Editor’s note: This is part of a new series spotlighting promising career paths that are filled with opportunity — yet don’t require a four-year college degree.
Is your high school student eager to earn a salary? Does an AA degree, technical training, certificate, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training fit your family budget better than four years of college tuition?
If the answer is yes, there’s no need to panic about your child’s financial future. Dozens of high-paying jobs are available for high school graduates without a four-year college degree — and there’s an increasing need for all of the positions on this list.
Check out our 42 top career choices below, and present them to your daughter or son. All earn about $40,000 per year or more and have promising future job growth.
The list is followed by 10 “disappearing” occupations it might be wise for your teen to avoid. Data was obtained from the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Radiation Therapist Providing radiation treatment to cancer patients pays, on average, $80,160 per year, with projected job growth at 14 percent between 2014 and 2024. For this career, an AA degree is a must; plus, in most states a license and/or certification is required.
- Commercial Pilot Salaries average a sky-high $77,200 for small plane and helicopter pilots tasked with crop dusting, firefighting, rescue missions, aerial photography, and charter flights. No college is necessary, just a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s not a turbulent field, with growth between 2014 and 2024 projected to be a steady 5 percent.
- Elevator Installer and Repairer Salaries to assemble, install, repair, and maintain elevators and escalators are a top-floor average of $76,860, with job openings going up, up, up: 13 percent growth is expected between 2014 and 2024. To gain entry into this field, apprenticeship and earning a license are both typically required.
- Dental Hygienist
Smile! The bright news is that job growth is projected to be19 percent from 2014 to 2024 in this teeth cleaning, oral health occupation that pays a salivating $72,910 per year on average. For this career, an AA degree and a license are required. Read our profile of a dental hygienist to learn more.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Operating imaging equipment that depicts, for example, an embryo wiggling in a womb, offers an illuminating $69,650 average salary, with a huge 24 percent job growth projected between 2014 and 2024. An AA degree and a certificate are required to embark on this career path.
- Registered Nurse
An AA degree in nursing leads to an average annual salary of $68,450, with 16 percent job growth projected between 2014 and 2024. That means this enormous field will employ an additional 439,300 workers in hospitals, schools, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, prisons, and military bases in the next few years.
- MRI Technologist
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners produce detailed images of our body’s interior. Operators earn, on average, $68,420 per year, with job growth between 2014 and 2024 projected at 9 percent. To become an MRI Tech, candidates need an AA degree, certification, and additional training.
- Web Developer
Can your teen create fabulous websites? This programming and graphic design skill garners an average of $66,130 per year. What’s more, projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is an eye-popping 27 percent. Entry-level jobs typically require an AA degree, though self-employment is a viable option in this field. Read our profile of a web developer to learn more.
- Claims Adjuster, Appraiser, Examiner, and Investigator
About 315,300 workers evaluate insurance claims, earning an average of $63,670 per year. Only a high school diploma is required for most entry-level positions. Projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is a slow 3 percent due to safer automobiles and fewer accidents.
- Electric Line Installer and Repairer
Fixing cables on the top of telephone and utility poles earns a lofty $62,65 per year on average. What’s more, job growth is projected to be 6 percent between 2014 and 2024. Prep for this career path involves long-term, on-the-job training and technical training.
Pay is a hot $62,060 per year on average for workers who assemble and repair closed vats, boilers, and other large containers of liquids and gases. Projected job growth is 9 percent between 2014 and 2024 in this dangerous, physically demanding occupation. Many enter the field via apprenticeship programs, after attaining welding skills.
- Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives
Is your teen a charmer who can get you to buy anything? More than 1.8 million people are currently employed as wholesale and manufacturing sales reps, earning an average salary of $60,530 per year with projected job growth of 7 percent between 2014 and 2024. A high school diploma is typically sufficient for entry-level positions.
- Occupational Therapy Assistant
Helping patients regain the skills they need for work and daily living is the goal of this vocation that pays an average of $59,010 per year and anticipates an astonishing 40 percent job growth from 2014 to 2024. Newbies need an AA degree and a license to get started.
- Respiratory Therapist
Does your teen want to help infants with undeveloped lungs, adolescents with asthma, elderlies with emphysema, and patients suffering from shock, heart attacks, or drowning? The average annual salary is a vigorous $58,670 per year, with faster-than-average 12 percent job growth projected between 2014 and 2024. Typically, an AA degree is required for entry-level respiratory therapists.
- Radiologic Technologist
Operating x-ray machines earns, on average, $57,450 per year — and the field is projected to expand at a rate of 9 percent between 2014 and 2024. This position requires an AA degree and a license or certification. Read our profile of a radiology technologist to learn more.
- Physical Therapist Assistant
PTAs help patients recover from injuries and illness by regaining movement and managing pain. An AA degree and certification are required for this job, which averages $56,610 per year and is projected to grow by an astonishing 40 percent between 2014 and 2024.
- Real Estate Broker or Agent
Real estate brokers earn, on average, $56,570 per year and real estate agents earn, on average, $44,090 per year — though both can earn substantially more depending on their commissions. There are currently 421,300 brokers and agents. Typically, these professions require a high school diploma, real estate courses, and passing licensing exams. Growth, however, is a slower-than-average 3 percent.
- Geological and Petroleum Technician
Salaries average $56,470 per year and job growth is projected to be a gushing 12 percent between 2014 and 2024 for these technicians who help scientists and engineers locate and extract minerals, oil, and natural gas. Applicants often need just an AA degree in applied science or a science-related technology, and on-the job training.
- Funeral Service Workers
Embalmers earn an average of $42,260 per year, while morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors earn about $54,830 annually in this predictable-as-death business. Entering these roles, which are projected to grow 5 percent between 2014 and 2024, typically requires an AA degree.
- Commercial Diver
Scuba divers build, inspect, and repair submerged structures, conduct experiments, rig explosives, and photograph sea creatures. The average salary is $53,990, and these jobs are projected to grow a whale-sized 37 percent between 2014 and 2024. Training to be a commercial diver requires only “a few months” at schools accredited by the Association of Commercial Diving Educators.
- Hearing Aid Specialist
Say what? Selecting and fitting the ideal hearing aid for customers earns an average of $53,000 per year. Expected growth in this field is a phenomenal 27.2 percent between 2014 and 2024. Entry is possible with AA degree in Hearing Instrument Science http://study.com/articles/Associate_Degree_in_Audiology.html and on-the-job training.
Installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical power in houses, factories, and business is the day-to-day work in this $52,720-per-year (on average) occupation, with 14 percent job growth projected between 2014 and 2024. Both technical schools and apprenticeships count as preparation for a career in this handy, growing trade.
- Wind Turbine Technician
Windtechs, who install and repair wind turbines, enjoy a breezy $52,260 annual salary (on average), with job growth that blows away all competition: 109 percent growth is projected between 2014 and 2024, making this America’s fastest growing profession. Technical school and on-the-job training are both required. Plus, it’s worth mentioning that this career path is unsuitable for people with fear of heights.
- Computer Support Specialist
Does your teen solve all your IT problems? Providing help professionally earns, on average, $52,160 annually, with 12 percent job growth projected between 2014 and 2024. Currently, there are more than 750,000 employees in this field — and many positions are open to applicants with an AA degree or relevant post-secondary classes.
- Plumber, Pipefitter, and Steamfitter
Installing and repairing pipes that carry liquids and gases earns an average annual salary of $51,450. Growth between 2014 and 2024 is projected to be a high-spouting 12 percent. Training for this field is either on-the-job, via apprenticeship, or going to a technical school.
- Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician
Analyzing body fluids and cell tissue in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and laboratories generally requires an AA degree or a certificate. Projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is an impressive 16 percent, especially with a median salary of $50,930 per year.
- Insurance Sales Agent
Nearly 500,000 people are employed in insurance sales, a field that’s projected to enjoy a secure 9 percent job growth between 2014 and 2024 and an average salary of $49,990 per year. In terms of education, a high school diploma, plus studying for and earning the appropriate license, is usually sufficient.
- Civil Engineering Technician
Assistants to civil engineers spend their time planning and designing highways, bridges, and other infrastructure projects. On average, they collect $49,980 per year in this occupation with projected 5 percent growth between 2014 and 2024. For this field, an AA degree in civil engineering technology is preferred.
- Environmental Engineering Technician
Conducting pollution surveys and cleaning up the environment is the task of these workers who earn, on average, $49,170 annually, and projected job growth is 10 percent between 2014 and 2024. Entering this career path requires an AA degree in environmental engineering technology or a related field.
- Industrial Machinery Mechanic and Machinery Maintenance Worker
The average salary is $49,100 annually in this occupation that keeps factories running by fixing industrial machines involved in conveying, production, and packaging. Projected job growth is a brisk 16 percent between 2014 and 2024. Getting started in this career requires a year or more of training either on the job or through a technical school.
- Occupational Health and Safety Technician
Measuring hazards to safeguard workers, property, the public, and the environment, earns and average of $48,820 per year and has a rosy outlook with 9 percent job growth projected between 2014 and 2024. What it takes to enter the profession can vary, from on-the-job training to a certificate or an AA degree.
- Medical Equipment Repairer
The critical, potentially stressful job of maintaining patient care equipment earns, on average, $48,070 per year. Projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is a low-risk 6 percent. To embark on this career path, employers prefer candidates with AA degrees in biomedical technology or engineering.
- Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer
HVAC technicians help control the air quality and temperature in buildings for a median annual wage of $45,910. Job opportunities are projected to heat up between 2014 and 2024: 14 percent growth is expected. Employers look for high school graduates with postsecondary or apprenticeship training.
- Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operator
Treating and transporting water and wastewater earns an average salary of $45,760, with 6 percent job growth projected between 2014 and 2024. Employees need a high school diploma, professional license, and on-the-job training.
- Diesel Service Technician and Mechanic
People in this career maintain and repair diesel engines in buses and trucks and earn, on average, $45,170 per year. Job growth is projected to be a speedy 12 percent between 2014 and 2024. Employers prefer applicants who’ve completed a diesel engine repair training program.
- Surgical Technologist
Pay averages $45,160 per year for hospital technicians who prepare operation rooms, arrange equipment, and assist physicians during surgeries. Projected job growth is 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, and an AA degree is required.
- Environmental Science and Protection Technician
Workers in this occupation investigate sources of pollution and contamination impacting public health, and enforce environmental regulations. The average annual wage is $44,190, and projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is a squeaky clean 9 percent. To embark on this career, an AA degree is typically required.
Is your teen a wizard in wood shop? On average, carpenters earn $43,600 annually, with projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 a handy 6 percent. No classroom education is required, as construction is typically learned on the job as a helper or apprentice.
- Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technician
Is your teen skilled at calibrating your audio-visual system to produce the best picture and sound? Your teen’s aptitude could lead to a career in setting up equipment for television, cinema, radio, concerts, and recordings. Pay averages $42,550 per year, with job growth projected to be 7 percent between 2014 and 2024. The prerequisite for this type of employment is typically postsecondary classes or an AA degree.
- Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installer
Hanging and taping wallboard in buildings takes home an average of $42,280 per year, and job growth is projected to be 5 percent between 2014 and 2024. No license, credential, or education is required — just on-the-job training.
- Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver
Does your teen want to drive a long haul big rig? Transporting cargo in massive vehicles pays, on average, $41,340 annually. Job growth is projected to be a mid-level 5 percent between 2014 and 2024. To hit the road on this career path, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and attendance at a professional truck-driving school are required.
- Solar Photovoltaic Installer
PV installers place solar panels on roofs. On average, the salary is $39,240; projected job growth is a sunny 24 percent between 2014 and 2024. Training in this field is gained via technical school, community college, apprenticeship, or on the job.
10 low-paying and disappearing jobs
While an average annual income of $56,790 for a high school grad with short-term job training sounds excellent, it’s not. The profession is drastically downsizing, by 28 percent, and massive layoffs are expected.
Foreign competition and new technology is crippling this factory profession that employs more than 1 million people. High school graduates with a few months of training can earn an average of $34,840 per year, but a projected decline of 13 percent between 2014 and 2024 is anticipated.
Cancel this journey! Job opportunities in this field are in freefall and projected to decline by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024. Plus, the pay averages only $36,460 per year. While only a high school diploma is needed to get started, don’t go there.
The future of this profession isn’t sparkly, with an average annual salary of $38,200 and an 11 percent decline in opportunities anticipated between 2014 and 2024.
Handling money might be thrilling for high school grads, and only one month of training is required for entry-level tellers, but the pay averages a paltry $27,260 per year. What’s more, the projected job “growth” is negative 8 percent between 2014 and 2024, which means 40,000 bank tellers will be laid off.
Farm and ranch labor has long been an option for rural high school graduates, but these job positions are projected to decline by 6 percent between 2014 and 2024. Plus, pay averages about $22,540 per year.
Lumberjacks need only a high school diploma and moderate on-the-job training to land this dangerous work, which pays an average of $37,590 annually. But employment opportunities are crashing like timber and projected “growth” is negative 4 percent between 2014 and 2024.
Blooms are beautiful, and selling them requires only a high school diploma, but this occupation is wilting. Pay averages about $25,850 per year, and the job outlook is poor with job “growth” projected to be negative 3 percent between 2014 and 2024.
Cutting, tanning, and stitching hide in this craft with an average salary of $26,040 per year is limping downhill. Projected job outlook is a lame negative 2 percent between 2014 and 2024. Plus, long on-the-job training is required at a trade school or community college is a prerequisite to launching this career.
Reeling them in is fun, and no formal education is required, but the average wage is an undersized $29,280 and jobs are scaling back with a 1 percent projected decline by 2024.
This is part of a new series highlighting post-high school pathways to success for teens whose plans don’t include four-year college. These are careers with great growth potential that don’t require a four-year degree. Read our career spotlights on dental hygienist, web developer, photography director, and radiology technologist.