The student loan debt crisis is economically sidelining many people in the United States right now. The cost of a college education has gone up three times faster than other expenses related to school.
Americans currently owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and it takes many four-year degree holders nearly 20 years on average to repay loans.
1 in 4 Americans have student loan debt, and the average monthly payment is $393.
With that in mind, for many people it might make more financial sense to skip college, but what are the employment prospects like?
It can be harder to find a high-paying job without college, but not impossible.
Below are 10 fun jobs that don’t require college.
Table of Contents
A computer programmer is also known as a developer.
Computer programming is an in-demand career field that pays well, tends to have high ratings for worker satisfaction, and doesn’t always require a college degree.
Many of the people who are the most successful in Silicon Valley either didn’t go to college at all or didn’t earn their degree because they dropped out.
This has changed the perception that in order to get a good job, you need a degree, and this is particularly true for computer programmers.
Many elementary school students are being introduced to computer programming concepts like coding, and a lot of programmers end up being self-taught using online resources.
Even though computer programming is high-paying and in-demand, it doesn’t always require a degree because it’s more about having the skills and being able to apply them than having any particular credential.
A computer programmer is responsible for creating and writing code as well as testing it. Most programmers know a minimum of several languages, two of the most used of which are Java and C++.
Programmers can work for companies that make software, financial companies, or a wide variety of other employers.
The more experience you have coding, the more likely it is that you can get hired without a bachelor’s degree.
According to the Department of Labor, the median pay for a computer programmer is more than $84,000.
A 2016 Developer Survey from StackOverflow found 56% of developers don’t have a college degree in computer science or a related field. 69% of respondents said they were also at least partially self-taught. 13% said they were completely self-taught.
Computer Support Specialist
A computer support specialist helps troubleshoot issues people are having with their computer, their software, or equipment like printers.
Some work directly with customers, while others might work in-house as part of an IT team.
Other titles for this role include a tech support specialist, a help desk technician, an IT specialist, or a network technician.
The median salary for user support specialists or computer support specialists is anywhere from $50,210 to $62,340. Different industries use these professionals, and sometimes in this role, you can work from home.
There are computer support specialists that work typical business hours, but you may also work during the evening or weekend or on holidays.
The job outlook for computer support specialists and similar positions is excellent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They predict job growth will be faster than average through 2026.
Industries that will see a particularly high demand for computer support specialists include health care and computer systems design.
Some of the tasks you might do as a computer support specialist include document user call issue resolution, answer questions, recommend changes or updates to programs and creating and maintaining necessary technical documentation.
A pharmacy technician is a professional who works to assist a pharmacist in preparing customer medications.
A pharmacy technician might receive written or electronic prescriptions, and they might compound and mix the medications as well as getting doctor authorizations. Technicians keep up with drug inventory, and if orders are needed, they let a pharmacist know.
Specific things a pharmacy tech might be responsible for include:
- Filling bottles with medications
- Labeling bottles
- Packing bulk medications
- Dealing with the cash register
- Customer service
- Keeping records of the medication stock
- Working to resolve insurance-related issues
There aren’t any formal requirements required to become a pharmacy technician in most states.
If you do want to give yourself the ability to get ahead of the competition as far as securing employment, you can do some sort of certification program or vocational school.
For the most part, however, much of the training for a pharmacy technician happens on the job.
There are usually state-based regulations for pharmacy technicians to keep up with though. It could mean completing an exam or participating in continuing education.
The outlook for job growth for pharmacy technicians is going in a positive direction, and it’s expected to grow by about 12% over the next decade.
Cybersecurity is a huge concern for most businesses and organizations right now.
There are increasingly advanced cyberattacks going on all the time, and companies are looking at more sophisticated ways to protect themselves and their clients.
Concerns over cybersecurity threats have led to a tremendous increase in the demand for security analysts. A security analyst works to make sure an IT infrastructure is continuously protected, and they proactively watch for possible risks and vulnerabilities.
Most security analysts work across departments, and they work with employees, administrators, and other IT professionals.
Security analyst jobs can usually fall into one of three categories—application security analyst, data security analyst, and security compliance analyst.
While some employers will want to see a bachelor’s degree, not all require it.
If you have extensive cybersecurity experience and work history, even better.
A lot of professionals will do something like online coursework or cybersecurity boot camp as opposed to earning a degree.
A dental hygienist is someone who works alongside a dentist to help patients have good oral health.
Dental hygienists are responsible for cleaning teeth and looking at the gums, helping patients learn more about proper oral care, and getting the medical history of patients when they come into the office.
Specific duties for a dental hygienist can include:
- Using different dental tools to remove plaque and stains on the teeth
- Using preventative treatment on patients like fluoride
- Taking mouth X-rays
- Letting the dentist know of any findings during a cleaning
- Helping a dentist with certain procedures like removing sutures
It’s worth noting dental hygienists and dental assistants aren’t the same thing. A dental assistant is more focused on administrative duties and ensuring the dental office runs smoothly in that way.
All states require licensing for dental hygienists, and you need an associate’s degree, but a four-year bachelor’s degree isn’t required.
You need to participate in a program approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
To get your license, you have to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, which is primarily multiple-choice questions.
In each state, there is also a clinical-based exam, so you can show your skills in a hands-on way.
You’re then required to renew your license usually anywhere from every one to three years.
Being a hairstylist is a great job for someone creative and interested in interacting and working with people.
It also affords a high level of flexibility, and when you complete your training, you can be employed in a salon, or you can work on your own.
You don’t need a four-year degree to be a hairstylist, but you do need to go to beauty school. You have to choose a cosmetology program approved by the state where you plan to work, and most states do require you have a high school diploma.
Most people opt to attend a program at a vocational school, and the length of a hairstylist program can range from nine months to two years.
Tuition can be as much as $10,000, but there are less expensive programs as well. You’ll also have to buy your tools.
It’s extremely important when you’re choosing a program that you make sure your state approves it because otherwise, you won’t be able to get a license.
Some of the things you’ll learn in a hairstylist program include sanitation, haircutting, and shaping skills, and how to do specific services like coloring and hair extensions.
Most stylists do continuing education throughout their career so they can know about current trends and skills.
Once you complete a hairstylist training program, you need to be licensed by your state.
You’ll have to pass a written exam, and in some states, you might have to do an exam to show your skills also.
Once you are licensed, you can decide where you want to work or if you want to start your own business.
Starting your own business right away can be tough, though, and you might want to work in a salon for a while to gain experience and clients.
If you love beauty and helping people look and feel their best, you might want to consider a career as an esthetician or skin care specialist.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be 13.8% growth in esthetician careers between 2016 and 2026.
An esthetician is someone who helps patients with their skincare routines, recommends the best products for them, and performs treatments like facials, peels, and microdermabrasion. An esthetician usually works under a doctor or nurse practitioner, and they may also assist in certain beauty treatments.
You don’t need a four-year degree to be an esthetician, but to be a licensed medical esthetician you do need to be licensed by your state.
As an esthetician, you can be self-employed or you can work in a medi-spa, a day spa, a salon, or a medical facility.
To get licensed, you have to get formal training through an aesthetics program approved in your state.
These programs are often available at community colleges, vocational schools or cosmetology schools.
Depending on where you live, you may only have to do 350 hours of training or up to 1500 hours.
Some estheticians can also begin their careers by doing an apprenticeship rather than formal education. In this situation, you work with a licensed esthetician and gain hands-on experience.
Your state’s cosmetology board provides licensing.
Licensing requirements may include passing both written and hands-on practical exams.
If you do advanced training, you can also become a master esthetician and you can increase your employability and potential earnings.
Most estheticians also do continuing education and they may be required as a way to renew their license.
Mobile App Developer
The mobile app market is explosive and continuing to grow every day.
As a mobile app developer, you can get a piece of the pie, whether you work for a company or you work on your own as an entrepreneur. You can also work as a freelancer if you have mobile app development skills.
Sometimes, business owners work to learn how to be a mobile app development as well so they can build their own apps without having to pay someone else to do it.
A mobile developer doesn’t have to have a four-year degree, but you do need software development knowledge and skills.
To become a mobile app developer or to improve their skills, many people participate in coding boot camps.
Some of the core things you need to know to be a mobile app developer include programming languages, you should have an understanding of the software development life cycle, and you should have an understanding of development platforms and environments such as Agile or Scrum.
If you’re interested in becoming an app developer, the first step is typically to learn to code. There are quite a few online resources where you can learn a significant amount of coding for free.
There are also other ways you can become a developer, such as using an app-building service paired with coding.
Basically, an app builder comes with the core functionalities you need, but by learning some coding, you can also integrate custom features into client projects. This option works best if you want to be a freelancer.
Most mobile app developers start by choosing one platform that they’re going to learn first, and they perfect their skills in that area.
While iOS is the preferred platform in the United States, most global devices rely on an Android platform so you’ll have to weigh which you’re most interested in.
The three fundamental areas you need to get a handle on as an app developer are the mobile user interface design, programming and some understanding of business.
The mobile user interface design requires coding as does programming.
Having an understanding of business is important because you want to be able to get a feel for what a business needs to achieve with an app you’re building.
There has been a resurgence in the popularity of tradespeople jobs, including electrical linemen.
For years the number of people wanting to do these jobs was on the decline.
Now, many of these jobs offer excellent pay and opportunities, they’re in-demand, and they don’t require a college degree.
Many financial and career experts are encouraging more people to learn a trade than they were in recent decades.
You can learn a trade and find employment fairly easily in many cases since these positions are in-demand, and you don’t have the burden of education debt when you do so.
An electrical lineman is a job with risks, but the people who do it often find it exciting.
Linemen work to install and maintain and repair power distribution systems.
When there’s a storm in your area, the people who are out and restoring power are linemen.
Some of the requirements to do this job include climbing polls, following safety regulations and guidelines, and stringing lines. There are also linemen who work with telecommunications equipment that’s below ground.
While you don’t need a college degree to become a lineman, most employers want to see in-depth knowledge of electrical systems.
Many linemen will do a training program at a vocational school or community college, and some do their training while they’re in the military.
There are one- and two-year programs and the two-year programs do offer more advanced training.
Along with community college and vocational programs, what many new linemen will do is start an apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship program lets you learn and receive your training through your employer, and you can work while you’re doing it.
To be a lineman, you need to be at least 18 and have a GED or high school diploma.
Linemen also need a commercial driver’s license in many situations, and regular drug screenings are part of the job at most employers.
There are certifications available from organizations like the Electrical Training Alliance if you want to build your skills in a specialized area.
The top 10% of linemen earn more than $99,860 a year, but you have to be able to work across different conditions. You have to climb and work underground, regardless of the weather.
If there’s a storm, you may have to work nights and weekends.
Many of the most in-demand career fields that don’t require a college degree are in health care. The health care industry is facing pressing demands in terms of the skilled professionals they need to fill positions.
One option for someone who wants a great job without a college degree is a respiratory therapist, which has an unemployment rate of only 0.3% and a median salary of more than $59,700. The top-paid 25% of respiratory therapists make around $72,200 while the lowest-paid 25% still make more than $50,500.
A respiratory therapist helps with the treatment of patients who have lung and heart problems.
A respiratory therapist, for example, might treat someone with asthma, cystic fibrosis, or emphysema. A respiratory therapist might also help when someone is having a stroke or heart attack.
Respiratory therapists can do diagnostic tests to see what a patient’s lung capacity is, and they can give breathing treatments.
Also part of the job is keeping up and recording a patient’s progress and consulting with doctors and surgeons.
The minimum level of education you need to be a respiratory therapist is an associates degree, and coursework is diverse and can include chemistry, anatomy and pharmacology.
To be a respiratory therapist, you also have to get a license and certification. There are two different levels of certification, one of which is a Certified Respiratory Therapist or CRT, and the other which is a Registered Respiratory Therapist or RPT.
An RPT certification shows you have a more advanced level of knowledge, and this can be appealing to potential employers.
Even if you don’t have your RPT certification when you get hired, many employers will pay for new hires to get it.
There are also specialist certifications available such as Pediatric Respiratory Care or Therapeutic intervention Respiratory Care Specialist credentials.
All states except Alaska require that you have state licensing to be a respiratory therapist, and you can check with the American Association for Respiratory Care to determine what’s needed in your state.
You’re also responsible for renewing your license, and the specifics of this depend on the state where you reside.
The most common environments where respiratory therapists work include private doctor’s offices, nursing facilities, and hospitals. As is the case with most health care positions, respiratory therapists can expect to earn more when they work in a large metropolitan area.
Not having your four-year degree doesn’t count you out of getting a potentially enjoyable and high-paying job. In fact, many of the best jobs right now don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
If you’re in the market for a new career, think about your current skill set and where your interests lie. From there, you can start exploring specific jobs that might be a good fit for you and start working toward pursuing a career in that field.
Don’t let not having a four-year degree prevent you from doing something love and earning a substantial salary at the same time.