In America alone, one out of ten high school students end up dropping out, with almost 7,000 pupils leaving each day.
These numbers, alongside social stigma, can seem defeating, but only about 18.5% of dropouts end up unemployed, while others venture off into successful careers.
The reality is that even without a high school graduation, you may still find plenty of work.
According to Labor Department data from 2019 to 2022, college dropouts age 25 and older earned about $27.90 an hour on average.
So, the notion that dropouts cannot prosper is untrue. In this post, 23 excellent occupations (online and offline jobs) for high school dropouts are discussed.
We’ll also look at how much money you can make in these jobs and how you can build a successful career even if you didn’t finish high school. So, don’t worry, there are opportunities out there for you!
What Is the Most Common Job for High School Dropouts?
When someone drops out of high school, they frequently choose the career that at the moment seems to fit them the best until they come across a better option.
They tend to take up positions such as cashiering, waiting tables, cleaning, construction work, etc. As of 2020, the global lockdowns caused many people, especially dropouts, to start small businesses and take up many forms of freelancing.
While these are common jobs, most of them can be dead-end and not sustainable for the long term.
There are endless sectors and industries that openly welcome dropouts, which are rarely considered by ex-students due to the availability of other dead-end jobs.
These sectors include:
- Landscaping and Groundskeeping
- Food services
- Warehousing and Logistics
- Maintenance and Repair
- Entry-Level IT and Tech Support
- Arts, Music, and Theater
- Hospital Support Roles
- Personal Care Services
Overall, there are endless options for high school dropouts to have long-lasting and successful careers without having to do physically tasking and low-paying jobs.
The salary of a person who didn’t finish high school depends on where they work.
They might not make much money at first. Entry-level employees without a high school diploma frequently start off making less money than those with a college degree.
However, as people develop in their professions and are better at their occupations, they can make more money whether it is a remote job or office job.
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23 Jobs for Highschool Dropouts
Here are 23 job options for high school dropouts that are well-paying and worth the time —
1. Personal Trainer
Average annual salary: $66k
You can still work as a personal trainer without a high school diploma.
Working with clients, building workout routines, and offering advice on nutrition and fitness have to be your strong suits. Your primary role is to assist others in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
This job doesn’t require a high school certificate, but you need to be knowledgeable about fitness and health. In fact, some facilities might require degrees in Exercise Science or Kinesiology.
You’ll learn and gain experience on the job, and you can also take specialized courses to become a certified personal trainer.
As you gain more experience and build a client base, you can grow your career and potentially work in more specialized fitness areas without needing a high school diploma.
2. Office Manager
Average annual salary: $47k
Don’t expect to turn into an office manager straight after dropping out, rather, build your way up by starting as an office assistant. This way, you can pick up administrative skills and get promoted.
You can achieve this by putting your communication skills to use while dealing with visitors, entering data, handling mail and calls, and working with other departments.
Then, you will gain knowledge of how the workplace functions and become a useful team member by working as an office assistant.
After you’ve built a strong reputation and gathered enough skills, you can move up to higher roles like office manager, which also means more money.
3. Construction Manager
Average annual salary: $107k
Construction jobs offer various positions. Many start with entry-level work to learn a specific job or skill.
Most of these jobs value hard work and willingness to learn after having a high school diploma. For high school dropouts, these careers may last a lifetime.
You can be given opportunities to manage projects as you become more skilled at your work.
Many experienced construction workers began at entry-level jobs and, by mastering their skills, built a good reputation and a successful career.
If you specialize in a certain construction area, your skills can be in high demand, and you can earn more money because you’re highly qualified. And if you like business, you might even start your own construction company.
4. Freelance writer
Average annual salary: $41,000-$125,000
Freelance writing is a great online job for college dropouts because it doesn’t require a college degree. You can get started as a freelance writer even if you don’t have any formal training. All you need is strong writing skills and a willingness to learn.
Another great thing about freelance writing is that it’s flexible. You can choose to work full-time, part-time, or on an as-needed basis. You can also choose to work from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a reliable internet connection.
Freelance writers are in high demand, and there are many different types of freelance writing jobs available. You can find freelance writing jobs that require a variety of skills and experience levels, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a job that’s a good fit for you.
5. Equipment Operator
Average annual salary: $55k
As an equipment operator, your job is to use machines for different tasks, like building things or moving stuff like logs. You can find these jobs in construction, logistics, and other industries.
It also includes jobs like switchboard operators, loggers, and some roles in farming.
These jobs are good for people who like paying close attention to details and don’t mind doing the same tasks over and over.
If you become really skilled at using special machines, you can have many job options. Some people stick with one company for a long time, while others move to different jobs or take on higher-level positions.
6. Food Service Manager/Restaurant Manager
Average annual salary: $52k
Starting a career in the food service industry is a good way to move up to management jobs if you’re okay with working long hours.
Many jobs in restaurants don’t need a high school diploma, as they care more about your ability to learn while you work.
You can work hard and demonstrate that you can handle additional responsibilities if you want to manage a restaurant.
Being a manager requires the use of abilities, including team leadership, interpersonal skills, time management, and effective communication.
Managers in restaurants usually make good money and may get extra benefits. Of course, this depends on the popularity of the restaurant.
7. Care Assistant/Home Health Aide
Average annual salary: $27k
Care assistants help people who need extra support due to disabilities or illnesses, either at home or in special places like retirement homes.
Being kind, helpful, and able to talk to different people is important for this job. It’s also essential to stay calm, be honest, and solve problems when things get tough.
This job can be tough. It’s best for strong, caring, and understanding people. If you want to make a positive impact on society and can handle tough situations, being a care assistant might be a good choice.
You can get specific training for this job, and you don’t need a high school diploma. Many high school dropouts consider becoming care assistants.
8. Administrative Assistant
Average annual salary: $40k
Secretaries and administrative assistants play crucial roles in keeping offices and businesses organized and efficient. They handle tasks like managing schedules, answering phones, and organizing paperwork.
Although a high school diploma may not be required for many positions, possessing one might help you stand out in a competitive employment market.
Your performance in the interview and prior experience, however, can be even more crucial in getting the position.
As you gain experience in this field, you can explore opportunities for career growth. You might move into senior administrative positions where you take on more responsibilities and earn a higher income.
So, even though you don’t need a diploma to start, there are chances to advance and build a successful career in this profession.
9. VA (Virtual Assistant)
Average annual salary: $30,235-$60,000
VAs (Virtual Assistants) work remotely for clients, providing a wide range of administrative, technical, and sales or marketing services.
Many VA jobs don’t require any formal education or training. You can use the skills and experience you already have to get started as a VA. For example, if you’re good at social media, you can become a social media marketing VA. If you’re good at writing, you can become a content writing VA.
VAs are in high demand, and there are many different types of VA jobs available. You can find VA jobs that require a variety of skills and experience levels, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a job that’s a good fit for you. In the US, a general virtual assistant might charge between $10 and $60 an hour, depending on the service and the level of skill.
You can choose to work full-time, part-time, or on an as-needed basis. You can also choose to work from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a reliable internet connection. This makes it a great job for college dropouts who are looking for a flexible and remote work arrangement.
As you gain experience and build up a client base, you can increase your rates and take on more clients. Once you land your first few VA clients, you’ll be well on your way to building a successful career as a freelance virtual assistant.
Average annual salary: $53k
Many successful chefs didn’t finish high school. But becoming a chef is hard work and you need to be dedicated enough to work odd hours.
High school dropouts usually start at the bottom, doing tasks like washing dishes or helping out. They learn from experienced chefs and do things like preparing food and cleaning up the kitchen after cooking.
Chefs work long hours, but it can be a satisfying and well-paying job for those who are good at it. This job depends on your love for food and being creative, not your school grades.
Some chefs dream of having their own restaurant, and knowing how a kitchen works is a solid start to achieving that dream.
11. Coffee Barista
Average annual salary: $24k
When it comes to becoming a barista, you typically don’t need a high school diploma. What matters most is your passion for coffee and a desire to learn.
As a barista, you’ll be responsible for making and serving coffee and other beverages, often in a cafe or coffee shop.
While formal education isn’t a strict requirement, your enthusiasm for coffee, good customer service skills, ability to work complex machinery, and attention to detail can make a big difference.
Competition for barista positions can be tough, with many coffee lovers vying for the job.
Your likelihood of success may be influenced by your prior performance in parts that are comparable to this one or by your capacity to sell yourself during an audition or interview.
You can advance to more senior jobs over time, such as head barista or cafe manager, which frequently have greater responsibility and pay potential.
12. Delivery Driver/Cab Driver
Delivery driver average salary: $44k
Uber driver average salary: $38k
Cab driver average salary: $32k
Many delivery driver jobs don’t need a high school diploma. You pick up shipments or other products and make sure they get to their destination on schedule in these jobs.
You may drive larger trucks over state boundaries and increase your income if you obtain a special license.
For cab drivers, some have a high school diploma, but it’s not a must. You can own your own cab by getting a car and a meter, or you can work for a company like Uber or Lyft.
These jobs need you to be dependable, organized, and good at talking to people.
If you didn’t finish high school and want a steady job that can be flexible, being a driver could be a good choice.
Plus, if you build enough experience and branch out into more successful services, you can work as a professional driver, which pays more annually.
Average annual salary: $49k
Joiners typically make furniture or build and install building frames, becoming one can lead to a well-paying and lasting career.
To get started, you often need to do an apprenticeship, where you learn and impress your trainer. When you begin, you’ll work with experienced joiners.
Your skills and willingness to learn matter more than having a high school diploma. Being creative and paying attention to details are important too. This job needs you to be good with measurements, numbers and stay tough when things get hard.
If you become good at your job, many businesses and people will want to hire you. Experienced joiners often earn more because their work is specialized.
Some even start their own joinery businesses and hire others to help run the company while they focus on the hands-on work of joinery.
14. Graphics Designer
Average annual salary: $47
Unlike full-time staff positions, freelance professionals often don’t have strict educational requirements.
So, if you’re a skilled designer, you can easily find work on online freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. You can explore various design fields like web design.
To increase your chances of getting hired, you can take some online courses and build a portfolio showcasing your best work. This demonstrates your skills to potential clients and helps you secure more freelance projects.
The same flexibility applies to other digital professionals like programmers, copywriters, and SEO specialists. They can freelance their skills and work for a wide range of companies and clients.
If you have expertise in these areas, freelancing can be a great way to find employment and build a successful career.
Average annual salary: $44k
In the car industry, you can be an automotive service technician or mechanic. As a beginner, you’ll fix cars and small trucks.
While working in this field, you might need to use computers to figure out what’s wrong with a vehicle. Don’t worry if you’re not a tech whiz right away; you can learn these skills on the job or take classes on the side to become more proficient.
As you gain experience and expertise, you’ll have the opportunity to work on larger vehicles and tackle more complex issues. This can lead to a higher salary.
Plus, this job is in high demand worldwide, so there are many vacancies. As long as there are vehicles on the road, there will be a need for skilled mechanics. So, if you become experienced in this, you can enjoy a fulfilling career.
Average annual salary: $55k
Becoming an electrician can be a really well-paying job, with estimated lifetime earnings reaching up to 7 digits. Plus, there’s a high demand for electricians, so you can find plenty of work opportunities.
As an electrician, your job is to install, take care of, and fix electrical systems in different places like businesses, factories, and homes. You’ll work with things like power, lighting, control, and communications systems.
To do this job well, it helps to have business skills, be physically fit, and be good at solving problems. You’ll also need to be strong, able to think critically, see different colors, and be friendly with customers.
So, if you’re interested in a job that pays well and has lots of opportunities, consider becoming an electrician.
Average annual salary: $47k
As a machinist or tool and die maker, your work involves using various machines to craft precise metal components, often for industries like manufacturing, aerospace, and automotive.
These roles require physical stamina since you might spend long hours on your feet and use heavy machinery.
Your analytical, mechanical, and technical skills will come in handy as you troubleshoot issues and ensure the machines produce high-quality parts.
Additionally, having a good grasp of mathematics is important for measurements and calculations.
Many machinists and tool and die makers find these professions to be fulfilling, especially if you enjoy hands-on work and the satisfaction of creating precise components.
It’s a career path that doesn’t hinge on having a high school diploma but instead values skills, craftsmanship, and a knack for problem-solving. Over time, you can gain expertise and advance your career in this field.
18. Florist/Floral Designer
Florist average annual salary: $29k
Floral designer’s average annual salary: $55k
If you didn’t finish high school but love design and being creative, think about becoming a florist or a floral designer.
Beautiful flower arrangements are created by floral designers for people, locations, and occasions. Working beside an expert florist who will teach you all you need to know can help you learn about this profession.
You can work in different places, like your own flower shop or a popular hotel’s flower team.
Because you deal with people a lot, such as customers and suppliers, you need to be good at talking to them. Being organized and friendly is also really important in this job.
Average annual salary: $31k
If you’re really into all things beauty, you might like a job in cosmetology. You’ll style hair, provide manicures and pedicures, apply cosmetics, and take care of skin as a cosmetologist.
In certain places, you can start cosmetology school as early as 16 years old.
A high school diploma may be necessary for cosmetology, however there are also specialized training programs available. In cosmetology school, you’ll learn the skills and techniques to become a professional.
You’ll get practical experience, and many programs are flexible enough to accept students from a variety of educational backgrounds, including those who didn’t complete high school.
Plus, you can work in salon spas or even launch your own beauty business once you’ve finished your training and obtained your license. It’s a field where you can let your creativity shine while helping people enhance their beauty.
20. Barber/Hair Stylist Assistant
Average annual salary: $37
If you didn’t finish high school, you can still become a barber or a hair stylist assistant. In this job, you help experienced barbers or stylists with various tasks in a salon or barbershop.
You have to do things like wash your hair, prepare the tools for use, and keep the place tidy. Despite the fact that you don’t require a lot of formal schooling, you will acquire and develop skills along the road, such as hair care and customer service.
You must pay close attention to detail, treat clients with respect, and have strong communication skills if you want to succeed in this position.
A career in the beauty business might result from working as a barber or hairstylist’s assistant. With more training and experience, you can become a fully trained barber or stylist.
21. Digital Marketer
Average annual salary: Variable
Your primary responsibility in digital marketing is to facilitate online audience connections for businesses and brands. For this job, you have to work on plans for promoting goods or services, provide interesting content, and use data to improve marketing.
Digital marketing is great since it doesn’t require a high school certificate, rather understanding the online environment and having the flexibility to respond with emerging digital trends are more important.
To prepare for this role, start by getting some job experience or signing up for online classes to learn how to do things like SEO, social media marketing, and email marketing.
You must be a great communicator, creative, and good at understanding the needs of your clients to be successful in this field. You may advance your career in digital marketing as you get more experience and demonstrate your abilities.
Academic qualifications become less significant in this profession, and your ability to obtain results online takes precedence.
22. Sales Representative
Average annual salary: $58k
When wholesale and manufacturer companies hire salespeople, they often care more about your ability to persuade and negotiate than whether you finished high school or not.
Successful salespeople can earn good money, mostly from a commission on what they sell.
If you’re good at communicating with others, welcoming customers, and getting along with new people, this job is an ideal choice for you.
As you get better at this job, you can slowly climb the professional ladder.
You might become a supervisor first and then a store or area manager, where you’ll lead a team of sales reps. These jobs help you learn how to manage people and be a leader, and they usually come with higher pay.
Average annual salary: Variable
Many young people take inspiration from the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates and drop out of high school or college with aspirations to start their own multi-million-dollar business.
While many discourage dropouts from starting their own business, calling them wishful thinkers, many have put their dreams into reality and built successful businesses.
They know that success does not equal a high school or college degree. Rather, becoming a successful entrepreneur means having a planned-out strategy, unique ideas, drive, ability to work hard, and bravery in the face of difficulty.
You can make a lot of money by implementing your ideas into a business. It can also mean jobs for others and chances to grow your business even more later on.
Are Dropouts More Successful than Graduates?
Whether dropouts are more successful than graduates varies from person to person. Success depends on many factors, like individual goals, skills, and opportunities.
Some dropouts have become incredibly successful entrepreneurs, artists, or professionals. They found their passion and worked hard to achieve their goals without finishing high school.
But, not having a diploma can limit job options and earning potential for many.
Graduates often have a wider range of job opportunities and may earn higher salaries. Success, however, also partially depends on graduates’ utilization of their education and skills.
It ultimately depends on how hard you work, what you seek, and how you take advantage of your opportunities, whether you have a degree or not.
According to recent statistics, up to 32.9% of undergraduates do not finish their studies. It’s not the end of the road, though.
There are numerous fulfilling jobs for high school dropouts available. While not having a diploma might be difficult, it doesn’t always limit one’s chances of success.
These 20 positions are spread throughout several sectors, highlighting the value of knowledge, commitment, and a solid work ethic.
And these alternatives are, therefore, a place to start for aspirational dropouts who want to explore a world of opportunities and create a successful future.
- College Dropout Rates by Melanie Hanson: https://educationdata.org/college-dropout-rates
- High School Dropout Jobs, Employment: https://www.indeed.com/q-high-school-dropout-jobs.html
- Characteristics of minimum wage workers: https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2020/home.htm