Good Jobs That Pay Without a B.A.

Posted By Terri Williams on August 23, 2017 at 3:00 pm
Good Jobs That Pay Without a B.A.

While everyone wants a good job, not everyone wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree to get it. That’s understandable, considering that too few college students graduate and too few graduate on time. The average student who completes college takes six years to do so, and amasses a mountain of student loan debt in the process.

However, Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce just released a report on “good jobs” that don’t require a four-year degree.

So, what’s a good job? Dr. Jeff Strohl, one of the study’s co-authors and director of research at Georgetown CEW, tells GoodCall®, “A good job is defined by a monetary threshold of $35,000 a year – or $17 an hour ­­– for those up to 45 years of age, and $45,000 a year – or $22 an hour – for those over the age of 45.”

Strohl says there are 30 million good jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree compared with 36 million jobs that require a B.A. or a B.S.

And he says that 15 million of the good jobs that don’t required a bachelor’s pay at least $55,000 a year. “In fact, 12% pay more than $65,000,” Strohl says.

While workers won’t need a bachelor’s degree, some level of educational attainment is important, and the more education, the better chance an individual has of securing a position that pays well.  According to the report, this is how many jobs have been lost or gained, depending on education level:

Good Jobs Losses and Gains by Educational Attainment
-350,000 High school dropout
-1,000,000 High school graduate
940,000 Some college, no degree
3,200,000 Associate degree


Considering the size of the workforce, it might not appear that there are enough good jobs to make a significant dent.

“Between 1991 and 2015, the share of good jobs going to workers without a bachelor’s degree fell from 60 percent to 45 percent,” Strohl says. “But 30 million is still pretty good.”

Good Jobs: What and Where?

The CEW provides the following examples of blue collar and skilled services occupations that are considered good jobs:

Blue collar

  • Automotive service techs/mechanics
  • Carpenters
  • Computer, automated teller, office machine repairers
  • Construction workers
  • Driver/sales workers, truck drivers
  • Electricians
  • HVAC mechanics
  • Machine operators, assemblers, fabricators
  • Maintenance and repair workers
  • Metalworkers and plastic workers
  • Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, steamfitters
  • Production workers
  • Radio and telecommunications equipment installers and repairers
  • Welding, soldering, and brazing workers

Skilled services

  • Applications and systems software developers
  • Bailiffs, correctional officers, jailers
  • Bookkeeping, accounting, auditing clerks
  • Customer service reps
  • Diagnostic related technologists and techs
  • Engineering techs
  • Firefighters
  • Food service managers
  • Industrial production managers
  • Police officers
  • Property, real estate, and community association managers
  • Sales reps
  • Secretaries and admin assistants
  • Security guards

California has the most good jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree – to the tune of 3.4 million, followed by 2.5 million jobs in Texas, and 1.7 million jobs in Florida. Also, New York has 1.5 million jobs, and Illinois has 1.2 million.

However, Wyoming is the least populated state, but it has the largest share of good jobs without a bachelor’s degree. Strohl explains, “Wyoming has the highest percentage of good jobs – it’s a small state, but among the workforce without a B.A. they have the highest chance – 50% – of getting a job.”

Strohl says that gas fields and coal fields are driving jobs in this state.

Manufacturing has taken a hit. Strohl says 2.5 million out of the 3 million jobs that have been lost are in manufacturing. He explains, “Manufacturing is an industry in decline, but there is some resurgence in manufacturing, and the non-B.A. workforce is doing well at shifting over to skilled services in such industries as healthcare, real-estate, insurance, leisure & hospitality, and other sectors.”

However, the manufacturing decline isn’t a value-add issue. “The country is structured so we maintained our share – we actually produce more in terms of manufacturing, but we do it with less people.”

The rise of robotics means that there is a resurgence of manufacturing jobs for those with a bachelor’s degree, Strohl says, including such jobs as computer-assisted manufacturing, and medical equipment. “However, the 1950’s economy is gone: You need more than a strong arm to turn a wrench – you need to understand robotics.”

The skills gap is costing U.S. companies almost a million dollars a year. While there’s a demand for technical skills, employees also need a variety of other skills as well. According to Liz Sposato, assistant director of NYIT Career Services, “Communication, teamwork, networking, and presentation skills are also important – especially for workers who want to advance into management positons.”

She recommends taking advantage of opportunities to practice and develop these skills. While it’s easier for college students to find opportunities, anyone can seek out mentors and volunteer at nonprofit organizations to acquire or hone these skills.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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