College enrollment in the United States is now down 6.5% compared with 2019—the most significant two-year drop we’ve seen in the last 50 years, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
A growing number of students are opting out of bachelor’s degree programs due to rising costs and the coronavirus pandemic’s economic and health implications. If you decide not to attend college and are exploring career paths that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, you can consider several unique, high-paying jobs.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Division Chief Michael Wolf tells CNBC Make It that although jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree are growing faster than those without one, the pandemic has interrupted this trend.
“A lot of workers have quit or switched jobs because of the pandemic, leaving a lot of vacant positions, so employers can’t be as choosy about who they hire,” he says. “We see more companies hiring people without the educational levels they usually look for, just because they’re desperate to find workers.”
The highest-paid occupations that don’t require a bachelor’s degree tend to be very specialized, technical roles that include extensive job training, such as air traffic controllers. Wolf calls these jobs “exceptions to the general trend,” as most functions that don’t look for college graduates are in the lower-paying service and retail sectors.
Most of the time, you need a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, or a postsecondary nondegree award to get a job that pays more.Wolf says that a postsecondary nondegree program is a course usually completed in under two years that teaches you the specific skills or knowledge needed for a job.
It’s also important to note that fewer openings exist for these higher-paying jobs. “That’s just because these are very specialized occupations,” Wolf says. “We don’t need hundreds of thousands of nuclear power reactor operators, for example, because there aren’t many nuclear power plants anymore.”
The pandemic has directly impacted other jobs.The average salary for makeup artists rose between 2019 and 2020. Since film and theater productions resumed after being temporarily shut down, fewer people have been allowed on set due to safety precautions, so senior employees, who tend to earn more, closed many jobs in 2020. Read on for more information about three high-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree:
According to Glassdoor, “a makeup artist is responsible for visually transforming people’s appearances via make-up, paint, wigs, and other accessories. Makeup artists can work in various industries, including entertainment, fashion, or cosmetics. Successful makeup artists possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills and have an artistic personality.”
Median salary: $106,920
Typical education needed for entry: postsecondary nondegree award
Air traffic controller:
According to Glassdoor, “Air traffic controllers ensure orderly and efficient operations and air traffic flow to help prevent delays or the need for flight diversions.
They must know a lot about the rules, regulations, laws, standard traffic control procedures, and emergency plans for air traffic.This high-stress occupation requires the ability to make quick decisions under pressure.”
Median salary: $130,420
Typical education needed for entry: an associate’s degree
Nuclear power reactor operator:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “[These operators] operate or control nuclear reactors, move control rods, start and stop equipment, monitor and adjust controls, and record data in logs. “They also implement emergency procedures when needed and may respond to abnormalities, determine cause, and recommend corrective action.”
Median salary: $104,040
Typical education needed for entry: high school diploma or equivalent