Jobs without a degree can pay over £50,000 a year

Oct 06 | 2018

For many young people, this time of year marks the start of university life and the beginning of an academic adventure they hope will lead to a degree and a bright future in their chosen profession.

More school leavers are choosing to go to university than ever before, but with tuition fees in the UK* running at over £9,000 a year and most students racking up a debt of around £50,000 by the time they graduate, is it really the best way to start your working life?  That is if you can start at all.  Yes, employers want smart intelligent people to work for them, but having a degree in ancient Greek poetry or the Harry Potter novels – currently on offer at Durham University – is unlikely to be much use outside the world of academia.  Consequentially, there are an increasing number of graduates who have difficulty finding a job of any kind, let alone one that will allow them to repay their debt and live the illustrious life they’d hoped for.

University education used to be reserved for the very best scholars in preparation for a career in medicine or other professions such as the law, science or teaching.  That’s still the case, for a few, and that’s fine, but what about the rest? Is having a degree really so important?

Sadly, many young people without a degree believe they are destined for a life of mediocrity with little prospect of achieving anything more than a modest living doing a boring, menial job. But that isn’t necessarily the case. There are lots of good well-paid jobs out there that don’t require a degree and some may surprise you.

Data produced by global job website, Indeed show that top of the earnings list are ethical hackers - computer experts who work in cyber security - who on average can expect to earn a whopping £56,547 a year – more than double the national average salary. While some ethical hackers may have degrees or technical qualifications, many learn their skills through experience gained working on the job. Other highly paid jobs include construction managers, software engineers and even airline pilots.

Bill Richards, UK Managing Director of Indeed said, “This data proves that choosing not to go to university after school does not automatically mean a lower salary. Although all the roles on our list do require some form of training, they don’t require a degree.”

Indeed’s top 10 best-paid jobs that don’t require a degree

Job Title

Average Salary




Ethical Hacker


Construction Manager









Software Engineer


Maintenance Manager


Sales Manager







Fitness Manager



Executive Assistant









Head Chef








Such high salaries should give solace to parents whose children ‘failed to make the grade’ and cause teenagers to pause for thought in deciding if university is right for them and whether the sums add up.

Although the moving industry was not mentioned in the report from Indeed, it is well known that many (if not most) managers and business owners in the sector have progressed to the top without the benefit of a university education.  As in so many occupations, the ability to work hard and show common sense go a very long way and are not qualities solely attributed to graduates.  

*Scotland and several other European countries currently have no university tuition fees.