11 of the best-paid jobs you can do with GCSEs

best paid jobs gcses

Want to earn a high salary if you leave school before A-levels? Here are some of the best-paid jobs you can do with GCSEs…

It may seem like all the top careers mean you have to go to college or university and get a degree, but that’s not the case at all. You don’t need further education to land a high-paying job. After all, Richard Branson left school at 16 and went on to create Virgin Records, the start of his empire. Okay, so we can’t all be Richard Branson, but plenty of employers will hire you on the basis of your GCSEs and pay you a serious salary!

Can you really work full-time in the UK after your GCSEs?

The legal bits: Here in the UK, you can leave school at the age of 16, but you will need to be on a learning or training programme until you are 18. If you want to dive into the world of work straight after your GCSEs, you can! Apprenticeships and traineeships are a way of combing training and work. As another option, you can work twenty hours or more a week so long as you are in part-time education or training.

Best-paid jobs you can do with GCSEs

These high-paying jobs will mean you work hard and learn lots on the job. In some cases you can get your foot in the door with apprenticeships and traineeships, which will help you build skills and knowledge along with your salary. If you need some career inspiration, explore our list of roles where you could play to your strengths as a school-leaver with GCSEs!

Sales executive

Starter salary (avg): £29,640

Experienced salary: £34,380

Sales executive

Every business needs to drive sales in order to make a profit. If you enjoy talking to people and getting on with them, this could be a dream role for you. You could be working in all kinds of business worlds, from beauty and healthcare to finance or technology. This is a job where communication skills could take you far!

Plumber / Electrician

Starter salary (avg): £31,200

Experienced salary: £36,400

feature careers electrician

Wherever you live, whatever you do, your world is run by power and water. Homes and businesses can’t survive without it – so as a plumber or electrician you basically control the energy that controls the world! With the teamwork skills, technical knowledge and problem solving skills you build up over time, you can command high salaries for the work you do and you can also become self-employed or set up and manage your own team of skilled professionals.

Customer Services Representative

Starter salary (avg): £20,280

Experienced salary: £30,000+

McDonalds management degree apprenticeship

Customer services – it’s the art of serving people, giving them what they need in a way that makes them feel good. You don’t need to have done well in your GCSEs to get started – communication skills are what really matters. Entry-level customer services jobs pay around £15-20,000 a year, but you can progress quickly to a management position where you lead a team, recruit new staff and even take command of the company’s customer service policy!


9 great customer service skills to develop for life and work success

McDonald’s Management Degree Programme – earn a salary as you train for a management position with GCSEs

Estate Agent

Starter salary (avg): £22,800

Experienced salary: £70,000

feature estate agent careers

Location, location, location! They say that a person’s home is their castle, and people are OBSSESSED with property. Property prices may go up or down but people across the UK are always looking to move, so you’ll never have a dull day as an estate agent. Your communication skills will help you show properties to potential buyers and help them picture it as their dream home. Sales sense, business savvy, great personal presentation and fabulous customer service skills will help you get your salary from the size of a garden shed to skyscraper high. You can also earn extra bonuses through commission on sales, too!

Forensic computer analyst

See also: Ethical hacker

Starter salary (avg): £20,000

Experienced salary: £60,000

cyber security careers

  • Entry requirements: 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) usually including English and maths
  • Industry: Digital jobs
  • Apprenticeships available? Yes

Do you have a passion for technology, the kind that makes you dive into the world of software and programming because you love it, not because someone made you do it? Cybercrime is on the rise, and the world needs you to step up and be a digital hero. As an ethical hacker you’ll get paid to hack companies in order to spot security flaws and fix them. As a forensic computer analyst you’ll investigate all kinds of cyber crime, from online child abuse to terrorism. The best way to get started is to have an interest in how computers do things. You’ll develop your self-belief skills, becaues it takes trial and error to catch computer criminals. Your problem solving skills and organisation skills will grow to be top of the line, too.

This job involves taking on big responsibilities – but that responsibility has a big salary to match.

Example apprenticeships include:

  • Cyber security apprenticeships (including some at degree level)
  • Infrastructure technician advanced apprenticeship (one year)
  • Data analysis higher apprenticeship (two years)


Starter salary (avg): £34,840

Experienced salary: £50,000+ (area manager)

feature firefighter careers

There’s no smoke without a fire. As a firefighter it’s your job to put out fires, save lives and educate people about fire prevention. Fire services all set their own entry requirements, but you’ll usually need GCSEs (but not A-levels or their equivalent). What’s most important about this job is being reliable, having good endurance levels and being physically fit. Your firefighting suit is a heavy piece of kit, and you could be doing some extremely physical work to help get people out of hot spots.

You can apply for a fire service apprenticeship, and you can also do a Level 2 Award, Certificate or Diploma in Fire and Rescue Services in the Community with your local fire and rescue service.

Army officer

Starter salary (avg): £28,000

Experienced salary: £102,000

feature army officer careers

  • Entry requirements: 7 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A* to C) or the equivalent including English, maths, and a foreign language or a science
  • Industry: Protective services
  • Apprenticeships available? Yes

As an Army officer you’ll command and motivate teams of soldiers in times of peace and war. It’s not for the faint of heart, but personal strength comes in many different forms. You could work in a combat role, leading a troop of tanks. You could work as in healthcare, nursing injured soldiers. You could be a veterinary officer and work with military animals. Or you could work in engineering, transport, technology, intelligence and communications. Army officer roles are open to all genders (except for Infantry, which will be open to women at the end of 2018).

More on education requirements: To become an Army officer you also need 2 A-levels or the equivalent. But, if you’ve left school with GCSEs, you can still command a high-paying Army officer job. You can apply for Army apprenticeships to achieve your officer goal – it’s how 19 in every 20 soldiers begin their military careers.

Head chef

Starter salary (avg): £16,000

Experienced salary: £30,000+ (head chef)

feature chef

Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith all started their culinary careers after leaving school with GCSEs. When it comes to heading up the kitchen – whether it’s in a local cafe or a five star restaurant – your cooking skills and experience are what matters most. You can start out as a commis-chef, and then it’s up to you. If you work hard, have a flair for cooking and understand the importance of teamwork and being able to manage your time, your starter dish could turn into a twelve-course career – with a tasty salary to match.

With a minimum of 2 GCSEs at grade 3 (D) or above you can apply for a level 2 college course in professional cookery, unless you prefer to learn directly on the job. With GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or the equivalent you can apply for an intermediate or advanced cooking apprenticeship.


Starter salary (avg): £101,400

Experienced salary: £120,640

feature pilot careers

Becoming a pilot is a career where you can literally fly high. Be warned – this isn’t a job you can just walk into off the high street. Many pilots learned their stratospheric skills at university. So how do you become an airline pilot with GCSEs?

You’ll need to get an Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL). This will take real dedication, because this full-time course lasts 18 months and usually costs around £60-90,000. Another option for you is to check with airlines to see if you can train with them to get your licence on a pilot training scheme.

The good news? Once you’re a fully qualified pilot, your salary will soar to over £100,000 a year!

Fitness manager

Starter salary (avg): £28,000

Experienced salary: £34,000

feature fitness manager

As a fitness manager, you’ll either look after one gym or have greater brand responsibility and supervise a number of gyms. You’ll make sure the fitness venue and facilities run as smoothly as Mo Farah. You’ll also motivate the staff team and dream up smooth and sleek ways to attract new clients and increase profits.

You can start your marathon journey by working in a fitness centre, then work up to team leader and management positions to pump up your salary. With GCSEs you can also apply for an advanced apprenticeship in leisure management.

Site manager

Starter salary (avg): £27,000

Experienced salary: £70,000

feature site manager careers

  • Entry requirements: 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) usually including maths and at least one science
  • Industry: Construction
  • Apprenticeships available? Yes

Wouldn’t it be great to walk past the latest cityscape landmark and say to your friends “I made that happen”? As a site manager you oversee the construction of a building project from start to finish. Many site managers get degrees, but you can also work your way up from an entry-level position or do an HND or HNC in construction after your GCSEs. When you start overseeing skyscrapers, your salary could also reach the sky!

Don’t forget – with GCSEs or their equivalent, you can have a dream career that pays well too. You have the power, the skills and the passion. But if you’ve ever thought a job really isn’t for you, then it’s fine to explore your options. There are so many amazing well-paid careers for people with GCSEs… you just need to realise how many Young Professional skills you’ve already got and believe in yourself.

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For more information, please email info@youthemployment.org.uk or call 01536 513388.

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