Top jobs paying up to £170,000 without falling into student debt

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Currently in the UK, there is an overdraft of £17billion owed by roughly 1.3 million students, meaning 66 percent of graduates are in debt before they’ve even made their first pound and it’s expected to grow to £560billion by 2050. These troubling statistics are often enough to make high school graduates simply give up on the opportunity to further educate themselves in hopes of finding stable income, but university and six figure incomes are not directly correlated.

While some choose to view it as detrimental that a Bachelors’ Degree won’t guarantee work, there is also the other side of the spectrum, which sees these high paying jobs requiring little to no tertiary education.

Air traffic controller

Annual median salary: £52,400

Air Traffic Controllers, or ATCs, direct aircraft safely on their flight paths in a specific sector of airspace, usually a section of the airspace surrounding the airport they are located at. They communicate with the pilots of multiple planes as well as people on the ground to ensure that any collisions are avoided as much as possible.

A crucial and seemingly straightforward job, this position is not for those that can’t deal with stress and responsibility, namely the lives of all the people on board the plane they are talking to, one of the biggest reasons behind the large paycheque.  

However, because this work is so specialised ATCs mainly rely on on-the-job training and most have never been to college as it only requires five GCSEs to start in this career field.

Woman covered in money

High paying jobs are often associated with expensive degrees, but this is not always true (Image: GETTY)

Construction manager

Annual median salary: £45,215

This high paying job requires only 1 or 2 A levels and generally an apprenticeship in construction management although the two can be combined for a degree apprenticeship. Construction managers are employed to oversee sections of work within a construction project and this career path offers the opportunity to work with Government departments, utilities and other large companies.

Construction managers work hand in hand with architects and surveyors, so a degree in either of these is not necessary and the job description can often vary around management of any type of construction. As such, communication, interpersonal and time management skills are essential to thriving in this career.


Commercial pilot

Annual median salary: £71,962

Much like the air traffic controller, a commercial pilots’ duties are too specialised to be taught in a general college or university degree although it does require further studies elsewhere.

There are a variety of ways to become a certified commercial pilot, the most common of which is the commercial pilot’s licence which one can train for with a private flying school or the Civil Aviation Authority’s Military Accreditation Scheme.

This is one of the few jobs on this list with a very unique working pattern: pilots can be required to fly all over the country or even the world depending on their experience, working odd flying times and the role comes with a lot of responsibility as well.  However, top earning pilots can get as much as £170,000 per year.

Nuclear power reactor operator

Nuclear power reactor operator monitor the reactor systems and amend controls to maintain stability (Image: GETTY)

Nuclear power reactor operator

Annual median salary: £51,776

Although this role sounds like it requires years of university level science, maths and physics, but the highest level of education for an operator is a high school diploma. However, employers generally favour those with vocational degrees or apprenticeships as well.

A good understanding of electricity and math are still important for this position as they respond to abnormalities or problems within the reactor.

Majority of an operators job requires monitoring the equipment and systems, adjusting controls and fixing problems as needed and as such quick thinking and good problem-solving skills are vital.

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Chicken sexer

Annual median salary: £40,000

One of the reasons behind this high income is the monotonous tone of the workday as chicken sexers simply separate male chicks from female chicks for breeding purposes. While it doesn’t seem like much, chicken sexer on average check 1,000 chickens every hour during a 12-hour shift.

Ultimately it simply requires nimble hands to hold the chicks, basic knowledge of chicken anatomy and a keen eye.

Harry Byrne

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