10 Jobs for High School Dropouts

Unemployed man with need a job sign

About 1.2 million US students drop out of high school every year – that’s about 7,000 students a day.

There is a certain stigma associated with dropping out of high school with many employers preferring to employ school leavers over dropouts. In fact, 19.8 per cent of those unemployed between in 2015 were high school 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

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High school dropouts in construction management earn an average of $1.5 million in their lifetime, while first-line managers in construction and extraction management make approximately $1.7 million.

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

In 2014, there were an estimated 373,200 people working as construction managers all over the country, and this number is expected to grow by 5 per cent, opening another 17,800 jobs by 2024.

Median Wage: $42.02 per hour / $87,400 per year


2. Automotive Service Technician/Mechanic

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In the automotive industry, you can work as an automotive service technician or mechanic repairing cars and light trucks. The work involves the use of technology, and you may have to learn computer skills on the job or take classes elsewhere. 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, earning yourself a higher salary.

Between 2014 and 2024, some 17,800 jobs are expected to open in this field. This means that competition is incredibly fierce, but it may just be worth your time as you can expect to earn as much $1.2 million over the course of your career.

Median Wage: $18.20 per hour / $37,850 per year


3. Sales Representative

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Wholesalers and manufacturers looking to employ sales representatives often focus on individuals who can meet targets rather than educational qualifications. The jobs pay 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.

Estimated life earnings are $1.4 million in this profession. About 93,400 jobs will open in wholesale and manufacturing by 2024, and an additional 23,800 jobs for sales of technical and scientific products.

Median Wage: $28.41 per hour / $59,080 per year


4. Food Service Manager

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In the food service industry, restaurant managers earn a 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 job involves long hours and late nights, sometimes requiring you to work through weekends.

There is stiff competition in this field, with employment opportunities expected to grow by 5 per cent by 2024.

Median Wage: $23.41 per hour / $48,690 per year


5. Secretary/Administrative Assistant

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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 job also offers lucrative prospects you can explore to grow your career into a senior administrative position.

Employment opportunities in this profession are projected to grow by a mere 3 per cent. This is slower than the national average for all professions, which is about 7 per cent.

Median Wage: $17.55 per hour / $36,500 per year



6. Entrepreneur

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Becoming a successful entrepreneur really depends on your skills and hard work, not your educational qualifications. If you have an idea you believe in, develop it into a business and create employment for you 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.

Median Wage: Variable


7. Home Health Aides

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As a home health aide, you’ll be responsible for helping people with disabilities or suffering from chronic illness or cognitive impairment 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 programs.

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.

Meanwhile, while it is the lowest paying job on this list, it is the fifth fastest growing profession in the country.

Median Wage: $10.54 per hour / $21,920


8. Diesel Service Technician/Mechanic

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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.

Demand for diesel service technicians and mechanics is high with employment opportunities expected to rise by 12 per cent by 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Customer service, organizational, mechanical, and troubleshooting skills, as well as strength and dexterity are essential to succeed in this role.

Meanwhile, even as a high school dropout, you can expect to make an estimated $1.5 million over your lifetime in this career.

Median Wage: $21.40 per hour / $44,520 per year


9. Electrician

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With estimated life earnings at $1.4 million, becoming an electrician can be very lucrative indeed. And there’s plenty of demand – in fact, employment of electricians is projected to grow 14 percent between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average for all other professions.

As an electrician, you’ll be responsible for instaling, 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, color vision, and customer service skills.

Median Wage: $24.94 per hour / $51,880 per year


10. Machinist

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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.

Job outlook in this profession is 6 per cent, which is as fast as the national average for all jobs. However, while there doesn’t seem to be any particular growth in the field, and competition can be fierce, you can expect to earn as much as $1.4 million in your lifetime.

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 math.

Median Wage: $20.25 per hour / $42,110 per year


Leaving school before you attain your diploma 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 that you never give up.

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


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This article was originally published in January 2015


Bureau of Labor Statistics