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Highest-paying jobs with no formal education requirements

  • Highest-paying jobs with no formal education requirements

    There’s a direct correlation between education and income. The median weekly wage for someone without a high school diploma is less than $600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while those with a doctoral degree earn $1,883. Every degree level up the scale from high school diploma to a PhD comes with a larger median salary, but there are plenty of jobs out there with no educational barriers.

    Some are entry-level positions that involve long hours, grueling work, dangerous or at least dreary conditions, low pay, and very little room for career advancement. Others are stepping-stone jobs that pay a subsistence wage but can quickly lead to better positions. Others are real careers unto themselves, offering a living wage and then some. Nearly one in 10 of the jobs on this list pay more than the average annual wage across all jobs. The average annual wage for all workers in the United States is $53,490.

    Stacker used data from the 2019 edition of the BLS’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, updated in April 2020, to compile a list of 94 jobs that do not have formal education requirements. These jobs are ranked by their average annual income, and ties are broken by the number of employees who work that job. BLS jobs with “all other” in the name were excluded since these are aggregates of several jobs, and salary data is less accurate than for specific jobs. Jobs that do not have a specific average annual salary were also excluded.

    Jobs with the lowest educational barriers tend to pay the lowest wages with the fewest benefits. They also represent a hugely disproportionate chunk of the jobs lost to the coronavirus shutdown. Due to the BLS releasing data for the previous calendar year, these figures might not reflect economic changes caused by COVID-19.

    The restaurant industry, in particular, was pummeled by the shutdown, and the future is uncertain for those who made their living in it. Bar and restaurant positions accounted for 60% of all job losses in March alone. Since then, total job losses in the industry far exceeded projections of 5 million to 7 million when the crisis started. That’s important to note because 10 of the first 20 jobs on this list—the lowest-paying but most common and easiest to get—are in the food and beverage industry.

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  • #91. Shampooers

    - Average annual wage: $22,910 (57.2% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 12,120 (0.08 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    Entry-level workers in the cosmetology field, shampooers prep salon clients before they sit down for a haircut or styling session. Ten-year job growth was projected at a strong 10%, but since they can’t work from home, many shampooers have seen their incomes dry up during the shutdown.

  • #90. Counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop

    - Average annual wage: $23,240 (56.6% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 473,860 (data not available per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    These workers serve pre-made food, drinks, and snacks from behind counters, like at bakeries, buffet lines, airports, and movie theaters. With those kinds of facilities and many others shut down, and their employees rarely fitting into the “essential worker” category, these kinds of food service workers were hit especially hard by the coronavirus shutdown, resulting in mental health challenges for this sector of workers.

  • #89. Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food

    - Average annual wage: $23,250 (56.5% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 3,996,820 (data not available per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    These workers’ jobs are a bit more involved than counter attendants, with job duties often involving explaining menu items to customers, taking orders, serving food, and aiding in food prep. Their plight has been a mixed bag. While sit-down restaurants across the country have been closed, for example, fast-food establishments have mostly remained open.

  • #88. Cooks, fast food

    - Average annual wage: $23,530 (56.0% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 527,220 (3.59 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    Fast-food cooks not only prepare and cook menu items, but they ensure freshness, quality, and adherence to safety standards. Unlike many food workers, fast-food employees have mostly been designated essential employees, so they tend to enjoy greater job security during the virus crisis compared to similar occupations, although they often risk greater exposure.

  • #87. Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop

    - Average annual wage: $24,010 (55.1% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 423,380 (2.88 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    Hosts and hostesses arrange seating, take reservations, welcome guests, get them settled, hand out menus, and introduce servers to customers. With sit-down service off-limits in many of the country’s eateries for months, hosts and hostesses have suffered the brunt of the shutdown.

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  • #86. Amusement and recreation attendants

    - Average annual wage: $24,330 (54.5% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 338,110 (2.30 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    The COVID crisis got real for many Americans when organizations like Disney and Six Flags shut down their parks in early spring. The attendants who run the rides, operate the games, and keep these and other amusement parks moving have largely been out of work. Presuming things do return to normal, projected job growth in the industry is a high 8% between 2018-28.

  • #85. Cashiers

    - Average annual wage: $24,400 (54.4% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 3,617,910 (24.63 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    Cashiers broker the exchange of goods or services for money, oversee exchanges and returns, and provide customer service at physical retail locations. Their occupation is on the decline, with BLS projecting negative job growth in the coming decade. They’re being pressed by the tide of online shopping, and self-checkout automation is thinning their ranks.

  • #84. Dishwashers

    - Average annual wage: $24,410 (54.4% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 514,330 (3.50 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    Dishwashers clean, stock, and arrange dishes, cookware, and utensils, but they’re also often responsible for the hard work of keeping an entire commercial kitchen clean. According to Brookings, dishwashers face an especially uncertain fate, even by the battered restaurant industry standards. Huge numbers of open positions have disappeared, and dishwashers tend to be already-vulnerable recent immigrants.

  • #83. Pressers, textile, garment, and related materials

    - Average annual wage: $24,820 (53.6% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 38,070 (0.26 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    Mostly because of the twin forces of outsourcing and automation, the writing has been on the wall for the American textile and garment industry for many years. Once a powerful force in the manufacturing sector, the industry is now well into a generational decline, and the future doesn’t look promising. The industry is expected to shed more than one in five remaining presser jobs between 2018 and 2028.

  • #82. Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers

    - Average annual wage: $24,870 (53.5% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 138,160 (0.94 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: Short term, on the job training

    Even before the shutdown, job growth in this category was projected to limp along at a slower-than-average 3% as ever-expanding home media options keep more and more people away from theaters. Now, with theaters closed over virus fears, packing people shoulder to shoulder in rows inside of a closed room for hours seems like a dated model. There is a wide consensus that some theaters and venues will survive—many have gone out of business altogether—but will have to adapt to a new reality, leaving ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers with an uncertain future.

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