How To Get A Job Without A Degree – Enrollment in undergraduate studies has been declining for the last ten years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, overall undergraduate enrollment decreased by 8 percent between 2010 and 2018. As the COVID-19 pandemic further disrupts higher education and employment prospects, many Americans are evaluating whether a four-year degree is the best path to a successful career.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher levels of education generally correspond to better employment opportunities. In 2019, the overall unemployment rate was 3 percent, but that figure was only 2.2 percent for college graduates, 2 percent for master’s degrees, and 1.1 percent for those with a doctorate. Although unemployment rates have risen sharply this year, research shows that workers with higher education are generally less affected.
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Similarly, individuals with an undergraduate or advanced degree have significantly higher incomes than those without. While the median annual salary for full-time employees at all levels of education in 2019 was $39,810, that for bachelor’s degree holders was $64,896, and the median salary for doctoral and professional degree holders was nearly six figures.
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Although higher education usually leads to a higher salary, the rising cost of education has created an uncertain situation for many bachelor’s degree holders. Since 2003, the total student loan debt of American households has increased by more than 500 percent.
Total outstanding student loan debt currently stands at a whopping $1.54 trillion, second only to mortgage debt. In addition, the student loan delinquency rate was nearly 11 percent in the first quarter of 2020 — the highest rate across all types of loans tracked by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Even if those with a bachelor’s degree earn more after graduation, the difference is not enough to cover loan payments for many borrowers.
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While going to college may seem like the norm, more than 62 percent of American workers do not have a bachelor’s degree. However, the percentage of college graduates varies widely among states. For example, Massachusetts is the only state where more than half of the workforce has a college degree.
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By contrast, in several states in the South and West off the coast, more than 70 percent of workers do not have a college degree. States with the lowest percentage of degree holders include Nevada (73.5 percent), West Virginia (72.3 percent), Arkansas (72 percent) and Mississippi (71.3 percent).
In some states, such as California, there is a huge gap in educational achievement in major metropolitan areas due to differences in local economies. For example, over 80 percent of workers in the Bakersfield and Stockton metros do not have a bachelor’s degree, compared to just over 40 percent of workers in nearby San Jose and San Francisco.
While Bakersfield and Stockton have a disproportionate number of agricultural jobs compared to other major metropolitan areas, San Francisco and San Jose have some of the highest concentrations of workers in computer and math fields, according to U.S. Census data.
The burden of student loan debt, as well as the economic uncertainty of COVID-19, raises the question of whether it is possible to have a lucrative career without a four-year degree. Fortunately, many jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree pay roughly two to three times the national median of $39,810 per year.
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To find the best-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, researchers at Financial analyzed median salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections report. For each job, they also included the projected job growth rate from 2018 to 2028.
Namely, these projections are the most recent available, but the BLS made them before this year. For reference, the projected employment growth between 2018 and 2028 in all occupations is 5.2 percent. Here are the 15 highest paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
Magnetic resonance imaging technicians, or MRI technicians, work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. These specialists use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners on patients to take pictures of internal organs, which helps in the diagnosis of various diseases.
Projected employment growth for MRI technologists, at 10.9 percent, is well above the average for all occupations, reflecting the increased need for health care services as the population ages.
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Web developers can specialize in back-end development (the technical construction of a website), front-end development (how it looks and works to the end user), or both. Projected employment growth for web developers is more than double the national average.
Oil pump system operators, refinery operators and gauges work in the oil and gas industry. These specialists are responsible for tasks such as regulating the flow of oil in pipelines, monitoring equipment to detect problems, and controlling pumping systems within an oil refinery. Employment in this field is expected to decline by 1.9 percent through 2028.
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Another occupation in the healthcare field, diagnostic medical sonographers take diagnostic images or perform diagnostic tests on patients’ internal organs using an ultrasound probe.
Sonographers often specialize in working with certain parts of the body, such as the heart (echocardiographers), blood vessels (vascular technologists), or abdominal organs (abdominal sonographers). Diagnostic medical sonographers also have the highest projected growth rate on this list, at 19.5 percent.
Non-retail sales supervisors are responsible for managing the organization’s sales team and implementing procedures to increase sales. These workers may also be involved in customer service, sales force training and development, and pricing strategy. With 397,600 workers as of 2018, this occupation has the highest employment on this list.
Transport inspectors are tasked with ensuring the safe transport of cargo or passengers by air, rail, sea or road transport. These workers check the transport vehicle’s equipment to ensure it complies with federal regulations and safety standards. The projected employment growth rate for transport inspectors is below the overall average.
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Dental hygienists work in dental offices to perform routine dental cleanings, take dental x-rays, and examine patients for symptoms of oral disease. In addition to a professional degree, dental hygienists must also have a license.
As with the other health professions on this list, the projected employment growth rate for dental hygienists is more than double the overall average.
Funeral directors work in funeral homes and crematoriums to arrange funeral events, file legal documents such as death certificates, and prepare the deceased for burial. Most employers require these workers to pass a state licensing exam as well as possess a funeral or mortuary associate’s degree. With just 23,500 workers, funeral directors have the lowest employment on this list.
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Power plant operators regulate the flow of electricity from power plants to substations, which then distribute electricity to homes and businesses. Power plants can get their energy from sources such as coal, gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind and solar. While only a high school diploma is required in most cases, nuclear power plant operators also need a license.
Detectives and criminal investigators are law enforcement professionals who gather facts and evidence related to a crime. Their duties may include interviewing suspects and witnesses, reviewing records and making arrests.
Although a high school diploma is often enough to become a detective, some agencies like the FBI also require a bachelor’s degree. Detectives usually start out as police officers and therefore must also undergo training through the police academy.
Elevator installers and repairers are responsible for the maintenance of elevators, escalators and other elevators in the building. Most elevator installers and service technicians learn their trade through an apprenticeship program, and a license is also required in most states. Projected employment growth for elevator installers and service technicians is roughly double the overall average for all occupations.
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In addition to flying, commercial pilots are often involved in administrative activities such as flight planning and overseeing routine aircraft maintenance. Commercial pilots must have a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license as well as a high school diploma.
Although pre-coronavirus employment growth was projected at 7.7 percent, reduced demand for air transportation as a result of the pandemic could also change the employment situation for commercial pilots in the near future.
Police supervisors and detectives often have titles such as Chief of Police, Lieutenant, Patrol Sergeant, Police Captain or Chief of Police. These professionals are responsible for training police personnel, monitoring allegations of misconduct and informing the police of new regulations or laws affecting
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