Good Pay Doesn’t Require a Four-Year Degree

History is full of successful people who carved their own path far away from traditional education. Despite what our culture, your parents, or your own inner critic tells you, there are lots of high-paying jobs out there that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Now, while you may not need a bachelor’s degree specifically, you do need education. Some of the jobs require an associate degree, some trade school, and others specific certifications or apprenticeships. But here’s the bottom line: You can earn good money and enjoy meaningful work without spending four years at college.

Here are 10 great examples. But trust me, there are plenty more.

Wind Turbine Technician

Median salary: $52,910
Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award, on-the-job training
Job growth: 61 percent

Wind turbines are those huge white pinwheels that dot the plains and other windy parts of the country. As they become a popular source of alternative energy, the job demand for technicians is skyrocketing. Technicians work to install and maintain wind turbines. You must be willing to spend a lot of time outside, but it is not recommended for people who are afraid of heights!


Median salary: $56,180
Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
Job growth: 8 percent

If working with wires sparks your interest, then you might consider becoming an electrician. You can attend a technical school or find an apprenticeship for on-the-job training. Electricians bring power to buildings, homes, transmission lines, and a variety of equipment.

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Median salary: $59,200
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 32 percent

Occupational therapy is all about helping people learn and practice skills to live and work. Most occupational therapy takes place after someone has had an accident, or for elderly people who need help performing daily tasks around their homes. Occupational therapy assistants work with therapists and doctors to help patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and therapy offices. It’s an active and interactive job that gives you plenty of opportunities to work with people.

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Median salary: $62,280
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 7 percent

Both x-rays and MRIs are diagnostic tools that help physicians and patients understand what is going on inside the body. Techs are the workers who actually run the tests, and work with physicians to get the information needed to make a diagnosis and treat patients.

Aerospace Technician

Median salary: $66,020
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 7 percent

If you’ve always had a fascination with planes and enjoy technical work, then you might consider becoming an aerospace technician. You’ll work with aircrafts or spacecrafts to test and calibrate systems, as well as install and repair various parts.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers/Cardiovascular Technologists

Median salary: $68,750
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 12 percent

Sonographers use medical equipment to create images of organs, tissues and blood vessels that allow people to understand what’s going on inside their bodies. Cardiovascular techs work with physicians to perform complex procedures related to heart health, such as inserting stents or pacemakers. They also help perform tests to diagnose cardiac health problems in patients.

Web Developer

Median salary: $73,760
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 8 percent

Web developers blend a unique set of technical and creative skills to design and build websites. This is a high-demand job that you can find in a variety of agencies or businesses. Or you can even strike out on your own as a freelancer if you’re willing to make solid connections—and the pay is great!

Dental Hygienist

Median salary: $76,220
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 6 percent

While cleaning teeth may not be for everyone, dental hygienists get a chance to impact their patients’ lives by take caring of their oral health. They screen patients, take x-rays, remove plaque from teeth, and counsel patients about good hygiene and nutrition habits. Most programs take three years to complete, and you must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in order to practice.

Elevator Installer and Repairer

Median salary: $84,990
Education needed: high school diploma
Job growth: 7 percent

This is one of those random jobs that most people take for granted. Elevator installers and repairers make good money working with their hands. It’s no surprise that they often work in cramped spaces around heavy machinery. They’re often required to be on call 24 hours a day for repairs.

Air Traffic Controller

Median salary: $122,990
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 1 percent

Air traffic controllers have the exciting, high-stakes job of directing air traffic from the ground. They sit in those towers with lots of windows that you see at airports. Air traffic controllers often work nights and weekends to keep up with travel schedules. It’s an extraordinarily demanding job, but one with rewarding results.

Ken Coleman is a nationally syndicated radio host of The Ken Coleman Show and a best-selling author, including “The Proximity Principle: The Proven Strategy That Will Lead to the Career You Love.” Follow Ken at and on Twitter @KenColeman.

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Ken Coleman
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