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High Demand, High Pay: 10 Opportunities for People Without College Degrees

The election may be over, but that doesn’t mean we have heard the last of the debates that raged along the campaign trail. Among them, one of the most pressing will surely be this: What is to be done about all the people without college degrees who have been left behind in the economic recovery?

After all, even when the US monthly jobs report contains what appears to be good news, a little extra digging can reveal that the picture isn’t so rosy for those who never went to college. A 2016 Georgetown University study found that “of the 11.6 million jobs created so far during the [economic] recovery, nearly 75 percent have gone to people with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.” In addition, the Pew Research Center reports that millennial college graduates out-earn their high school educated peers by $17,500.

Meanwhile, research published in July by the Indeed Hiring Lab found that of all the professions identified asopportunity jobs—those with an average 2014 salary of at least $57,700, and salary growth greater than 25.3% from 2004 to 2014—75% are in fields that require college degrees.

Here’s the problem: nearly 70 percent of the U.S. workforce does not have a degree. So where are the opportunities for the majority today?

High demand, high salary and—no degree

To produce the chart below, we identified the “opportunity jobs” most in demand by US employers and then ranked them by salary, to provide us with a snapshot of the career paths that have offered people without college degrees the most and best-paid opportunities since 2004.

Top 10 Opportunity Jobs for Non-College Graduates   

High employer demand opportunity jobs ranked by salary

RankLabelBLS Average Salary – 2014
1Administrative services managers$92,250
2Radiation therapists$83,710
3Commercial pilots$82,430
4Detectives and criminal investigators$80,540
5Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels$79,180
6Elevator installers and repairers$76,490
7Nuclear technicians$75,960
8Film and video editors$75,090
9Ship engineers$74,600
10Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers$72,570

Source: BLS and Indeed

One of the most interesting — and perhaps encouraging — things about the list is its diversity. Whereas best-paid jobs typically feature lots of tech, medical or executive roles that require a lot of education, here no immediate theme or pattern emerges.  Instead, we see demand for a broad range of skills and experience, ranging from management to transport, agriculture and health.Source: BLS and Indeed

In first place we see administrative services managers, an occupation defined by the BLS as people who “plan, direct, and coordinate supportive services of an organization.” In this job, strategic management skills are critical, but they are not industry-specific: instead, they can be applied across multiple sectors.

We also see two transport jobs in the top 10: commercial pilots (#3) and captain of a marine vessel (#5). (Truck drivers are in far greater demand, but these jobs do not appear on this list as they do…

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