A guide on how to make money without a university degree

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Going to university is one way of moving into a well-paid career. But higher education isn't the only way of finding a good job. There are plenty of opportunities for you to make a good income without getting a degree. In this article, we discover how to make money without a degree and look at some of the many jobs available, whether you're a school-leaver, a student or someone thinking about changing careers.

Why look for how to make money without a degree?

Many people choose to start their careers without first going to university. Here are a few common reasons:

You're keen to start work straight away

You may be keen to start earning straight away after leaving school. There are plenty of careers open to people who have completed secondary school education. Some prefer to get an apprenticeship and train while they earn an income.

You want to avoid getting into debt

Going to university isn't for everyone. You might prefer to avoid the loans for tuition fees or living expenses associated with higher education. Graduates pay these loans back during their working lives which means they're in debt from the start of their career.

You want a career change

Perhaps you started a job straight out of school and are now thinking about moving into a completely different career. Maybe you studied for a particular profession at university, but you want to work in something else. You could be looking at how to make money without taking another degree.

You're an undergraduate student

If you're studying at university, you may be looking for extra income before you get your degree. Finding a job on the side is useful for all sorts of reasons. A job helps you pay the rent, buy books and course equipment, or even fund a social life.

Related: How to get your first job

How to make money without a degree

If you're wondering how to earn money without a degree, here is a list of non-graduate jobs, separated into categories.

1. Careers in public safety

These jobs have the remit of keeping the public safe:

1. Air traffic controller

National average salary: £34,297 per year

Primary duties: Working as an air traffic controller is a responsible and serious role, which requires training, but doesn't demand a degree. Air traffic controllers communicate with pilots to coordinate aeroplanes' safe take-off and landing and to give them permission to change altitude. You study for an air traffic control licence from National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which involves both college-based study and operational training.

2. Firefighter

National average salary: £24,837 per year

Primary duties: If you're looking for a job where you can make a real difference in the community, you might consider working as a firefighter. To train, you take an operational firefighter apprenticeship, a Level 2 certificate in Fire and Rescue Services in the Community, or apply directly to the local fire service. There are medical examinations and physical fitness tests to pass before you can start training as a firefighter. Working in this career is physically demanding and requires the ability to keep calm under pressure.

Related: How to become a firefighter

3. Police officer

National average salary: £26,575 per year

Primary duties: Working as a police officer is a responsible role that requires specialist training but doesn't demand a degree. Police officers protect and serve the public by preventing crime, arresting criminals and mediating disputes. There are various paths to becoming a police officer. One way is to apply directly to join the police force. The application process includes written tests, a medical examination and a physical assessment.

4. Probation officer

National average salary: £43,302 per year

Primary duties: A probation officer supervises offenders who have recently been released from prison. You can become a probation officer by taking an apprenticeship that combines study with on-the-job training. Other routes into the job include working as a probation services officer and then working your way up. The responsibilities include leading and creating programmes designed to change an offender's behaviour.

5. Flight attendant

National average salary: £17,183 per year

Primary duties: Working as a member of the cabin crew is a great way to see the world and is open to non-graduates. Flight attendants look after the comfort and safety of passengers on board an aircraft. Duties include demonstrating onboard safety equipment, helping passengers stow their luggage and serving meals and drinks.

You can apply directly with an airline to work as a flight attendant, take an apprenticeship or complete a Level 2 Diploma in Aviation and Cabin Crew at college. To work as a flight attendant, you require medical checks and enhanced background checks, such as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

2. Office-based jobs

If you like the idea of working in an office, but don't have a degree, you might want to consider one of these high-paying office jobs:

1. IT security specialist

National average salary: £47,098 per year

Primary duties: An IT security specialist, otherwise known as an ethical hacker, works to keep a company's data secure. This type of work involves researching emerging security threats and testing security systems, such as firewalls. IT security specialists or cyber security analysts monitor how to access systems and encryption services and provide advice on avoiding scams. It's possible to work in the cyber security profession without a degree by working your way up from an entry-level IT position.

2. Video game designer

National average salary: £34,623 per year

Primary duties: If you're passionate about playing computer games, you may want to work as a game designer. In this role, you create video games to play on computers, games consoles and other devices using coding. Games developers work with graphic designers, artists and writers and use 2D and 3D animation software. It's possible to work in this job without a degree if you have programming experience. One route is to work as a quality assurance technician or game tester for a production company.

Related: How to become a game tester

3. Recruitment consultant

National average salary: £24,099 per year

Primary duties: Working as a recruitment consultant can be fast-paced and demanding. You are responsible for finding candidates for temporary or permanent positions and matching candidates to jobs by meeting with your clients to discuss their recruitment needs. It's possible to work as a recruitment consultant without a degree if you have the experience and skills. It's fairly common to switch from working in sales and marketing to working in recruitment.

3. Entrepreneurship

Working for yourself is another way to make money without having a university education. Here are a few ideas:

Invest in the stock market

If you're financially savvy and have an interest in stocks and shares, you may be able to make money as an investor. You can watch your stocks grow as you learn how to trade. This type of work takes skill, and it's possible to lose money or to make a good return, depending on where you invest. It's wise to read up as much as you can about how to invest before getting started.

Start your own business

If you have a good business idea, you can make money as an entrepreneur. A lot of people set up their businesses without going to university. It's a good idea to seek business advice before getting started. You'll find many lots of resources on the gov.uk site.

Rent out a property

If you have money to invest, you can buy a property to let. Buying a flat, student house or holiday home can be profitable if you buy in the right location. Before deciding where to buy, it's best to do plenty of research to find out how much rent you could charge and how much the taxes and charges cost per year.

4. Jobs to earn extra income

If you're looking for a job as a student, or you want to earn a second income, you might be interested in these flexible jobs:

1. Delivery driver

National average salary: £28,540 per year

Primary duties: A delivery driver takes packages and goods to companies and private customers. They pick up goods from a depot, warehouse or store and drive them to the delivery address. Companies usually provide a vehicle or van and you generally require a full driving licence (category B) to drive it.

2. Tour guide

National average salary: £12,855 per year

Primary duties: A tour guide explains the history, creative process and what makes a tourist attraction interesting. These attractions can include places like stately homes, castles, vineyards or distilleries. Part-time freelance jobs are available.

3. Mail carrier

National average salary: £21,807 per year

Primary duties: Mail carriers deliver mail safely and gather customer signatures where required. They pick mail up from postboxes and take it to the sorting office. You can apply directly for part-time roles, especially during busy periods, such as Christmas.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌ Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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