Ten “New-Collar” Jobs That Don’t Require a Four-Year Degree

Jan 31, 2020

Two words that everyone hates to hear… student debt. With the federal student loan debt reaching nearly $1.5 trillion dollars in the United States, according to the Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education, it can be safe to say that getting a college education can be quite expensive.

In fact, student loan debt has even surpassed credit card and auto debt, remaining second only to housing debt.

So, with student debt skyrocketing you are probably thinking, “how do I get a job without a four-year degree?” Well, college is not the only way to start off on a career path to well-paid work. There are plenty of opportunities in service, healthcare, information technology (IT), and manufacturing. These jobs are known as “new-collar” jobs. With “new-collar” jobs, employers are seeking someone with the right technical and soft skills, not just the right degree.

The term “new-collar” was introduced by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty in late 2016. The term refers to “middle-skill” occupations, and is a play on “blue-collar jobs.”

Instead of the four-year degree, “new-collar” workers hone their skills through community college programs, vocational training, apprenticeships, among other training.

Here are eight “new-collar” jobs for workers who are ready to start earning money and building a future today – without the burden of debt hanging over their heads. Information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


1. Machinist

  •  Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent, with on the job training.


  • Median Yearly Pay (2018): $44,950


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $21.61

Machinist jobs are in high demand going into 2020, and there are many to choose from. Machinists set up and operate machine tools to produce precision metal parts, and instruments. A college degree is not required to become a machinist, however, this skilled trade does require specialized training.


2. Automotive Service Technician and Mechanic

  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent. Some postsecondary programs required.


  • Median Yearly Pay (2018): $40,710


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $19.57

Automotive service technicians and mechanics work to inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles. To work in this profession, most employers prefer you to complete a program at a post-secondary institution. Industry certifications are required with certain employers. There are many types of service technicians including automotive air-conditioning technicians, brake technicians, diagnostic technicians, front-end technicians, and transmission technicians and rebuilders.


3. Food Service Manager

  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent


  • Median Yearly Pay (2018): $54,250


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $26.08

Food service managers are responsible for the daily operation of restaurants or other establishments that prepare and serve food and beverage. To qualify as a manager, most applicants have a high school diploma along with several years of experience in the food service industry. There are some that receive additional training at a community college, vocational school, culinary school, and a few earn a 4-year degree. The employment of food service managers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


4. Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent


  • Median Yearly Pay (2018): $41,380


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $19.89

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use hand-held or remotely controlled equipment to join, repair, or cut metal parts and products. To work in this occupation, you need a high school diploma, combined with technical and on-the-job training. Growth for this profession is projected to grow 3 percent from 2018 to 2028, with the nation’s aging infrastructure requiring the expertise of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers to help rebuild bridges, highways, and buildings.


5. Medical Assistant

  • Education Required: Postsecondary nondegree award


  • Median Yearly Pay (2018): $33,610


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $16.16

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare facilities. The majority of medical assistants have postsecondary education, such as a certificate, but others learn through on-the-job training. The growth of this occupation is projected to increase by 23 percent from 2018 to 2028.


6. Veterinary Technologist and Technician

  • Education Required: Associate’s degree


  • Median Pay (2018): $34,420


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $16.55

A post-secondary program is required in order to work as a veterinary technologist or technician. Most veterinary clinics prefer a technician to have a 2-year associate’s degree, and technologists to have a 4-year bachelor’s. As a veterinary technologist and technician, you will perform medical tests that help diagnose animals’ injuries and illnesses. The employment of vet technologists and technicians is projected to grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028.


7. Photographer

  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent


  • Median Pay (2018): $34,000


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $16.35

Although portrait photographers are not required to have postsecondary education, many take classes to enhance their skills. Depending on the specialty of the photographer, working conditions do vary. Photojournalists and industrial and scientific photographers often need a bachelor’s degree. Job growth is projected to decline as companies are contracting with freelancers, rather than hiring their own photographers.


8. Travel Agent

  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent


  • Median Pay (2018): $38,700


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $18.61

Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and entertainment activities to individuals and groups planning trips. Travel agents typically work in an office setting, however, there are some that do work remotely. Most travel agents work for travel agencies. A high school diploma typically is required for someone wanting to work as a travel agent, with some additional formal training.


9. Real Estate Brokers & Sales Agent

  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent


  • Median Pay (2018): $50,300


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $24.18

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. To become a real estate broker or agent, you are going to have to earn your license, which requirements vary by state. Employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is projected to grow seven percent from 2018 to 2028.


10. Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers

  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent


  • Median Pay (2018): $40,660


  • Median Hourly Pay (2018): $19.55

Dispatchers, also called public safety telecommunicators, work answering emergency and nonemergency calls. They work in emergency communication centers called public safety answering points (PSAPs). Dispatchers must be available around the clock, so they often have to work evenings, weekends or holidays. While some states do require certifications, most dispatchers only need a high school diploma. Due to the stressful nature of this job, there are many workers leaving the occupation, so projected growth from 2018 to 2028 is six percent.


If these 10 jobs have not yet sparked your interest, take a look at some other “new-collar” job options from US News and World Report:

Sales and Marketing


  • Sales Representative
  • Insurance Sales Agent



  • Executive Assistant


Healthcare Support

  • Hearing Aid Specialist
  • Surgical Technologist
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse


Creative and Media

  • Sound Engineering Technician
  • Choreographer


Maintenance and Repair

  • Wind Turbine Technician


Social Services

  • Patrol Officer
  • Firefighter
  • Bus Driver



  • Electrician
  • Structural Iron and Steelworker
  • Plumber
  • Brickmason and Block Mason
  • Sheet Metal Worker
  • Equipment Operator
  • Carpenter
  • Glazier
  • Cement Mason and Concrete Finisher
  • Solar Photovoltaic Installer
  • Insulation Contractor


How Friday Services Can Help!

If you are looking to start a new career or just looking for “new-collar” opportunities, Friday Services can help! In business for 40 years, Fridays can connect you with the best that Western North Carolina has to offer. From industrial to clerical to hospitality, and everything in between, give Friday Services a call (828)684-8700, and let us work to get you hired.

Fill out our online application and we’ll get back to you within 24 business hours.


If you see a lot of potential in yourself – so do we! Start your job search and learn about the opportunities and benefits offered.


Friday Services is independent and locally owned. We offer Western North Carolina employers strategic flexibility with greater attention to detail.