With summer in full swing and over 3 million high school graduates across America looking for jobs or training opportunities, some may be considering which fields have the best job prospects with the least investment in time and money. And that’s a valid concern given the average 2016 college graduate will owe $37,000 in student loan debt.
The good news is that there are a lot of options for students who don’t want to pursue a four-year college degree. Skills shortages in technical trades continue to be a problem. Global staffing company ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage Survey for 2015 ranked skilled trade workers as the hardest job to fill. Health care jobs are also high on the list. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the health care sector will add 2.3 million jobs by 2024 — many of which don’t require a college degree.
Here is a guide to America’s six fastest-growing fields that don’t require a college degree, according to the BLS:
1. Wind Turbine Service Technicians
What they do: Wind turbine service technicians install, maintain and repair wind turbines, those tall structures used to generate electricity. This isn’t a job for you if you are afraid of heights, as technicians use harnesses to get to all parts of the turbine, sometimes more than 260 feet off the ground. And the daily climb and heavy lifting (sometimes in excess of 45 pounds) can be challenging too.
How much it pays: The median was $51,000 in 2015.
How fast it’s growing: There were 4,400 "windtechs" in the U.S. in 2014, and the field is expected to expand 108 percent by 2024.
How you become one: “Windtechs” usually attend two-year technical school programs and then get more than a year of one-the-job training.
2. Occupational Therapy Assistants
What they do: Occupational therapy assistants work closely with occupational therapists to help ill and injured patients with exercises, activities and the use of special equipment they might need to carry out tasks essential to their daily lives or work. Working with occupational therapists, the assistants develop and implement treatment plans for patients and perform clerical support tasks.
How much it pays: The median was $55,000 in 2015.
How fast it’s growing: There were 42,000 occupational therapy assistants in the U.S. in 2014, and the field is expected to expand 40 percent by 2024.
How you become one: Occupational therapy assistants generally complete a two-year technical program at a community college followed by 16 weeks of on-the-job training.
3. Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
What they do: A physical therapist assistant works closely with a physical therapist in helping patients recover from injuries and manage pain. Physical therapist aides also perform other tasks related to patient care, including such as cleaning, moving patients and handling clerical work.
How much it pays: The median was $55,000 for physical therapist assistants in 2015, while physical therapist aides made a median of $25,000.
How fast it’s growing: There were 129,000 physical therapist assistants and aides in the U.S. in 2014, and the field is expected to expand 40 percent by 2024.
How you become one: Physical therapist assistants need to complete a two-year accredited program often offered at community colleges and must pass a certification exam. Physical therapist aides generally need a high school diploma and on-the-job training, and do not require a license.
4. Home Health Aides
What they do: Home health aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses or cognitive challenges go about their daily lives. They carry out basic health-related services, such as checking up on vital signs or working with nurse practitioners to administer medication.
How much it pays: The median was $22,000 in 2015.
How fast it’s growing: There were 914,000 home health aides in the U.S. in 2014, and the field is expected to expand 38 percent by 2024.
How you become one: Most home health aides have a high school diploma. Home health aides who work for agencies that receive funding from Medicare or Medicaid must get a minimum level of formal training (offered at community colleges, vocational schools, elder care programs and home health care agencies) and must be certified through a competency evaluation. Additional requirements vary by state.
5. Commercial Divers
What they do: Commercial divers work underwater using scuba gear to install, inspect and remove equipment structures often involving hand and power tools including drills, sledgehammers, torches or welding equipment. Commercial divers are employed in the offshore oil industry and also inland, supporting the operation of nuclear power plants, bridges and wastewater treatment facilities.
How much it pays: The median was $50,000 in 2015.
How fast it’s growing: There were 4,000 commercial divers in the U.S. in 2014, and the field is expected to expand 38 percent by 2024.
How you become one: Commercial diving jobs generally require one or more certifications and job-related experience.
6. Ambulance Drivers and Attendants (not including Emergency Medical Technicians)
What they do: Drive an ambulance or help the driver transport or lift sick, injured or convalescent patients.
How much it pays: The median was $24,000 in 2015.
How fast it’s growing: There were 20,000 ambulance drivers and attendants in the U.S. in 2014, and the field is expected to expand 33 percent by 2024.
How you become one: A high school diploma, a driver’s license, along with any additional specialized training required by the employer.