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High Paying Careers without a Four-Year Degree

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Going from high school to college is no longer a straight path for many people. More and more high school seniors and their parents are wondering if attending college is even worth it anymore. Education costs and student loan debt continue to rise but many new college grads are finding themselves jobless.

Community college has always been a more affordable starting point before transferring to a four-year university, but many students stop once they earn a two-year degree or complete a career training program. There are actually many high paying careers that do not require bachelor’s degrees.

2-Year Degree Can Increase Your Earnings

A recent study from NerdWallet.com, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that every two years of post-high school education (up to a bachelor’s degree) a person completes will increase his or her annual earning potential by an average of $13,759. Careers requiring a two-year associate’s degree are currently among the fastest growing jobs on the market.

If spending four or more years in college does not sound appealing but neither does the thought of working part-time in retail while living in your parents’ basement, you might want to consider training for a career in these fields mentioned in Forbes. Several of the jobs listed below also require certification or licensing in addition to an associate’s degree or community college training program, but the classes will help prepare you for any required exams.

Health and Medical Jobs with Associate’s Degrees

- Registered Nurses: average salary $55,000

- Physical Therapy Assistants: average salary $46,000

- X-Ray Technicians: average salary $52,000

- Dental Hygienists: average salary $57,000

Technology and Computer-Related Jobs with Associate’s Degrees

- Computer support specialists: average salary $46,000 and up

- Web designers: average salary $47,000

- Graphic designers: average salary $40,000 and up

Construction and Engineering Jobs with Associate’s Degrees

- Engineering Technicians: average salary $41,000 and up

- Electrical Technicians: average salary $40,000 and up

- Solar Panel Installers and Consultants: average salary $50,000 and up

Other Good Paying Jobs

Many other good paying careers that require community college training are also out there. It’s not for the faint of heart, but funeral directors can earn over $50,000 per year. Paralegals and police officers can average over $40,000 per year.

If you are not planning to earn a bachelor’s degree but don’t want to end your education at the high school level, most of these positions will pay off fairly quickly. Community college tuition rates are much lower than the cost to attend a four-year university and median salaries for many entry-level jobs are still high.

To learn more about the job opportunities listed above or other careers and industries, visit our Career Profile Library for salary estimates, job outlook and education requirements. You can also learn more about community colleges in your area here.

Read More:

Community College: Why It May Be Right for You

Pros and Cons of Going to Community College


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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