13 Great Careers You Don't Need a College Degree For
Everyone deserves to make a living in a job they enjoy, regardless of if they go to college. While some may think only of food service or retail—great fields for lots of people!—those aren't the only options if you want a decent job without a college degree. Many people we rely on in our daily lives have a high school education and some training.
A passion for customer service and a strong work ethic could elevate you to the top of many career pools. For instance, health, fitness, and wellness careers may be great if you love helping others. If you like working with your hands, jobs in utilities or machinery could be perfect. Tech and banking jobs are great for analytical minds.
And, of course, careers in beauty combine of all the above!
Read on to learn more about 13 popular careers that don't need college degrees.
#13: Bank Teller
Pros: Bank tellers are entry-level, with little prior training needed. The schedule and hours are often consistent, and the salary and benefits may be attractive. Tellers often get insurance, retirement, and more if working full-time. Even part-timers get federal holidays and (often) Sundays off.
Cons: Roles could fall by 12% between 2021-2031, which may be due to the rise of online banking. The work can also be mentally tiring, with high math skills and accuracy required.
Education Required: Bank tellers need a high school diploma or its equal. Some choose to take college courses in subjects like finance, but a degree is rarely required.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: New tellers usually have about a month of on-the-job training.
Salary Range: $28,120-$46,320, with an average of $36,310
The Bottom Line: Being a bank teller can be a great entry-level finance position. If you're good with numbers and the public, you could also set yourself up for future success. But, in today's digital world, positions are on the decline.
Pros: Being a cosmetologist can be ideal for those who love to help others feel good about themselves. It's also in high demand, with an 11% rise in job roles predicted between 2021-2031. Each day is different, and it's a job you can do anywhere in the world.
Cons: Cosmetologists are often on their feet all day, and the hours can be long. You also need to work up close and personal with a range of people. Some of them may not always be the nicest or, in some cases, cleanest.
Education Required: Cosmetologists typically complete a training program at a beauty school or an apprenticeship before getting a license.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: Training runs from around 1,000 training hours to over 2,000. The cost differs depending on the school you attend, from around $5,000 to over $15,000. If you opt for an apprenticeship, you generally have to get paid for your working hours.
Salary Range: $20,860-$59,070, with an average of $29,680
The Bottom Line: If you love people and aren't afraid of hard work, cosmetology could be a rewarding career. The days can be long and tiring, but there's room for advancement in this in-demand field.
Pros: Being an electrician is typically a steady career choice that's unlikely to go out of style. Roles are set to increase by 7% between 2021-2031. It doesn't need a degree, instead requiring on-the-job training or vocational school. It isn't a one-note career, either. Some work in homes or businesses doing repairs, while others are in public utilities.
Cons: While the role doesn't need a degree, apprenticeships can take years to complete and may not pay much. (But, they DO pay!) The hours can be long, and the job carries a certain amount of risk.
Education Required: Electricians usually need at least a high school education or similar. Many start their careers via an apprenticeship. But, it's also possible to train through a vocational program.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: Electrician apprenticeships usually last a few years. Vocational school programs vary in time and cost, from a few months and under $3,000 to over a year and $19,000.
Salary Range: $37,020-$99,800, with an average of $63,640
The Bottom Line: Electricians are always in demand. It's steady work with room for advancement via specializing, business ownership, and more. The hours can be long and, at times, dangerous, but the salary potential reflects this.
Pros: Esthetics is one of the fastest-growing industries in America. Work involves helping people feel the best about themselves, which can be rewarding. There's plenty of room for specialization and career advancement, too.
Cons: The hours can be long, and the job isn't always particularly well-paid. Esthetics involves being in close quarters with people, often during evenings or weekends.
Education Required: Estheticians often need to pass classes or an apprenticeship and get a license.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: This varies from state to state, from 250 training hours to over 1,500. The cost depends on location, length of the program, and specific school, running from around $3,000 to $10,000.
Salary Range: $23,100-$65,680, with an average of $37,300
The Bottom Line: Esthetics may be ideal if you love making people feel great and have an interest in beauty. The role can be tiring and often involves late nights or weekends. But, with the right training, there's plenty of room to specialize and advance.
#9: Fitness Trainer
Pros: Being a fitness trainer could be wonderful if you love being active and helping others. Hours are often flexible, and with the right clients and experience, you could rake in some big bucks. And it's not all high-intensity or fast-paced. Many specialize in fields like yoga or topics related to alternative medicine.
Cons: Fitness trainers can be prone to injury, and the role can become difficult as you get older. It can also involve working during the evenings and weekends.
Education Required: Fitness trainers need a high school education or its equal. A sports science or healthcare degree may be helpful, but you rarely need one. Certain fields, such as personal training, mandate certification.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: This depends on the path taken. Basic certification can cost as little as $200 and take a few weeks of training, either on the job or in school. Specializing adds time and money, but it could pay off in the long run.
Salary Range: $22,960-$75,940, with an average of $40,700
The Bottom Line: If you love keeping fit and helping others meet goals, working as a fitness trainer may be for you. The role requires a high level of physical fitness and, as such, may not be a life-long career. But, it can lead to other opportunities.
#8: Industrial Machinist
Pros: This job is perfect for people who love working with their hands and aren’t afraid of getting a little dirty. Demand for industrial machinery workers is high, with a 14% rise in roles predicted between 2021-2031.
Cons: The hours are long and not always particularly well-paid. The work is physically demanding, and injuries are common. Some can end a career if severe enough.
Education Required: A high school education (or equivalent) is usually required. Most go on to an apprenticeship, vocational program, or associate degree.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: This varies depending on the route taken. Apprenticeships typically take three to four years to complete, and you must be paid for them. Vocational programs take less time—several months—but can cost thousands.
Salary Range: $37,370-$79,270, with an average of $59,380
The Bottom Line: Working in industrial machinery may be perfect if you’re technically minded, love hands-on work, and don’t mind long days. It’s in demand but also carries an element of physical risk.
#7: Massage Therapist
Pros: Massage therapy is, like many other wellness careers, on the rise. Jobs are expected to increase by 20% between 2021-2031. The job also has the possibility of travel, with opportunities available on cruise ships, in spas, and more.
Cons: The job can be physically demanding, and the hours may include evenings and weekends. Shifts can be unpredictable, with some days packed with appointments and others empty.
Education Required: Most states need you to have a non-degree award or license. Estheticians and cosmetologists may also be able to perform massage services.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: It varies depending on the state. For example, Delaware requires 300 training hours, whereas New York requires 1,000. Massage therapy programs tend to cost $500 to $5,000.
Salary Range: $24,450-$77,600, with an average of $46,910
The Bottom Line: Being a massage therapist may be right for you if you like helping people feel at ease and improve their health. You also need to be interested in anatomy. Demand is high, and the role could take you all over the world. Many work in luxurious locations, including spas, hotels, and on cruise ships.
#6: Medical Assistant
Pros: Being a medical assistant can be incredibly rewarding. You could have a hands-on healthcare career minus the money and time needed to train for similar jobs. Demand is high, and there's a huge opportunity for progression.
Cons: The hours are long, and the work can be draining, both physically and emotionally. Working environments are strict, and hospital settings add personal health and safety risks.
Education Required: Most medical assistants complete training at a vocational school. It's also possible to learn via on-the-job training.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: Most medical assistant programs take nine months to two years. Costs vary, running from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Salary Range: $29,070-$48,170, with an average of $37,190
The Bottom Line: If you want a healthcare career without spending years in school, being a medical assistant could be perfect. Workers perform administrative and basic clinical duties under the direction of a physician.
#5: Pharmacy Technician
Pros: Becoming a pharmacy technician often leads to a reliable career with a steady paycheck. Healthcare, including pharmacy work, will always be in demand. Training usually takes around 12 months, and you get to help people maintain or gain health.
Cons: Working as a pharmacy technician can mean night shifts and weekends spent at work. The job can be stressful, as many patrons may be sick and scared (so perhaps a bit grumpy!). Plus, you have to deal with medical providers, insurance companies, and red tape drama. So, you need high levels of customer service skills and tons of patience.
Education Required: The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists must recognize at least 600 of your training hours, though the actual number of hours could be higher. Cost varies, with most between $500-$5,000.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: It usually takes around one year to train as a pharmacy technician. Cost varies, with most programs falling between $500-$5,000.
Salary Range: $28,740-$47,580, with an average of $36,740
The Bottom Line: If you want to work in medicine and have a special interest in chemistry, consider becoming a pharmacy technician. It requires customer service skills and may involve late nights and weekends. But, you get to help people with wellness and, perhaps, start your path toward further opportunities in healthcare.
Pros: Being a phlebotomist can be rewarding. The job lets those who love to chat with new people have a chance to ease their fears and assist in their treatments. It provides a steady income, often with good benefits. The role is in demand, with a predicted job role rise of 10% between 2021-2031.
Cons: Above all, you have to be comfortable with blood, since you spend your day drawing it. You also need a lot of patience, as patients may be scared, angry, or prone to fainting. There are also health risks when working with bloodborne pathogens and sharp needles.
Education Required: Most phlebotomists complete training at vocational or technical schools. But, some positions are available with a diploma (or equivalent) and on-the-job training. Online training may also be available.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: Most phlebotomy programs last around a year and cost $300-$1,500 or more.
Salary Range: $28,990-$48,490, with an average of $37,380
The Bottom Line: Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations. They often follow patients' leads to distract or engage them during the procedure. This could be idle chit-chat, talking about the procedure, or anything in between. But, it can also be stressful, with long hours, risk of injury, and exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
#3: Registered Nurse
Pros: Working as a registered nurse (RN) is all about helping people, healing, and physical improvement. It's a great option for those who love working with the public and is a reliable, in-demand career with a good salary.
Cons: RN shifts are long and exhausting, which can take a physical and mental toll. It's a stressful environment at times, with risks of harm and exposure to illnesses.
Education Required: RNs need licenses, which can often be earned at vocational schools. Many jobs require RNs to ultimately get a bachelor's degree, but the employers may help cover costs..
Typical Length and Cost of Training: The time and cost of RN training vary depending on which path you take. Diplomas often take less time and money than degrees, which can take years and cost thousands.
Salary Range: $59,450-$120,250, with an average of $77,600
The Bottom Line: Being an RN is a prestigious, rewarding career that could last for a lifetime. The pay is above average, with added benefits and the knowledge that you're helping people. The job involves long hours and stressful or dangerous situations, but you could find ways to advance to positions that may carry less risk. For instance, nurse estheticians don't generally face the same risks as ER nurses.
#2: Web Developer
Pros: Being a web developer might prove ideal for creative, tech-savvy people. It also may allow for a high level of autonomy, with the potential for self-employment, and can pay very well. The tech industry is booming, with web development jobs predicted to rise by 23% between 2021-2031.
Cons: Web developers must keep on top of new software and industry developments. The job can be stressful, with long hours, demanding clients, and strict deadlines.
Education Required: It's possible to work as a web developer with a high school diploma alone. But, with more people joining the field every day, extra qualifications can make you stand out. Certification, continuing education, and, of course, degree programs are available.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: Training varies wildly. Some are at-home courses that last only a few weeks and cost a few hundred dollars. Others are multi-year degrees costing $60,000 or more. Many are even self-taught, though you need to have an excellent portfolio to get started that way.
Salary Range: $38,280-$129,760, with an average of $77,030
The Bottom Line: If you're passionate about technology and design, web development could be a rewarding career. It's also often ideal for those who want to work for themselves. However, the long hours and stress required can make the role feel grueling.
#1: Wind Turbine Technician
Pros: If you're adventurous, love being outdoors, and have no fear of heights or tight spaces, consider working as a wind turbine technician. Plus, few can say they literally "have all the power" like wind turbine technicians can. After all, they help turn wind into electricity! Like other careers in public utilities, it's an in-demand position. Jobs are predicted to grow by 44% between 2021-2031. The pay is also above average.
Cons: Most wind turbine technicians work full-time during the day. But, you should be ready to be called to help during emergencies. It can also be stressful and downright scary at times. There's a risk of injury or even death if a workplace accident occurs.
Education Required: Most go to vocational schools or community colleges for wind energy technology certificates. Some choose to earn an associate degree.
Typical Length and Cost of Training: The time and money spent on training vary. It could take as little as seven months and cost around $3,000. Degree-level qualifications take much longer and cost more.
Salary Range: $46,420-$77,810, with an average of $56,260
The Bottom Line: Wind turbine technician jobs involve varied days and a strong work ethic. You need a passion for improving the day-to-day lives of the public while seeking adventure.
FAQs About Jobs That Don't Need Degrees
Some great jobs truly don't need college degrees. But, there's a lot of misinformation out there. Here are a few frequently asked questions—and answers—to help you figure out your ideal career.
Can I Actually Make a Living Without a Degree?
Yes! In fact, you can thrive. For example, web developers average $77,030 per year—almost $20,000 more than the average of all careers as of 2021! And with experience, continuing education, and hard work, these jobs have growth opportunities.
Is it Harder to Get Jobs Without a Degree?
It can be harder to get a job without a degree, but not always. Companies are increasingly opening doors for people without degrees.
Do I Need to Keep Training After I Start my Non-Degree Jobs?
You may need to take continuing education courses to keep your license or get promotions.
Do I Need a High School Diploma to Get a Job?
You need a high school diploma or the equivalent (such as a GED or HSA) for many jobs, particularly if you want to advance. Local community colleges often have preparation classes for such exams.