Careers for high school graduates
Scoring a good job doesn’t always require obtaining a bachelor’s degree or associate degree. In the latest U.S. News Best Jobs rankings, these 25 careers offer nice work-life balance and strong job growth while only requiring a high school diploma. Take note: Entry to some of these fields requires on-the-job training, apprenticeships and state licensure. Data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read on to learn about the 25 best jobs for high school graduates.
Home Health Aide
Median Salary: $25,280
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 33.7%
These workers, who support patients in day-to-day tasks like cooking and household chores, are in high demand as baby boomers age. Some roles require high school diplomas, competency exams or certificates, plus passing a background check. Additional training may include CPR certification.
In this job you will probably work for a business — and have numerous clients that you’re scheduled to visit in a given day — though you may wind up working for extended periods of time for one person in a home.
Learn more about home health aides.
Personal Care Aide
Median Salary: $25,280
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 33.7%
Personal care aides help people with chronic conditions accomplish everyday tasks like making the bed and bathing. Some positions require high school diplomas or certificates from relevant community college programs. Additional training, perhaps at a certified home health or hospice agency, may include CPR certification.
You might work in a client’s home, a group home or perhaps at a day service program at a nursing facility.
It can be a challenging job that is physically taxing, and it may involve working with people with moods across the spectrum. But it’s arguably a job that you can feel very good about — you’re helping society’s most vulnerable citizens.
Learn more about personal care aides.
Landscaper and Groundskeeper
Median Salary: $30,440
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 10.1%
Landscapers and groundskeepers make sure gardens and lawns look great and remain healthy at parks, golf courses, private homes, college campuses and office buildings. They stay busy working outdoors by planting, watering, mowing, fertilizing and weeding. Usually, no formal education is necessary for this role, and workers learn on the job. Another upside: It isn’t often a job that requires working weekends.
Licenses may be required for people whose jobs involve using pesticides and fertilizers.
Learn more about landscapers and groundskeepers.
Median Salary: $56,640
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 17.3%
Flight attendants make a good salary but arguably will never be paid enough. They often deal with cranky passengers, and on a crowded flight, they stay plenty busy. Their job is to make passengers comfortable and happy, and if something goes wrong on the flight, passengers will likely first look to the flight attendants for guidance.
Of course, on the plus side, flight attendants get to see the world, or the country, and no day is ever the same.
Learn more about flight attendants.
Physical Therapist Aide
Median Salary: $27,000
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 21.3%
These professionals support physical therapists and physical therapy assistants, often taking on some of the less-skilled work, including sanitizing treatment areas and performing office tasks. Many receive on-the-job training that can last from a week to a month.
It’s a job that’s in demand, as the health care industry thrives and as baby boomers age. There is room for advancement, in the sense that some physical therapist aides continue their education to become physical therapy assistants or physical therapists.
Learn more about physical therapist aides.
Median Salary: $31,340
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 11.1%
These days, the barrier to become a taxi driver is lower than ever. You might get a job with a taxi company in a big city or end up using your own car and working with a ride-hailing app such as Lyft or Uber.
Taxi drivers, of course, take passengers wherever they want to go, though usually within, say, 50 miles. (At some point, it becomes cheaper for the passenger to take a bus or a plane.)
If you like people and enjoy driving, you may love this job.
Learn more about taxi drivers.
Median Salary: $37,330
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 8.5%
Exterminators are in the hero business.
You may have never thought about it that way, but if you’ve ever jumped onto the sofa, hoping to avoid a mouse — well, you can start to see how courageous and useful exterminators are.
From bats in the attic to bedbugs in the bed, exterminators will get rid of your pests — or at least control them. They inspect homes and buildings and use a wide variety of tools, including chemicals, to keep termites, cockroaches, rodents and other critters away.
Learn more about exterminators.
Maintenance and Repair Worker
Median Salary: $39,080
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 4.2%
These jacks-of-all-trades take care of a range of systems, from electrical circuits to plumbing and painting. Most maintenance and repair workers develop expertise through apprenticeships and are licensed to work independently.
If you enjoy fixing things, this could be a fulfilling job, assuming there’s a wide variety of equipment or machines to repair. If, for instance, you’re working at a college, an apartment complex or an airport, you’d work on a lot of different things — sometimes indoors and sometimes outside — and not feel as if every day was the same.
Learn more about maintenance and repair workers.
Median Salary: $55,160
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 4.3%
Plumbers assemble, install and repair pipes and pipe systems in buildings from factories and homes to schools and airports. Plumbers typically complete an intense apprenticeship program. This is a paid program offered by unions or businesses that can typically last four to five years and combine classroom instruction with hands-on work. Plumbers must be licensed to work independently — and will often be required to receive continuing education to keep that license.
While it’s technically a day job during the workweek, emergencies can happen at any time, so evening and weekend work is a possibility.
Learn more about plumbers.
Median Salary: $27,790
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 23.1%
We can probably all agree that restaurant cooks deserve applause. They do it all: braise, blanch, whisk, garnish and grill. They’re generally cooking a gazillion meals at once, and without them, a restaurant would fall apart pretty quickly.
It’s a job in which you don’t need a college degree. You do, however, need to know a lot about food if you’re going to do well. If you have formal training and can produce complicated meals, you’ll probably work at more upscale restaurants and see a higher paycheck.
It can be a tough gig that often involves working evenings and weekends. But if you do your job well, you’ll get a lot of people passing on their compliments to the chef.
Learn more about restaurant cooks.
Recreation and Fitness Worker
Median Salary: $30,490
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 12.5%
If you loved playing as a kid, you may love this job — because, well, in a way, that’s what you’re doing. You’re playing but on a more grown-up level. You may be leading people on a hike, teaching them to ride horseback or instructing students in yoga.
Recreation and fitness workers include everyone from aerobics instructors to camp counselors. A park director or a cruise director might be considered a recreation and fitness worker. Basically, if you help members of the public get exercise, you may be a recreation and fitness worker.
Those in managerial positions may need an associate degree or a college degree, but many others receive only on-the-job training. One additional benefit of this career is that in helping people stay active and healthy, you’ll likely stay active and healthy as well.
Learn more about recreation and fitness workers.
Insurance Sales Agent
Median Salary: $50,940 per year
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 5.5%
Insurance agents sell auto, health, home and life insurance. Commercial insurance agents also sell property damage and liability policies, employee and executive coverage and product liability. Insurance is a heavily regulated field, and agents must be licensed by their state.
It is a job that’s often open to high school graduates, although many insurance agents are college graduates as well. This career is a great fit for someone who is analytical, detail-oriented and a good communicator. After all, you have to both sell to people and understand the product.
There tends to be a lot of turnover in this field because many new agents struggle to earn sufficient commission income and may switch to other occupations. What happens then to the clients that the insurance agent was able to get? They go to another insurance agent who has managed to stick it out. So it can be a tough field to break into, but once you have, you may thrive.
Learn more about insurance sales agents.
Median Salary: $63,150
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 5.7%
The job isn’t like you see on TV. Often, patrol officers are writing reports and updating records. You might be on patrol, looking for trouble and not finding it. But then sometimes you do. If you pull someone over for a speeding ticket, are you thanked by the motorist for being concerned about their safety? Probably not. You work odd hours, and there’s always the chance of being in a dangerous situation at any moment. Is there potential to get stressed out? Absolutely. But this profession can also be very rewarding.
Learn more about patrol officers.
Median Salary: $43,030
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 9.3%
It may not be as exciting as Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of bus driver Annie Porter in “Speed,” but it is an important job. Bus drivers serve members of their community and get them from here to there safely.
It helps to have an easygoing personality and not have a temper. But at the same time, you need to be tough enough to handle hothead passengers and lunatic drivers trying to cut you off.
Learn more about bus drivers.
Waiter and Waitress
Median Salary: $22,890
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 3.7%
When you serve a glass of lemonade, is it half full or half empty? In other words, you can look at this as a very demanding job serving the masses, some of whom won’t tip or behave well. Or you can look at it as the best job in the world because you take care of restaurant customers who are looking for a respite from their hard-working day.
In truth, both viewpoints are probably right.
As you know, waiters do a lot, including handing out menus, fetching drinks, taking orders, serving dessert and bringing out the check. If all goes well, they are handsomely tipped for their customer service.
Learn more about waiters and waitresses.
Median Salary: $33,950
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 3.6%
This is a very important job in which you’ll measure, mix, count and label medicine. You do have a pharmacist overseeing things, but this isn’t a job for the absent-minded.
It is for somebody who likes helping people get healthy and stay healthy — and for people who enjoy interacting with members of the public.
Learn more about pharmacy technicians.
Median Salary: $56,180
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 8.4%
Electricians install and repair electrical power and other systems in businesses, factories and homes. Training happens on the job or at a technical school, with many states requiring licensure.
This is a job that can be dangerous. That explains the extensive training (often, four years as an apprentice). Plus, there’s a lot that an electrician can be asked to do, from designing, installing, maintaining and repairing equipment and electrical systems of businesses and factories, or installing, maintaining and repairing the electrical systems of residences.
Mostly, you’ll work days, but evenings and weekends are common. So is overtime, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Learn more about electricians.
Median Salary: $27,430
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 4.4%
A janitor’s job may not seem glamorous, but it’s an important one — one that the pandemic has made a much more appreciated position and a career that is arguably heroic.
After all, you’re keeping people safe from germs. You’re keeping a building clean and tidy. It’s an interesting irony, too. Fulfill your tasks, and the general public may not notice, since it’s easy to take a clean building for granted. But do your job badly, and everyone will soon be talking.
It’s also a job that requires activity since you’re on your feet. That may not sound great when you’re middle-aged or close to retirement, but by then, you may be supervising a younger custodial staff and working in an office instead of cleaning one.
Learn more about janitors.
Median Salary: $37,840
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 4%
After people visit with an eye doctor, ophthalmologist or optometrist, they often meet up with an optician — the person who fits people with glasses or contact lenses.
In some states, you need an associate degree or certificate from a community college or technical school. In others, a high school diploma or equivalent will do just fine.
You’ll probably work in a store that sells eyewear or with an eye doctor at a private practice. If you’re at a practice, you won’t likely be required to work evenings and weekends. At a retail store, probably no such luck. Either way, if you like people, and helping them with their eyesight interests you, this may be good career fit for you.
Learn more about opticians.
Median Salary: $29,450
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 11.8%
This is not a lifelong career, but it’s a job that you may want to consider if you are chasing a college degree and want to bring your costs down. Residential advisors are students who live in the residence halls of colleges, universities, secondary schools and similar institutions.
They’re tasked with supervising the residence hall by assisting the residents with their problems, reporting maintenance concerns or organizing community-building gatherings.
Often, these jobs are open to juniors and seniors, but if you’re an older student with some real-world experience, you might find that a university would love to have you as a residential advisor. It’s a job in which you’ll generally mentor younger students — and invariably try to keep some of them out of trouble. So colleges like it when students are a little older and more seasoned than the freshmen.
Every college is different in how they pay residential advisors, but you may receive free room and board as well as a monthly stipend.
Learn more about residential advisors.
Delivery Truck Driver
Median Salary: $34,730
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 5.9%
This is another job where, when the pandemic hit, the world kind of woke up and said, “Wow, we would all be in big trouble without delivery truck drivers.”
Delivery truck drivers transport a wide variety goods from place to place, and while there is talk about self-driving trucks, we may be a long way from that happening. With online shopping heating up, it’s an occupation that’s in demand.
It can be a job with long hours and punishing schedules where you’re just driving … and driving. On the other hand, you do get to travel a lot and, depending on your employer, potentially see different parts of the country.
Learn more about delivery truck drivers.
Median Salary: $29,680
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 2.8%
This is an important job that’s sometimes dangerous, which is why many security guards have weapons.
After all, your job is to provide security, and while that may often feel like you’re babysitting a building, you may encounter criminals, including shoplifters. You also may end up helping a lot of people, like reuniting a lost child with his or her mother.
Obviously, it depends where you work. Are you guarding a warehouse at night, or working as something of a mall cop during the day? Perhaps you work at a crowded grocery store or a casino.
A lot of different places need security guards. In that sense, the job can be as boring or as dynamic as you want.
Learn more about security guards.
Median Salary: $59,930
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 0.9%
Instead of selling to consumers, these professionals sell goods and services to businesses, government agencies and other organizations.
A sales representative, also sometimes referred to as a sales executive, is an important job at a company. If you’re selling laboratory equipment, for instance, and you land a multi-million-dollar contract to a chain of health care facilities, you can see how your employer would be thrilled with you. In other words, sales representatives are often key personnel when it comes to building a business.
Some businesses prefer or require you to have a college degree, but many won’t. Your expertise in the business and product — and your ability to sell it — is the main thing that employers will be looking for, as well as your willingness to travel. Those are important ingredients to being a successful sales representative.
Learn more about sales representatives.
Hearing Aid Specialist
Median Salary: $53,420
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 10.5%
These professionals specialize in selecting, fitting and maintaining hearing aids.
Sounds simple enough, but it’s really not. It’s a hearing aid specialist’s job to evaluate the extent of the client’s hearing loss with various tests, and then figure out the best fit for the client’s particular level of hearing loss and his or her lifestyle. There’s also a lot of adjusting and maintaining involved in dispensing and fitting hearing aids.
This isn’t to be confused with an audiologist, a career that requires more education. Hearing aid specialists generally only need a high school degree — though a bachelor’s degree may be more attractive to some employers. You also will likely need to get a license before becoming employed as a hearing aid specialist.
Learn more about hearing aid specialists.
Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Median Salary: $44,890
Expected Job Growth by 2029: 50.5%
These clean-energy experts build, install and repair solar panels on buildings. Many installers take courses at community colleges, technical schools or as part of an apprenticeship program, although a high school diploma is typically the only educational requirement to get started in this career. Some companies offer on-the-job training.
It’s a job that is mostly conducted outside. When you do work inside, you may be in an attic or crawl space, connecting panels to the electric grid. You will also have to do some traveling, locally and regionally, since you’ll always go to the customer rather than them coming to you.
But with protecting the environment a concern in the face of climate change, this is a career that looks poised for growth. For PV installers, the future looks bright.
Learn more about solar photovoltaic installers.
The Best Jobs for High School Graduates:
— Home Health Aide.
— Personal Care Aide.
— Landscaper and Groundskeeper.
— Flight Attendant.
— Physical Therapist Aide.
— Taxi Driver.
— Maintenance and Repair Worker.
— Restaurant Cook.
— Recreation and Fitness Worker.
— Insurance Sales Agent.
— Patrol Officer.
— Bus Driver.
— Waiter and Waitress.
— Pharmacy Technician.
— Residential Advisor.
— Delivery Truck Driver.
— Security Guard.
— Sales Representative.
— Hearing Aid Specialist.
— Solar Photovoltaic Installer.
More from U.S. News
Update 02/10/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.