10 careers that may not require a bachelor's degree

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10 careers that may not require a bachelor's degree


Earning a bachelor's degree could help you increase how much you make over your lifetime, but it's not the only path to a well-paying career. With rising tuition costs, you may decide to keep your college costs and student debt low. Or perhaps you just don't want to spend another four years in school.

Here are 10 careers that don't require a bachelor's degree, all with median annual wages higher than $35,540 (the individual median annual wage in the U.S. as of May 2014).*

1. Dental hygienist

  • Median annual wage (2014): $71,520
  • Minimum education requirement: Associate degree

Dental hygienists work under the supervision of a dentist. They clean teeth, examine for oral diseases, take X-rays and educate patients on oral health care. Dental hygiene programs typically take three years to complete, and all states require dental hygienists to be licensed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that dental hygiene is a relatively stable career, as improvements in oral hygiene have given rise to a need for oral health care later into life.

2. Web developer

  • Median annual wage (2014): $63,490
  • Minimum education requirement: Associate degree or postsecondary award

Web developers may test applications, write code, and design websites and mobile apps. Some specialize in particular aspects of building a website, such as front-end or back-end development. Many employers look for candidates with at least an associate degree in Web design or a related field and experience with HTML programming.

3. Wholesale and manufacturing sales representative

  • Median annual wage (2014): $58,380
  • Minimum education requirement: High school diploma or equivalent

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell nontechnical products such as food, office supplies and clothing to government agencies, businesses and other organizations. Sales representatives are also responsible for researching and identifying potential clients, reviewing sales statistics, preparing reports and doing other analytical tasks. In addition to on-the-job training, new sales representatives may need to be certified by a trade organization, depending on the products they sell. Keep in mind that sales representatives for scientific or technical products may need at least a bachelor's degree.

4. Occupational therapy assistant

  • Median annual wage (2014): $56,950
  • Minimum education requirement: Associate degree

Occupational therapy (OT) assistants work under the direction of an occupational therapist to help children and adults with disabilities or those recovering from injuries develop or regain skills for daily living or employment. They may guide patients through exercises, stretches and other therapeutic activities, or teach them how to use assistive devices and equipment. Most states require that OT assistants be licensed. According to the BLS, OT is one of the fastest growing careers, with a 40 percent growth rate projected through 2024.

5. Electrician

  • Median annual wage (2014): $51,110
  • Minimum education requirement: High school diploma or equivalent

Electricians repair, install and maintain power, communications, lighting and control systems in a variety of different facilities. Electricians typically gain experience in a four- to five-year apprenticeship, but some electricians start out with technical school training. Most states require electricians to be licensed. According to the BLS, jobs for electricians are among the fastest growing, thanks to emerging green technologies (like wind and solar), creating demand for electricians who have skills and experience with renewable energy equipment.

6. Office manager

  • Median annual wage (2014): $50,780
  • Minimum education requirement: High school diploma or equivalent

Office managers often play a key role in a business's day-to-day operations. Duties can include hiring and supervising office and administrative support workers, resolving customer complaints and managing the office budget. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the U.S. will add more than 100,000 new jobs in office management through 2024.

7. Wind turbine technician

  • Median annual wage (2014): $48,800
  • Minimum education requirement: Associate degree or postsecondary award

Wind power has been getting cheaper, thanks to lower turbine prices and installation costs. As a result, demand for wind power has been going up, along with jobs for wind turbine technicians, who install, repair and maintain wind turbines. They typically work outdoors and may climb turbines or service underground systems, so it might be a good career for someone who's a little adventurous! According to the BLS, employment opportunities in this field are expected to rise 108% by 2024.

8. Paralegal and legal assistant

  • Median annual wage (2014): $48,350
  • Minimum education requirement: Associate degree

Paralegals and legal assistants do legal research, gather evidence, maintain files and perform other tasks to help lawyers prepare for meetings, trials and hearings. Paralegals may work in law firms or in-house legal departments. This career typically attracts many applicants relative to the number of positions available, and hiring can be very competitive. The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook says candidates with strong computer and database-management skills will have the best job prospects.

9. Hearing aid specialist

  • Median annual wage (2014): $43,010
  • Minimum education requirement: High school diploma or equivalent

Hearing aid specialists test patients for hearing problems, fit them for hearing aids and follow up to assess how well their hearing aids are working. They work with audiologists who are responsible for diagnosing, managing and treating a patient's hearing problems. Most of the training is done on the job, so many candidates find they don't need a formal education for this career.

10. Physical therapy assistant

  • Median annual wage (2014): $41,640
  • Minimum education requirement: Associate degree

Physical therapy (PT) assistants work with a physical therapist to help patients recover from an injury or surgery. They may help those with mobility impairments learn how to perform activities for daily living. PT assistants may also provide patient care such as stretching or assisting with specific exercises. An associate degree in physical therapy assisting typically takes two years to complete, and you'll need to be licensed.

Bottom line

We all have different goals, interests and priorities. If you're considering education after high school, think about what makes the most sense for your learning preferences, budget and career goals. Higher education can be worth the investment and cost if it's something you enjoy and you have access to resources that can help you succeed. But if not, there are alternative paths to a well-paying career.

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2015

About the Author: Carrie Deakin is a copywriter at Credit Karma. When she's not wordsmithing, you'll find her in the weight room, on the balance beam or at a baseball game.

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