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15 Surprising Jobs You Can Get Without a Degree

surprising jobs you can get without a degree

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It can sometimes feel like every job posting these days is asking for at least a bachelor’s degree, but there are countless exciting (and great-paying) career paths that don’t require a degree at all! Some of these careers, like commercial pilots or real estate brokers, have licensing requirements, but having a high school diploma is often enough to get you started. 

Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best, and perhaps surprising, jobs you can get without a four-year degree. 

15 Jobs That Don’t Require Degrees

1. Teaching Assistants

Average salary: $31,760
Teaching assistants help preschool, elementary school, or high school teachers complete their daily duties, including grading homework or instructing students on a specific subject. Except when working at colleges and universities, teaching assistants have no degree requirements. However, there are many certificates and associate’s degree programs that can give you a leg up, such as a program for early childhood education. 

2. Court, Municipal, and License Clerks

Average salary: $44,870
Court, municipal, and license clerks do a lot of clerical work for government offices and courts, including preparing agendas and issuing permits. A high school diploma qualifies for this career, but having an associate’s degree or certificates in administrative fields can help you progress as a clerk. 

3. Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installers 

Average salary: $52,170 
Security and fire alarm systems installers maintain and repair safety systems in commercial and even residential buildings. There is a fair amount of on-the-job training for this career because you need to learn how these systems work and how to fix them. But, education-wise, you only need a high school diploma or equivalent to get started. 

4. Airfield Operations Specialists

Average salary: $54,360
Airfield operations specialists make sure that planes can take off and land safely. You need a high school diploma to qualify and there is significant on-the-job training involved. Similar to airfield operations specialists, air traffic controllers need an associate’s degree but have an average salary of $127,920. 

5. Rotary Drill Operators

Average salary: $56,380
Rotary drill operators work in the oil and gas industry, using heavy machinery to extract resources from the ground. This career has no formal education requirement, and experienced drill operators can see annual salaries nearing six figures! Beyond rotary drill operators, many careers in the oil and gas industry pay well and are expected to grow over the next decade. 

6. Computer User Support Specialists

Average salary: $57,650
Typically working in an “IT” department, computer user support specialists troubleshoot and solve people’s computer issues, like problems with printers or internet connectivity. You don’t need a degree to become a user support specialist, but having a background in technology and customer service can be useful. 

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7. Electricians

Average salary: $63,310
Electricians maintain, install, and repair electrical systems in both residential and commercial spaces. You typically only need a high school diploma or equivalent to become an electrician, but you may also need to take an apprenticeship. Electricians are considered trades careers, and most trades pay well! For example, carpenters have an average salary of $55,190.

8. Court Reporters

Average salary: $65,240
Court reporters transcribe trial proceedings and keep track of court documents and information. You only need an associate’s degree or certificate in court reporting or an administrative field. There are also certificates in short-hand and notary services that can help you progress as a court reporter. 

9. Sound Engineering Technicians

Average salary: $67,360
Sound engineering technicians record and edit sound, like music and talking, used in a variety of productions, including television, radio, and podcasts. There is no degree required for this career, but a certificate or associate’s degree in audio engineering or communications technology can be helpful. 

>>MORE: Is Technology a Good Career Path?

10. Police Officers

Average salary: $70,750
Police officers, detectives, and criminal investigators work to enforce laws and protect the public. Becoming a police officer typically requires getting accepted to and going through a training program, but you only need a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify. Moving through the ranks to become a detective or criminal investigator also comes with a raise in pay: Detectives and investigators have an average salary of $90,370. 

11. Claims Adjusters

Average salary: $70,960
Claims adjusters work mainly for insurance companies to review details of filed claims and determine how much the company should pay. Claims adjusters may also work with legal counsel if a lawsuit arises from a filed claim. There is some on-the-job training for claims adjusters, but you only need a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify. 

>>MORE: 11 Best-Paying Jobs in Finance

12. Power Plant Operators 

Average salary: $83,740
Power plant operators run the machinery that generates electricity for cities and towns. You need a high school diploma to get started, and there is extensive on-the-job training for power plant operators. A similar career, nuclear power plant operator, is more niche, but also doesn’t require any degree and has an average salary of $104,470. 

13. Real Estate Brokers

Average salary: $86,490
Real estate brokers help facilitate the purchase or sale of properties. You’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent to become a real estate broker, and you’ll need to get a brokerage license. Many other types of broker careers, like customs brokers and insurance brokers, may not require a degree either. 

14. Programmers

Average salary: $96,650
Computer programmers write code for computer applications and some programmers work in very specialized fields, like blockchain technology. Because the skills needed for programming are technical and can be learned outside of school, it is possible to become a programmer without any degree. You just need to prove that you have the hard skills needed to do the job. 

>>MORE: Accenture’s Know the Code Virtual Experience Program

15. Commercial Pilots

Average salary: $115,080
While you can’t be an airline pilot without a degree, you can become a commercial pilot by getting a commercial pilot license. Commercial pilots transport freight or give tours, and the licensing requires more than 200 hours of flight training. 

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McKayla Girardin is a NYC-based writer with Forage. She is experienced at transforming complex concepts into easily digestible articles to help anyone better understand the world we live in.