10 Great Jobs for High School Dropouts

Young male carpenter working in a woodshop

About 1.2 million US students drop out of high school every year – that’s about 7,000 students a day. In the EU, meanwhile, the average share of early school leavers aged 18–24 was 10.6% in 2017.

As there’s a certain stigma associated with dropping out of high school, many employers prefer to employ school leavers over dropouts. 

However, that’s not to say that there aren’t any job opportunities available. On the contrary, there are, and they could lead to a lifelong and very successful career.

Here are the top 10 jobs for high school dropouts.

1. Construction manager

Average wage: $91,370 / £48,500 per year

Construction managers plan, coordinate and manage the budget of projects, supervising workers from start to finish. They coordinate projects with architects and contractors and assist with the preliminary planning.

As a high school dropout, you’ll need to join an apprenticeship to get your foot in the door and learn the trade while working on the job.

To succeed in this career, you’ll start off as a construction worker and rise through the ranks. Taking up leadership and management courses, meanwhile, increases your chances of securing a managerial position.

2. Automotive service technician/Mechanic

Average wage: $39,550 / £18,750 per year

In the automotive industry, you can work as an automotive service technician or mechanic repairing cars and light trucks. As the work involves the use of technology, you may have to learn computer skills on the job or take classes elsewhere. But with time and experience, you’ll be able to gain the skills you need to work on bigger vehicles and solve more complex issues and, therefore, earn yourself a higher salary.

This lucrative career is one that’s in high demand across the world, meaning that mechanics can earn a high salary if they learn the profession well.

3. Sales representative

Average wage: $60,340 / £32,500 per year

Wholesalers and manufacturers looking to employ sales representatives often focus on individuals who can meet targets rather than on educational qualifications. The job pays well, and you can grow your earnings through commissions. If you enjoy interacting with people and have strong communication skills, you should consider a career as a sales representative.

If you succeed in this career path, you can work your way through the ranks by becoming a supervisor and then a store or area manager, leading your own team of sales representatives.

4. Food service manager

Average wage: $52,030 / £31,500 per year

In the food service industry, restaurant managers earn decent pay. Fortunately, you do not need a high school diploma to get a management job in the industry. Previous experience in food service and a keen understanding of the day-to-day running of the business will help you score a job. However, the position involves long hours and late nights, sometimes requiring you to work through weekends.

To succeed in this role, you need great leadership skills, and you should be able to communicate clearly and earn the respect of your team. You will also need to commit to working on your days off to ensure your numbers are in order.

5. Secretary/Administrative assistant

Average wage: $37,870 / £19,500 per year

Job opportunities for secretaries and administrative assistants rarely require you to present your high school diploma. However, you will face stiff competition from individuals who do have a high school or college qualification.

Your presentation during the interview and experience in a similar job will give you an edge. The role also offers lucrative prospects you can explore to grow your career into a senior administrative position.

6. Entrepreneur

Average wage: Variable

Becoming a successful entrepreneur really depends on your skills and work ethic, not your educational qualifications. If you have an idea you believe in, and you can develop it into a business, you’ll be able to create employment for yourself and others around you.

You won’t be the only high school dropout to become a successful entrepreneur, either. Just look at Richard Branson who dropped out of school and went on to become the founder of Virgin Group (and a billionaire along the way).

You might want to consider improving your business management skills by taking management courses and seminars, however, if you’re serious about succeeding as an entrepreneur. You should also study the practices of other successful entrepreneurs as this will help you grow.

7. Home health aides

Average wage: $23,130 / £18,750 per year

As a home health aide, you’ll be responsible for helping people with disabilities or suffering from chronic illness or cognitive impairments with personal necessities like dressing, bathing and hygiene needs. You’ll work in a variety of settings, including the patients’ homes, group homes and day services programmes.

It is not an easy job, and you should have integrity, physical stamina and excellent interpersonal skills. This job is ideal for those who want to make a difference in people’s lives.

8. Diesel service technician/Mechanic

Average wage: $46,360 / £26,500 per year

If you enjoy fixing cars or trucks, you might want to consider becoming a diesel service technician. Your work will involve inspecting, repairing and overhauling buses and trucks, or maintaining and repairing any type of diesel engine.

Customer service, organisational, mechanical and troubleshooting skills, as well as physical strength and dexterity, are essential to succeed in this role. You’ll also need to be able to think on your feet and work well under pressure.

9. Electrician

Average wage: $54,110 / £30,000 per year

With estimated life earnings at $1.4 million (£910,000), becoming an electrician can be very lucrative indeed. And there’s plenty of demand for this high-paying job, too!

As an electrician, you’ll be responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing electrical power, communications, lighting and control systems in a variety of settings, including homes, businesses and factories.

Important qualities for this role include business skills, physical stamina, troubleshooting skills, physical strength, critical thinking skills, colour vision and customer service skills.

10. Machinist

Average wage: $41,700 / £22,000 per year

Another option as a high school dropout is becoming a machinist, or a tool or die maker. You’ll be responsible for setting up and operating a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically-controlled machine tools in order to produce a variety of precision metal parts, instruments and tools.

Skills that are critical for this profession include physical stamina and manual dexterity. You should also possess strong analytical, mechanical and technical skills, as well as have a head for maths.

Leaving school before you obtain your diploma or A-levels is not the end of the world; you can still pursue fulfilling careers in different fields and earn a decent living. The important thing you need to remember is to never give up.

Are you a high school dropout? What career path did you choose to follow? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 13 January 2015.

Salaries are intended as a guide and vary depending on employer and level of experience. Salary information is based on data compiled and published by a variety of sources, including the Bureau of Labour Statistics and the National Careers Service. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 3 April 2019.