As new technology revolutionizes the world around us, there is an increased need for skilled workers to build, maintain, and operate these cutting-edge products. While popular culture may associate these jobs with higher education, particularly advanced university degrees, a wide range of these careers are available for those without a traditional four-year education. For these jobs, training and certification can occur outside the classroom, with on-the-job training and apprenticeships helping to get workers quickly up to speed.
Here are four examples of cutting-edge new jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.
Wind Turbine Technician
The U.S. may currently be the largest oil producer globally, but the landscape of energy production is rapidly changing.1 A large portion of renewable energy production lies in wind turbines. In fact, wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing occupation in the entire United States, with a projected 61 percent increase between 2019 and 2029.2 These skilled technicians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing wind turbines. Using their technological and scientific knowledge, wind turbine technicians inspect the integrity of turbine towers, test and repair the complex systems that drive turbine functions, and collect data for analysis.
Most wind turbine technicians, also known as windtechs, attend community college or technical school to get certified in wind technology, but an associate degree is also an option.2 Windtechs develop a background in safety and first aid training, electrical and hydraulic maintenance, mechanical systems, and computer technology. Workers also generally go through on-job training or internships with wind turbine servicing contractors.
Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Wind isn’t the only sector revolutionizing energy, and the importance of solar is reflected in the field’s job numbers. Like wind turbine technicians, solar photovoltaic (PV) installers are seeing huge job growth, with an estimated 51 percent increase between 2019 and 2029.3 PV installers assemble and maintain rooftop solar panels. Duties typically include planning photovoltaic system configurations, measuring and assembling panel support structures, testing assembled solar panel systems, and performing maintenance.
Generally, PV installers only need a high school diploma, but some may also complete courses at community colleges or technical schools concerning safety, photovoltaic technology, and system design.3 Jobseekers who already have construction experience can even enter the field through online training. PV installers then go through training on the job to gain hands-on experience. U.S. military veterans can join the field through the Department of Energy’s Solar Ready Vets program, which offers veterans training relevant to the solar photovoltaic industry.3
Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights
Another sector seeing significant job growth is industrial machinery, specifically mechanics, maintenance workers, and millwrights. Over the next decade, these positions are expected to grow about 10 percent faster than average and add a whopping 70,100 new jobs.4
Industrial machinery mechanics, sometimes called maintenance machinists, ensure that all machinery is functioning correctly by identifying and fixing problems. This job requires advanced computer technology skills, as computer systems increasingly operate industrial machinery. These machinists may also identify issues through computerized diagnostics and analysis. They must then disassemble and repair machinery before testing it. This hands-on job requires physical skills, such as welding, alongside computer know-how.
On the other hand, machinery maintenance workers focus on more basic maintenance, such as cleaning and lubricating equipment and checking performance, as well as performing minor repairs. Finally, millwrights are responsible for installing, maintaining, and disassembling industrial machines, which can take several weeks. They may also replace defective or damaged equipment parts. Like industrial machinery mechanics, millwrights may require welding skills and rely on operating large machinery such as cranes for large projects.
These careers require a high school diploma alongside technical training after high school. Most millwrights must also complete an apprenticeship.4
Medical Equipment Repairer
A more niche field that may interest workers without a four-year degree is medical equipment repair. This field is projected to grow five percent in the next decade, faster than average, adding about 3000 new jobs.6 Also known as biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs), these repair workers install, repair, and test a wide variety of medical equipment. Such machinery includes defibrillators, ventilators, anesthesia machines, and medical imaging equipment like x-ray and CAT scanners.
Like most other technicians, medical equipment repairers rely on tools like screwdrivers, soldering irons, and wrenches, as well as electronic tools like multimeters and computers. This career requires computer skills to use test equipment software that calibrates machinery.6
Most medical equipment repairers have an associates degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering; however, those specializing in simpler equipment such as hospital beds or wheelchairs may only require on-the-job training.6
With new technologies reshaping our world, companies are looking to fill exciting new positions with skilled workers. Whether you are just out of school or looking to make a career change, there are countless opportunities to excel in these fields.
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