The old idea that a good job can only be obtained with a degree has been debunked time and time again. While some careers may require a degree, some certainly don’t, and there’s absolutely no reason why you couldn’t land a high-paying job without racking up massive student debt.
From police officers and air traffic controllers to Royal Navy officers and visual effects artists, there are plenty of jobs out there that you don’t need a degree for.
According to wage data compiled from National Careers Service you can earn up to £80,000 a year in some jobs even if you don’t have a degree, although that doesn’t mean you won’t need to do an apprenticeship or pass a series of tests in as part of your training.
Here are 11 high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree and how much you could earn.
11 high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree
Air Traffic Controller – Salary: £18,000-£43,000
Around the clock, they help keep some of the busiest airspace in the world moving. The work is challenging and demanding, but it is also extremely rewarding. Air traffic controllers provide airline pilots with information and advice to help them take off and land safely and on time. You must be over 18 and have at least five GCSEs or equivalent in Year 4 or above (formerly AC) or Scottish Nationals at Level 5 AC or equivalent, including English and Maths. In addition to being in good physical and mental condition, you must meet the basic medical requirements set by the Civil Aviation Authority. The National Air Traffic Control Service (NATS) has developed a series of games to help assess whether you are right for this career.
Requirements: You must be 18 or over and have at least five GCSEs or equivalent at Grade 4 or above (formerly AC) or Scottish Nationals 5 Grade AC or equivalent, including English and Maths. You must meet the basic medical requirements set by the Civil Aviation Authorityas well as being mentally and physically fit.
Lawyer – Pay £25,000 to £100,000
Requirements: Since its approval in 2015, the new notary apprenticeship (level 7) is the way to go. This however requires good A levels as well as the need to pass several difficult exams which can take up to six years. The pay might be worth the hard work though.
Junior 2D artist – visual effects – Pay £18,000 to £50,000 when qualified
They help artists produce all the stunning visual effects (VFX). They assist the senior VFX artists and prepare the necessary elements for the final shots. Eventually, they will be employed by post-production companies working on commercials, TV series and feature films. You can take a short practical course at the MetFilm School in London (Ealing Studios) and try to enter the industry that way, or do an apprenticeship through Next Gen.
Lab technicians work in many fields, from forensics to medical sciences, nuclear and more. They may set up experiments, record data, collect and analyze samples, and perform all day-to-day tasks of laboratory work. Attention to detail is essential. All relevant A-levels in science will help you and you can apply for a two-year apprenticeship program with relevant employers.
Requirements: A two-year apprenticeship with different employers is the way to go here. A good scientific baccalaureate is a great help.
If you consider this a career, now might be a good time to apply. Police officers maintain law and order, investigate crimes and support crime prevention. There are no formal academic requirements for direct application, but you will need to be physically fit and pass written tests. Or, you could start by doing an apprenticeship leading to a police officer’s degree. You will usually need: 4 or 5 GCSEs in Years 9-4 (A* to C) and university qualifications like A Levels for degree learning. You can get a taste of what it’s like to work with the police by volunteering as a special agent. You can also get paid work as a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) before applying for training as a police officer.
Requirements: Becoming a police officer does not require any formal qualifications. However, an apprenticeship leading to a police constable qualification is recommended, usually requiring 4 or 5 GCSE levels at grades 9-4.
Environmental Conservation Officer – Pay from £19,000
You can try volunteering to gain experience and apply for an environmental conservation apprenticeship. Landex has a map of service providers. Salary: from 18,000 GBP
Terms: Landex has a list of several environmental conservation officer apprenticeships to pursue.
PwC: “Scotland, like the rest of the UK, faces a continuing increase in demand for electricity which needs to be met by a dramatic increase in low carbon energy generation. Photo: John Devlin
Requirements: Companies such as Deloitte and PwC offer higher learning professional services for people with an A level to achieve the required qualifications.
Investigate and thwart cybercrime. They may work for the police or security services, or for IT security specialists and internal teams. They will track and analyze electronic data, ultimately to help uncover cybercrime such as commercial espionage, theft, fraud or terrorism. Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand in both the public and private sectors following high profile breaches and perceived terrorist threats. And there is a severe shortage of qualified professionals. Higher cybersecurity apprenticeships (Level 4) are offered by large infrastructure and energy companies and, excitingly, by security services.
Prerequisites: Higher level 4 cybersecurity apprenticeships are offered by major infrastructure and energy companies and security services.
The National Nuclear Laboratory offers apprenticeships and the Department of Defense has a new undergraduate nuclear engineer apprenticeship, while other companies offer on-the-job training. Salary: 24,000 to 70,000 GBP
Requirements: The National Nuclear Laboratory offers internships and the Department of Defense has a new undergraduate nuclear engineer internship. Several on-the-job training positions are also available in this high-demand sector.
Work with young people and help them develop personally and socially. They may work with local services, youth offender teams or voluntary organizations and community groups. They may help organize sports and other activities, or be involved in advising and mentoring, or liaising with authorities. Many enter youth work as a volunteer or paid worker, but now you can qualify through a youth work apprenticeship.
Requirements: Several apprenticeships are available, although most enter youth work through paid employment or voluntary work.
HMS Queen Elizabeth today celebrates her fifth birthday since arriving in Portsmouth. Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Requirements: 5 GCSEs at grade 9 to 4 (A* to C) or above and 2 to 3 A Levels. You will also need to pass several physical and mental tests as well as a fitness test and interview. If you pass, training takes place at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.