High-Paying Jobs You Can Get Without a Four-Year Degree
By Charyn Pfeuffer, PayScale.com
Do you like the sound of making $65,000 a year without a four-year degree? Well, with a few years of training, and in most cases, an associate’s degree, it’s possible to pull down this kind of salary within five years.
We’ve all been programmed to believe that getting into a good college and getting the “right” degree is the key to professional success. While this may be true for many careers, it’s not essential for all well-paying positions.
Salaries depend on your experience level, specialty, and where in the country you're employed. For example, a police officer salary in Topeka, Kansas, is 5% higher than the national median; an ultrasound technician salary in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, is 9% higher than the national median; and a dental hygienist salary in Covina, California, is 10% higher than the national median.
The salary experts at PayScale.com found five, easy-to-start jobs where annual paychecks exceed $65,000 for top performers (in this case, the top 10 percent, or 90th percentile) with no more than four years of experience.
90th Percentile Earnings: $69,200
If you’re interested in a hands-on healthcare job, consider a career as a vascular technologist. These professionals monitor patients’ heart rates, conduct noninvasive tests and assist physicians in diagnosing conditions that affect circulation.
Educational Requirements: Most vascular technologists complete an associate’s degree for entry-level employment.
Find vascular technologist jobs.
90th Percentile Earnings: $68,200
When you think of an ultrasound, you may think of fuzzy black-and-white images of an expectant mother’s belly. Using sound and vibrations, technologists in this medical-imaging specialty capture images of the breast, brain and abdomen (among other body parts) that are used to make medical diagnoses.
Educational Requirements: Two-year degrees are the most common. For applicants who already work in healthcare, some employers may accept a vocational certificate obtained through a one-year program.
Find ultrasound technologist jobs.
Heavy Equipment Operator
90th Percentile Earnings: $67,300
When it comes to clearing land, digging trenches and moving heavy construction equipment, it takes a skilled operator to drive and control the necessary machinery. Heavy equipment operators not only drive bulldozers, paving equipment and pile drivers, but they also set up and inspect equipment, and in some cases, may make minor repairs.
Educational Requirements: Sometimes, a high-school diploma is all that’s necessary to get started in this field. Construction equipment operators are trained either on the job, through a formal apprenticeship program, a paid training program or by a combination of these approaches.
Find heavy equipment operator jobs.
90th Percentile Earnings: $66,300
A dental hygienist works in a dental office to remove tartar from patients’ teeth, take X-rays and generally provide preventive oral care.
Educational Requirements: Dental hygienists must complete a certificate program or associate’s degree from an accredited dental hygiene program. Hygienists must also pass national and state licensing exams.
Find dental hygienist jobs.
90th Percentile Earnings: $66,100
From apprehending armed suspects to patrolling the streets and investigating crimes, this profession is charged with keeping civilians safe. Solid training and teamwork are key for safety (and success) in this career, which may require working nights, weekends and holidays. Overtime pay is common.
Educational Requirements: The education needed for police officers and detectives ranges from a high-school diploma to a college degree or higher.
Find police officer jobs.
Source: All salary data provided by PayScale.com. Reported pay is total cash compensation (which includes bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions and other forms of cash earnings) for workers who typically hold no more than a two-year college degree and have zero to four years of experience (median of two) in their field or career. Ninetieth percentile pay is a benchmark for top earners; 10 percent earn more and 90 percent earn less. Educational requirements are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.