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The Best Jobs for High School Dropouts

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021

Guide Overview

Best jobs for high school dropouts

Guide Overview

What is a Dropout?

A high school dropout is defined as a student who leaves high school without earning academic qualifications, for a variety of reasons. The national graduation rate is around 88%, meaning each year roughly 1.2 million students in this country drop out of high school. If this describes you, don't fret — there are plenty of well-paying careers out there for you! Here, we'll go over some of the most sought-after jobs for high school dropouts.

Best jobs for high school dropouts

There are many high-demand jobs to consider that don’t require a high school diploma or equivalent. Many of them also require little to no previous experience, allowing employees to gain experience and acquire skills on the job, or through apprenticeships. Below are great jobs for those who didn’t finish high school.

Learn more: Discover companies hiring by location, job title, and industry

Construction Manager

Average base pay: $83,353 per year Salary range: $53,000 – $131,000 per year Often referred to as project managers or general contractors, construction managers are responsible for planning, budgeting, coordinating, and supervising construction projects from beginning to end. Working closely with architects, they’re involved in building a variety of residential, commercial, public, and industrial buildings and structures, and often build roads, bridges, even memorials as well. Jumping straight into a construction manager position typically requires a bachelor’s degree, so without a high school diploma you’ll need to work an apprenticeship, start off as a construction worker, and work your way up to manager.

Automotive Service Technician

Average base pay: $43,129 per year Salary range: $27,000 – $70,000 per year Also known as mechanics, service technicians, or service techs, automotive service technicians repair, maintain, and inspect cars and light trucks. Service technicians work on traditional mechanical systems, and must learn how to work with various computer and electronic systems, as modern vehicles have many components that are controlled electronically. High school courses in mathematics, automotive repair, and electronics are usually a good automotive technician foundation. However, people who haven’t completed high school typically start out as technicians’ helpers or trainees, and are able to learn while on the job.

Food Service Manager

Average base pay: $48,849 per year Salary range: $34,000 – $69,000 per year When we think of food service managers, we most often think of restaurants, but they also work in hotels, cafeterias, and other establishments that prepare and serve food. Food service managers are responsible for all daily functions of the business that relate to employees such as interviewing, hiring, training, supervising, and firing. Managers coordinate kitchen and dining room activities to ensure customers receive quality service, schedule staff hours, oversee food preparation, order food and equipment supplies, manage payroll and budgets, and establish and uphold health and performance standards. Most food service managers get their start in the industry as prep cooks, waiters/waitresses, hosts/hostesses, and often spend years working under more experienced workers before being promoted to managerial positions.


Average base pay: $57,990 per year Salary range: $38,000 – $88,000 per year Electricians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems in homes, businesses, and factories. They read blueprints and diagrams, identify and remediate electrical problems, install and maintain wiring and lighting systems, inspect electrical components, and direct and train other workers, all in accordance with state and local building regulations. Some electricians start out by attending a technical school, but most learn their trade in a four to five year apprenticeship program, where they’re usually able to acquire 2,000 hours of paid training. Apprenticeship requirements vary by state, and most states require electricians to pass a licensing test. Often electricians are also required to take continuing education courses to keep their licenses current.

Home Health Aide

Average base pay: $25,422 per year Salary range: $20,000 – $33,000 per year Home health aides monitor and assist in caring for people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, cognitive impairments, and health issues related to aging. They often arrange for transportation to medical appointments and other activities, help with daily tasks like bathing and dressing, and assist with common household duties such as laundry, dishes, and grocery shopping. Under the supervision of a licensed health care professional, they check clients’ vitals, administer simple medications, change bandages, and help with skin care. Specially trained home health aides are able to help with complex medical equipment like ventilators. Home health aide positions sometimes require a high school diploma or equivalent, but many don’t require formal academic credentials. Each state has its own requirements when it comes to licensing and training. Some states, for example, require home health aides to complete specific training and pass a background check and competency exam to earn a license or certification.


Average base pay: $45,526 per year Salary range: $32,000 – $65,000 per year Machinists are responsible for setting up and operating a wide variety of computer and mechanically controlled tools that produce other tools, instruments, and precision metal parts. Most machinists must be able to use both manual and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machinery. When broken or dysfunctional parts are discovered in a machine, usually by an industrial machinery mechanic, machinists reference blueprints of the parts to manufacture a replacement. Lasers, water jets, and electrified wires are typically used to cut the pieces, and as new and updated versions of these tools are developed, machinists stay current with new techniques. Though some learn through apprenticeship programs, or at vocational schools, most machinists acquire the majority of their skills through long-term training on the job as machine operators.

Sales Representative

Average base pay: $47,496 per year Salary range: $26,000 – $88,000 per year Also called manufacturers’ representatives or manufacturers’ agents, sales representatives generally work for manufacturers and wholesalers selling goods to businesses, government agencies, and others. They’re tasked with identifying and contacting prospective customers, explaining the products they’re selling and their features, and answering any questions customers have. Some sales representatives work selling nonscientific products — food, apparel, office supplies, etc., while others specialize in more technical or scientific products from pharmaceutical goods to computer equipment. In addition to selling products, sales representatives often schedule appointments, make travel plans, analyze sales data, and filing expense accounts. For many specialized sales representative positions, a bachelor’s degree is often required. However, this is not usually the case. Many companies have training programs for new sales representatives, during which they often move among jobs in offices or plants, learning everything there is to know about the product(s) they’re selling.


Average base pay: $33,058 per year Salary range: $20,000 – $56,000 per year The main components of cosmetology are hair, nails, and makeup. During a cosmetology program, cosmetologists learn a variety of hair cutting, coloring, and styling techniques, in addition to manicure and pedicure skills, facial and makeup application, and wig cleaning and cutting. To be successful, cosmetologists must build a client base, set appointments, manage their finances, provide styling advice, and sell products and services. While a high school diploma is required for a few positions, some cosmetology programs enroll students as young as 16 years old. Licensing for cosmetologists varies by state, but all aspiring cosmetologists need a cosmetology training certificate from an approved training program and supervised hands-on, on the job experience. This certification and experience is required to be eligible for the state licensing exam.

Office Manager

Average base pay: $44,888 per year Salary range: $30,000 – $67,000 per year Office managers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating administrative operations in an office. The duties in this role can range widely depending on the field, but generally office manager jobs include staff management, secretarial work, payroll, light accounting duties, data management and entry, customer service, and policy and procedure evaluation, implementation, and reform. Competition can be tough for an office manager position, but it’s one of the highest paying jobs out there that doesn’t require a diploma.

Administrative Assistant

Average base pay: $39,787 per year Salary range: $28,000 – $57,000 per year Administrative assistants perform a variety of administrative and clerical tasks that keep an office running efficiently. Specific duties of an administrative assistant vary depending on the field, but in a general sense they include tasks like answering phones and taking messages, transferring calls, scheduling appointments and meetings, managing calendars, preparing invoices and memos, and reports, maintaining filing systems and databases, and basic bookkeeping. Job opportunities in this role don’t typically require a high school diploma but, like with an office manager position, competition can be stiff. In addition to learning skills through on the job training, administrative assistants often gain experience working in positions with fewer and less challenging responsibilities, like a general office clerk.

You’ll find that most of the jobs on this list require that you begin at entry-level and move up with the help of some additional training. However, you’ll also find that necessary training available to employees on the job, meaning you can choose a field, build experience, and move your way up. Whichever career path you decide on, success is possible!

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