These 13 Careers Are Set to Take Off in the U.S. — No Bachelor’s Needed
Whether you like tinkering with mechanical gears, tweaking human muscles or cleaning folks’ teeth, the latest job growth projections will give you a reason to jump in the air and click your heels, 1920s-musical style.
OK, the last one sounded a little weird, but you’ll just have to read on to see where we’re going with this.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has finally updated its forecast for job growth through 2026 — it previously just went up to 2024 — and the country is slated to add more than 11 million new jobs in that timeframe.
So if you’re a college student or experiencing the existential ennui of a job you don’t truly love, now may be a good time to start looking for a new career.
There are a few problems when you look at these numbers at face value, though.
First, let’s have a look at the fastest growing job field: solar photovoltaic installer. Yeah, fancy name aside, it’s someone who installs solar panels. But that growth, tho.
That sounds huge, but because the industry is so small right now, that only means a few thousand jobs a year over the next decade.
And many other others, like mathematician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner require advanced degrees, and we know you ain’t got time for that.
And on the other side of the coin, if you just look at the volume of job openings, the list has jobs that are really seasonal and not too glamorous, like waiters or fast food workers. Some don’t pay that well, with the median salary of those 21 jobs listed by the BLS falling a bit below $32,000.
So to bring you, our loyal readers, the best jobs you should consider based off of these freshly-released stats, we considered the percent of job growth projected, overall growth forecast and wage to bring you a list of jobs that are attainable and totally off the heezy for the next decade. You’ll see, some are stronger in one category than another.
The best part: None of these require a bachelor’s degree. However, some may require a year or two of certification training, and an Associate’s degree may take more than two years.
Top Careers Slated to Grow That Don’t Require a Bachelor’s
When you look at the best careers to consider for next decade, you’ll notice most are in the health care field. We’ve got an aging population after all, folks. A few of these were included in our list of the best jobs to attain with only an associate degree.
There are also some energy jobs, as well as a wildcard. These are pretty specific to certain industries, so if you don’t see anything that’s a fit for you, make sure to follow The Penny Hoarder Jobs page on Facebook for a wide variety of opportunities.
1. Physical Therapist Assistant
Projected Growth: 30.8%
Median Annual Pay: $56,610
This one’s personal.
My dad just had his second serious back surgery of the last half-decade, and rehab is going to require a ton of help from physical therapist assistants.
If you want to help folks like my father use their bodies to their fullest again, you’ll likely need a two-year degree and certifications.
Projected Growth: 23.2%
Median Annual Pay: $69,650
This is another health care job, but you’ll also some technical knowhow to become a diagnostic medical sonographer.
You’ll also need an associate degree for this gig, in which you’ll use imaging tools to look at new babies (aww), muscle tears and more. There are hundreds of good programs out there for you to check out, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
3. Dental Hygienist
Projected Growth: 19.6%
Median Annual Pay: $72,910
If you plan to become a dental hygienist, at least promise me you won’t force me into a conversation while I’ve got a mouth full of cotton.
As you probably know, hygienists get the most face-to-face time with patients, so this is a plus if you’re an extrovert (but, please remember the previous point). The American Dental Hygienists Association has resources on where to start your career.
4. Respiratory Therapist
Projected Growth: 23.4%
Median Annual Pay: $58,670
Hey, all humans have gotta breathe, right?
As a respiratory therapist, you’d be caring for people of all ages with respiratory issues. And like the previous jobs, it requires an associate degree, which you can snag at one of these schools.
5. Oil, Gas and Mining Service Unit Operator
Projected Growth: 23.4%
Median Annual Pay: $48,610
Finally, a job that requires little schooling: energy service unit operator.
These workers operate those big, cool machines that bring us power. You will probably need a high school diploma, but check out the credential tool from CareerOneStop (toward the bottom of the page) to find certification information in your state.
Projected Growth: 13.9%
Median Annual Pay: $68,010
Ah yes, the hurricane heroes we lauded after Hurricane Irma churned by The Penny Hoarder’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Becoming a lineman takes a high tolerance for heat and a healthy respect for the power of electricity. But, like infrastructure jobs we’ve highlighted in the past, you don’t need a college degree. Try an apprenticeship if you’re looking for an electric career choice.
7. Bicycle Repairer
Projected Growth: 29.4%
Median Annual Pay: $27,630
Become a bicycle tinkerer and you’ll definitely have work over the next decade, although the pay doesn’t measure up as much as others on the list.
You can get certified through specific brands, such as Trek, or find a month-long class at your local technical school, according to Anne Fidanzato, the manager of Trek Bicycles in St. Petersburg, Florida.
8. MRI Technologist
Projected Growth: 13.6%
Median Annual Pay: $68,420
Similar to a sonographer, MRI technologists combine the love and care of a health care worker with the technological prowess to handle some pretty expensive machines.
Again, this is a career that requires an associate degree, but come on, two years is obviously better than four. And with that kind of growth over the next decade, you’ll have plenty of time to find a program right for you — then an awesome job.
9. Physical Therapist Aide
Projected Growth: 29.1%
Median Annual Pay: $25,680
The pay doesn’t match that of an actual assistant to a physical therapist, but you can help folks like my dad with only a high school education and some on-the-job training as a physical therapist aide.
This is another career that is set to take off because our aging demographics with chronic problems, like obesity or diabetes, according to the BLS.
10. Oil or Gas Roustabout
Projected Growth: 24.5%
Median Annual Pay: $37,340
Roustabout sounds like an awesome old-timey job you’d have hauling luggage for a traveling circus, but it’s also a solid career choice in the field of energy.
Roustabouts repair oil or gas extraction equipment, perform regular maintenance on job sites and can make way more than $37,000 a year, according to job listings on Glassdoor.
11. Massage Therapist
Projected Growth: 23.5%
Median Annual Pay: $39,860
As the current political and international climate remains apocalyptic, we’re going to need all the help we can to relax.
So we’ll need tons more massage therapists here in the U.S., and with a salary at just under $40,000, it’s not bad for a job where you can work from pretty much anywhere.
Certification and training requirements vary widely by state, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.
12. Web Developer
Projected Growth: 13.1%
Median Annual Pay: $66,130
Six years ago, the BLS didn’t even have web developer listed in its database of occupations; that should tell you how fast this career choice has taken off.
Now there are tons of routes to learn programming, some for free. And the actual amount of education you need depends on the type of web development you’ll do.
13. Hearing Aid Specialist
Projected Growth: 19.2%
Median Annual Pay: $50,250
Can you hear me now?
Another career set to take off thanks to an aging population is hearing aid specialist. These experts find the right fit and technology for folks with hearing impairments. The pay is pretty good for this one, especially if you consider that you only need a high school diploma.
You know the best part about most of these careers? You’ll be helping people — and in the end that’s what matters most.
Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.