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The Highest Paid Jobs You Can Do Without a Degree

What do you want to be when you grow up? If you are just finishing your GCSEs, A-Levels or are not sure if you want to head to university, this question is probably on your radar.

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Updated on 09/07/21

You should choose a job that you will be passionate about and one that gets you out of bed on a Monday morning. But let’s not beat around the bush too much. We would all like a job that pays well so you can support your hobbies, lifestyle, and personal life without being worried about money.

But does that mean earning a university degree first?

Well, you don’t always have to go to university to land a lucrative job. With more different options available in this current age than ever before, you might be more interested to hear about the highest paid jobs in the UK without a degree.

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

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

  • Doctors
  • Economists
  • Accountants
  • Lawyers
  • Engineers
  • Financial advisors

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 need a university degree to land one of these professions. 

There are other highly paid jobs being created in line with technology. Often this requires getting a computer science related degree and specialising in a certain area. Some examples of these jobs include blockchain development, AI programming, coding, and cybersecurity

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

As we go through the best paid jobs in the UK without a degree, you’ll soon realise that online computer courses are a great opportunity to get a good job without attending university first.

The 10 highest paid jobs in the UK without a degree

1) Air traffic controller

Air traffic control is a serious job with a lot of pressure. This can make it a job for you or absolutely not. It requires you to be alert and communicate with pilots to arrange landings and departure, 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 anually 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!

2) Digital Marketing

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. 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. 

3) 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 applying those words into the content of websites. They also help with the technical aspects of a website. 

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 to 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. 

4) 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, whereas 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 £50,000 with more experience. 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.

5) Firefighter

Becoming a firefighter in the UK is no easy task, which is why those that make it earn between £30,000 and £50,000+ each year depending on their rank. Expect to earn around £23,000 as a trainee firefighter, however. The selection process includes a range of aptitude testing and lots of physical assessments. 

If you are into fitness and want to help people, this could be the perfect job for you.

6) 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 worth up to £50,000 per year. 

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 us a sustainable future in our sustainable energy transition course.

7) 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 is an array of 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?

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 to between £35,000 and £50,000. Some developers in senior positions can make as much as £75,000 per year. 

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 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 what 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

If fighting fires was not for you but you still want to do a job that contributes to society, becoming a police officer is another fantastic option. 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 can earn upwards of £50,000 annually.

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) Become an entrepreneur

Generation Z and millennials have been some of the most innovative and dedicated to making their hobbies and skills become a flourishing online business. 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 2020 shows that the median weekly wage for a full-time worker in the UK is £586. This would put the median annual salary for the same period at just over £30,000. 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 found that workers in London receive an average of £161 more than the UK average. This suggests that the median UK annual salary of approximately £30,000 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.

Still can’t decide? Try a gap year or work experience

Don’t worry if you are about to leave school and you still don’t know what you want to do. Some people don’t realise their calling until much later in life. 

If you can’t decide right now and do not want to commit to a university degree, you could always take a gap year to learn more about yourself and figure out what you want.

But try not to spend your gap year doing nothing. Try to travel a little, read books, get some work experience – or even give an online business a chance while you’re young without too many financial commitments.

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