No experience needed. Best career opportunities requiring minimal experience and/or education, 2020 report

By Jeff Gillis & Mike Simpson

Key Findings

    • The top-earning careers that do not require prior work experience are: occupational therapists, audiologists, and nuclear medicine technologists.
    • The careers that do not require prior work experience and have high total employment are: retail salesperson, cashiers, and janitors and cleaners.
    • The top-earning careers that require a high school diploma or less are: first-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers; first-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers; and aircraft mechanics and service technicians.
    • The careers that require a high school diploma or less and have high total employment are: retail salespersons, fast-food and counter workers, and protective service occupations.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the global COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the U.S. economy will have a lasting impact on the job market and the way people work for years to come. 

While remote and digital work have become more popular across virtually every industry, wage cuts, layoffs, and slow gains have defined the pandemic for millions. And while some parts of the country have begun the recovery process, many areas, including large metro populations and parts of the Northeast and Pacific, are still struggling. 

If changes to your job as a result of the pandemic have you thinking about pursuing a new career, there’s good news. In 2018 we looked at the many professions out there that require little previous experience or specialist education to get started. To account for the changing job landscape, we have now updated the study using data from the 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Requirements Survey and the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey. We took a closer look at the highest earning careers that don’t require prior work experience. We also looked at the best careers that require only a high school diploma (or less) and exactly how much money you can expect to make in these roles.

Career Considerations

In the U.S., where the national median income is nearly $42,000, there are a number of career paths that don’t require previous experience and can earn more than the median income.

Minimal experience required. Careers with the most jobs requiring no experience

With a median income of just over $77,000, dental hygienist is one high-paying career that may not list experience as a prerequisite for application. With accreditation through community colleges, technical schools, or dental programs, becoming a dental hygienist can take just two years. Dental hygienists earn more than $35,000 over the national median income. 

Not interested in cleaning teeth? Audiologists (who work with hearing and ear problems) earn a median income of over $81,000. Audiologists do require a doctoral degree and need to be licensed to practice medicine, but also earn nearly twice the national median income for 2020. 

If you don’t mind being hands-on, occupational therapists earn a median annual income of more than $86,000, more than twice the national median. While you’ll need a master’s degree, and a bachelor’s degree in a related field, you can always start with an associate degree in occupational therapy and work your way up from there.

No Experience, No Problem

If you’re looking for work, these careers have high total employment in the U.S., and many offer higher annual incomes without requiring a tremendous amount of work experience.

Low experience, high opportunity. Top earning and top employing careers with low work experience requirements

Elementary and secondary school teachers earn median annual incomes of over $60,000, and more than 93% of jobs in these fields don’t require previous experience to apply. While each state has its own education and accreditation requirements for public school teachers, the opportunity for growth beyond the classroom is another key benefit to consider. Different states may even pay teachers more on average and include additional benefits like union membership, retirement plans, teaching grants, and time off in the summer. 

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers earn a median annual income of just over $65,500, and 81% of jobs don’t require previous experience to apply. Licensed practical and vocational nurses earn a median annual income of close to $49,000, account for over 676,000 jobs across the U.S., and 75% of positions don’t require previous work experience to apply. 

No Degree? No Worries

Jobs that don’t ask for a long work history but do have higher education requirements may still be difficult to consider for career transitions. Thankfully, some employment opportunities may not require more than a high school diploma (if that) and still don’t necessitate extensive work experience.

Degree-free careers. Jobs with the highest percentage of jobs requiring a high school diploma or less

Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earn a median annual income of almost $50,000 (just over $7,800 above the national median) and rarely require more than a high school diploma for consideration. General construction employment is expected to grow by 5% by 2029, faster than the average for other occupations. 

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earn median annual incomes of just over $47,000, (more than $5,000 over the national median) and also don’t require extensive work experience or more than a high school diploma. Painting, construction, and maintenance jobs yield a median annual income of just over $42,000, roughly the same as the national median, and aren’t hard to get into with minimum education requirements and relatively brief on-the-job training. 

Big Paychecks With Minimum Education Requirements

Being hired or promoted into supervisor or management roles in some professions can create a major bump in earnings without requiring a degree or accreditation.

High potential for high school diplomas. Careers with the highest paying and highest employing jobs with minimal education requirements

A first-line supervisor of mechanics earns a median annual income of over $70,000, and 77% of jobs don’t require more than a high school diploma for consideration. Similarly, a first-line supervisor of construction workers earns a median annual income of nearly $68,000, and 95% of jobs require a high school diploma at most. Other positions paying median annual salaries of $60,000 or more without requiring post-secondary education include aircraft mechanics ($66,440), police and sheriff’s patrol officers ($65,540), and office and administrative support jobs ($62,940). In fact, there are more than 3.3 million protective service jobs in the U.S that earn an annual median income of nearly $44,000, and 90% of positions require a high school degree or less for consideration. 

Landing the Next Job

When it comes to making a career shift, it’s never too late. Some jobs may require you to go back to school or establish certain accreditations, but still don’t require years of experience for consideration. With the option for on-the-job training, some jobs pay more than the median annual income in the U.S. and don’t require anything more than a high school diploma, and the opportunity for growth and higher compensation exists in higher positions. 

At The Interview Guys, we know if you get the interview and ace it, you can get the job. Whether you’re looking for a new job, need help establishing your resume or cover letter, or need interview prep and career advice – we’ve got you covered on every front. The job search isn’t just about the next gig, it’s about the next step in your career. Take it with confidence with expert advice from The Interview Guys. Visit us online at TheInterviewGuys.com today to learn more. 

Methodology

For this study, we aggregated and analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We relied on two BLS datasets: the 2020 Occupational Requirements Survey and the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey. For more information, visit https://www.bls.gov/.

Fair Use Statement

Enthused by the data surrounding the U.S. job market or know someone who might be? We encourage you to share the results of this study with your readers for any noncommercial use. Please include a link back to this page in your story so they have access to our full findings and methodology.