7 High-Growth Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree

Skilled Labor Jobs Provide a Financially Feasible Alternative to College

Is College Worth the Money?

“What are your plans after you graduate from high school?”

For most recent graduates over the last few decades, the answer has been automatic and unequivocal — college. With more and more jobs making a bachelor’s degree a minimum requirement, there has never been a greater emphasis on higher education. And for the most part that’s a good thing as more education is almost always better than less.

But times are changing.

First of all, the sheer increase in cost just to attend college has been steadily climbing year over year. College Board’s survey of college pricing found a “moderate” cost to attend an in-state public college is $22,261 per year, while it’ll cost $43,289 per year to attend a private institute of higher learning. Assuming you’re like most Americans and can’t foot that kind of a bill out of pocket, you’ll have to take out student loans. Which means depending on what you choose to study and eventually make a career out of, your return on investment might not be worth the high cost of college.

Don’t Be Afraid of “Dirty Jobs”

Mike Rowe is not only the host of the popular TV show “Dirty Jobs,” he’s also an outspoken advocate for skilled labor in the United States via his website www.mikeroweworks.com.

Rowe, who spoke with Salary.com last year on this topic, isn’t minimizing the importance of education or trying to dissuade people from attending college. In most cases, you will make more money with a degree than without one. But somewhere along the line, the unfortunate fact of the matter is skilled labor and learning a trade went from the “American Way” to being considered a dead-end of sorts. Now Rowe is taking it upon himself to cast skilled labor in a better light and stress that it can be a positive alternative to college with many financially viable careers to consider.

In that light, we combined some of our salary data with job growth projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to come up with a list of careers expected to fluorish over the better part of the next decade.

1. Home Care Aide

Projected increase in jobs by 2020: 70%
Median annual salary: $26,226
Projected 2020 salary: $32,283

You don’t need four years of higher education to get an important job that makes a direct and positive impact on the lives of people who are truly in need.

Home Care Aides provide service to individuals — usually in their own homes — who need assistance caring for themselves as a result of old age, sickness, disability and/or other inflictions. Whilel this isn’t being a nurse, home care may include light housecleaning, laundry, meal preparation, transportation, companionship, and advice on such things as nutrition, cleanliness, household activities and more. It’s an “in the trenches” job in which you can really make a difference.

While this job assisting the elderly and infirm does not usually require a college degree, it could require certification from the National Association for Home Care and Hospice.

2. Receptionist

Projected increase in jobs by 2020: 24%
Median annual salary: $30,025
Projected 2020 salary: $36,927

You don’t have to be a model or an executive to be the face of a company, because receptionists are often the all-important first impression that people have about businesses.

Some people view the work done by receptionists as grunt work which includes answering phones, transferring calls, and fetching coffee for waiting clients. But with such a public-facing role, receptionists are in an important role because they set the tone — both in person and on the phone — for business success or failure.

This position doesn’t usually require more than a high school diploma, and it could serve as a springboard for additional career opportunities for the right candidate.

3. Heavy Truck Driver

Projected increase in jobs by 2020: 21%
Median annual salary: $38,412
Projected 2020 salary: $47,243

No matter how many technological advances we make, businesses will still have to physically distribute and deliver their products. Which is probably why the number of truck driver jobs is expected to increase by more than 20% over the next seven years.

There’s nothing too fancy about this, as truck drivers deliver goods from one place to the other. Most truck drivers will have to load and unload cargo, employ best practices for keeping the cargo safe during transport, and keep appropriate documention of all the goods. Truck drivers are also responsible for a certain degree of vehicle maintenance, and must earn a commercial driver’s license and have an acceptable driving record.

4. Carpenter

Projected increase in jobs by 2020: 20%
Median annual salary: $44,778
Projected 2020 salary: $55,072

There’s no substitute for quality work, which is why many people have no problem paying top dollar for good carpenters.

Carpenters inspect, repair, install, modify, rebuild, construct, and maintain woodwork and other related structures. Carpenters are exposed to restricted movement, dirty environments, extreme temperatures and intense noise. Lifting and carrying heavy objects is also required. They construct, repairs, restore and install structures such as floors, doors, walls, windows, stairways, furniture, cabinets, shelves, and roofs.

Although a 4-year degree is not required, many experienced carpenters attend a technical school and engage in an apprenticeship at some point.

5. Office Clerk

Projected increase in jobs by 2020: 17%
Median annual salary: $31,476
Projected 2020 salary: $38,711

Just like some of Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs,” the duties of an office clerk are tedious and unappreciated — but also incredibly necessary.

The exact scope of responsibilities will vary largely depending on the organization in question, but in general an office clerk performs the tasks that keep the office running on a daily basis. Things like data entry, sorting and answering emails, answering phones and operating office machinery. Clerks work in a variety of fields, such as education, government, medicine and law.

You only need a high school diploma at most businesses to work in this capacity.

6. Sales Representative

Projected increase in jobs by 2020: 16%
Median annual salary: $75,666
Projected 2020 salary: $93,059

The ability to connect with people and sell them successfully usually isn’t something you can learn at college. It’s something you’re born with and hone with lots of real-world practice.

Obviously the exact duties of a sales representative will depend on the industry in which they work, but salespeople must stay positive, energetic and friendly all while being aggressive enough to close the deal. Workers in sales are judged almost exclusively on results, making it a high-risk, high-reward profession that often values street smarts and people skills over knowledge gained in the classroom.

7. Bookkeeper

Projected increase in jobs by 2020: 14%
Median annual salary: $39,022
Projected 2020 salary: $47,992

It’s ironic that handling a company’s books doesn’t necessarily require post-secondary book learning.

Simply put, a bookkeeper handles the company’s financial records. A bookkeeper’s job description is likely to include recording financial transactions, managing accounts payable and receivable, reconciling bank statements, updating the trial balance, profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet, managing payroll, invoicing clients, making federal and state tax deposits, and completing annual tax forms, just to name a few.

Bookkeepers at smaller businesses might have a greater scope of responsibility than specialists at large corporations, and this job might call for an associate’s degree in some cases.

Let Salary.com Help You

Whether you’re armed with a college degree or you have a job because of your vocational training, you want to earn as much money as possible. And Salary.com can help.

The first thing you should do is research, so you’re able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what’s a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.

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