By: Contributor On: July 21, 2021 In: Jobs Comments: 0

As you consider your future post high school graduation, you might be surprised to learn that there are plenty of schooling paths to choose from besides the typical and popular four-year college degree. Many high school students opt for a bachelor’s degree either because their parents push for it or they don’t realize that other opportunities exist. But in reality, there are numerous careers available to students with shorter degree programs. 

Although a four-year college degree is valuable, it often leaves young adults with financial debt. Plus, a four-year college degree doesn’t automatically guarantee you job directly related to your field of study. 

Fortunately, there are alternative options for those who may be concerned about the financial prospects of a bachelor’s degree or those who want the college experience but don’t want to spend years living in a dormitory. 

Here are eight US careers you can pursue with a shorter degree. 

1. Fire Inspector

Fire inspectors have an important duty. They investigate properties for safety and compliance with government regulations regarding causes for a fire.

By becoming a fire inspector, you could help mitigate the risk for blazes and related damages. 

Many fire inspectors worked previously as firefighters, but all you need besides that is a high school diploma or on-site training. Some employers may require a two-year degree in fire science as well. 

2. Air Traffic Controller

As long as people choose airplanes for travel, there will be a need for air traffic controllers. This job doesn’t require a formal degree or certification, but it is a highly desirable job. Typically, those who achieve the position have previous work experience in the industry.

Those interested in pursuing a career as an air traffic controller should be aware that it can be stressful position. The qualification process involves rigorous training and mental and physical testing to ensure you can handle the job. 

But if you have strong organizational skills, high critical thinking, and a love of aviation it could be a great career fit!

3. Website Developer

The digital age is booming and website developers remain in high demand.

Although there are applications that can use artificial intelligence and programming to create websites, many companies still choose to hire someone to develop websites to give them that human touch. 

Whether you’re self-taught in web development through online programs and certification, or get a two-year degree in design or computer programming, you can become a developer. 

4. Dental Assistant

The short-term career training options for dental assistants are endless. You can choose from avenues in academic programs at community colleges, dental schools, universities, technical schools, and vocational institutes.

Additionally, you may have the option to get your training online or become a certified dental assistant through part-time on-site training.

There’s always a demand for dental assistants, and it can grow into a highly rewarding career. Indeed, about 89% of people who received DANB certificates reported having high job satisfaction.

5. Nurse

For those interested in the medical field, there are multiple nursing jobs you can get with a two-year degree or less. It’s a great option for those looking to work in medicine who don’t want to devote years to schooling.

Some of the positions available to you include a certified nursing assistant (CNA), a licensed practical nurse (LPN), or a registered nurse (RN). 

The need for nurses and other health care professionals rose during the pandemic. Medical assistants of all kinds were on the front lines and still are, and you can do the same in under two years. 

6. Commercial Driver

If an office job isn’t for you, consider working as a commercial driver. Commercial drivers are responsible for transporting goods and other materials in trailers or other large vehicles. You can obtain the license to transport goods through your state’s department of transportation and motor vehicles.

All it takes to become a commercial driver is to pass a written exam and road test with additional training. You may have to go through background checks depending on the materials you transport, but most require a training program of up to six weeks after passing the initial tests.

7. Cosmetologist

Working with the general public can be a great way to build communication skills. One of those unique positions is a beauty technician. If you’re interested in transforming lives through beauty without getting a four-year degree, then this may be the right job for you. 

Beauty technicians may work with hair, including shampooing, cutting, and coloring. However, they can also specialize in nails, skincare, and makeup.

Training programs at cosmetology schools typically last about one year with additional state-required hours for licensing. 

8. Funeral Director

Though this may not be the most glamorous job, it’s something everyone relies on. Funeral directors often are great communicators and can offer counsel to grieving family and friends. They help prepare for the service and make the process more comfortable. 

This job requires an associate degree in either funeral service or mortuary science. Additionally, there are licensing requirements. With experience, funeral directors can earn a high salary.

The Endless Possibilities of Jobs with Shorter Degrees

You don’t have to spend four years of your life at a US college or university to have a successful career. Whether you want to go into the medical field, work with the general public, travel, or stay in the office, there are plenty of options for you.


About Ginger Abbot: Ginger Abbot writes on a variety of educational topics, including international study and career planning. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief for the learning publication Classrooms, where you can read more of her work.

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