It’s a common assumption in the United States that young people must graduate college if they want to land a high-paying job. However, this isn't always the case.
In 2020, less than 40% of American adults aged 25 and over had some sort of college degree, indicating that even in this day and age, college is simply not for everyone.
There are also plenty of lucrative career paths young people can embark on that will lead to good salaries, large paychecks, and smart financial moves.
Following are 15 jobs that don’t require much schooling but pay at least $50,000 a year on average.
Salary estimates come from data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) except where noted.
Developers create and test website layouts, functions, and navigation systems and can make about $77,030 per year on average.
If you're tech-savvy, a career in web development is a great option that may not require much schooling at all.
Some companies may require their developers to have a degree, but others are much more concerned with your skill set and previous work experience.
Dental hygienists typically work in dentists’ offices and perform teeth cleanings, preventative care, and examinations of patients for signs of oral diseases.
The requirements for dental hygienists vary by state. They typically don't need a four-year degree but do often require an associate’s degree in dental hygiene as well as a license to practice.
Hygienists can earn $77,810 per year on average.
Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power and communications, lighting, and other systems. Most states do require that electricians be licensed, however.
Those interested in becoming an electrician can learn through an apprenticeship or a trade school and can earn an average salary of around $60,040.
Plumbers — some of whom specialize in pipefitting or steam fitting — install and repair piping fixtures and systems.
Many learn on the job through an apprenticeship, though some attend some sort of vocational school beforehand. Most states do require a license.
A career as a plumber is another job that can be quite lucrative and earn you an average salary of around $59,880 per year.
Paralegals or legal assistants typically work in law firms or corporate legal departments. On average, they can earn around $56,230 per year.
Though the required education depends on the company, many people get paralegal jobs with just an associate’s degree or a certification in paralegal studies. Some may even be trained on the job.
Flight attendants provide services aboard airplanes, like serving food and drinks, assisting customers, and responding to emergencies on board.
While flight attendants may have to deal with some unusual hours, this is a gig that can pay well and doesn’t require much schooling to get into.
They typically get on-the-job training and need to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
On average, flight attendants can earn around $61,640 annually.
Clinical lab technician
Clinical lab technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissues, and other substances, and can often land a job with just an associate’s degree.
Some states do require technicians to be licensed, but it depends on where you're working and the work you're doing.
On average, clinical lab technicians can make around $57,800 per year.
Software developers design computer applications and programs and may monitor software quality and identify problems and fixes for existing applications.
Developers can earn serious salaries, and while many do attend four-year universities, others undergo software development training outside of the traditional education system.
If you're tech-savvy and can get through training, you can make an average of $120,730 a year as a software developer.
As opposed to airline pilots who typically are required to attend college, commercial pilots can usually land jobs after fulfilling the required amount of flight training and meeting FAA requirements.
Commercial pilots may also transport cargo and passengers but don't fly regularly scheduled passenger flights as airline pilots do.
Commercial pilots can earn an annual income of $99,640 on average.
In many places in the country, those interested in police work can find a job without spending too much time in school. Some districts do require a college degree, while others are fine with a high school diploma.
Most police officers and detectives also have to graduate from their agency’s training academy and complete on-the-job training.
The average salary is around $66,020 per year, but you may need seniority and experience to get to the higher end of the pay scale.
Computer support specialist
Another well-paying gig for the tech-savvy is computer support specialist. These employees maintain computer networks and may provide technical help to users or colleagues.
An associate’s degree may be required for some computer support gigs, while others may require just a high school diploma and some relevant information technology (IT) training or certification.
Computer support specialists can make around $57,910 a year on average.
Jobs in insurance sales include selling life, property, or health insurance. They typically don't require a college degree, though many states require their agents to be licensed.
According to data from U.S. News and World Report, insurance sales agents can make around $52,180 a year on average.
Firefighters typically only need a high school diploma and some training in emergency medical services. Certification requirements also vary by state and some towns have only volunteer firefighters.
The job often includes responding to emergency calls, preparing incident reports, and maintaining equipment.
According to U.S. News & World Report data, firefighters make about $52,500 on average, although starting salaries may be lower and it may take seniority to reach the higher salary ranges.
Subway/streetcar operator is a great gig for those who love to be on the move. Typically, these jobs only require a high school diploma along with some on-the-job training.
Employees may operate trains on elevated or underground tracks or trolleys powered by electricity that run on tracks along urban streets.
On average, these operators make about $63,770 per year, but as with police and firefighters, it may take years to reach the higher salary ranges.
Radiologic (X-ray) technologist
Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations (otherwise known as X-rays) on patients.
Typically, these employees only need an associate’s degree and to get licensed or certified, though these requirements may vary from state to state.
On average, radiologic technologists can make around $61,980 per year.
While we often hear that heading back to school is the only way to get a job that can help you avoid living paycheck to paycheck, the fact of the matter is that college isn't for everyone.
Trade school is a great option (and often much shorter and easier to get through) and there are many trades you can learn on the job as well.
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