24 Hands-On Jobs That Pay Well and Require Less Than a Bachelor's Degree

Hands-On Jobs That Pay WellHands-on jobs are great for people who want to see direct results from their hard work. With that kind of job, you can feel like you've really achieved something at the end of each day. That's probably why so many people who have practical careers report that they feel passionate, happy, and engaged in their jobs. Working with your hands can be fun, creative, and intellectually stimulating. And being responsible for fixing and building things, solving problems, or helping people can leave you feeling fulfilled and accomplished.

Choosing a hands-on career can also result in greater job security. That's because many jobs in this category can't be outsourced. For example, communities are always going to need auto mechanics, nurses, and police officers. Those jobs can't simply go overseas. Additionally, many practical occupations don't require you to spend years in school preparing for them. In fact, a lot of hands-on jobs that pay well only require one or two years of training. So it may not take you very long to prepare for an active career that provides a lot of opportunities.

Check out the list below to discover 24 jobs that allow you to work with your hands. (But get this: They aren't all in the skilled trades like you might think.) Find out what the annual pay range is for each position based on May 2016 data.1 And take a look at the number of job openings that are projected for the decade from 2014 to 2024.2

1. Dental Hygienist

People who are interested in high-paying hands-on jobs may want to consider careers as dental hygienists. With as little as two to three years of post-secondary schooling, you can start carrying out a number of tasks that involve working with patients and assisting dentists. A typical day could have you performing oral exams, cleaning and caring for teeth, and taking and developing x-rays. Although dental hygienists may have a few administrative responsibilities, the largest part of the work is hands-on in nature.

  • Annual pay range—$50,870 to $100,170 or higher
  • Total job openings—70,300
  • Typical entry-level education—Associate degree

2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Ultrasound technicians spend most of their days working with their hands. They perform a variety of diagnostic procedures using sonography to help doctors and other medical professionals detect, diagnose, and keep track of conditions and diseases. For example, one patient may have a heart concern, whereas another patient could be a pregnant mom eager to see an image of her growing baby. You'll likely get to interact with a variety of different people while performing your work. And you'll have opportunities to give your hands a break in order to update records and prepare reports.

  • Annual pay range—$48,660 to $99,100 or higher
  • Total job openings—27,500
  • Typical entry-level education—Associate degree

3. Wind Turbine Technician

Can you picture yourself working directly with one of today's leading green technologies? That's exactly what you can do as a wind turbine technician. You may even have the opportunity to travel in order to install, service, and repair wind turbines across the country. You'll likely spend your days climbing wind turbines in order to conduct routine inspections. And you may get to troubleshoot problems and take care of issues like fixing hydraulic systems, repairing electrical issues, and replacing components. With just a short amount of schooling, you could soon be prepared to take on an active job and play a part in fighting climate change.

  • Annual pay range—$36,970 to $76,250 or higher
  • Total job openings—5,500
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

4. Mechanical Engineering Technician

Imagine taking on a practical job that involves working alongside mechanical engineers in order to help them design, develop, and manufacture a variety of different mechanical devices. Often, technicians focus their efforts on bringing engineers' designs to life. You may be responsible for building, testing, and manufacturing items like engines, generators, and turbines. And, as you test those items, you'll likely analyze the results and report your findings in an effort to improve the end products. So if you'd like to work with your hands in order to create tangible goods, then the field of mechanical engineering could be a great choice.

  • Annual pay range—$34,030 to $82,810 or higher
  • Total job openings—12,800
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate or diploma

5. Police Officer

One of the highest-ranking hands-on jobs is police work. You can take on an active role in law enforcement in order to catch lawbreakers and help keep your community safe. You may spend your days patrolling the streets or investigating specific crimes. Many police officers join specialized units that are responsible for handling crimes like money laundering, drug trafficking, murder, or fraud. And, as long as you meet the criteria, it doesn't take long to become a police officer. Upon doing so, you may enjoy many interesting possibilities related to beginning and advancing your career.

  • Annual pay range—$34,230 to $98,510 or higher
  • Total job openings—258,400
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate and police academy training

6. Fashion Designer

Think about what it would be like to have a high-profile hands-on career in fashion design. That can become your reality with as little as two to three years of post-secondary training. You may soon be ready to jump into the fashion industry and bring your designs to the masses. Many designers start their careers by working for large companies. However, the Internet has made it easier than ever for entrepreneurial fashion designers to market their own products to customers. So you have options for how to begin your career. You could soon be designing and producing men's, women's, and children's apparel, as well as accessories like purses, scarves, hats, and belts.

  • Annual pay range—$33,740 to $130,050 or higher
  • Total job openings—6,200
  • Typical entry-level education—Associate degree

7. Occupational or Physical Therapy Assistant

Many hands-on jobs exist in the medical field, but opportunities in occupational and physical therapy assisting are known to be good-paying and growing in number. Even better, you can prepare for such careers in as little as two years. Physical and occupational therapy are both forms of treatment for helping people rehabilitate from injuries and illnesses. However, physical therapy works to treat the actual injury or condition, whereas occupational therapy focuses on improving patients' functional abilities. So, although the fields have a lot of overlap, the therapies have different purposes and goals.

As an assistant in an occupational therapy office, you may work with patients to help them recover, rehabilitate, and adapt so that they can continue to function in their everyday surroundings. In a physical therapy setting, you may provide treatments to patients and guide them through activities to help them recover, regain movement, and manage their pain. In either role, you could also be responsible for assessing and educating patients and managing their records.

  • Annual pay range—$34,640 to $80,090 or higher
  • Total job openings—78,300
  • Typical entry-level education—Associate degree

8. Heavy Equipment Mechanic

Get your hands dirty by servicing and repairing heavy-duty machinery and equipment. Along with engines, you'll also work on fuel and brake lines, hydraulics, electrical components, and other systems and components of heavy machines like tractors, bulldozers, and railway engines. Heavy equipment mechanics perform a lot of field work, so you'll likely travel around to worksites like farms, oil fields, coal mines, rail yards, and construction and logging sites. You could work as an independent contractor, for a company, or with the government (e.g., by servicing fleets and military equipment).

  • Annual pay range—$32,610 to $72,740 or higher
  • Total job openings—36,000
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

9. Nurse

Low-Stress Jobs That Pay WellDo you think it's even possible to prepare for a good-paying, in-demand, hands-on healthcare job in less than two years? Well, it certainly is if you'd like to enter the field of nursing. In just a short amount of time, you could gain the skills and certifications needed to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).

Both types of nurses directly care for patients in various medical settings, but RNs tend to have higher-level responsibilities. As a result, they often earn higher pay. And, although a large number of job openings are expected in both fields, more than one million RN jobs could become available during the decade from 2014 to 2024.2 The advancement opportunities in nursing are often excellent, so a lot of people start by becoming LPNs and then move up the career ladder as they gain more education and experience.

  • Annual pay range—$32,510 to $102,990 or higher
  • Total job openings—1,410,600
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary diploma

10. Electrician

Almost all of the work completed by electricians is hands-on. Additionally, electrical work is one of the best-paid skilled trades with a high demand for qualified workers. Many aspiring electricians start out by taking a short trade school program in order to develop essential skills. From there, they complete an apprenticeship that eventually leads to achieving journeyman certification. Before you know it, you could be installing, servicing, and repairing electrical systems in residential, commercial, or industrial settings.

  • Annual pay range—$31,800 to $90,420 or higher
  • Total job openings—181,800
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

11. Commercial Diver

When you think about what a hands-on job entails, do you picture one that includes adventure, excitement, and travel? If so, then you may want to consider starting a career as a commercial diver. You may get the opportunity to travel around the world and perform underwater work in rivers, lakes, and oceans. You may perform jobs related to underwater construction, exploration, inspection, maintenance, recovery, photography, or welding. A large number of commercial divers work for offshore oil and gas companies, but opportunities are often available in many other areas as well. You could even become a naval or HAZMAT diver.

  • Annual pay range—$30,700 to $83,730 or higher
  • Total job openings—2,300
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

12. Computer Support Technician

The information technology (IT) field offers many incredible opportunities, but computer support is likely one of the best hands-on options. In today's connected world, it's important for computer systems and networks to run optimally. Computer support technicians play a crucial part in making sure that happens. When a computer or network crashes, they jump in to get it back up and running as quickly as possible. Many technicians specialize in either user or network support. But, depending on the size of your organization or the scope of your role, you may get to work in both areas. You can start preparing for those roles by completing a short computer technician program.

  • Annual pay range—$29,440 to $105,910 or higher
  • Total job openings—187,400
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary diploma or associate degree

13. Restaurant Manager

Why not place yourself among the exciting hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant? You can work directly with customers and restaurant staff to ensure that everything runs smoothly. You may be responsible for overseeing the kitchen and dining areas, ordering and organizing supplies, handling employee and customer problems, staffing, scheduling, and budgeting. Depending on the size and type of restaurant, you could be in charge of every single detail down to the daily drink specials and table décor. Career opportunities can be found in all kinds of settings from small, locally owned cafes to large corporate franchises.

  • Annual pay range—$29,290 to $87,120 or higher
  • Total job openings—77,100
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate or diploma

14. HVAC Technician

Homes and buildings require climate control and air flow, especially in places that experience extreme temperature fluctuations in the winter and summer months. HVAC technicians work with crucial heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems to ensure that temperatures are properly maintained. A short training program can prepare you to install, maintain, and repair a variety of residential and commercial HVAC systems so that people can reside or work in their buildings comfortably.

  • Annual pay range—$28,440 to $73,350 or higher
  • Total job openings—84,200
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

15. Truck Driver

Put your hands on the steering wheel and head down the open road as a transport truck driver. Society relies on the work of truck drivers to move goods around cities, regions, and states, as well as across the country. In fact, a large portion of the country's manufactured products are distributed to buyers and shipping docks via commercial trucks. You can take on the responsibility of safely hauling shipments to their destinations on schedule. You'll also get to take care of pre- and post-inspections and minor vehicle and trailer maintenance.

  • Annual pay range—$26,920 to $63,140 or higher
  • Total job openings—404,500
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

16. Welder

By using your hands and powerful welding equipment, you can manufacture metal products and structures of all types and sizes. Many different welding processes and methods are used for tasks like manufacturing cars and ships, building electronics, and constructing roads and bridges. A short training program can teach you how to use those methods, as well as how to read blueprints and maintain and repair welding equipment. Learning those vital skills can prepare you for hands-on careers in sectors like aerospace technology, automobile manufacturing, construction, mining, and shipbuilding.

  • Annual pay range—$26,800 to $62,100 or higher
  • Total job openings—128,500
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

17. Chef

Can you picture yourself using your hands and tapping into your passion for cooking to create mouthwatering meals in a professional setting? If so, then consider the exciting possibility of becoming a professional chef. In less than two years, you can obtain the culinary skills needed to start out in a commercial kitchen. By gaining some experience, you could work your way up to a head chef position. Or you could open your own restaurant and put your innovative and creative ideas into practice every day.

  • Annual pay range—$23,630 to $76,280 or higher
  • Total job openings—30,400
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate or diploma

18. Sound Engineering Technician

Your love for music, combined with your interest in technology, could make sound engineering an awesome career choice. You'll typically work in studios or at live events to take care of everything to do with sound. That could include setting up and taking down equipment, controlling sound quality and volume levels, recording audio, synchronizing audio to video, and converting recorded content into digital formats for distribution. You'll likely need to know how to maintain and repair your equipment, and you may be responsible for lighting as well. Some of the top industries for sound engineering technicians are motion picture and video production, sound recording, radio and TV broadcasting, and the performing arts.

  • Annual pay range—$24,440 to $121,630 or higher
  • Total job openings—4,300
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate or diploma

19. Veterinary Technician

Try to think of a better way to spend your days than working directly with animals. If you can't, then you may want to consider a career as a veterinary technician. A short one- to two-year program can get you ready to work alongside vets in order to care for pets and other animals of all types and sizes, from hamsters to horses. Your daily responsibilities could include administering emergency first aid, assisting during surgeries and other procedures, collecting lab samples, giving medications, performing lab tests, providing nursing care, and taking x-rays. You may find a number of job possibilities at vet clinics, animal hospitals, and other animal care settings.

  • Annual pay range—$22,340 to $48,330 or higher
  • Total job openings—27,400
  • Typical entry-level education—Associate degree

20. Automotive or Diesel Mechanic

When people talk about hands-on jobs, mechanical work is often one of the first things that's brought up. Plus, with the number of cars and trucks on the roads today, it's no surprise that auto and diesel mechanics are in such high demand. You can prepare yourself for one of those positions and become a certified mechanic in only about two years. That's a small investment to make for a chance at getting a practical job you'll love. You can develop your expertise with either gas or diesel engines and learn how to use the latest tools and technology to service and repair many different makes and models of vehicles.

  • Annual pay range—$21,470 to $67,550 or higher
  • Total job openings—314,100
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

21. Paramedic

Place yourself on the front lines of the emergency medical field by becoming a paramedic. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) often enjoy meaningful careers in which they provide the first point of care in emergency situations. In a quick paramedic training program, you'll likely learn how to manage an emergency scene, assess shock, give rescue breathing, provide IVs, and offer other life-saving treatments in order to care for patients until you reach the hospital. This is definitely a field to consider if you want a hands-on occupation that is purposeful and valuable.

  • Annual pay range—$21,240 to $56,310 or higher
  • Total job openings—98,000
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

22. Makeup Artist

Imagine a job in which you get to use your creative flair for makeup application every single day. That's exactly what you'll do as a makeup artist. Working with the most current professional cosmetics, you can apply makeup to clients in any number of settings. Although a lot of makeup artists work in places like beauty salons, many others travel around and work on-site at fashion shows, TV and movie productions, and photo shoots. Others also offer mobile services for celebrities or bridal parties. There are many career possibilities in the fun and exciting world of makeup artistry.

(Note that the information below is for makeup artists who work in the theatrical and performance industries.)

  • Annual pay range—$22,630 to $124,960 or higher
  • Total job openings—1,000
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

23. Massage Therapist

Low-Stress Jobs That Pay WellBegin a career in which you use your hands to help people feel better. Massage therapists offer treatments that are designed to help their clients recover from injuries, manage pain, relieve stress and tension, and simply relax. A short program can prepare you to offer a variety of massage techniques, such as reflexology, stone therapy, and deep tissue, infant, and Swedish massage. In less than two years, you could become a registered massage therapist (RMT) and start your own practice or work in settings like spas, clinics, resorts, and cruise ships.

  • Annual pay range—$19,720 to $74,870 or higher
  • Total job openings—49,000
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

24. Skincare Specialist

In less than a year, you could be ready to jump into a hands-on beauty career that offers many amazing benefits like ample job opportunities and good earning possibilities. Not only that, you can enjoy the satisfaction that comes from helping your clients feel and look incredible. You can spend your days offering skincare services like facials, waxing, body wraps, aromatherapy, exfoliation, and acne and eczema treatments. Most people begin their careers in salon, spa, and resort settings, but you may also find opportunities with medical-based establishments.

  • Annual pay range—$18,640 to $59,780 or higher
  • Total job openings—10,900
  • Typical entry-level education—Post-secondary certificate

Start Achieving Your Career Goals Today

After exploring a variety of hands-on jobs, do you have a new career path in mind? Are you ready to go after it by developing new skills and abilities? Well, you're in the right place. In one quick step, you can point yourself toward an exciting and promising future. Simply enter your zip code into the program finder below and locate a great school near you. Don't pass by this opportunity to work toward the career you deserve!



1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on August 28, 2017.

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Projections, website last visited on February 9, 2017.