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Careers that don't require a degree

Posted By Heather Ette, 25 September 2016
Updated: 22 September 2016

13 Realistic, well-paid careers that don’t require a degree

As populations rise and competition in the workplace increases, many people think that they need a degree to get any kind of financial success in their career.

Whilst it’s true that having a degree increases your chance of earning more, there are many professions that don’t require one, yet still offer an above average salary. The current UK average salary equates to £27,600, for your information.

Below is a list of 13 well-paid careers that you can get into without a degree. Much like above, where having a degree generally gives you a better chance of earning an above-average salary, in most cases here, it will help you get your foot in the door, however, these careers focus on particular skills and intelligence that isn’t necessarily learnt at a university.

Fire Fighter

Putting out fires is just one of the many jobs that a Fire Fighter undertakes. As with Police Officers, Fire Fighters are a force for good in a community, teaching and inspiring both the young and old wherever they go. You will need to be generous yet authoritative, be able to stay calm in a crisis and retain a strong level of fitness to get anywhere with this career. A fully trained Fire Fighter starts at a salary around £28,000, rising to £55,000 for Area Managers.

Stone Mason

Civilisation is, quite literally, built upon the skills and talents of the Stone Mason. One of the oldest crafts in the world, it is as relevant today in our high-rise cities as it was when they built the Temples of Angkor. Find a college that offers courses in Stone Masonry or construction to get a handle on the basics, then develop your skills from there. Once you’ve worked your way to the top you could be on £40,000 a year.

Air Traffic Controller

Whilst a university degree isn’t a requirement for to be an Air Traffic Controller, you will need to gain certain qualifications that are specific to the job. It’s certainly not rocket science, though, you just need to go in with some decent maths skills and good reflexes and your attentiveness will pay off. The ability to deal well when under pressure, however, is of the utmost importance. The lives of all aircraft passengers in your airspace over the duration of your shift are (figuratively speaking) in your hands. The importance of this job is reflected in its salary, which averages at around £80,000.

Recruitment Consultant

There is a lot of money in the recruitment sector, for, like you, everyone wants the best job they can get. In the UK the recruitment market is worth over £30 billion. To get a slice of this action you will need to be a strong salesman with a good customer service attitude and acute problem-solving skills. An in-depth knowledge of a particular career sector will help you specialise and get to the top of your game, but is not necessary. People who are top of their game can be earning in excess of £38,000 (base), plus (heavy) commission.

Fashion Designer

Competition in the fashion world is fierce and unforgiving, but experience and talent pay off far more than art qualifications do. Do what you love and do it well and you will see the results. The late genius Alexander McQueen, for example, left education at the age of 16 with just one O-level. Never stop working, market yourself well and make lots of contact with fashion houses and fellow designers. You will earn a pittance, to begin with, but if you’re a hit you could be in the big money not before long.


Journalism is notoriously varied, covering topics such as politics, sports, war and art (to name just a very few), across an array of platforms that include newspapers, television, films and magazines. To be a journalist you must have excellent writing skills, be sharp-minded, creative, highly enthusiastic and able to meet deadlines. Top quality journalists can expect a minimum salary of £35,000, depending on what kind of publication they’re working in. There are journalism degrees that could help kickstart your career, but more important is your relentless energy and work ethic.

Police Constable

Police Officers are at the heart of any community, inciting peace and respect wherever they go, so if you enjoy being around people, listening to and guiding them, then the police force is probably a good career for you. You will need a clear head, sensible judgment skills, a friendly demeanour and good leadership skills, amongst many other qualities; with these at hand, a salary of £41,000+ awaits you.

Truck Driver

It might not sound exciting, but being a Truck Driver gives you a certain amount of freedom - you can listen to whatever music or podcast that you like, eat whenever and whatever you like and you get to roam up and down the country every day. For all this you can earn up to £35,000 a year, nearly ten grand above the national average. There’s also a national shortage of Truck Drivers currently, which could lead to a rise in this salary figure. To become a Truck Driver you will need a full driving license and will have to pass an LGV and/or HGV test.


A Hairdressing career may not sound like an obvious route to an above-average salary, and granted most hairdressers don’t earn life-changing amounts, but if you persist in your field and gain senior stylist status in a top class salon, or perhaps own your own salon, then you could earn upwards of £30,000. Think about how much Beyonce’s hairdresser(s) must be getting paid! You will have to do the patient work as an apprentice first and then earn your stripes once fully trained, but once you gain the skills and the ability to understand and please your clients, you can quite literally go anywhere, to any heights, with your profession.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing comprises of many different roles and skills, whether it be aimed at search engine optimisation (SEO), which works to get websites (naturally) ranking higher on the search engine pages, email, and affiliate marketing to make important contacts and connections, or Pay Per Click advertising (PPC), which bypasses the work of SEOs, whereby you pay to appear (unnaturally) at the top of the search engine results pages. Degrees in related fields, such as business and marketing, can help introduce you to the world of digital marketing, but mostly you will learn on the job; so turn up switched on with a shrewd mind and you could quickly rise from a basic entry level salary to £30,000 and onwards.

Marketing and Sales Manager

You will find these kind of roles in many different fields of work, but the principles for the job are the same: you will need to be very self-motivated with the ability to motivate and lead others. Normally you will rise up through the ranks and learn on the job the particular skills and processes that a management role requires, with on-the-job management training to supplement your own enthusiasm and research. Senior management roles can fetch you over £50,000 a year.

Public Relations

A role in public relations requires an authoritative kind of individual with good leadership skills, who can listen and understand the needs of others. You will need to be shrewd, creative, an excellent communicator over a variety of platforms and have a good knowledge of all kinds of media. The salary for this kind of job really depends upon how good you are; if you’re cutthroat enough and are bringing in lots of business to your company then you could earn £100,000+.


In many ways, Security Officers are representatives of the model, modern-day citizen, for the two main things they require are a good character and a relatively fit physique. You will need to be polite, patient, sensible, quick-witted and able to work well under stress, not to mention the ability to stand on your feet for long periods of time. Jobs in smaller firms aren’t so generous with their salaries, but in larger companies, top-level security and in management roles you can earn from £40,000 upwards.

Still unsure about what to do?

Don’t worry! The multitude of jobs that are springing up everywhere mean that, often, people won’t have heard of jobs that they’d actually find really interesting. Our top tips for you are:

  1. Take a look at what your interests and talents are. What subjects most interested you at school and why? What did you enjoy doing outside of school? Do you have any specific talents or skills? Think then about how you can utilise these in a workplace, for example, do you like to debate with people? Are you quite logical? Write down your thoughts on a piece of paper and see what the trends are and if anything jumps out at you.
  2. Once you have some ideas do some research. Look online at what kind of jobs exist that are related to your ideas; do they sound like something you’d be interested in? What kind of training will you need? What’s the average pay like? Is there an opportunity for career progression?
  3. REMEMBER - you are not committing the rest of your life to this. You can change your career whenever you like. Only time will reveal what strengths, skills, and interests you have if you have never tried something before.

For a push in the right direction, it might be wise to take a careers test. This will at the very least give you some options to consider, and it will help you to engage with your interests.

The National Careers Service website is also a great resource, offering advice on CV and interview skills and profiling many different careers that you can work your way through.

In the UK, we spend on average 38% of our 24 hour day working - take away sleeping and eating and that’s rather a lot of our time. The benefits of taking time out to find a career that you enjoy are limitless, so have a little patience and get switched on!

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