Hands-On Jobs That Don’t Require a Bachelor’s Degree

Working with your hands may fit your personality, work ethic, and sense of pride—and those jobs may be available in your area. But what are some hands-on jobs that may help you pursue the life you want, without spending all of your money as well as years spent in school? We’ve put together a list of potential physical labor jobs that don’t require you to earn a bachelor’s degree.

However, most of these jobs do require some preparation, such as a postsecondary certificate or diploma. To find hands-on career training, fill out the form above to get matched to programs that may interest you. Or, at the bottom of this article, view a list of trade and technical schools with prospective hands-on career training programs.

What Are Some High Paying Hands-On Careers?

If you like working with your hands but wonder if you’ll be able to support your family doing so, it’s only natural to be interested in hands-on jobs that pay well. The truth is, hands-on careers have different salary ranges depending on the field, where you live, and the amount of experience you have. For each of the hands-on jobs below, you’ll find the 2016 median salary as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though your actual salary may vary, this should give you some idea of what you could potentially earn.

Hands-On Jobs That May Be Perfect for You

So, what are the best jobs working with your hands? That depends on your personal interests and the skills that come naturally to you. The perfect career path for you may also depend on how much education or training you are willing to take on. And while women can pursue anything they want, some may specifically look for physical labor jobs for women, or trades that don’t require a lot of heavy lifting. Here are some potential trades to consider:

HVACR or HVAC Technicians

These technicians work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems. They may install new HVACR systems (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration), plus maintain and repair existing ones. They may also determine the systems’ energy use and give advice on improving efficiency. If you like to work with your hands and use tools, this career path may be perfect for you!

2016 median annual salary: $45,910[i]

Typical entry-level education: Postsecondary nondegree award


Bakers make bread, pastries, and other delicious baked goods. They have knowledge of techniques like kneading, rolling, and cutting dough. They may even create new recipes. Bakers may work in manufacturing facilities, bakeries, grocery stores, and elsewhere. If you enjoy baked goods in addition to working with your hands, this may be a particularly tasty path to pursue!

2016 median annual salary: $25,090[ii]

Typical entry-level education: None, but bakers may attend technical or culinary school

Truck Driver

Unlike some physical labor jobs, driving a truck requires a lot of sitting! But in addition to driving long distances, drivers must inspect their vehicles, report mechanical problems, and keep their trucks and equipment clean. They must also understand special traffic laws, and posess other knowledge, such as how to use a weight station to properly record your vehicular weight.

2016 median annual salary: $41,340[iii]

Typical entry-level education: Postsecondary nondegree award

Automotive Service Technician

Service technicians and mechanics identify and repair problems in vehicles. They may replace parts, and work on a vehicle’s mechanical and electrical systems. They also perform basic maintenance like oil changes. In addition to hands-on work, they use a wide variety of tools – from computerized diagnostic tools to welding torches.

2016 median annual salary: $38,470 [iv]

Typical entry-level education: Postsecondary nondegree award

Barber, Hairdresser, or Cosmetologist

Barbers typically provide services like washing, trimming, and styling hair and facial hair for men. Hairdressers tend to do cutting, coloring, and styling for both male and female clients. And cosmetologists may offer additional beauty services like facials and makeup. All three paths may allow you to work with your hands while helping others look their best.

2016 median annual salary: $24,300 [v]

Typical entry-level education: Postsecondary nondegree award

Massage Therapist

Massage therapists use touch to help reduce pain and stress in the muscles and other soft tissues. They may consult with clients and determine what therapies are best. They may also specialize in one or more techniques, like deep-tissue massage or sports massage. This hands-on work may be great for those who are empathetic and enjoy working with people.

2016 median annual salary: $39,860 [vi]

Typical entry-level education: Postsecondary nondegree award


Welders, solderers, and brazers keep the world together! These hands-on careers involve using electrical currents to heat and join pieces of metal. But it’s generally more complicated than that. In fact, there are over 100 different welding processes, as well as many different industries and manufacturing activities that involve welding, soldering, and brazing.

2016 median annual salary: $39,390 [vii]

Typical entry-level education: High school diploma, though welders may pursue postsecondary education to learn their trade

EMT or Paramedic

These emergency workers don’t just perform physical labor jobs. They also save lives! EMTs and paramedics respond to 911 calls and must act quickly, providing on-the-spot care and transporting patients to medical facilities. Physical strength and compassion are important components of the role.

2016 median annual salary: $32,670 [viii]

Typical entry-level education: Postsecondary nondegree award


Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems used for power, communications, lighting, etc. They typically must learn to read blueprints and use a variety of tools and testing devices, like voltmeters. If you have strength, stamina, and troubleshooting abilities, perhaps pursuing an electrician career path could be a great way for you to work with your hands!

2016 median annual salary: $52,720 [ix]

Typical entry-level education: High school diploma, though electricians may attend technical school

Trade and Technical Schools That May Help You Prepare for Hands-On Jobs

Trade and technical schools may offer potential hands-on career training in some of the fields we listed above. Here are some schools with programs that may help students prepare for hands-on career paths.

  1. Ashworth College

Ashworth offers online diploma, degree, certificate, and career-training programs in a variety of areas.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Heating and Air Conditioning, Locksmithing, Gourmet Cooking and Catering, and many others.

  1. Berks Technical Institute

Located in Wyomissing, PA, Berks Technical Institute offers some flexible evening and online courses for busy students.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), Massage Therapy, IT Support Specialist, and more.

  1. Empire Beauty Schools

This group of cosmetology schools has 89 schools in 21 states! They offer several programs for prospective beauty professionals.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Hairstylist, Cosmetologist, Esthetics, and Cosmetology Educator.

  1. Florida Technical College

FTC offers associate degree and diploma programs both online and at campus locations throughout Florida.

Potential hands-on work programs include: HVAC/R, Electrical, Welding, Medical Assistant Technician, and others.

  1. Lincoln Technical Institute

Lincoln Tech has 25 campuses across 14 states, and offers career preparation programs in a variety of fields.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Automotive Technology, Diesel Technology, Baking and Pastry, Cosmetology, and many more.

  1. Midwest Technical Institute

With flexible programs and campuses throughout the Midwest, MTI aims to help students pursue hands-on career training.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Welding, Professional Truck Driver, Massage Therapy, HVAC/R, and others.

  1. Ridley-Lowell Business & Technical Institute

Ridley-Lowell has four locations on the east coast and offers programs in several different fields, from business to beauty.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Cosmetology, Electrical Systems, HVAC, and more

  1. South Texas Vocational Technical Institute

South Texas Vocational Technical Institute is a trade school with five campuses and many educational programs.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Automotive Service Technician, Diesel Heavy Truck, Combination Welding, and more.

  1. Southern Technical College

This technical college has campuses throughout Florida, in addition to online programs.

Potential hands-on work programs include: HVAC, Electrical Trades, Patient Care Technician, and others.

  1. Wichita Technical Institute

Wichita Technical Institute has five campus locations in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. They offer a variety of technical career preparation programs

Potential hands-on work programs include: Medical Assistant, Pharmacy Technician, HVAC, and others

  1. Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts

This culinary school has campuses in Boulder, CO, and Austin, TX, in addition to online programs. They take pride in helping students learn cooking and baking techniques.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts.

  1. All-State Career School

All-State has many locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. They offer training in healthcare and many other occupations.

Potential hands-on work programs include: Paramedic, Emergency Medical Technician, Advanced Tractor Trailer Driving, and more.

Find the Path to Hands-On Careers That’s Perfect for You!

Finding a potential career path that involves working with your hands may mean educating your hands (and your mind!). Check out any of the schools listed, or fill out the form to get matched. Whether you’re looking for rewarding physical labor jobs for women, hands-on jobs that may be more independent (like truck driving), or another role altogether, your first step is to do a little research. Hopefully, you’ll discover a new career path that lets you put your talents (and hands!) to use.

[i] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm#tab-1|[ii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/bakers.htm#tab-1 |[iii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/heavy-and-tractor-trailer-truck-drivers.htm |[iv] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm|[v] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/barbers-hairdressers-and-cosmetologists.htm#tab-1 |[vi] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/mobile/massage-therapists.htm | [vii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm#tab-1 | [viii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm#tab-1 |[viii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm#tab-1

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