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Best jobs that don't require a college degree

  • Best jobs that don't require a college degree

    From the moment they first set foot on campus, today's high-school students are inundated with messages about the importance of receiving a college education. They hear it from their guidance counselors, teachers, parents, family members, neighbors, coaches—the list goes on and on. While graduation from a four-year college can certainly work wonders for students' future careers, it's not necessary for all fields—something admissions officers and guidance counselors sometimes fail to mention.

    To find the best jobs that don't require a college degree, Stacker first consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook to compile a list of all jobs that don't require higher education. All professions that listed a high-school diploma, some college education (without a degree conferred), or no formal education requirements for entry-level positions were considered. Jobs that didn't list any entry-level education requirement were excluded, as were job titles that grouped several positions together. Then, Stacker cross-referenced those jobs against PayScale's list of the most meaningful jobs to discover how fulfilling each job actually is. PayScale compiled its data from the 2.7 million people who took a survey between June 11, 2013, and June 11, 2015, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics last updated its data April 12, 2019.

    Though deciding which job is best will always be a subjective question, Stacker tried to quantify it as much as possible by calculating a meaningful job average based on two percentages from PayScale: high satisfaction and high meaning. High satisfaction represents the percentage of PayScale survey respondents with each job who said they were extremely satisfied or fairly satisfied with their job, while high meaning represents the percentage of respondents who answered “yes” or “very much so” to the question “Does your work make the world a better place?” This list was then ranked by a job index, which weights annual pay 50%, job satisfaction 25%, and job meaning 25%, comparing each metric to the maximum recorded value among jobs not requiring a college degree. Any ties were broken by the 2018 median annual wage. Read on to find out which job with a median pay of more than $82,000 cracked the top five, discover which highly technical fields don't require any formal education, and gain inspiration for your next career change or side hustle.

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  • #50. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators

    - Job index: 67.97
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 58%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 51%
    - Median pay: $51,600

    Since art is entirely subjective, it doesn't require any formal training—just talent and lots of practice. In fact, many famous artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Frida Kahlo were self-taught.

  • #49. Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products

    - Job index: 68.6
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 67%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 38%
    - Median pay: $54,500

    Though having a college degree listed on your résumé can certainly help you land a job, sales isn't a skill that can really be taught in school: It's something you need to practice and develop on your own. Though many sales representatives interviewed by Payscale were satisfied with their jobs, only 38% thought they were making a difference in the world.

  • #48. Millwrights

    - Job index: 68.98
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 73%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 38%
    - Median pay: $52,400

    Millwrights might not be in as high demand these days as they were prior to the Industrial Revolution, but nevertheless, the job still exists and doesn't require a college education. However, millwrights must learn a wealth of technical skills through on-the-job training.

  • #47. Self-enrichment education teachers

    - Job index: 69.02
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 78%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 78%
    - Median pay: $31,900

    Self-enrichment education teachers aren't high-school teachers, college professors, or even fitness instructors. Rather, these teachers take on subjects like self-improvement and self-help. Since they don't teach in an academic or vocational setting, they aren't required to complete a minimum level of education.

  • #46. Eligibility interviewers, government programs

    - Job index: 69.06
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 68%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 73%
    - Median pay: $38,700

    Eligibility interviewers determine who qualifies for government benefits like Social Security, unemployment, or welfare. More than 70% of these employees said their jobs were meaningful, likely because they help people every day.

  • #45. Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers

    - Job index: 69.11
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 67%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 63%
    - Median pay: $43,800

    Though you don't need a college degree to become an HVAC technician, you do need specialized on-the-job training in how to install these pieces of machinery. For people who enjoy working with their hands and giving great customer service, this can be a highly meaningful career.

  • #44. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers

    - Job index: 69.44
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 75%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 55%
    - Median pay: $44,400

    If you've ever built your own home or moved into a new apartment, you have probably called a telecommunications equipment installer to hook up your phone or internet router. Again, though this career is highly technical, it doesn't require a college education.

  • #43. Boilermakers

    - Job index: 69.8
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 65%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 39%
    - Median pay: $56,700

    Yet another trade that teaches its workers the skills they need to know through an apprenticeship program, repairing, maintaining, and installing boilers is a highly technical trade that often requires intense physical labor and long hours of travel. While the job is undoubtedly important, these workers don't report a high level of job meaningfulness.

  • #42. Electricians

    - Job index: 70
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 67%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 58%
    - Median pay: $47,400

    Although most states require electricians to obtain a license, this career doesn't require any college degree. However, some electricians get their start through a technical college or an apprenticeship program.

  • #41. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

    - Job index: 70.18
    - Workers reporting high job satisfaction: 62%
    - Workers reporting high job meaningfulness: 63%
    - Median pay: $47,600

    These three job titles sound fairly different, but actually, all three refer to technicians who install and repair pipes in homes, businesses, factories, and other buildings. About 63% of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters told PayScale that they found their job fulfilling, likely because their work is so important to the people they serve.

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