University’s not for everyone. While some people thrive in further education, if you’re one of many that don’t fancy another three years of study (whether you can’t face the debt or simply struggle to make the grades you want), don’t worry. There are plenty of routes available into careers that were once the preserve of graduates.
Partly, these opportunities are thanks to a rise in apprenticeships. Both government and business continue to invest in professional training making a degree, in some careers, unnecessary.
For an earn-as-you-learn career you can start in the next few years, here is our pick of some of the highest-paid jobs you can do without a degree, based on the latest salary data from the government’s National Careers Service.
10. Youth worker – £23,250 to £37,500
Youth work couldn’t be a more rewarding career choice. In it, you’ll spend most of your days with young people, helping them develop both personally and socially. You might work with local services, youth offending teams or voluntary organisations and community groups and your duties could involve everything from counselling and direct mentoring to organising activities. A lot of people enter youth work as a volunteer or paid worker, but you can now qualify via youth work apprenticeships.
9. Nuclear Engineer – £24,000 to £70,000
Nuclear engineers have to ensure the safe running of nuclear power stations or development of defence capabilities. They cover a range of tasks linked to nuclear power, from helping design and build new plants and monitoring radiation to planning safe disposal of nuclear waste. Broadly, there’s a massive national shortage of engineers and companies are pushing on-the-job training in many sectors. The National Nuclear Laboratory offers apprenticeships and the Ministry of Defence has a nuclear undergraduate engineering apprenticeship.
8. Computer forensic analyst – £20,000 to £60,000
Here, we’re talking cyber security, because someone has to investigate and thwart cyber crime. Analysts mostly follow and analyse data to help uncover cyber crime such as commercial espionage, theft, fraud or terrorism. They might work for the police, security services, or for computer security specialists and in house teams – but all are in high demand in the wake of high level breaches and perceived terrorism threats. There’s a severe shortage of qualified professionals. High-paying cyber security apprenticeships (level 4) are often offered by major infrastructure and energy companies and, excitingly, security services.
7. Laboratory Technician – £15,000 to £30,000
Lab technicians work in many areas from forensic to medical science, nuclear and more. On a typical day, they might set up experiments, record data, collect and analyse samples and do a range of everyday tasks that management pass on to them. Attention to detail is critical. To start, any relevant science A-levels will help, and you can apply for a two year apprenticeship scheme through relevant employers.
6. Environmental conservation officer – £18,000 to £60,000
If you’re the type of person who cares deeply about the outside world and the environment around you, environmental conservation may be the area for you. Its officers monitor the outdoors, encourage others to enjoy the environments around them, manage wildlife habitats, monitor rivers prone to flooding, look after coastal areas and more. It’s rewarding work and relatively easy to get your foot in the door through volunteering. If you’re sold, Landex provides helpful lists of environmental conservation apprenticeship providers.
5. Professional Services – £18,000 to £80,000
Depending on your specialism, you can make a small fortune in professional services. But the job is extremely varied; auditing, consulting, financial advisory work, internal client services, to risk advisory and tax consulting. Most employees work with clients spanning many industries and develop valuable business advisory skills – even management consultancy is an option. Big companies such as Deloitte and PwC offer professional services higher apprenticeships which help A-level students gain a range of professional qualifications.
4. Police Officer – £21,000 to £41,500
There is no formal educational requirement for direct application but you will have to be physically fit and pass written tests. You could start by doing a police constable degree apprenticeship. You’ll usually need 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A-levels. You can also get a taste of what it’s like to work with the police by volunteering as a special constable or getting paid work as a police community support officer (PCSO) before applying for officer training.
3. Junior 2D artist – £18,000 to £50,000
When visual effects (or VFX) is concerned, junior 2D artists will assist in the production of almost everything. Mostly, they help senior VFX artists as and when needed and prepare the elements required for final shots. As junior 2D artists progress, they can expect to be employed by post production companies working on commercials, TV and feature films. There are many entry options, as well – you could do a practical short course somewhere like London’s MetFilm School or do an apprenticeship through something like Next Gen.
2. Air Traffic Controller – £17,000 to £50,000
24 hours a day, air traffic controllers help to keep many of the busiest airspaces in the world moving. The work is challenging and demanding, as you’re essentially controlling when and how flights take off and land, but it’s immensely rewarding too. You have to be over 18 and have at least five GCSEs or equivalent at Grade 4 or above (previously A-C) or Scottish Nationals 5 Grade A-C or equivalent, including English and maths. As well as having a good level of physical and mental fitness, you must satisfy the basic medical requirements set down by the Civil Aviation Authority as well.
1. Solicitor – £25,000 to £100,000
As a TV series, Suits has a lot to answer for here – law has really never seemed as sexy as it does now. In reality, of course, solicitors aren’t trotting around in Manolos and power suits; they’re advising their clients on personal and professional legal practice. Solicitors specialise in a host of areas, including commercial, criminal and family law, but there are many options available. Since new solicitor apprenticeships (level 7) which were approved in 2015, you can now become a solicitor by training on the job. You’ll need good A-levels and it can take five to six years to complete (including some very tough exams), but the hard work literally pays off.