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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 sometimes feels like every job posting these days requires 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: $36,430
Teaching assistants help preschool, elementary, or high school teachers complete their daily duties, including grading homework and instructing students on  specific subjects. Except when working at colleges and universities, teaching assistants have no degree requirements. However, there are many certificates and degree programs that can give you a leg up, such as  associate degree programs in early childhood education.

2. Court, Municipal, and License Clerks

Average salary: $48,760
Court, municipal, and license clerks do clerical work for government offices and courts, including preparing agendas and issuing permits. A high school diploma is all you need to qualify for this career, but having an associate degree or certificate in an administrative field can help you progress as a clerk.

3. Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installers 

Average salary: $57,400
Security and fire alarm systems installers maintain and repair safety systems in commercial and residential buildings. There’s 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: $62,140
Airfield operations specialists ensure planes can take off and land safely. You need a high school diploma to qualify and there’s significant on-the-job training involved. A similar role in aircraft and airport support, air traffic controller, requires an associate degree, but has an average salary of $136,790.

Find your career fit

Discover if this is the right career path for you with a free Forage job simulation.

5. Computer User Support Specialists

Average salary: $63,640
Computer user support specialists typically work in an “IT” department — information technology. These 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.

Citibank, citigroup logo

Citi Technology Software Development

Kickstart your computer science career with this free job simulation from Citi.

Avg. Time: 5 to 6 hours

Skills you’ll build: System design, state diagrams, flowcharts, written communication, machine learning, risk assessment, Java, APIs, back end development

6. Rotary Drill Operators

Average salary: $67,320
Rotary drill operators work in the oil and gas industry, using heavy machinery to extract resources from the ground. This career doesn’t have any formal education requirements, and experienced drill operators can see annual salaries nearing six figures! Beyond rotary drill operators, many careers in the energy field and oil and gas industry pay well and are expected to grow over the next decade. 

>>MORE: Explore what companies are in the energy field in 2024.

7. Electricians

Average salary: $67,810
Electricians maintain, install, and repair electrical systems in residential and commercial spaces. You typically only need a high school diploma or equivalent to become an electrician, but you may need to participate in an apprenticeship. Electricians are considered trade careers, and most trades pay well! For instance, carpenters have an average salary of $60,970.

GE logo

GE Electrical Engineering

Explore a career in electrical systems with this free electrical engineering job simulation from GE Aerospace.

Avg. Time: 3 to 4 hours

Skills you’ll build: Electrical system design, critical thinking, technical documentation, verification planning, avionics systems analysis, systematic problem-solving

8. Real Estate Sales Agents

Average salary: $69,610
Real estate sales agents help people buy and sell properties. You’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent to become a real estate sales agent, and you’ll likely need to get a real estate license, depending on your state.

CBRE Commercial Real Estate

Check out a career in commercial real estate with this free job simulation from CBRE.

Avg. Time: 1 to 2 hours

Skills you’ll build: Sector knowledge, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, relationship management, growth mindset

9. Court Reporters

Average salary: $71,040
Court reporters transcribe trial proceedings and keep track of court documents and information. You only need an associate degree or certificate in court reporting or an administrative field to get started in this career. However, you can also get a certificate in short-hand or notary services that can help you progress as a court reporter.

10. Sound Engineering Technicians

Average salary: $74,100
Sound engineering technicians record and edit sound, like music and talking, used in a variety of productions, including television, radio, and podcasts. There aren’t any degrees required for this career, but a certificate or associate degree in audio engineering or communications technology can be helpful.

11. Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators

Average salary: $75,770
Claims adjusters primarily work for insurance companies, reviewing details of filed claims and determining 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: Explore more careers like claim adjusters with our list of the best-paying jobs in finance for 2024.

NYC AIG office, working at AIG

AIG Underwriting

Learn how insurance policies are built with AIG's free underwriting job simulation.

Avg. Time: 3 to 4 hours

Skills you’ll build: Critical thinking, creativity, presentation, research, technical analysis, reasoning, proposal drafting

12. Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers

Average salary: $76,550
Police officers and sheriffs enforce laws and protect the public. Becoming a police officer typically requires getting accepted to and completing 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 $95,930.

13. Power Plant Operators 

Average salary: $91,880
Power plant operators run the machinery that generates electricity for cities and towns. You need a high school diploma to get started, and there’s extensive on-the-job training. A similar job, nuclear power reactor operator, is more niche, but also doesn’t require a degree and has an average salary of $121,240. 

>>MORE: Learn if energy is a good career path for you.

14. Computer Programmers

Average salary: $107,750
Computer programmers write code for computer applications. Some programmers work in very specialized fields, like blockchain technology or artificial intelligence (AI). Because the skills needed for programming are technical and can be learned outside of school, it’s 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: Start your programming career today with our picks for the best free coding bootcamps in 2024.

Working at Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts Software Engineering

Start your computer programming career by building a new feature for the Sims 4 game in this free job simulation from EA.

Avg. Time: 5 to 6 hours

Skills you’ll build: Communication, feature design, feature proposal, object-oriented design, class design, code analysis, data structures, code readability, game engine technology

15. Commercial Pilots

Average salary: $138,010
While you can’t be an airline pilot (carrying passengers) without a degree, you can become a commercial pilot by getting a commercial pilot license. Commercial pilots transport freight or give sightseeing tours, but the licensing requires over 200 hours of flight training.

What Job Should I Have? Quiz

Which of these jobs should you pursue? Moreover, what careers are right for you? Take the quiz! You’ll have to sign up to get your results, but it’s absolutely free. Let’s get started!

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1. You have a free afternoon. You're looking forward to…
2. Pick a young adult book.
3. You're going on a work trip. You're going to…
4. In social circles, I'm…
5. Other people describe me as…
6. I describe myself as…
7. When I'm under pressure, I tend to…
8. Pick a genre.
9. What keeps you up at night?

Still trying to figure out what you want to do professionally? Learn about different career paths with Forage’s free job simulations

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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.

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