With the high college cost these days, many young people think about skipping the degree and the loans to go to a trade school or even head straight into the workforce. But what are your options for work if you haven’t got a high school diploma? Are there any good, career-worthy jobs out there?
Earning a college degree isn’t the only way to secure your future. While it is easier to find a career path with a diploma, it is not entirely impossible to earn and forge a career path without one.
In general, college graduates have a lot more earning potential than those with a high school diploma, who earn about $37,024 per year. Even accounting for the student loan debt, most college graduates come out ahead over time in overall earnings. But that doesn’t mean that you have to have a bachelor’s or even an associate’s degree to earn a good living.
It’s important to note that for almost any significant job that offers you security, good pay, and exciting work, you will at least need a high school diploma. Applying for jobs with a high school diploma will also be easier.
But if you want to build a solid long-term career and you don’t currently have a diploma, you’re not completely out of luck. Some great career paths pay well enough for you to enjoy a good quality of life.
Before we dive in, though, there’s one other thing you should know: while you can certainly apply for jobs without a high school diploma, you may need to complete additional training, certifications, or apprenticeships to advance.
Here are some examples of careers that do not require a high school diploma, depending on your strengths:
- Personal Shopper
- Fashion Designer
- Elevator Installer and Repairer
- Landscape Designer
- Airline Pilot
- Telemarketer/Customer Service Representative
- Health Aide
- Medical Secretary
- Gym Manager
- Fitness Trainer
- Graphic Designer
- Data Analyst
- Web Developer
- Computer Programmer
The Fashion Industry
1. Personal Shopper
A personal shopper is a good job if you have no high school diploma but feel like you have good taste in fashion or retail. You can expect anywhere from around $18 to $ 24 an hour for those in this line of work. This is substantially higher than the $7.25 minimum wage an hour.
A personal shopper can be hired by stores and boutiques or individuals who do not have the time to shop at the mall. They are usually asked to give suggestions on the best products or latest trends and then assist in their shopping experience.
2. Fashion Designer
Being a fashion designer is fulfilling work, especially if you need an outlet for your creativity and love for fashion, colors, patterns, and textile. The median annual wage of a fashion designer is somewhere around $ 73,790.
While tertiary education offers courses on fashion design, it only facilitates ease in breaking into the industry. With enough creativity, capital, or both, you can consider fashion design as one of those jobs that don’t require a high school diploma.
Certificate courses are a plus as they can fill you in on the industry’s inner workings. If you need to earn, then a fashion designer is one of those good-paying jobs without a high school diploma.
Be warned, before choosing this line of work; you have to stretch your creativity muscles as the fashion industry is a dynamic and ever-changing one.
If you have a great sense of style, adaptable, and good with people, then you are in luck because being a stylist is one of those perfect jobs for high school dropouts.
Depending on the shop owner, an employer can decide whether to hire you or not based solely on your practical skills and style. As long as you have the talent and an eye for what looks good on your customers, then you should consider becoming a stylist.
Of course, as with any situation in life, those who come in prepared have the upper hand. Certificate courses are available to give you direction on being a stylist. From the techniques commonly used to the recent trends, you should consider enrolling in one to increase your selected chances.
With a yearly average base pay of $ 25,174, this becomes a solid option among high school dropouts’ best jobs.
Contractors and Skilled Labors
4.Elevator Installer and Repairer
With all the high-rises popping up in major cities all over the country, elevators have become practically essential to everyday life. When they break down, it’s key to ensure that they’re quickly back up and running and that they maintain a high level of safety standards.
You may never have considered getting into the elevator repair and installation business. Still, it’s a good-paying job without a high school diploma as it pays an average of $79,780 per year. Plus, now that no one wants to live in a walk-up apartment, business developers turn to vertical space in cramped cities. Because of this, the profession is growing quickly.
To be an elevator servicing professional, you’ll need to be comfortable working in dark, tight spaces and with heights. You’ll also need to be prepared to be on call for important jobs. You don’t need any formal education to work on elevators, but you will need to complete an apprenticeship and become licensed in most states.
5. Landscape Designer
If you are into plants and have a passion for greenery, then landscape designing will be fulfilling work for those without a high school diploma. Landscape designing allows you to mold the outdoors’ look and vibe, practicing your passion as a plant enthusiast.
This job is an exciting prospect and can even make you a lot of money if you put in the work to make you as high as $ 79,000 annually.
College courses offer a landscape designer course, but it isn’t a requirement. As long as you have secured the necessary permits, then you are good to go.
But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your clients are always on the lookout for the best landscape designer to suit their needs, and look at your portfolio.
Certificate courses are a good way to improve your portfolio if you do not have a diploma.
The Services Industry
Everyone needs to eat. That is why catering or servicing food is one of those jobs that will always be in-demand. It is also one of the good jobs that don’t require a high school diploma. But, while catering is among the jobs that do not require a high school diploma, you should be warned should you decide to select this as a career option.
To enter the catering industry, you have to secure several permits to operate; otherwise, you open yourself up to legal trouble.
With that out of the way, this work line is sufficient for a living wage, making it one of the best jobs for high school dropouts. The average base salary of catering is $13.27 per hour, placing it above minimum wage. With this, catering becomes a real option for those looking for work with no college diploma.
7. Airline Pilot
Would you like to fly high above the world, earning a competitive salary and respect along the way? Then becoming an airline pilot might be the career for you.
As a pilot, you don’t need a degree or even a diploma. As long as you can learn to safely fly a plane and get from point A to point B while following all regulations and keeping passengers safe, you can earn a very good living and enjoy a satisfying career that will allow you to see the world.
To become a commercial pilot, your first step is to earn a private pilot certificate. You’ll learn in a small plane and get the basics of piloting an aircraft. From there, you’ll need to earn a series of other ratings and certificates to pilot a large jet.
It’s not easy, but once you have all the necessary certifications and 1,500 hours of flight time, you’ll be eligible for hire. You’ll also enjoy the many perks of being an airline pilot, including an average salary of about $113,167 per year.
Are you good at noticing small details? Are you fascinated by true crime and the work detectives do? If you’re persistent and good at gathering facts and good at poring over a large amount of information, then you may have what it takes to be a detective.
Detective work isn’t particularly glamorous. But it can pay a good amount depending on your reputation and experience. According to Payscale.com, the average salary of a detective is $61,850 per year.
It can be frustrating to track down dead-end leads after dead-end lead, interview people endlessly, and sift through piles of records. But it can also be a very satisfying career that allows you to help your community.
9. Telemarketer/Customer Service Representative
Customer service is always a good line of work that does not require a diploma. Be warned, though; it requires patience, keen attention to instructions, and a lot of emotional strength. Though, having all of those is worth it as telemarketers and customer service representatives are paid relatively well.
Customer service representatives work odd hours, especially for international businesses, so you have to be ready.
If you have the endurance to work through the night, look no further because this job is the one for you. You would also have many colleagues in this work line, which makes for more exciting work life.
Medicine and Healthcare
10. Health Aide
Being a health aide is a noble profession. You get to earn money while contributing to the improvement of somebody’s health. Health aides are needed now more than ever.
This job requires the endurance and mental capacities almost the same as that of doctors, but without formal training. During job applications, those with prior knowledge of the medical field will certainly have the upper hand. Thus a little research and certificate courses would go a long way.
Aside from an employer and a certification, you do not need a tertiary education diploma. Working as one would net you an average annual salary of $29,380. A good choice and an obvious one if you are looking to help and make a difference in people’s lives.
Being a caregiver is a job that also fulfills your need to help others. This work requires one to have a good grasp of those who need extra care, be it the differently-abled, elderly, and the sick. Besides this, caregiving requires you always to be mindful and kind, and the patient is a given.
Ranging from $ 10.59 to $ 17.97 an hour, this job is relatively lucrative compared to minimum wage.
For a work that does not require a college diploma, this job pays well. Of course, you have to go through a certification process, so come prepared. There are many available tutors to help you with the requirements; you can even study independently.
12. Medical Secretary
Being a medical secretary is a livelihood that can be achieved without a high school diploma and, on top of that, it pays well. With a median salary of $ 36,580, you can turn to this job if you are good at just taking and being organized.
You would mostly be tasked with keeping patients in order before their appointment and handling payments. Occasionally you would be asked to acquire medicine and other tools from suppliers.
Beauty & Fitness Industries
If you have the talent, you can also turn to a career in beauty and cosmetology without a college degree. If you have a good eye for what looks pleasing and have good interpersonal skills, then a cosmetologist is a good livelihood for you.
Aside from certifications and passing the requirements, becoming a cosmetologist is achievable even for high school graduates.
Social skills are a plus as they can occasionally prove effective in building up returning customers.
14. Gym Manager
If you are a fitness buff, spend most of your time in the gym, or have a passion for exercise and trying to stay healthy, then you can consider becoming a gym manager.
Much like the other jobs on this list, a gym manager does not need college diplomas to make a living. As long as you have the necessary permits to operate, then you are in business.
Most of your effort would be directed instead on the regular upkeep of the gym, some marketing strategies to overtake the competition, staff management, among others.
Furthermore, the mental fortitude required in this work line is not immense, meaning you also have time to focus your energy on your other interests.
There are many online resources for you to decide to pursue this livelihood, from software tutorials to management guides. You only have to put in the work in preparations and your work ethic.
15. Fitness Trainer
A fitness trainer is a good job for those who want to help others achieve their fitness goals, plus points for those already familiar with health and fitness.
There is no need for you to have a diploma as you only need to know about fitness training. There are courses which can teach you both practically and theoretically about fitness training. Still, it is not required, although highly encouraged so you can surpass others in the job application process.
Unlike the other jobs on this list, a fitness trainer has a varied salary amount depending on how good you are and your skills. A fitness trainer can earn anywhere from $10 in the low end up to $50 an hour in the US.
Furthermore, a significant portion of the population, especially those who live in the city, is near a fitness center.
The Art Industry
There is something about photographers that makes people think it’s a difficult and stressful job. In reality, if it is truly your interest, you would have an easier time being a photographer compared to other jobs.
You don’t even need a diploma or be a high school graduate. Your work would be the one talking for you. Your portfolio will often dictate your path, so this is something that you will need to work really hard on.
Becoming a photographer for a living could be simple for people with a passion for photography. For aspiring photographers, you don’t have to be discouraged. There are plenty of courses which can teach you the basics of photography and useful photography techniques.
Much like photographers, artists do not require you to have a diploma to find employment, although it is certainly a plus. Many industries need an artist, from big production companies, marketing departments, the academe, or even freelance work.
While it is in demand, that doesn’t mean it would be easy being an artist in this day and age. Your portfolio would speak for you, and, as with photography, practice makes perfect. You need to have the drive and aspiration to be successful in this business.
There are college courses that teach art, but it isn’t necessary for this livelihood. There are also art tutors, online courses, and even self-study if you want to be a better artist. It also pays above minimum wage. Annually, you stand to make $ 44,898 in this job.
18. Graphic Designer
Like with an artist and a photographer, you must have the same level of creativity, interest to improve, and drive to be successful as a graphic designer.
This is a career where you do not need a high school diploma to make a living. Your portfolio would speak for you.
While it could be discouraging to start because of many hurdles, you should not be disheartened. As the number of your projects increases, so would your creative skills and reach until you hopefully gain name recognition in the industry.
What sets the graphic designer apart from the other two is your reliance on computer software.
The Technology Industry
19. Data Analyst
Data analysts try to find answers to specific questions using large datasets to businesses and other organizations in strategy, daily operations, and other applications. Now that data is quickly becoming one of the world’s most precious commodities; there’s a growing need for professionals who know how to work with data analytics tools.
You might be surprised to learn that you don’t necessarily need a college degree to succeed in data analytics; what matters in this job is your skills and ability to adapt quickly. It also pays well at an average salary of $74,942 per year.
To become a data analyst without a degree, you’ll need to do some serious self-teaching. Learning programming skills, math, machine learning concepts, SQL, and software skills are the key. You’ll also need to build an impressive portfolio that you can show to employers to compete with candidates who have college degrees.
20. Web Developer
A web developer is a job which can potentially pay you a lot of money, of course, it depends on how good you are. No diplomas are necessary; your skills would have to speak for yourself.
Web developers are a comparatively younger profession compared to others in this list. Thus, it has the most potential for expansion. In the modern age, everything conventional has slowly been incorporated into the internet.
Web developers are an increasingly growing industry and most likely would continue to expand in the coming years.
This is not an easy career to pursue, though, unless you are outstanding in this field.
Due to its skill level and importance to modern society, web developers’ pay range is huge, and the highest earners are paid a lot of money. In the US alone, the annual wage of web developers is $76,754.
21. Computer Programmer
Being a computer programmer is a very lucrative job, and you do not need a high school diploma to be one. What it lacks in the requirement, though, makes up for its demand in skill.
The increased accessibility to personal computers starting from around two decades ago means that you have a lot of competition should you choose to be a computer programmer. Being in the tech industry means you are paid a lot, but you need to have the necessary technical skills even to be hired in the first place.
Resources to learn computer programming are widely available and can be good jobs for high school dropouts.
How to Stand Out Even If You Don’t Have a High School Diploma
i. Ace Your Interview
How you carry yourself during the interview process is important and can spell a huge difference in your career. Coming in prepared would not only show your confident side, but it would also give a good impression of your work ethic for potential employers. A quick run through the night before an interview would work wonders.
ii. Dress to Impress
You don’t want to stand out in a wrong way by dressing sloppily during your interview, even if you apply for jobs without a high school diploma. Dressing up wise would immediately set you apart from the competition.
You don’t have to wear expensive clothes, as long as you wear something presentable and reflective of your personality, you are good to go.
There are many resources available online for those who want to further read up on dressing well.
iii. Have an Amazing Resume
Applying for jobs without a high school diploma is not easy, but a good resume can go a long way. Education history is not the only significant bit of information in the resume. Any skills you believe can help at work can be highlighted on your resume and any work experience.
Include your career motivations and interests, which can be bits of detail that stands out for potential employers. Plenty of resources such as good fonts and layouts are easily accessible online.
iv. Communicate Your Work Ethic
Applying for jobs with a high school diploma highlights your education. However, in getting a job without one, your work ethic would help you stand out. The challenge is in projecting this work ethic during the interview process. You need to personally establish this yourself so that you can project it accurately and efficiently.
This would immediately help employers determine that your inclusion in the company is a plus. Bringing an attitude that remains positive, especially under stress, is a good quality that companies look out for.
v. Have a Mindset to Thrive
It would be best if you had the mindset that you’re there to earn and to learn. Having a closed attitude or displaying arrogance will help you stand out in a bad way. Showing both competence and humility is essential and impossible to fake.
Unless you’re genuine in your convictions, your true self would eventually surface. Changing your whole mindset is the starting point in improving, and people are sure to take note.
As you can see, it is possible to find interesting jobs, even without a degree. With that said, earning a high school diploma or GED, attending a trade school, or getting into a certification program could make life much easier.
When choosing your career, it’s important to think about what you want out of life. Don’t just settle for a low-level job—find something you like that you can continue doing for years to come.
Remember, a career is very different from a job. If you’re willing to adapt and learn, you don’t need an expensive degree to earn a good living!