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10 High-Growth Career Fields That Don’t Require a Four-Year Degree

10 High-Growth Career Fields That Don’t Require a Four-Year Degree

For decades, a traditional four-year college has been the standard postsecondary goal for many K–12 students. But, college is not the only avenue to fulfilling, challenging, and lucrative careers. As college costs rise and student loan debt becomes a growing concern, more and more students, parents, and educators are embracing alternative options like trade schools, military service, community colleges, bootcamp programs, and high school career and technical education (CTE) courses.

Learning isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice; so why should postsecondary plans be? The key is for every student to have a plan that fits with his or her unique interests and skills. To help you and your students explore opportunities that break the college mold, we’ve put together this list (with figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2018) of 10 high-growth career fields that don’t require a four-year university degree.

1. Web Developer

  • What they do: Design, create, and maintain websites
  • Perfect fit for: Students who enjoy working on computers and want a career that combines math and logic skills with art and design
  • Median salary: $69,430
  • Certification and training: Requirements vary widely between employers, but an associate degree or certificate are common credentials

2. Computer Support Specialist

  • What they do: Provide support for computer users and organizations, including system setup, regular updates, and troubleshooting
  • Perfect fit for: Students who enjoy working on computers, like helping others and providing customer service, and want a career that is highly interactive
  • Median salary: $53,470
  • Certification and training: Requirements vary widely between employers, but an associate degree or certificate are common credentials

3. Food Service Manager

  • What they do: Oversee daily operations of establishments, including restaurants and catering services that prepare and serve food and beverages
  • Perfect fit for: Students who want to work in a fast-paced, active environment; like providing customer service; and enjoy food and cooking
  • Median salary: $54,240
  • Certification and training: No training beyond a high school diploma/GED is typically needed, although ServSafe training or a similar credential is often required

4. Preschool Teacher

  • What they do: Facilitate learning opportunities and attend to the basic needs of children younger than 5 years old who haven’t yet entered kindergarten
  • Perfect fit for: Students who love young children; want to work in a fast-paced, active environment; and show an aptitude for being natural caregivers and nurturers
  • Median salary: $29,780
  • Certification and training: Requirements vary widely between employers, but an associate degree or certificate are common credentials

5. Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver

  • What they do: Drive large commercial trucks to transport goods between locations
  • Perfect fit for: Students who enjoy working independently and do not want to adhere to a regular schedule
  • Median salary: $43,680
  • Certification and training: A certificate program, as well as a commercial driver’s license (CDL), are typically required

6. Machinists and Tool and Die Maker

  • What they do: Set up and operate complex machinery to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools
  • Perfect fit for: Students who show an aptitude for being mechanically inclined and enjoy hands-on projects
  • Median salary: $44,950
  • Certification and training: No training beyond a high school diploma/GED is typically needed

7. Security Guard

  • What they do: Patrol and protect property, including monitor for illegal activity
  • Perfect fit for: Students who are able to work independently, are highly detail-oriented, and are comfortable working in a potentially high-stress environment
  • Median salary: $28,530
  • Certification and training: No degree beyond a high school diploma/GED is typically needed, may be some additional pretraining and certification needed

8. Nursing Assistant

  • What they do: Provide basic care for patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities
  • Perfect fit for: Students who are passionate about helping others; enjoy working in a fast-paced, active environment; and show an aptitude for being natural caregivers and nurturers
  • Median salary: $28,530
  • Certification and training: A certified nursing aide (CNA) credential is typically the only requirement beyond a high school diploma or GED

9. Wind Turbine Technician

  • What they do: Install, maintain, and repair wind turbines
  • Perfect fit for: Students who enjoy spending time outside, show an aptitude for being mechanically inclined, feel passionate about the environment and green energy, and enjoy hands-on projects
  • Median salary: $54,370
  • Certification and training: Certificate

10. Radiation Therapist

  • What they do: Administer radiation treatments to cancer and other patients in hospital or clinic settings
  • Perfect fit for: Students who are passionate about helping others; enjoy working in a fast-paced, active, and potentially high-stress environment; and show an aptitude for being natural caregivers and nurturers
  • Median salary: $82,330
  • Certification and training: Associate degree and state/national certification

Looking for resources to help your high school students get a jump-start on working toward their career goals, no matter what their postsecondary plan is? Check out Edmentum’s career and education courses that span all 16 Career Clusters and help students prepare for industry-recognized credentials!

sarah.cornelius@edmentum.com's picture

Sarah Cornelius is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Edmentum and has been with the company since 2014. In her role, she works to provide educators with engaging and insightful resources. Sarah received her B.S. in Professional Communications and Emerging Media from the University of Wisconsin - Stout.

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