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17 good jobs that don't require a 4-year degree

Maybe you have no interest in college or the price tag is an impediment. It's still possible to earn a good living without a bachelor's degree.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 28, 2014 12:44PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyAt an early age, I was taught to study as hard as I could in school so I could get into college, land a high-paying job and retire with a hefty sum in savings.

This sounded fine and dandy, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen to those who headed straight to the working world after high school?

Many have made the decision to do that, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 18.7 percent of Americans hold a bachelor's degree, while 29.5 percent didn't continue their education beyond high school. Some drop out of college, perhaps thinking they'll be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

The average starting salary for new college graduates last year was $44,928, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The average student loan debt is about $26,000.

The good news is that you can earn comparable pay in some jobs if you head into the workforce straight out of high school or complete an associate degree.

Here are 17 jobs that don't require a four-year degree and pay a nice salary or wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Note: Some of these jobs require lengthy on-the-job training and apprenticeships. Search the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook for details.

1. Dental hygienist

Median income: $70,210 annually ($33.75 hourly).

Income range (lowest to highest 10 percent): about $46,540 to about $96,280.

Job growth outlook through 2022: 33 percent.

Required level of education: associate degree.

2. Registered nurse

Median income: $65,470 annually ($31.48 hourly).

Income range: $45,040 to $94,720.

Job growth outlook: 19 percent.

Required level of education: associate degree.

3. Web developer

Median income: $62,500 annually ($30.05 hourly).

Income range: $33,550 to $105,200.

Job growth outlook: 20 percent.

Required level of education: associate degree.

4. Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers

Median income: $43,640 annually ($20.98 hourly).

Income range: $27,330 to $68,990.

Job growth outlook: 21 percent.

Required level of education: postsecondary non-degree award.

5. Construction manager

Median income: $82,790 annually ($39.80 hourly).

Income range: $49,680 to $144,520.

Job growth outlook: 16 percent.

Required level of education: high school diploma or higher.

Engineer with handheld computer © Image Source, Getty Images6. Industrial machinery mechanic

Median income: $45,840 annually ($22.04 hourly).

Income range: $29,020 to $69,990.

Job growth outlook: 17 percent.

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent.

7. Electrician

Median income: $49,840 ($23.96 hourly).

Income range: $30,420 to $82,930.

Job growth outlook: 20 percent.

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent.

8. Brick mason

Median income: $44,950 annually ($21.61 hourly).

Income range: $28,980 to $77,950.

Job growth outlook: 34 percent.

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent.

9. Air traffic controller

Median income: $122,530 annually ($58.91 hourly).

Income range: $64,930 to $171,340.

Job growth outlook: 1 percent.

Required level of education: associate degree.

10. Telecommunications equipment installer

Median income: $54,530 annually ($26.22 hourly).

Income range: $30,840 to $75,040.

Job growth outlook: 4 percent.

Required level of education: postsecondary non-degree award.

11. Paralegal and legal assistant

Median income: $46,990 annually ($22.59 hourly).

Income range: $29,420 to $75,410.

Job growth outlook: 17 percent.

Required level of education: associate degree.

12. Plumber

Median income: $49,140 annually ($23.62 hourly).

Income range: $29,020 to $84,440.

Job growth outlook: 21 percent.

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent.

13. Real estate brokers and sales agents

Median income: $41,990 annually ($20.19 hourly).

Income range: $12.32 to $85.07 hourly.

Job growth outlook: 11 percent.

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent.

14. Firefighter

Median income: $45,250 annually ($21.75 hourly).

Income range: $22,030 to $79,150.

Job growth outlook: 7 percent.

Required level of education: postsecondary non-degree award.

15. Chef

Median income: $42,840 annually ($20.42 hourly).

Income range: $24,530 to $74,120.

Job growth outlook: 5 percent.

Required level of education: high school diploma or equivalent.

16. Radiation therapist

Median income: $77,560 annually ($37.29 hourly).

Income range: $51,720 to $113,810.

Job growth outlook: 24 percent.

Required level of education: associate degree.

17. Mortician

Median income: $51,600 annually ($24.81 hourly).

Income range: $28,100 to $94,860.

Job growth outlook: 12 percent.

Required level of education: associate degree.

Do you have any additional recommendations?

More on Money Talks News:

Mar 28, 2014 2:36PM
Imagine straight out of high school you start at a company stuffing checks into envelopes. After a while, the boss has you helping him print the checks, and that he has you start managing the payables. You do so well with that he asks you to start depositing the checks that come in, and soon you manage the receivables too. 5 or 6 years in, you know more about practical real world finance than most college graduates.

That's where the job is. Too many people think that there are "walk on" positions between $50k - $80k. And it's even worse when people have a degree. They figure they invested $30k and 4 years, they should be able to command a bigger salary. But the reality is, without starting at the bottom, and paying your dues, it's hard to come by a high paying job regardless of your education. 
Mar 28, 2014 9:02PM
They forgot to mention the ever growing medicinal marijuana growers cutters etc.
Mar 31, 2014 9:36AM
All my bosses, I have ever been under did not have a degree of any kind and made very good money too. You'd be surprised how many city, state and federal employees who are in management position make over $60,000 a year. One of my closes friends who is now retired from the federal government was making about $95,000 a year after 35 years of service and was over an entire office. She had only two years of college and did not graduate. I know two city clerks who make over $60,000 a year now and each never attended college at all. Also, I might add, my sister is an manger at AT&T and makes over $50,000 a year and she too, never attended college, either. Yet, I have a two year degree and do not make anywhere close to what some of them make. So, yes, if you are smart, you don't have to have a college degree for some positions. It's not what you know, in lots of cases, it's who you know that gets you the higher paying jobs. Plus, working for a company or government and working your way up the ladder helps, I might add. Plus, I know many others who are doing quite well without a degree also.
Mar 28, 2014 9:43PM
An ACA supporter, Oh wait you have to have a degree of stupidity for that.
Mar 28, 2014 10:36PM
Dental Hygienists require a four year degree and it is one of the hardest majors out there.  To get into the program AFTER an Associates degree stressing science, science,  science, you had better have a 3.5 or better to even be considered!  The information in this article is wrong. 
I knew Casey would comment on this article with the same BS he always does while eating Cheetos and playing on the computer instead of finding a job.
Mar 28, 2014 4:24PM
Seems like there are never enough plumbers. I am in the construction field and they are always the ones with the most work. Hard work and a lot of training and it is not like we need millions of them therefore a limited field as well
Mar 28, 2014 1:34PM
lol construction 45,000- 82,000 LMAO where in new york or calirofnia? they make on average here 10-12.00 an that isnt 82,000 a year.. in fact i dont think thats even 40,000.....yeah these jobs pay really high in the expensive states-
Mar 28, 2014 1:56PM

Paralegal was THE job  in the 80's and 90's,  then there was the whole push to require certain billable hours be differential between admin staff and paralegals - law offices then sent their already-trained clerical workers through a 12-week program to become certified so they could charge more for work once done by the same employee, but now as a paralegal.  So why hire someone fresh out of paralegal school when you already have experienced staff? Add to that the law students willing to intern for free to gain experience to help them post-grad......

If you are a recent H.S. or college grad without debt yet (no mortgage, no kids, no car) and a  Liberal Arts degree and facing flipping burgers for a living, or you have a spouse/partner who can pick up the financial slack, paralegal might  ultimately pay off  in a few years. But if you are looking to make a career switch or just lost your job, don't pay some trade school, regardless of how well they are accredited, and go further into debt for a job that might get you a starting salary of $22 - 25k a year. If you can actually get a job in the field.

Mar 31, 2014 12:11PM
Mar 31, 2014 4:11PM

Going in to the field of nursing is a wonderful idea, but more and more Doctors offices, Pharmacies, Hospitals, etc, are looking for Phaician assistants or they prefer a nurse with his or her bachelors degree. The Nursing choice was a little misleading....


Mar 28, 2014 10:31PM
 best part time job I know of.The hourly rate is $30 and but that is the strait time rate, a weekend warrior in the maintenance department earn time and half on Saturday and double time on Sundays and holidays plus you don't need to work the 40 hours first or need a 4 year degree. There are great jobs that pay well.
Mar 30, 2014 5:13PM
Interesting how college graduates are listed by starting salary and these jobs are listed by median salary.  And every listing of $/hr assume that every one of these jobs requires 2080 hrs/yr - some of them require a lot more than that.

Strangely, certificated auto mechanic should be there but isn't. There's a shortage of them and with the lots of overtime available some guys who came through vo tech training (before Bush and No Child Left Behind destroyed vo tech) and can do air conditioning, frame adjusting, etc. are earning $100K per year in their mid 20's or 30's.

Note that some jobs require considerable training - my guess it you don't have a good chance at an air traffic controllers job without initial training in the military.

Mar 31, 2014 8:32AM
Good luck with Air Traffic Control.  Recent new changes this year, they forego any education and experience. Instead you take a 62 questions than go off if it. Some of the questions are as odd as What is your favorite color.
I even took a special Air Traffic Control Associates Degree Program. Waste of money. Since they changed hiring procedures. Pilot, Bachelors and Associates in other areas, Air Force Vet, and Associates in Air Traffic Control, 62 question thing says I'm not qualified. Too funny.
Don't get and education or vocational background. You'll bounce around life like a ping pong ball.
I'm just glad I have a good job already.
Mar 31, 2014 11:13AM
I do know a person who puts clothes and make-up on deceased person for the veiwing nd all. Don't know if she is a Mortician or a helper but drives nice car and owns (mortgage probably) a fine respectable home !!!! Known her for years (in passing ) bot never remember her attending any school .
Apr 5, 2014 8:31PM
If anyone is looking for a job. The railroads are in desperate need out west. Especially in North Dakota. I am a locomotive engineer in Seattle, and I am making over 100k a year. Typically in train service you would start out making 60k a year and possibly more. If you would like more info
Mar 31, 2014 1:25PM
Article here the other day about unemployment. Said Yuma has a 27% unemployment rate but there are thousands of migrant workers that spend hours every morning getting across the border to work in the fields. Obviously the Americans on unemployment around Yuma are too good to do the jobs available so we should pay them to sit on their couch while these Mexican workers are willing to do whatever it takes to make things better for their families. I'm all for helping the downtrodden but I'm getting tired of supporting people that are above getting their hands dirty and actually working for a living. There is no bigger incentive to look for a job than working at a crappy one. After 26 weeks of unemployment people should have to report to the unemployment office every day so that they can go out and do all those jobs that are currently being done by illegal immigrants or migrant workers. Go pick fruit or make beds and scrub toilets in a hotel. Try that for awhile and I bet a lot of these people would find something to do. No more extensions on unemployment. 99 weeks, what a waste. 
Apr 10, 2014 9:32AM
Get a job fixing mail processing equipment at the post office. You have to pass a competitive test and not mind working for psychopathic managers who need help tying their shoes but you will make $50-70k when you make top rate (about 6 years). You have to travel to Oklahoma a few times a year for training (2 to 6 weeks at a time) and you have no say when that might be.

 They keep you busy and sometimes drive you nuts but the pay is decent.
Mar 31, 2014 12:10PM
I heard in Tennessee all you have to do is, show your pearly whites to excel in one of those 17 jobs.
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