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The 10 highest paying jobs you can do without a degree

How can you get your dream career? Turns out you don’t necessarily need university. Here are 10 of the highest paying jobs without a degree.

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Everyone wants a job that they feel passionate about, and one that gets them out of bed on a Monday morning. But let’s not beat around the bush too much. We would all like a well-paid job so we can support our hobbies, lifestyle, and personal finances without being worried about money.

But does that mean we have to earn a university degree first?

Well, you don’t always have to go to university to land a lucrative and highly paid job. As we found in our Future of Learning Report 2021, the majority of adults across three different countries agree that online learning can provide similar benefits to formal education (59% Australia, 53% USA, 50% UK). 

With more different options available in this current age than ever before, you might be more interested to hear about the highest paying jobs you can get without a degree in the UK.

First, the best paying jobs in the UK with a degree

Some of the highest paid jobs in the UK are the same today as they always have been. Examples include:

People in these professions can expect to earn between £40,000 and £100,000 or more each year depending on their experience, the company they work for and their location in the UK. You will almost definitely need a university degree to land one of these professions. 

In addition, there are other highly paid jobs being created in line with technology. Often these jobs require getting a computer science-related degree and specialising in a certain area. Some examples of these tech jobs include blockchain development, AI programming, coding, and cybersecurity

There are university degrees that set you up for these well-paid careers. But it is certainly possible to make it without a university degree and find jobs through self-taught ambition and online computer science courses

The same goes for other career paths too! As we go through the high paying jobs that don’t require a degree, you’ll soon realise that online courses are a great opportunity to get a good job without attending university first.

The 10 highest paying jobs in the UK without a degree

So, which career sounds appealing to you? We’ve created the infographic below to show you the top five jobs and their average salaries according to statistics from Adzuna, Glassdoor, Indeed and Total Jobs. To learn more about them, and to discover five more great careers you can get without going to uni, keep reading!

Highest Salaries Infographic

1) Construction manager

Similarly to project managers, construction managers are responsible for the smooth running, supervision, and coordination of a project. However, if you’re more interested in building sites than business conferences, this might appeal to you just a bit more!

While it’s possible to go to university and take a surveying or construction management degree, the options don’t end there. There are apprenticeship programs and other qualifications you can get, and the average salary is certainly something to smile about – Adzuna found that the average UK salary in 2022 for a construction manager is £65,188.

In addition to the great salary, this career path also offers plenty of opportunities for international travel and work in upcoming industries like sustainable development. Our Step into Construction course by the City & Guilds Group might help you decide if this is the job for you.

2) White hat hacker

In the old cowboy films, the good guys would wear white hats and the bad guys would wear black hats. That image has now been used to describe different types of cyber hackers. The black hat hacker will try to steal data and commit crimes by breaching websites. In contrast, the white hat hacker will also try to breach website cybersecurity – but they do this to expose flaws and then improve these issues rather than steal.

Sounds exciting? It is!

Some of the best white hat hackers work for global companies who need to keep their online presence and their customers’ data secure. Many of their skills have been self-taught from a passion for computer science, and some do have computer-related degrees. Yet, many of them have gotten into the industry through online cybersecurity courses.

A respected ethical hacker can earn just short of £30,000 from the outset but can expect to earn about £63,000 with more experience, according to Adzuna’s 2022 database. Some work freelance and charge per day, starting at around £400 in most cases. You can get started with our Introduction to Ethical Hacking from Coventry University and the Institute of Coding.

3) Game developer

If you like playing games or browsing apps, have you ever thought about the people who make them? They probably have a flashy university degree that enables them to do that, right? Well, not exactly.

There are many online courses that can teach you how to become a game or app developer. These game developer courses are often much cheaper than a university degree, quicker to complete, and are recognised to get you straight into the industry. Many of them are even available online and created by respected UK universities.

If you’re interested in being a game developer, why not gain an introduction to game design and development with Abertay University, or learn how to create expressive video games with the Insitute of Coding? You can even check out our blog post on how to create a video game.

But let’s talk money. How much will you make as a game developer? When you first start out, your salary will be around £20,000, but that can increase with experience and improved developer skills. The current average reported on Adzuna is £50,000 in 2022. Some developers in senior positions can even make as much as £75,000 per year. 

4) Offshore energy jobs

Offshore jobs based at sea are well-known to pay big money because the worker has to give up time with their families and home comforts. But this makes it perfect for younger people without such commitments.

The offshore renewable energy industry is booming in line with the UK Government’s zero emissions target – and it has already proved to help people get great jobs. The BBC reported that a free course has helped people get off the unemployment register and into offshore energy jobs – and the average salary is £47,500 per year, according to Total Jobs.

The current UK energy project is expected to create more than 5,000 jobs off the east coast over the next 20 years. You can learn more about how energy can help secure a sustainable future in our sustainable energy transition course.

5) Project manager 

Want an exciting job that allows you to work in many different industries? Project management might be exactly what you’re looking for, and it’s one of the best-paid jobs you can do without earning a degree first.

Effectively, you’ll be working for a business or with clients to help manage a project successfully, from start to finish. You can take an apprenticeship in project management straight out of school, but this isn’t your only option. 

At FutureLearn, we’ve got some excellent project management courses available, from our Foundations of Project Management course by Coventry University to our more detailed Practical Project Management microcredential by the University of Glasgow. You can expect to earn an average of £46,000 as a project manager, but this can go up to £66,000 if you become a scrum master.

6) Digital marketer

Lots of marketing professionals do have a degree, but there are also thousands working within a digital marketing company who do not. They either learned on the job, came from other related disciplines or have acquired the right skills through digital marketing courses online

One of the best things about getting into digital marketing is that your days can be filled with completely different tasks. For example, one day, you may be working on a Facebook marketing campaign for a cat café in London, and the next you could be creating visuals for a fashion brand’s website

People working these fun and exciting jobs will earn between £25,000 and £45,000 per annum on average, with Glassdoor suggesting that a very reasonable £37,500 is the most common current offering.

7) SEO expert

SEO is probably something you have never heard of unless you’re involved in it. It stands for Search Engine Optimisation and revolves around getting businesses’ websites onto the first page of Google to find more customers. 

This can be done in many ways, and one of the most common is researching what everyone is typing into Google – and then creating website content to satisfy those searches. They also help with the technical aspects of a website, making them as appealing as possible to people and search engines. 

It can be a very interesting and rewarding job to help a business reach the top and succeed, and you will not need a university degree to do it. 

You will however need to sign up for SEO courses and do your own research into the latest tricks and tips (what will work changes in line with Google’s algorithms). You’ll then be able to get a job with an SEO or marketing agency paying anything from £25,000 to £50,000 annually. Be prepared to earn around £20,000 per year when you first start out but remember that freelancers have the potential to earn a very high amount when they’re experienced. 

8) Translator

Translator jobs can be very lucrative, and they are in demand because of globalisation and the way modern businesses trade. They need translators to be able to help with cross-border negotiations, marketing and much more. 

Some of the best translators have been recognised with a degree. Others have been recognised by taking official language tests outside of university. The bottom line is that if you learn to speak another language fluently, you can become a well-paid translator whether you have a university degree or not. 

Learning a language is not easy, which is why accredited translators can easily earn £20,000-£45,000 per year. If you don’t know which language to learn to boost your career, you may want to consider learning Spanish as it is the second-most spoken language in the world and may come in more useful in the business world. Alternatively, why not try learning Italian or even Korean?

9) Police constable

Working for the police can be challenging but a satisfying job, especially when you see the difference you make in the local community. It can get even more exciting if you progress up the ranks and make it to become an inspector, work for a special crime unit or join counter-terrorism teams.

The starting salary of a police officer is around £20,000 but this can more than double if you climb the ladder and there are opportunities for bonuses. Inspectors earn an average of £60,000 annually. Glassdoor names the average salary for a police constable in 2022 as a very respectable £34,000.

You can learn about a range of topics related to crime and criminology on our site, including biosecurity, witness investigation and criminal justice. These might get you excited about working on the police force or inspire you to learn more.

10) Air traffic controller

Air traffic control is a serious job with a lot of pressure. It’s either your kind of job, or it’s really not. It requires you to be alert and communicate with pilots to arrange landings and departures, as well as give permission for planes to change altitude. The overall aim is to keep everyone safe and avoid aviation crashes.

If you can handle the pressure and have the right personality, this is a job that doesn’t require a university degree. However, you will need to complete three years of training. You’ll be paid £17,000 annually during the training period, but you can expect this to shoot up to roughly £40,000 once you’ve completed training. Senior controllers can expect to earn £100,000 – not bad!

Should I become an entrepreneur?

Generation Z and millennials have been some of the most innovative and dedicated to making their hobbies and skills become flourishing online businesses. They have been helped by the exceptional developments in technology, enabling them to sell products and services across the globe easily. 

You may want to turn your passion and skills into a business just like others have proven possible. This means freelancing your skills on a project basis or setting up your own agency. You could sell your skills in:

Setting up your own business can be a scary step, but these types of businesses are low risk – and you can learn the basics and get it right with the help of an entrepreneurial thinking course

What is the average salary in the UK?

The Office for National Statistics states that data collected in 2022 shows that the median weekly wage for a full-time worker in the UK is £598. This would put the median annual salary for the same period at just over £31,000. This picture doesn’t include the gig economy, where people often earn less than this amount. 

However, median earnings in the UK differ between regions of the UK. For example, the same report from 2020 found that workers in London received an average of £161 more than the UK average. This suggests that the median UK annual salary is being significantly propped up by London workers, including high skilled professionals. 

Overall, this means that the high paid jobs without a university degree listed above can often keep up or exceed the current average UK earnings.

Achieve your career goals with FutureLearn 

FutureLearn is proving to be one of the best ways to gain skills and qualifications to get into an exciting career. Our courses have been helping young people fresh out of school as well as anybody mid-career trying to redirect their career for better pay. 

For example, in our Future of Learning Report 2022, we found that 81% of people who took an online course said it helped them to switch careers in the past 2 years. The stats speak for themselves – now it’s your turn!

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