The recent recession has taken its toll on many working people, but those who lack college degrees have fared the worst. The unemployment rate among Americans whose education ended with a high school diploma recently was 10.3%, nearly twice the 5.4% rate for those who have bachelor’s degrees, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Going back to school to earn a college degree is one potential path for these unemployed individuals—but not everyone has the time, temperament and/or bankroll for college. Another option is seeking out a profession that is hiring now and has bright prospects for the coming years but doesn’t require a college degree. Such professions are rare these days, but they do exist. Among the best prospects…

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are dispatched by 911 operators to assist people in need of immediate medical attention or transport to a medical facility. Demand for EMTs should increase as the aging US population has more medical emergencies. Wage range: $24,070 to $39,590.

Training and requirements: Job requirements vary by state, but EMTs typically must complete courses at a technical school to earn a certificate, then pass a state exam. For more information, visit the Web site of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (, select “Become an EMS Professional”). You need to be a good driver and be able to perform under pressure.

Insurance sales agents sell insurance policies and related financial products. It’s one of the few desk jobs that does not require a college degree (though some employers in this field do prefer college-educated candidates). Insurance salespeople remain in strong demand even as the economy has struggled—insurance typically is one of the last expenses people sacrifice during tough times. Wage range: $33,330 to $71,620 (some of which may be based on commission).

Training and requirements: In most states, insurance agents must be licensed. This usually involves taking a course and passing an examination, but rules vary by state and category of insurance. Contact your state’s insurance bureau for details (, then click “States & Jurisdiction Map” to find contact information for your state) or discuss licensing requirements with an insurance agency that is hiring. Very strong interpersonal skills are essential, and a background in sales is a plus.

Pharmacy technicians fill prescriptions and assist customers under the supervision of a pharmacist. Demand for pharmacy techs is expected to continue to increase as America’s aging population fills an ever-increasing number of prescriptions. Wage range: $23,370 to $34,560.

Training and requirements: Employers prefer applicants who have formal training or certification. Training programs are offered by community colleges and technical schools and run from six months to two years. Some hospitals, as well as the armed forces, also offer training. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) offer national certification exams.

Private detectives and investigators might spend their days surreptitiously following unfaithful spouses or insurance cheats…helping lawyers track down information for cases…or conducting background checks for employers. Demand currently is strong because of heightened security concerns and increasing litigation rates. In addition to private detective work, jobs in the field are offered by insurance companies, law firms, retailers and hotels. Wage range: $32,630 to $58,130.

Training and requirements: There are no formal training requirements, though many private detectives and investigators have experience in police work, security or accounting. Computer skills are helpful—private detectives often do much of their legwork online.

A license is needed in most states. Contact the agency that handles licensing in your state for details. That’s often the State Department of Public Safety or the State Police. Or try typing the name of your state and the words “private detective license” into a search engine.

Athletic coaches and scouts are in demand these days as baby boomers enter retirement and hire golf and tennis instructors in increasing numbers…and as parents increasingly view sports as a potential path to college athletic scholarships for their kids. Also, professional teams hire coaches and scouts to recruit and train athletes. Wage range: $18,800 to $43,930.

Training and requirements: No formal training or certification is required for most coaching and scouting positions, but that doesn’t mean just anyone can step into this profession. Extensive background in the sport is required, as is physical fitness. Jobs in this field often go to those who have a strong network of contacts in the sports community.

Pest-control workers remedy insect and rodent problems. It’s a recession-resistant profession, and recent bedbug outbreaks have only spurred demand. Wage range: $24,960 to $37,850.

Training and requirements: Most training is on the job. Many states require that pest-control workers pass an exam to prove that they understand how to safely handle the dangerous chemicals used in the profession, but pest-control companies typically provide their employees with the training needed to pass this exam.

Some agility and physical fitness are necessary, too—pest-control workers sometimes must climb high ladders, venture into tight crawl spaces and carry heavy tanks.

Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors lead classes in gyms and provide private workouts. Americans’ increasing attention to health and fitness has helped keep demand strong for these professionals. Wage range: $19,870 to $46,130.

Training and requirements: No formal training is required (unless you’re teaching a specific discipline such as Pilates or yoga), but familiarity with aerobics techniques and/or modern gym equipment is a must, as, of course, is physical fitness.

Septic tank servicers pump out full septic tanks. Some also repair broken septic systems or sewer lines. It’s dirty, smelly work, but it’s a profession that is always in demand—septic tanks aren’t used any less during recessions. Wage range: $26,670 to $42,630.

Training and requirements: All necessary training typically is provided on the job. Reasonably good physical fitness is required—as is a strong stomach.