The Best Jobs That Don’t Require Four Years of School

These are some of the best jobs you can do if you happen to not like college or afraid to incur debts gotten from student loans

In today’s competitive job market, obtaining a college degree is often seen as the key to career success. However, not everyone has the time, resources, or desire to pursue a four-year degree. The good news is that there are plenty of high-paying and fulfilling jobs available that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Whether you have a high school diploma, associate degree, or vocational training, you can still find a rewarding career path. In this article, we will explore some of the best careers that don’t require a four-year college degree, highlighting their job prospects, median salaries, and educational requirements.

Here’s our list of some of the best jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree:

12. Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Two workers on a rooftop installing solar panels against a clear blue sky. They wear protective gray and orange uniforms, gloves, and are actively positioning the panels on the roof's tiles.

Average Annual Salary: $47,670

Education Requirements: High school diploma, on-the-job training

Job Growth: 27%

Solar photovoltaic installers are the front-runners in the renewable energy sector, with an average salary reflecting the high demand for their expertise in installing solar panels. These professionals receive specialized on-the-job training, often provided by the employer, which can lead to certification. The role is physically demanding, requiring installers to work at great heights and often in extreme weather conditions. The job growth rate is exceptionally high, with the increasing shift towards sustainable energy solutions. Moreover, installers need to have a solid understanding of electrical systems and be adept at using a variety of hand and power tools.

The complete SOLAR ENERGY course


11. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

A smiling female medical professional in turquoise scrubs holds up a syringe, with two male colleagues, one in a white coat and the other in scrubs, blurred in the background.

Median Annual Salary: $48,070

Degree Requirements: Postsecondary nondegree award

Job Growth: 6%

LPNs are vital in the healthcare industry, providing basic medical care such as monitoring vital signs and administering medication under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors. They usually complete a practical nursing program from a community college education or technical school, which takes about one year and prepares them for the NCLEX-PN exam required for licensure. The role may require long hours and the ability to work in high-stress environments. The demand for LPNs is steady, with a growth rate that reflects an aging population requiring healthcare services. LPNs can often advance their career by obtaining further education and becoming registered nurses or specializing in areas such as geriatric care or pediatric nursing.


10. Carpentry

A carpenter's hands carefully guiding a piece of wood through a woodworking machine in a workshop, with sawdust in the air. The person is wearing a plaid shirt, indicating a work environment.

Median Salary: $48,260

Education Requirements: High school diploma, apprenticeship

Job Growth: 2%

Carpentry stands as a time-honored and versatile trade, offering a stable and creative career path for individuals with a high school diploma and a passion for building and construction. Carpenters craft and construct frameworks and structures such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, rafters, and bridge supports from wood and other materials. Their skills are honed through apprenticeships that typically last 3-4 years, combining on-the-job training with technical education, where they learn blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety practices.

Carpenters must be adept in the use of a wide range of tools, from the simple hammer and chisel to sophisticated power tools and carpentry machinery. The work is physically demanding and may involve both indoor and outdoor environments, from residential to commercial construction sites. With experience, carpenters may advance to become master craftsmen, supervisors, or general contractors, and some may even start their own carpentry businesses.

Woodworking and Carpentry Courses

9. Surgical Technologist

A surgical technologist in blue scrubs, wearing a face mask, cap, and gloves, adjusts medical equipment in a bright, sterile operating room, while holding a clipboard.

Median Salary: $48,510

Educational Path: Postsecondary nondegree award or associate degree

Job Growth: 6%

Surgical technologists are integral team members in the operating room, working alongside surgeons and nurses to ensure surgeries are carried out safely and efficiently. They possess specialized knowledge to set up the operating room, prepare surgical equipment, and assist during procedures by passing instruments and other sterile supplies to surgeons. A high school diploma followed by completion of an accredited surgical technologist program, which typically awards a postsecondary certificate or an associate degree, is required to enter the field.

The median annual salary for surgical technologists is competitive, with potential for increase depending on factors such as geographic location, place of employment, and years of experience. Surgical technologists may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and specialty clinics, often with the opportunity for regular hours as well as on-call duties for emergencies.

8. Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent in a black blazer and denim shirt gestures towards features in a modern living room while explaining to an attentive couple.

Median Salary: $48,770

Prerequisites: High school diploma, real estate license

Job Growth: 5%

Real estate agents navigate the complex process of buying, selling, and renting properties, offering significant earning potential through commissions. With a high school diploma and a state-accredited real estate license, agents can start facilitating property transactions, though success heavily relies on one’s salesmanship and networking abilities. Agents must stay abreast of local real estate markets, regulations, and continuing education requirements. The career offers flexibility in hours and high potential for high pay, especially in competitive markets or with luxury properties. Successful real estate agents often possess excellent negotiation skills, local market knowledge, and a strong presence on social media platforms to market properties and attract clients.

Real Estate School & Courses

7. Sound Engineering Technician

Sound engineer operating an audio mixer at an outdoor concert. Image Title: Sound Engineer at Outdoor Concert Caption: A dedicated sound engineer ensures top-quality audio at an outdoor live performance.

Median Salary: $48,790

Education Requirements: Postsecondary nondegree award or associate degree

Job Growth: 10%

Sound engineering technicians, also known as audio engineers, play a pivotal role in the production of clear and high-quality sound for a variety of events and media. They are responsible for the operation and maintenance of audio equipment, ensuring that microphones, sound speakers, and recording devices are correctly set up and functioning properly. To become a sound engineering technician, a high school diploma is typically the minimum educational requirement, but many technicians complete postsecondary education such as an associate degree or certificate program in audio engineering.

The job market for sound engineering technicians is projected to grow due to the increasing sophistication of audio production in entertainment, broadcasting, and online media. Opportunities for advancement can include roles such as sound designer, audio director, or even positions in audio post-production for film and television. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for sound engineering technicians is reflective of their specialized skill set, with the potential to earn more in urban centers and entertainment hubs where their expertise is in high demand.

6. Firefighting

Firefighter in full gear attending to a building fire scene.

Median Salary: $50,700

Training Required: Postsecondary nondegree award

Job Growth: 4%

Firefighters are vital first responders who dedicate their lives to protecting the community by responding to fires and a variety of emergencies. Beyond combating fires, they are also trained to provide medical support, hazardous materials response, and rescue operations. The journey to becoming a firefighter typically starts with a high school diploma or equivalent, followed by rigorous physical and medical examinations, and training at a fire academy.

At the academy, firefighter recruits learn fire control, fire prevention, emergency medical procedures, and the use of firefighting equipment through both classroom instruction and practical exercises. Continuous education is important, as many firefighters take additional courses in emergency medical services or even earn paramedic certifications to enhance their skills and employability.

Career advancement opportunities for firefighters include positions such as fire inspector, fire investigator, fire captain, battalion chief, or other administrative roles within the fire department. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for firefighters is favorable, with communities continually recognizing the need for skilled professionals ready to tackle emergency situations. The median annual salary for firefighters is a testament to the challenging nature of their work, and many benefit from union memberships, which advocate for their compensation and benefits.

There are also opportunities for police officers as well at similar salary.

5. Sheet Metal Worker

Close-up of a worker grinding metal, producing bright orange sparks.

Median Salary: $53,440

Education Needed: High school diploma, apprenticeship

Job Growth: -1%

Sheet metal workers are skilled tradespeople who fabricate, install, and maintain thin metal parts used in a variety of applications, from HVAC systems in commercial buildings to aircraft and industrial equipment. With a high school diploma, one can enter this field and typically begin through an apprenticeship program, which offers paid on-the-job training combined with classroom instruction, usually provided by technical schools or community colleges. These apprenticeships can last from 4 to 5 years and cover drafting, blueprint reading, mathematics, and various welding techniques essential for mastering these skilled trades.

The work of sheet metal workers is critical in numerous sectors, including construction and manufacturing, and with advancements in technology, these professionals must adapt to using computerized equipment such as computer-aided drafting (CAD) software and building information modeling (BIM) systems. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, despite a modest job growth projection, skilled sheet metal workers remain in high demand due to the need for maintenance and retrofitting of existing metal structures and the ongoing development of new construction projects.

The median annual salary of sheet metal workers reflects the specialized skills they possess and the complexity of their tasks, particularly when working at heights or in adverse weather conditions. With experience, some may advance to supervisory positions or start their own contracting businesses, while others may specialize in areas such as testing and balancing, kitchen equipment, or architectural sheet metal.

4. Wind Turbine Technician

Two wind turbine engineers in safety gear walking towards towering windmills during sunset.

Median Salary: $56,260

Education Prerequisites: Postsecondary nondegree award, on-the-job training

Job Growth: 44%

Wind turbine technicians, often referred to as “windtechs,” are responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of wind turbines. These professionals work in a field that is experiencing rapid job growth due to the global push toward renewable energy and the continuous construction of new wind power facilities. A typical entry into this high-paying career starts with postsecondary education, such as a certificate or associate degree in wind energy technology, which covers topics like turbine maintenance, safety practices, and the use of specialized diagnostic equipment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that wind turbine technicians are one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, a trend that is expected to continue as the nation invests in renewable energy infrastructure. This high demand translates into a robust job market and potential for job security. Wind turbine technicians command good money that reflects the technical expertise and physical demands of the job.

Introduction to Wind Energy

3. Plumber

A focused plumber inspecting the plumbing under a kitchen sink, holding a blue clipboard.


Median Salary: $56,330

Education Requirements: High school diploma, apprenticeship

Job Growth: 4%

Plumbers are essential tradespeople specializing in installing, repairing, and maintaining the piping systems in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. They ensure that we have access to clean water, efficient drainage, and functioning heating systems, which are crucial for sanitation and comfort. The path to becoming a plumber typically begins with a high school diploma, followed by an apprenticeship program that combines on-the-job technical training with classroom instruction from experienced professionals in technical schools or community colleges.

These apprenticeships usually last between four to five years and cover areas such as local plumbing codes, blueprint reading, mathematics, and applied physics. Apprentices learn to cut, install, and repair pipes, as well as troubleshoot plumbing systems for homes and businesses. Safety is paramount in plumbing, as workers often deal with sharp tools, extreme temperatures, and potentially hazardous materials.

The job growth for plumbers is steady, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting a consistent demand for skilled plumbers due to new construction, retrofitting of old systems, and the ongoing need for plumbing maintenance and repair. Plumbers can enjoy a stable career with the opportunity for self-employment, and some may choose to specialize in areas such as steam fitting, pipefitting, or sprinkler fitting.

The median annual salary for plumbers is competitive, reflecting the skilled nature of the work and the potential for overtime or emergency call-out fees. With experience, plumbers can advance to become master plumbers, project managers, or even start their own plumbing businesses. Additionally, as building codes and construction technologies evolve, plumbers often update their skills through continuing education and additional training programs, which can lead to higher pay and advancement in the field.

Become a Plumbing Professional

2. Hearing Aid Specialist

Man with glasses receiving a hearing aid adjustment from a specialist.

Median Salary: $59,500

Minimum Education: High school diploma

Job Growth: 16%

Hearing Aid Specialists, also known as Hearing Instrument Specialists, are professionals focused on assisting individuals with hearing loss. They play a vital role in the healthcare sector by evaluating clients’ hearing capabilities, fitting and dispensing hearing aids, and providing auditory training as well as follow-up care and maintenance for these devices. A high school diploma is typically the baseline educational requirement for this career, after which candidates receive specialized on-the-job training or enroll in certificate programs that delve into topics such as audiometric testing and hearing aid technology.

The job outlook for Hearing Aid Specialists is positive, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a higher than average job growth in this field, fueled by an aging population and greater awareness of hearing loss issues. Specialists can work in various settings, including hearing aid retailers, audiology offices, and healthcare clinics. The role offers a good median annual salary and can be particularly rewarding for those passionate about improving the quality of life for individuals with hearing challenges.

Become a Hearing Instrument Specialist

1. Electrician

Electrician in safety gear working on an electrical panel with pliers.


Median Salary: $59,880

Training Requirements: High school diploma, apprenticeship

Job Growth: 2%

Electricians are skilled tradespeople specializing in electrical wiring of buildings, transmission lines, stationary machines, and related equipment. They are indispensable in construction, maintenance, and the manufacturing industry, ensuring that electrical systems work safely and effectively. The career of an electrician starts with obtaining a high school diploma or its equivalent, followed by entering an apprenticeship program that typically lasts four to five years. During this time, apprentice electricians gain hands-on experience while also attending classes that cover electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety practices.

In addition to technical skills, electricians must be proficient in problem-solving to diagnose and repair electrical issues. They work with a variety of hand and power tools to install conduits, wiring, and fixtures. Electricians must also adhere to strict safety regulations and standards to prevent accidents and ensure the reliability of electrical installations.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the job growth for electricians is projected to keep pace with the average for all occupations, partly due to the construction of new energy-efficient projects and the retrofitting of existing infrastructure. Electricians may work in residential, commercial, or industrial settings, with some choosing to specialize in areas such as solar power, elevator repair, or industrial machinery.

Electricians have a median annual salary that reflects the skilled nature of the job and the essential service they provide across various sectors. As experienced electricians, they may progress to supervisory roles, become electrical inspectors, or start their own electrical contracting business. Continuous learning is important, as electricians must stay updated on changes to the National Electrical Code and advancements in technology and safety practices.

In conclusion, for highest-paying jobs without a bachelor’s degree, these career paths offer substantial median salaries and satisfying job growth prospects. From plumbers to electricians, fulfilling careers with good pay are attainable through community college, technical school, or even just a high school diploma combined with job-specific training. Whether you’re interested in real estate licenses or wind turbine technician, the journey to a rewarding career without a four-year degree is vibrant and varied.

These jobs don’t require you to spend four years in a school trying to earn a degree. All you need in order to get some of these good  jobs is just an associate degree, certificate or on-the-job training.  Make sure you don’t go into one of these obsolete jobs