Without a diploma or GED, workers may still be able to find well-paying jobs in some fields.
Without a diploma or GED, workers may still be able to find well-paying jobs in some fields.

According to National Center for Education Statistics, more that 2.5 million 16- to 24-year-old students dropped out of high school in 2014. This decision can have far-reaching economic effects because in a competitive job market education can mean the difference between finding a good career or being unemployed. While many jobs require at least a high school diploma or GED, there are options available for those who did not finish high school. Many jobs are available for those who have experience in fields such as construction, food service and operating machinery.

Finding a Good-Paying Job

Without at least a GED or a high school diploma, workers may have difficulty finding stable, well-paying employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2015, the unemployment rate for those without a GED or diploma was eight percent, compared to 5.4 percent for those with a diploma. Workers with a diploma or equivalent averaged earnings of about $680 per week, while those with less than a diploma averaged about $495 a week.

Food Service Careers

According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, workers without high school diplomas may be able to find many types of jobs in the food service industry. Waiters, hostesses, bartenders, bakers, cashiers and cooks are just a few examples of jobs in this industry that do not require a diploma, although many require on-the-job training. Workers in the industry (Accommodation and Food Services) can expect to earn, on average, approximately $14 per hour.

Construction Jobs

Construction can be a lucrative career for those who are willing to learn the required skills. Carpet installers, cement masons, concrete finishers, roofers and drywall installers are examples of careers in the construction industry that do not require a high school diploma. BLS statistics show that the number of jobs in these fields is growing, most at rates between 10 to 19 percent (between 2014 and 2024). Workers in these fields need on-the-job training and can earn up to $55,000 per year.

Careers Working with Heavy Equipment

If you like working with big machines, you may be able to find a good-paying career as a machine or equipment operator. Cranes, hoists, winches and dredges are machines that require operators who have on-the-job training. These jobs have median salaries of about $34,000 per year. Derrick and rotary drill operators in the oil and gas industry require only moderate on-the-job training and can earn salaries over $60,000 per year.