7 High-Paying Jobs That Don't Require A Bachelor's Degree

high paying jobs without a bachelor's degree

With millions of unemployed competing for jobs, many Americans are returning to school to learn new skills that will hopefully lead to a new job. With college expenses on the rise, however, pursuing a four-year degree may not be financially feasible for many of them.

But there a plenty of good-paying jobs that require only an associate degree, usually obtained at one of the nation's 1,200 community, or two-year, colleges, where costs are roughly a third of in-state tuition and expenses at a four-year college.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80 occupations typically require less than a bachelor's degree to enter and had median annual wages of more than $50,000 in May 2010, the most recent data available. BLS notes that some of these positions had much higher median wages.

From that data, AOL Jobs has compiled a list of seven jobs that require only an associate degree, though some may require additional on-the-job training. The occupations listed here are a mix of those that pay annual wages of at least $50,000 and are in high demand, while others pay much more but are forecast to grow at a slower pace.

For more information, check out BLS' latest edition of "Occupational Outlook Quarterly," which lists 13 additional jobs that pay well and require just a two-year degree.

7. Funeral Service Managers, Directors, Morticians and Undertakers:

A career that involves routinely working with corpses may not seem like the best job choice, but morticians and undertakers often point to the satisfaction they get from helping those in mourning as the reason they like working in the funeral business. The job involves arranging funeral details and managing funeral homes, which often requires long hours, including working nights and weekends, as well as being on call. An associate degree in mortuary science and state certification are required. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts about average growth in this field, but notes that those jobs seekers who have embalming skills and are willing to relocate have the best job prospects.

  • Median annual pay: $54,330.
  • Projected job openings 2010-20: 10,700.
  • Related job experience: none.
  • On-the-job training: apprenticeship.

Looking for a job in the funeral business? Click here to get started.

6. Mechanical Engineering Technicians:

The job title may be a mouthful, but mechanical engineering technicians can be simply thought of as mechanical engineers' assistants. They work making sketches and rough layouts, and recording and analyzing data, in addition to other responsibilities. Most employers require job seekers to have a two-year degree or technical training in mechanical design technology. The profession, which benefits from a strong background in math and science, is forecast to grow slower than the average for all occupations through the end of the decade. Still, the BLS notes, those capable of mastering new software and technology, as well as traditional manual skills, can expect to find jobs.

  • Median annual pay: $50,110.
  • Projected job openings 2010-20: 10,400.
  • Related job experience: none.
  • On-the-job training: none.

Looking for a job as a mechanical engineering technician? Click here to get started.

5. Electrical and Electronics Drafters:

Another job that involves converting engineers' designs into practicable applications, electrical and electronic drafters use software to create technical drawings and plans to build everything from microchips to skyscrapers. Technological advances in this field have changed the nature of the work, and those seeking a job in this field are required to have an associate degree. Typically a desk job, drafters usually work full-time and overtime isn't uncommon. The number of jobs is forecast to grow 6 percent through 2020, slower than average.

  • Median annual pay: $53,020.
  • Projected job openings 2010-20: 7,200.
  • Related job experience: none.
  • On-the-job training: none.

Looking for a job as an electrical or electronics drafter? Click here to get started.

4. Respiratory Therapists:

One of many fast-growing jobs in the health field, respiratory therapists help patients who have difficulty breathing, whether resulting from disease, injury or medical emergency (such as a heart attack). Workers in this field typically work in hospitals; other venues include nursing homes and patients' homes. An associate degree in respiratory therapy is required, though many respiratory therapists hold a bachelor's degree. State licensing is also required (except in Alaska), though requirements vary. Job growth at 28 percent through the end of the decade is faster than the average for all occupations.

  • Median annual pay: $54,280.
  • Projected job openings 2010-20: 52,700.
  • Related job experience: none.
  • On-the-job training: none.

Looking for a job as a respiratory therapist? Click here to get started.

3. Occupational Therapy Assistants:

Another patient-centered job, occupational therapy assistants help people regain mobility after injury or disease. Workers in this job typically work under the direction of an occupational therapist, setting up equipment and directing patients through exercises and other rehabilitative activities prescribed in a treatment plan. The career requires an associate degree, and most states require a license. Demand for workers in this field is expected to grow quite quickly during the next eight years, as the large baby boom generation ages and demand for rehabilitation services grows.

  • Median annual pay: $51,010.
  • Projected job openings 2010-20: 16,800.
  • Related job experience: none.
  • On-the-job training: none.

Looking for a job as an occupational therapy assistants? Click here to get started.

2. Nuclear Technicians:

Despite concerns about safety, nuclear power remains a significant source of electricity in the U.S., accounting for 19 percent of output. Keeping the nation's 104 nuclear power plants up and running safely requires an army of workers, including many of the 7,100 Americans employed as nuclear technicians. In addition to ensuring that systems are running as they should, workers in this field also test radiation levels using special equipment. A full-time job, nuclear technicians typically enter the profession with an associate degree in nuclear science or similar field. Extensive on-the-job training is also required. Job prospects, anticipated to advance 14 percent in the foreseeable future, is about on par with all occupations.

  • Median annual pay: $68,090.
  • Projected job openings 2010-20: 3,300.
  • Related job experience: none.
  • On-the-job training: moderate.

Looking for a job as a nuclear technician? Click here to get started.

1. Air Traffic Controllers:

The job of controlling air traffic and maintaining safety above the nation's busy airports requires complete concentration, which is why several recent incidents involving controllers reportedly sleeping, texting and reading while on duty have raised the ire of elected officials. Because total concentration is required at all times air traffic controllers frequently find their jobs to be stressful and exhausting, and it's that fatigue, which prompts some workers to retire or quit, that largely drives the demand for new workers. Still, forecasts show demand for air traffic controllers to decline 3 percent -- a moderate pace -- through 2020. The BLS notes importantly that those without previous air traffic control experience must be younger than 31 to enter the field, which requires an air traffic management degree, from a school certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, and on-the-job training.

  • Median annual pay: $108,040.
  • Projected job openings 2010-20: 10,200.
  • Related job experience: none.
  • On-the-job training: long-term.

Looking for a job as an air traffic controller? Click here to get started.

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David Schepp

Staff Writer

David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.

Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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What is up with that Video player?? Has anyone else noticed that you can't stop it. thanks AOL -- are you embedding that feature on purpose?

August 06 2012 at 9:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Scott's comment

Scott, what issue are you having with the video player?

August 06 2012 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey! You missed the two best. Cop and firemen. They make big money because of the "overtime gravy train" and retire in their late thirties on a full, tax-free disability pension. Only problem is they don't hire "best qualified'. They hire "best politically connected".

August 06 2012 at 8:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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