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You Don’t Need a Four-Year Degree

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Earning a four-year degree at a college or university can be expensive, and it’s just not the best option for everyone.

Luckily, there are plenty of well-paying jobs for high school graduates that serve as stepping stones to rewarding careers. Many of these positions come with on-the-job training that provides valuable skills for the future. 

Here’s a look at just some of the options out there in construction, manufacturing, health care and financial services.


Position: Mason

What makes this job exciting/worthwhile? You’ll get to work on new and exciting projects that could create additional jobs or attract tourists to your city. The work environment is often different every day as the projects evolve. The pay is also attractive, with salaries ranging in the mid-$50,000s.

What would you be doing each day? Masons can expect to work in all weather and with various materials, lift and carry heavy objects, and read and assess technical drawings. Their responsibilities include texturing and polishing blocks of stone, installing dressed stone, mixing cement and mortar, and restoring old and damaged masonry works.

How would you be making a difference? Sometimes, you will be working on projects that have historical significance and you will help preserve them for future generations. 

Position: Millwright

What makes this job exciting/worthwhile? These professionals get to install, dismantle, or move machinery and heavy equipment using blueprints, drawings or other designs. These jobs are critical to any construction project and pay in the mid to high $60,000s.

What would you be doing each day? You will read and interpret blueprints, schematics and detailed repair drawings related to construction equipment and machinery. 

How would you be making a difference? Millwrights work in one of the oldest and most respected trades in the world. This job also struggles with an aging workforce. As older millwrights retire, talented young workers are needed to replace them.



Position: Electromechanical Technician

What makes this job exciting/worthwhile? You get to work closely with electrical and mechanical engineers to help develop projects. Electromechanical technicians also have the opportunity to work in a wide range of environments, including energy, plastics, computer and communications equipment manufacturing, and aerospace.

What would you be doing each day? Electromechanical technicians operate, test and maintain unmanned, automated, robotic or electromechanical equipment. The median annual wage for electromechanical technicians is $58,350.

How would you be making a difference? You’d play a crucial part in the development of new products that change the way the entire world operates. 

Position: Electronics Technician

What makes this job exciting/worthwhile? Electronics technicians have a lot of responsibility for the development of vital equipment. You also work closely with customers to provide back-up assistance relating to service inquiries or problems.

What would you be doing each day? You’d play a huge role in the assembly, calibration, repair, troubleshooting and testing of electromechanical processes. You can earn up to $60,000 per year. 

How would you be making a difference? You get to work in several different industries, such as architectural, manufacturing, electromedical and other areas. There is also high potential for job growth due to the increasing demand for portable devices and integrated systems that are vital to the production of key products.

Health Care

Position: Patient Registration Representative

What makes this job exciting/worthwhile? You meet many people of all ages and circumstances. You get introduced to health care and hospitals and learn about other positions you might want to apply or study for. The starting salary averages $31,000.

What would you be doing each day? You would work in a hospital’s admitting office. Usually, you would be the first person a patient sees when coming to the office. You would be checking each patient’s personal and insurance information, answering their questions and directing them to appropriate offices or departments.

How would you be making a difference? Often, people coming to a hospital or clinic are anxious and do not know what to expect. By greeting them warmly and explaining some of what is going to take place, you will put them at ease and, in a small way, make their day.

Position: Phlebotomist

What makes this job exciting/worthwhile? A phlebotomist is responsible for drawing blood for lab tests, transfusions or blood donations. You will be meeting people of all ages and from all circumstances. You will be paying attention to detail, so the samples are marked correctly, following doctors’ orders and submitted correctly for testing. The average salary is $32,000; there can be bonuses because phlebotomists are in demand in most areas.

What would you be doing each day? You could be working in a hospital, clinic or blood donation center. You are usually the only person a patient sees in a lab. You draw blood samples from a vein, fingertip or, in the case of infants, their heels; prepare and label the sample; and submit it for testing. 

How would you be making a difference? You can put fearful patients at ease and, with skill, draw their blood with little to no pain. You also free up doctors, nurses and other health professionals for other responsibilities.

Financial Services


Position: Personal Banker

What makes this job exciting/worthwhile? You are working in a bank, interacting with people and often helping them find solutions to problems. You are also learning about the banking and financial services field and will have opportunities to be promoted. 

What would you be doing each day? You would provide in-person general customer service, processing teller transactions while opening and servicing bank accounts. 

How would you be making a difference? You are the face of the bank to many customers. You are helping customers — especially those who need an explanation or a solution to their banking concerns. Despite all the advances in remote and electronic banking, many people still want to talk with another human being. A starting salary averages $31,000.

Position: Software Developer

What makes this job exciting/worthwhile? There are a lot of different needs that you can meet. Sometimes you would be working alone, other times in teams, to solve problems and design new programs.

What would you be doing each day? You would be working to keep the systems operating at high capacity, meeting with teammates and personnel in other departments to talk about repairs, upgrades and new projects, and designing new software applications.

How would you be making a difference? There are opportunities to work through a problem or situation and the satisfaction of achieving a resolution. You help others in the organization do their jobs better and more safely because their technology works well. Positions are plentiful and salaries are competitive, starting at about $60,000.

By Todd Karpovich and Mary Maushard

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