This story originally appeared on Self Financial.
Over the past 10 years, undergraduate enrollment has been on the decline. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, total undergraduate enrollment decreased by 8% between 2010 and 2018. As the COVID-19 pandemic further disrupts higher education and employment prospects, many Americans are evaluating whether a four-year degree is the best path to a successful career.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with an undergraduate or advanced degree have significantly higher earnings than those without. While median annual earnings for full-time workers across all education levels in 2019 was $39,810, that for bachelor’s degree holders was $64,896, and the median salary for both doctoral and professional degree holders was nearly six figures.
Although higher education usually leads to a higher salary, the rising cost of education has created a precarious situation for many bachelor’s degree holders. Since 2003, total student loan debt held by American households increased by more than 500%.
Total outstanding student loan debt currently sits at a staggering $1.54 trillion. The burden of student loan debt, as well as the economic uncertainty of COVID-19, raises the question of whether it’s possible to have a lucrative career without a four-year degree. Fortunately, many jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree pay roughly two to three times more than the national median of $39,810 per year.
To find the highest-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, researchers at Self Financial analyzed median wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections Report. Occupations were ordered by their respective median annual wages for 2019 as reported by BLS. To improve relevance, occupations with fewer than 20,000 employees nationally were removed.
These projections are the most recent available but were made by the BLS prior to this year. For reference, the projected employment growth between 2018 and 2028 across all occupations is 5.2%. Here are the top highest-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
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