There is a stigma attached to “dropping out” of high school, which can really appear to affect one’s job prospects. In 2015, almost 20% of unemployed people were high school dropouts.
But there are ways to find your way to a successful career without having completed high school. Here are some totally respectable options. You will likely earn less over your lifetime than you would with a diploma or a bachelor’s degree, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up and call yourself a failure either.
Here are some good job prospects for people without a high school diploma.
Construction might not seem like the job you want forever, but if you can work your way up to manager, you can earn an average of up to $1.5 million in your lifetime. The number of these jobs is expected to grow, and the median wage is over $87k per year. You’ll probably want to take a few leadership courses as you make your way up the ranks, just to accelerate your promotion prospects.
Cars always need fixing. As an automotive service technician or mechanic, you can earn a median salary of nearly $38k per year. The competition is fierce, but the more technology skills you pick up along the way, the better off you’ll be. Bonus points if you specialize in big vehicles like buses or trucks—you’ll earn more and have less competition.
Office and administrative support managers keep an office running smoothly. This is one of the highest paid non-diploma jobs out there. The competition will be fairly tough, of course, but it’s a good living with estimated lifetime earnings of nearly $1.4 million.
4. Sales Rep
Wholesalers and manufacturers look more for candidates who can meet targets, rather than focusing on educational bona fides. These jobs pay well, plus commissions, and are great for communicative people persons. Make a median salary of over $59k per year.
You don’t need a diploma to get a job in food service. And if you can work your way up to the managerial level, you can make over $48k per year in median pay. You will have to work long hours—lots of nights and weekends, but if it’s a lifestyle you can get behind, it’s good steady work.
Admin work might be hard to get without a diploma, but not impossible. Particularly if you present yourself professionally and show your skills and experience from prior assistant jobs. The median pay is somewhere near $36k per year.
If you can cultivate this marketable skill through work experience or vocational school, you can make an estimated $1.4 million lifetime as an electrician. Peak earners in this profession aren’t necessarily the ones with extra degrees or diplomas. If you’ve got the skills, you can make the bucks.
Most machinists have not attended a four year college, though a bit of extra boning up at a vocational school would stand you in good stead to advance in this career path. Job opportunities in this field are good and estimated lifetime earnings are over a million.
This is not an easy job and the median annual pay is relatively low (just under $22k per year). But you don’t have to have a fancy education and you can really make a difference in people’s lives. You’ll need lots of interpersonal skills, stamina, and integrity, but if you’re an idealist and you love to help people, this could be for you.
Always a big risk, but not impossible. If you have an idea or a talent you believe in, see about building a business. There are plenty of billionaires who started off as high school dropouts. All you need is the next big thing. It wouldn’t hurt to take a few courses on the side in business management and study the practices of successful entrepreneurs you’ve read about or met. Be careful, but if you feel strongly that you can do it, it might be worth a shot.