2012’s Best Jobs Not Requiring a Degree

Published on May 7, 2012

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

image of Lightcast gradiant

This is the first post in a series about the best jobs by ed level for 2012. See the original post here. As you review this data, keep in mind that 2012 data is still a projection.

In this post we will be looking at the best-performing jobs that do not require a degree. The jobs are classified as needing some level of on-the-job training (OJT) or work-experience in a related field.

The analysis is based on labor market data from EMSI’s 2012.1 Covered Employment dataset, which is drawn from over 80 state and federal data sources. We use Analyst, a web-based labor market analysis tool, to assemble the data. EMSI’s database contains detailed information on over 1,100 industries and 800 occupations. The jobs we are looking for are the highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs during 2008-2012 that only require OJT or work experience.

NOTE: As we point out in our introductory post here, the employees of these jobs may actually possess degrees. The education level reported by the BLS is simply the educational background of the majority of those employed in the occupation. The data is based on surveys of workers in these occupations.

Total Job Growth

The first table shows all the OJT reported occupations that added 20,000 or more new jobs since 2008. As you will see, health care and personal care dominate the list. Here are the highlights:

  • Home health aides added almost 200,000 new jobs.

  • Personal & home care aides added more than 144,0000.

  • Combined food preparation & serving workers added almost 100,000.

  • Construction & building inspectors added almost 52,000.

  • Medical assistants added over 50,000. 

Six of the 12 occupations that created the largest number of jobs are related to healthcare support (SOC code 31) and personal care & service (SOC code 39).

SOC CodeDescription2008 Jobs2012 JobsChange% Change2011 Median Hourly WageEducation Level31-1011Home Health Aides886,4651,084,463197,99822%$9.87Short-term on-the-job training39-9021Personal and Home Care Aides701,665845,964144,29921%$9.58Short-term on-the-job training35-3021Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food2,653,5522,753,13199,5794%$8.20Short-term on-the-job training47-4011Construction and Building Inspectors93,855145,77451,91955%$25.18Work experience in a related occupation31-9092Medical Assistants476,638527,09850,46011%$13.78Moderate-term on-the-job training33-9091Crossing Guards67,957109,75941,80262%$11.31Short-term on-the-job training39-4021Funeral Attendants26,91061,58134,671129%$10.85Short-term on-the-job training43-6013Medical Secretaries456,511485,40828,8976%$14.62Moderate-term on-the-job training13-1041Compliance Officers, Except Agriculture, Construction, Health and Safety, and Transportation238,541265,84727,30611%$24.12Long-term on-the-job training31-9091Dental Assistants283,480309,91626,4369%$16.04Moderate-term on-the-job training39-9011Child Care Workers752,889776,03323,1443%$9.59Short-term on-the-job training25-3021Self-Enrichment Education Teachers156,124177,58821,46414%$17.79Work experience in a related occupationSource: EMSI Covered Employment - 2012.1

Greatest % Growth

There are a few interesting surprises when we look at the jobs with the greatest proportional growth since 2008.

  • Funeral attendants grew by a stunning 129%.

  • Crossing guards gained 62%. (Are more people opting to walk to work?)

  • Construction & building inspectors grew by 55%. (This one seems odd — construction declined, but inspectors increased. Perhaps a result of more regulation?)

  • Fabric menders grew by 29%.

  • Bicycle repairers grew by 25%. (Has the recession + high gas prices boosted biking to work?)

This list is actually quite interesting and creates a number of questions that deserve further explanation. First, the tremendous growth in funeral attendants causes us to wonder — have hard times spiked the death rate? Or perhaps it relates to the increase we have seen in health care. As the baby boomers age, not only do their healthcare services go up, but they will also be passing away and needing funeral services.

Also, does the rise in bicycle repair and crossing guards tell us that high gas prices and falling incomes have caused more people to ride and walk to work? The odd one on the list is the construction and building inspectors. If construction declined as much as it did, why did we gain more inspectors? Stiffer regulation, perhaps?

SOC CodeDescription2008 Jobs2012 JobsChange% Change2011 Median Hourly WageEducation Level39-4021Funeral Attendants26,91061,58134,671129%$10.85Short-term on-the-job training33-9091Crossing Guards67,957109,75941,80262%$11.31Short-term on-the-job training47-4011Construction and Building Inspectors93,855145,77451,91955%$25.18Work experience in a related occupation49-9093Fabric Menders, Except Garment8141,05323929%$13.43Moderate-term on-the-job training49-3091Bicycle Repairers8,81811,0452,22725%$11.30Moderate-term on-the-job training53-7031Dredge Operators1,7812,21343224%$16.80Moderate-term on-the-job training31-1011Home Health Aides886,4651,084,463197,99822%$9.87Short-term on-the-job training39-9021Personal and Home Care Aides701,665845,964144,29921%$9.58Short-term on-the-job training45-2093Farmworkers, Farm and Ranch Animals87,331104,87217,54120%$10.52Short-term on-the-job training53-1011Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors6,9558,0811,12616%$21.17Work experience in a related occupation31-2012Occupational Therapist Aides7,8569,0131,15715%$12.49Short-term on-the-job trainingSource: EMSI Covered Employment - 2012.1

Highest Pay

Everyone knows that more education gets you higher wages. But at the same time, there are actually quite a few no-degree-necessary jobs that pay over $30 an hour (2011 median hourly wage). Again, note that the people who work in these jobs probably do have degrees of some sort. It is simply that many of the people who work in these occupations report that only OJT or work experience is required. Here are the highlights:

  • Air Traffic controllers ($55.60)

  • Managers, all other ($44.16)

  • Industrial production managers ($41.23)

  • Transportation, storage & distribution managers ($38.18)

  • First-line supervisors/managers of police and detectives ($37.14)

Since ’08, most of these higher-paying jobs have actually been in decline. For instance, sales representatives is down 21,000 jobs (-5%), and industrial production managers has declined by 19,000 jobs (-12%). In fact, almost every single management occupation (SOC code 11) is dropping jobs.

Air traffic controllers is significant because offers not only the highest pay ($55.60), but decent growth with 1,100 new jobs (4%). Detectives and criminal investigators ($30.53) has also shot up with 8,000 new jobs (8%).

SOC CodeDescription2008 Jobs2012 JobsChange% Change2011 Median Hourly WageEducation Level53-2021Air Traffic Controllers29,27630,3681,0924%$55.60Long-term on-the-job training11-9199Managers, All Other393,001394,4381,4370%$44.16Work experience in a related occupation11-3051Industrial Production Managers157,870138,978(18,892)(12%)$41.23Work experience in a related occupation11-3071Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers100,89392,448(8,445)(8%)$38.18Work experience in a related occupation33-1012First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Police and Detectives97,02796,964(63)0%$37.14Work experience in a related occupation51-8011Nuclear Power Reactor Operators5,1205,2221022%$34.70Long-term on-the-job training41-4011Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products433,344412,384(20,960)(5%)$34.37Work experience in a related occupation33-1021First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers57,59457,095(499)(1%)$34.16Work experience in a related occupation47-4021Elevator Installers and Repairers25,85423,030(2,824)(11%)$33.11Long-term on-the-job training41-1012First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Non-Retail Sales Workers275,042255,056(19,986)(7%)$32.88Work experience in a related occupation11-9071Gaming Managers3,4903,450(40)(1%)$32.34Work experience in a related occupation51-8012Power Distributors and Dispatchers10,7939,720(1,073)(10%)$31.93Long-term on-the-job training53-5021Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels32,46532,150(315)(1%)$30.88Work experience in a related occupation53-5031Ship Engineers11,41411,6372232%$30.75Work experience in a related occupation33-3021Detectives and Criminal Investigators105,261113,3908,1298%$30.53Work experience in a related occupationSource: EMSI Covered Employment - 2012.1


Taking growth and wages together, it is safe to say that the best-performing OJT job is construction & building inspectors ($25.18, +52,000 jobs, 55% growth). For sheer growth, healthcare support jobs (like home health aides) are easy winners. The wages aren’t great, but these workers are in high demand. And for the best pay, air traffic controllers ($55.60) and detectives & criminal investigators ($30.53) are jobs to keep an eye on, especially since they’ve both grown a decent bit to boot.

Return to the original post here. Learn more about associate degree jobs here.

Find out more about EMSI and our data here. You can reach us via Twitter @DesktopEcon or by emailing Rob Sentz (rob@economicmodeling.com).