salary

Yes, you can get a good job without a college degree

May 18, 2012 at 11:16 AM ET

Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum got a lot of heat earlier this year for suggesting not everyone needs a college degree, but he may have been on to something.

There are lots of jobs out there that don’t require a four-year degree and pay pretty well. And at a time when so many college graduates are drowning in student loan debt and many not finding the jobs of their dreams, bypassing higher education isn’t the dumbest financial option.

You can make over $40,000 a year if you become a dental hygienist or web developer, and the job growth for both occupations is robust, according to a study released this week by jobs website CareerCast.

“Even with a college degree, finding a good job in today’s economy is hard and can be very time consuming,” said Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast. “Although those with degrees often earn more money, you can still earn a very good living without one.”

Indeed, a degree from a university will likely end up making you about twice as much starting out and in the long haul of your career. But the high cost of college may just be too much for some, not to mention the fact that many people never end up finishing a four-year degree.

About 70 percent of high school graduates do head off to college, but only four in 10 end up with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by 25, according to a report titled “Pathways to Prosperity” by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. The study found only one in three adults actually end up graduating.

“Given these dismal attainment numbers, a narrowly defined ‘college for all’ goal -- one that does not include a much stronger focus on career-oriented programs that lead to occupational credentials -- seems doomed to fail,” the Harvard researchers maintained.

The CareerCast report includes such occupations that individuals can go into with some training but that do not require a college diploma. The list also includes data on expected income and employment growth for these jobs over the next decade.

Here's a list of the top 20:

1. DENTAL HYGIENIST

Average Starting Salary: $45,000

Income Growth: 109 percent

Employment Growth: 37.7 percent

 

2. ONLINE ADVERTISING MANAGER

Average Starting Salary: $40,000

Income Growth: 255 percent

Employment Growth: 25 percent

 

3. WEB DEVELOPER

Average Starting Salary: $43,000

Income Growth: 179 percent

Employment Growth: 21.7 percent

 

4. MEDICAL SECRETARY

Average Starting Salary: $21,000

Income Growth: 114 percent

Employment Growth: 41.3 percent 

 

5. PARALEGAL ASSISTANT

Average Starting Salary: $29,000

Income Growth: 159 percent

Employment Growth: 18.3 percent

 

6. STENOGRAPHER/COURT REPORTER 

Average Starting Salary: $26,000

Income Growth: 250 percent

Employment Growth: 14.1 percent

 

7. HEATING/REFRIGERATION MECHANIC

Average Starting Salary: $26,000

Income Growth: 158 percent

Employment Growth: 33.7 percent

 

8. SURVEYOR 

Average Starting Salary: $31,000

Income Growth: 190 percent

Employment Growth: 25.4 percent

 

9. EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

Average Starting Salary: $29,000

Income Growth: 131 percent

Employment Growth: 12.6 percent

 

10. INSURANCE AGENT 

Average Starting Salary: $26,000

Income Growth: 342 percent

Employment Growth: 21.9 percent

 

11. INDUSTRIAL MACHINE REPAIRER 

Average Starting Salary: $30,000

Income Growth: 127 percent

Employment Growth: 21.6 percent

 

12. COSMETOLOGIST

Average Starting Salary: $16,000

Income Growth: 163 percent

Employment Growth: 15.7 percent

 

13. HAIR STYLIST

Average Starting Salary: $16,000

Income Growth: 163 percent

Employment Growth: 15.7 percent

 

14. TAX EXAMINER/COLLECTOR 

Average Starting Salary: $30,000

Income Growth: 207 percent

Employment Growth: 7.3 percent

 

15. SALES REPRESENTATIVE (WHOLESALE) 

Average Starting Salary: $27,000

Income Growth: 304 percent

Employment Growth: 15.6 percent

 

16. CONSTRUCTION MACHINERY OPERATOR

Average Starting Salary: $26,000

Income Growth: 173 percent

Employment Growth: 23.5 percent

 

17. ELECTRICAL TECHNICIAN 

Average Starting Salary: $34,000

Income Growth: 138 percent

Employment Growth: 1.9 percent

 

18. ARCHITECTURAL DRAFTER 

Average Starting Salary: $30,000

Income Growth: 140 percent

Employment Growth: 3.2 percent

 

19. TEACHER’S AIDE 

Average Starting Salary: $17,000

Income Growth: 112 percent

Employment Growth: 14.8 percent

 

20. SEWAGE PLANT OPERATOR 

Average Starting Salary: $25,000

Income Growth: 156 percent

Employment Growth: 11.6 percent.

CareerCast’s Lee advised that individuals do some research before deciding whether to pursue any of these jobs. “If you want to earn a lot of money without a college degree,” he said, “take a look at the amount of training you’ll need, then focus on a job that can still provide a satisfying, comfortable career.”

What’s your take? Do you think you need a college degree in order to have a well-paying, fulfilling career?

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