journalism, which sort of combines them all, but isn’t what my diploma says.

This doesn’t mean college isn’t worth it – for those who pick a field and stick to it, it usually is. Having a degree usually leads to higher lifetime earnings, in part because leadership roles and higher-paying positions tend to require them. And there are plenty of ways to cut college costs, from attending cheaper schools to scoring lots of scholarships and recycling textbook cash.

But college straight out of high school (or ever) isn’t for everybody, and many people get ahead in life pursuing jobs that don’t require a degree. By the time bright-eyed graduates hit the job market looking for their entry-level seats, those grizzled workforce veterans are a rung or two up the ladder with four years of experience under their belts.

A degree may even be an entry barrier in some fields – because practical experience is prized over a piece of paper. Plus, you’re making money instead of spending it. Or, as job search site CareerCast puts it…

Assuming you have no degree but are willing to do some advanced training, such as attending a technical school, you could earn around $30,000 a year as a beginner, if you are sharp. That means that over four years, you’d earn about $120,000, while your counterpart who’s in college earns little or nothing, and may even carry the same amount in debt by graduation.

With that in mind, here are 15 titles CareerCast says are great jobs making over $40,000 a year without a four-year degree

1. Dental hygienist
Income average: $68,000

Income growth (from entry-level to top): 109 per cent

Employment growth (through 2020): 37.70 per cent

2. Online advertising manager
Income average: $87,000

Income growth: 255 per cent

Employment growth: 25.00 per cent

3. Web developer
Income average: $76,000

Income growth: 179 per cent

Employment growth: 21.70 per cent

4. Paralegal assistant
Income average: $47,000

Income growth: 159 per cent

Employment growth: 18.30 per cent

5. Stenographer – court reporter
Income average: $48,000

Income growth: 250 per cent

Employment growth: 14.10 per cent

6. Heating and refrigeration mechanic
Income average: $43,000

Income growth: 158 per cent

Employment growth: 33.70 per cent

7. Surveyor
Income average: $55,000

Income growth: 190 per cent

Employment growth: 25.40 per cent

8. Executive assistant
Income average: $44,000

Income growth: 131 per cent

Employment growth: 12.60 per cent

9. Insurance agent
Income average: $47,000

Income growth: 342 per cent

Employment Growth: 21.90 per cent

10. Industrial machine repairer
Income average: $45,000

Income growth: 127 per cent

Employment growth: 21.60 per cent

11. Tax examiner – collector
Income average: $49,000

Income growth: 207 per cent

Employment growth: 7.30 per cent

12. Wholesales sales representative
Income average: $52,000

Income growth: 304 per cent

Employment growth: 15.60 per cent

13. Construction machine operator
Income average: $40,000

Income growth: 173 per cent

Employment growth: 23.50 per cent

14. Electrical technician
Income average: $56,000

Income growth: 138 per cent

Employment growth: 1.90 per cent

15. Architectural drafter
Income average: $46,000

Income growth: 140 per cent

Employment growth: 3.20 per cent

Can you tell the difference between wealthy and poor neighborhoods? >

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