With a great job, a home of his own and a wife and two kids, Kevin Clark has achieved the American Dream — and he doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree.
Clark completed two years of community college, but dropped out to pursue an electrician apprenticeship.
“A lot of the career paths I was looking into at four-year colleges didn’t pay much,” says Clark, who lives in the Sacramento, Calif., area. “As an electrician, I could just start working and get paid.”
In fact, not only do many technical and vocational trades pay for on-the-job training, they are some of the most sought-after skills in today’s job market. But with so many options, it can be difficult sifting through them all.
To help, CareerCast, an online career site, created a list of 10 of the best jobs that do not require a four-year college degree. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the list takes into account things like income level, work environment, stress and expected job growth between now and 2024, along with the recommended education level to get started, which ranges from high school diploma to associate’s degree or vocational training.
“It can be a tough job market, especially with so many people (looking for work) right now,” says Kyle Kensing, online content editor at CareerCast and author of the list. “It can feel like you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. But there are still a lot of great occupations in great industries that are in-demand.”
In fact, some of the highest-paying jobs with the most growth require only an associate’s degree, such as web developer ($66,130 annual median salary) and diagnostic medical sonographer ($64,280). Almost half of the jobs on the list fall in the health care sector and jobs such as plumber or electrician are not only highly marketable skills, but also hard to outsource.
These were major factors in determining the list, Kensing says. So was time.
“It’s not always feasible to invest in a four-year degree if you’re in your 30s or have a family,” he says.
But career coach and expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine says there are advantages and disadvantages to consider whichever career path a person pursues.
“You don’t need a formal education, necessarily, to succeed,” says Ceniza-Levine, who is also co-founder of SixFigureStart, a career-coaching firm. “Your options are going to be broader if you attend a traditional four-year college. But it takes longer and it’s obviously more expensive.”
Here’s CareerCast’s list of 10 jobs to consider: