28% of people with two-year associate degrees earn more than those with their bachelor’s
You can make a decent living without a college degree.
On average, people with bachelor’s degrees earn more than those who skipped college, but a new study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce finds there are still 30 million good jobs — defined as occupations that pay a minimum of $35,000 a year to people under 45, and $45,000 for workers 45 and up — for those without a bachelor’s. And 28% of those with two-year associate degrees earn more than those with their bachelor’s.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 39% of employees did not have a degree in 2013. Today, people with one of the 30 million good jobs in the study earn a minimum of $35,000 to start and $45,000 by age 45. Half of those jobs eventually pay $55,000 or more. That compares to those with bachelor’s degrees earning a median of $61,000 by mid-career and start at about $33,000, according to Georgetown researchers.
Fifty-five percent of the best-paying jobs remain in manufacturing, transportation and construction. Jobs that call for a two-year degree, like an elevator technician, can yield a $95,000 salary in a state like Florida. A construction supervisor and mechanics can both make a median annual wage of $60,000; and subway and streetcar operators can earn a median annual salary of $62,000, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Outside of those fields, mail carriers make a median income of $57,000, and purchasing agents can make $58,000 annually.
But some of these jobs may be hard to get: Manufacturing jobs are becoming more and more scarce. The industry lost 1 million jobs since the recession, and construction employs 1.6 million fewer people than in 2007, according to the study. To hire for a job that typically does not require a college education, hiring managers often look for some additional schooling past high school to weed out other candidates.
Workers with associate degrees have gained more than 3 million of the net new jobs since 1991, and there are currently 123 million workers in the economy, including 75 million without a bachelor’s degree.
The lowest earning positions for those with bachelor’s degrees are in the humanities and liberal arts – starting at around $29,000, according to researchers. Business graduates on average start at $37,000, healthcare professionals get $41,000 and education jobs earn $43,000. A nurse with a two-year degree would average $46,000, while a health aid would make $26,000.
When it comes to student loans, a rule of thumb is don’t take out more than a starting salary in your career field.
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