What do you want to be when you grow up?
Answering that question nowadays, I know many of us would answer ‘rich’!
When we think of well paid jobs, a lot of the highest paying jobs in the UK that come to mind are things like doctor, lawyer, accountant and engineer – jobs that require advanced qualifications and years of university study.
But, don’t give up on your high-roller dreams just yet! There are plenty of high paying jobs in the UK that don’t need a degree. These include:
- Train driver
- Estate agent
- Recruitment consultant
- Air traffic controller
- SEO consultant
- And more, which we’ll dive into below.
Now, we should state that ‘high paying’ is subjective! The UK national average salary at the start of 2022 was reported to be £24,600. All of the jobs on this list will earn you more than the UK average, even if they won’t put you in the top 1%.
Also, all these jobs require experience or training before you become a top earner, and many will require some kind of qualification too. Don’t expect to skip straight from school into a £100k position! But you can skip the university degree and learn on the job, with the potential for big earnings further down the line.
Let’s take a closer job at these well paid jobs you can get without going to university. We’ll cover what salary you could expect and how you can get there.
Starting salary: £24,000 (note: all figures in this post are approximate!)
Top earnings: £65,000
Train driver is one high paying job in the UK that does not require a degree qualification. Train driver is a high paying profession because of the high level of responsibility. In addition to the actual train driving, you’re also responsible for checking the safety of your brakes and other equipment each shift.
And the good pay also reflects the long, and often unsociable, working hours, which can include weekends and evenings.
Being a train driver in the UK requires a high level of mechanical skills and problem solving skills. It’s also essential that you can remain calm and patient under pressure.
To become a train driver in the UK, you’ll need good GCSEs in English and maths, and you’ll have to pass written and practical examinations as you complete your training (which could take up to two years).
Interested? Check train company websites for trainee driver vacancies and apply directly. Many drivers start out with other roles on the railway such as conductor or passenger assistant, and transfer to the driver training scheme when an opportunity comes up. There are also apprenticeships where you can learn on the job.
The starting salary for a trainee train driver is reported to be around £24,000 and can quickly rise to figures in the £40,000s within a year after completing your training. According to the National Careers Service, top salaries can reach up to £65,000.
Real estate agent
Starting salary: £15,000 – £25,000
Top earnings: £100,000
Real Estate is one industry that will always be in demand and has openings in every town and city in the UK. The best thing is that you do not need a degree to forge a successful career in the real estate industry.
Your work as a real estate agent involves marketing properties, finding buyers/renters and managing viewings, among other duties. You can specialise in different areas such as residential, commercial or rural properties.
To become a real estate agent, you don’t need any specific qualifications. You would typically just join an agency in an entry level position and work your way up. Sales or customer service experience can be useful, and a driving licence is often required too.
It’s difficult to give an average salary for this job because it varies so much based on the agency and location, and also because most agents work on commission – meaning that your pay is tied to your performance. However, one UK property industry site says that starting salaries can be anywhere from £15,000 to £25,000, with a country-wide average salary of £41,392 and top earning potential of up to £100,000.
Air traffic controller
Starting salary: £18,000
Top earnings: £100,000+
Perhaps you dreamed of being a pilot or flight attendant when you were a kid, but it’s likely that ‘air traffic controller’ wasn’t really on your radar. However, it’s absolutely something to consider if you’re looking for a high paying job without going to university! Air traffic controllers can earn a whopping £100,000 per year, making this one of the highest paying jobs in the UK without a degree.
As an air traffic controller, your job description entails communicating with pilots during landing, take-offs and flights to ensure safety and efficiency. It’s a high-pressure job with a lot of responsibility.
You do not need a degree to become an air traffic controller in the UK. In fact, the only qualifications you need to apply are 5 GCSEs at Grade 4 or equivalent, including English and maths. But you will need to take a rigorous selection of assessments just to win a place on the training course provided by National Air Traffic Services (NATS).
If you’re accepted, you’d typically attend college-based training for at least a year, followed by hands-on training at an airport as you work towards your Air Traffic Controller licence. But under the NATS trainee scheme, you do get paid even while you study!
According to NATS, trainee air traffic controllers start at £18,001 plus a stipend towards living costs, rising to over £39k once you get your licence. Experienced air traffic controllers have the potential to rake in more than £100,000.
Alternatively, you can train as an air traffic controller through the Royal Air Force or Navy.
Starting salary: £24,000
Top earnings: £60,000+
As a firefighter, your job description involves responding to emergencies. In addition to fire breakouts, you could be dealing with other incidents where life and property are at risk such as floods or road traffic accidents. They also carry out work in the community such as fire prevention education.
Before you start your job as a firefighter, you must pass written exams, aptitude tests and a series of physical tests to ensure you are physically fit for the job.
You don’t need any specific experience or qualifications before you apply, but you generally need to be aged 18, able to drive, have good eyesight and a good level of fitness.
Firefighters’ pay depends on the office or rank they hold. There is a transparent pay structure so you can see what rank you need to attain to earn your dream salary.
Outside of London, a trainee firefighter starts on £24,191 annually. A station manager takes home over £40k per year whereas an area manager at the highest rank can earn over £60k. And as with most jobs, London rates are even higher.
To apply, look for vacancies on the website of your local fire service.
Offshore energy-platform worker
Starting salary: £20,000
Top earnings: £60,000
If you have been searching for high paying jobs without a degree or experience, then you must have come across offshore jobs at some point. These jobs have a reputation of paying handsomely partly due to the enormous profits from energy industries and partly because these workers have to compromise on family life to stay on the rig for weeks at a time.
There are various types of offshore jobs, such as drilling worker and derrickhand. These jobs typically do not need a degree or formal education, but you will complete training and certifications on the job. You would usually start your offshore career as a roustabout on a rig and move up to the higher paying positions as you get more experience.
An offshore drilling worker can start at £20,000 and move up to £60,000.
Starting salary: £26,000
Top earnings: £85,000
Without any doubt, a construction management role can be challenging due to issues like impossible deadlines and lack of resources. But on the upside, you can earn over £80,000 as a construction manager!
Construction managers coordinate and oversee building projects, making sure they are completed on time, on budget and in line with regulations.
You can do much of the coordination work from the office, but supervision requires you to spend time on site as well.
Like most high paying jobs, it can be stressful and you would need excellent leadership and communication skills, as well as practical knowledge such as health and safety regulations.
The most common entrance point without a degree is to work your way up through other roles in the industry, such as site supervisor or surveyor. You could also do an apprenticeship.
Although many construction companies do use academic qualifications as one of the criteria when hiring construction managers, if you have site experience, management and leadership skills this can be your route in.
Construction manager salaries start at around £26,000 and can reach £50,000 to £85,000 at the top of the game.
Starting salary: £18,000
Top earnings: £70,000
Electricians are high paying jobs in the UK that do not require university or degree level education.
An electrician is a skilled tradesperson who installs, repairs and maintains electrical systems. As a qualified electrician, you could work for a company or go self-employed for more flexibility. The work can be very varied. You could work in client’s homes or on building sites, and some electricians are employed full time in a factory or other business.
The most common route to becoming an electrician is via an apprenticeship. You can also do a college course.
Qualified electricians are always in demand and they are one of the highest paid trades. Earnings vary a lot depending on area of the country, type of work, employed or self-employed etc. Checkatrade gives an electrician’s average wage as £33,495 per year and says you could earn up to £70,000 with experience.
Starting salary: £15,000
Top earnings: £60,000
Plumbers, like electricians, are among the highest paid tradespeople. Like electricians, they are always in demand and the work can be varied. You can work for a company, for yourself or start a business, and you could be working in private homes, on construction sites or other locations.
The typical way in is to do an apprenticeship, but you can also take a course.
According to Checkatrade, newly qualified plumbers can earn around £19,000-£25,000 and plumbers at the top of their game can earn £60,000 or even more.
Starting salary: £22,000
Top earnings: £38,000
Prison officers supervise and support prisoners. This can involve anything from maintaining order in a prison to working with inmates on rehabilitation programmes to prepare them for release.
This is not a job for the faint hearted, as it can be challenging both physically and emotionally. You would also have to work shifts, including unsociable hours. But every day will be different and it can be very rewarding to work with vulnerable people and make a difference in their lives.
And of course, it pays well! The starting salary is £22k-£30k and you can make up to £38k with experience. And it’s a government job so it has good benefits and pension. There are lots of opportunities to train and specialise on the job.
To become a prison officer, you don’t need any qualifications but you will need to do some tests, including fitness and medical tests.
To learn more or apply, see HM Prison & Probation Service.
Starting salary: £16,000
Top earnings: £60,000+
Recruitment consultants match people with jobs. They usually work for a recruitment agency. Daily tasks include researching and headhunting candidates, creating job ads, reviewing applications, interviewing candidates and negotiating contracts.
There are no specific qualifications to become a recruitment consultant. It is an office based role so you’ll need good computer skills, literacy and numeracy. Communication skills are also essential. There are apprenticeships in the industry, but you can also just apply to an agency (perhaps in an assistant role to start with) and work your way up.
Recruitment consultants often work on commission so your actual earnings can be much more than your base salary if you’re good at your job.
Earnings in this industry vary a lot but the average base pay is estimated at around £25k, with managers earning up to £40,000. This is before commission and bonuses, so the total package can be upwards of £60,000.
Starting salary: £18,000
Top earnings: £100,000+
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and it’s the art of getting a website to rank higher in search results in order to get more visitors.
The job can have many aspects, such as analysing data, creating (or sourcing) content, running ad campaigns and reaching out to content creators to build links.
Similar jobs are digital marketer, online marketer or content marketer.
Many digital agencies will hire Junior SEO Specialists without a degree, and provide training on the job. However, you can increase your chances of getting your foot in the door by learning as much as you can about the industry by yourself, and develop your practical understanding by running your own website or blog.
Once you know what you’re doing, this kind of work lends itself very well to freelance work and even to the location-independent, digital nomad life! You can charge a lot as a freelancer with a proven track record of getting results for your clients.
High paying jobs in UK without a degree
As you can see, just because you don’t have a degree doesn’t mean you have to settle for low pay! There are a huge number of high paying jobs without a degree in the UK, even jobs that pay 100k a year without a degree.
With any job, you should be prepared to put in a lot of hard work and commitment before you become a top earner. But you don’t have to go to university to hit six figures or more!