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Jobs That Require No College Degree

Farnoosh Torabi

It’s no secret that higher education comes with a much higher price tag these days. The cost of a four-year college degree is rising far faster than inflation, with graduates racking up nearly a trillion dollars in student loan debt.  But, you don’t have to break the bank to get ahead. Here are several careers that require just a two-year degrees or less to get started.
Health Care Employees
“The health care industry is a great industry to move into because of the aging population and the increased demand for health care services,” says Katie Bardaro, director of analytics at PayScale.com. “There are plenty of job opportunities for people from all ranges of education and skilled backgrounds.”
Just about any career in this industry is expected to have above-average job growth. For instance, the number of ultrasound technicians is forecast to grow 44% by 2020. Other fast-growing jobs in this field include registered nurses, medical records coding managers, occupational therapy assistants and sonographers.
Plus, the industry is growing nationwide, so job opportunities aren’t limited to a particular region. An associate’s degree is all you need to get started in many health care professions.

Similarly, dental hygienists can enter their field after earning an associates degree. With a median starting salary around $61,000, the pay—and the hours—are pretty good. Unlike some health care professions, most dental offices keep normal business hours.


Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
While it might sound like a job in a science fiction movie, a career as a nuclear power reactor operator can begin with just a high school diploma. According to ScienceBuddies.org, a resource for students and parents interested in scientific jobs, employers recruit high school graduates for entry-level positions. Workers must undergo years of on-the-job training and classroom instruction before being certified. But with an average yearly income of $100,000, that investment has the potential to pay off big time.
“Nuclear power reactor operator is a really high-earning job,” says Bardaro. “It ‘s also very geographically specific. For example, not every state or every county uses nuclear power so you have to keep that in mind when you’re looking at job opportunities. Under Obama’s reelection, it’s a great time to get into this job because he’s highly supportive of nuclear power.”
Bardaro says when looking for these jobs, although they may not seem abundant at the moment, it’ll be a great field to be positioned for in 10 years when more plants are operational.
Personal Trainer
If you’re the active type, you might consider a career as a certified personal trainer, a field projected to grow 24 percent through 2020. Education and training varies based on specialty but you can be ready to go in as little as six months. Something to keep in mind: pay in this field varies based on where and whom you’re training. Clients at a trendy Los Angeles gym, for instance, are willing to pay more per session than, say, customers in the Midwest.
Vocational Jobs
Finally, vocational careers in electricity and plumbing are still growing strong. Course study and a paid apprenticeship are usually required before these tradesmen are licensed to work alone. Strong pay and job security though make these jobs solid bets.
According to Bardaro, “These are also jobs that aren’t going to be outsourced away. You’re never going to have a computer do this job, and you’re never have someone in another country do this job. That’s a real big win with vocational jobs. So not only do get paid for training, but you also have job opportunities for the foreseeable future.”
As always, we want to hear from you. What some great jobs that don’t require college degrees? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.