Occupations that require a college degree get lots of attention for offering strong job outlook and wages. But there are also fast-growing, well-paying careers that you can enter with a high school diploma or other nondegree options. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can help you identify and explore careers that interest you.
Between 2020 and 2030, BLS projects that about 60 percent of new jobs in the economy will be in occupations that don’t typically require an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree. This article highlights some of those occupations in which employment is projected to grow faster than the 7.7 percent average over the decade and that had median annual wages higher than the $45,760 median wage for all occupations in 2021. (A median wage is the wage at which half of workers in the occupation earned more than that amount, and half earned less.)
Keep reading to learn about some of these fast-growing, well-paying occupations from a range of career fields. Tables present information on employment, outlook and wages, education and experience typically required to enter, and training typically required to attain competency. The occupations are grouped as follows:
According to BLS data, more than two-thirds of jobs are in occupations that don’t typically require a college degree. Most of the occupations in the tables that follow typically require at least a high school diploma to enter; specific outlook and wages vary.
Opportunities created by employment growth are only part of the outlook picture. In addition to expected openings from new jobs (those resulting from growth), occupational openings arise from the need to replace workers who retire or leave permanently for other reasons.
Note, however, that occupations with small employment may have relatively few openings each year despite projected fast growth over the decade. Fewer openings may limit opportunity, so you may want to consider an occupation’s size when exploring careers.
Among the occupations shown in table 1, wind turbine service technicians had the highest wage in 2021. Wind turbine service technicians and solar photovoltaic installers, both of which involve renewable energy, are 2 of the 5 occupations expected to have the fastest employment growth from 2020 to 2030. Security and fire alarm installers is projected to have the largest number of openings each year, on average, for the occupations shown in table 1. Most of these occupations typically require on-the-job training to attain competency.
Workers in maintenance and repair occupations keep equipment and vehicles running. They maintain and fix many types of machines.
Among the occupations in table 2, aircraft mechanics and service technicians had the highest wage. Industrial machinery mechanics is expected to have the fastest projected employment growth and the largest number of openings each year, on average, of occupations shown in table 2. Nearly all of these occupations require on-the-job training.
Transportation workers ensure that travelers and products get to their destinations. They operate ships, planes, and trains or assist in moving people or cargo.
Of the occupations shown in table 3, commercial pilots had the highest wage and the largest number of openings each year, on average, for the group. Airfield operations specialists is the occupation projected to have the fastest employment growth. Occupations in this group typically require either related work experience for entry or on-the-job training once hired.
Other nondegree occupations with fast projected growth and high wages come from a range of career fields, including entertainment and sports, healthcare, and protective services. Duties vary, but most involve working with people.
Athletes and sports competitors had both the highest wage of occupations in table 4 and the fastest projected employment growth. Massage therapists is projected to have the most openings each year, on average, for occupations shown in the table. Occupations in this group typically require either related work experience for entry or on-the-job training once hired.
Learn more about what’s required to enter the occupations highlighted in this article, as well as hundreds of others, in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). Use the OOH occupation finder to search by entry-level education, training, projected new jobs or growth rate, and pay.
BLS education assignments are based on analyses of the academic preparation that workers typically need to enter an occupation. However, the education that workers in an occupation have attained may vary. See American Community Survey data for breakdowns of educational attainment by detailed occupation.
Ryan Farrell and William Lawhorn, "Fast-growing occupations that pay well and don’t require a college degree," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2022.