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A university education is no longer reserved for the elite, but also not a guarantee of a well-paid job at the end of it either. There’s also a debate about whether degrees are actually worth the paper scroll they’re written on, especially when students can complete studies that range from the ‘soft’ to the downright bizarre – baking technology management.

The good news is attitudes to degree-level education are changing, especially in a constantly-developing climate full of new specialisms. Many jobs are now so unique that even the best universities can’t provide courses that are niche enough or prepare students for such a fast-moving workplace. Many employers are now looking for candidates who have demonstrable experience and excellent references over formal qualifications, especially in areas such as sales, administration and management.

There is also lots more ‘on the job’ training provided, with career opportunities as nuclear engineers, environmental conservation officers and computer forensic analysts up for grabs through a number of apprenticeship schemes, as recently reported by The Telegraph.

So, if you don’t fancy accumulating huge student debt, weigh up whether further study is worth the academic acknowledgement and career prospects by checking some of these degree-free occupations for inspiration.


Did you know you can now become a solicitor without a degree? New solicitor apprenticeships (level 7) were approved in 2015, allowing candidates with good A-Levels to train on the job. It’s still a long and competitive process, taking five or six years to complete, and there are tough exams to pass along the way.

Emergency services

There are a number of well-paying jobs that do not require a degree but that doesn’t mean they’re an easy option. Fire fighters and police officers have the potential to earn well but they need to pass specific exams, undergo intensive training, display minimum fitness levels, show loyalty and progress through the ranks to take home the most attractive pay packets.

Air traffic controllers

You’ll still need application and stamina to organise the sky, as air traffic controllers have to complete three years of training and pass exams to obtain an air traffic control license from the National Air Traffic Services (NATS). To qualify for this form of higher education, applicants need five GCSEs (grades 9-4, or A-C in old money).

IT & online specialists

The digital world is more about new ideas, forecasting trends and breakthrough developments rather than formal qualifications but it still may surprise you to know that the people behind Dropbox, WordPress, Spotify and Facebook didn’t go to or finish university. That’s right, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have a degree, nor does Bill Gates. Despite no formal degree requirement, IT Programme Managers, Software Engineering Managers and Data Architects were among the highest paying jobs in the UK during 2019.


According to the Office for National Statistics in 2019, there are almost five million self-employed people in the UK – a growing band of freelancers and entrepreneurs determine their own success and wage. Starting your own business doesn’t require a degree but it does need common sense, contacts and tenacity. You only have to watch The Apprentice TV show to see how hard it can be and the man himself, Lord Sugar, once said in an interview that he perceived university as ‘waste of time’ when it came to himself.

Bond Williams advertises a number of positions where a degree isn’t required. For details of our current vacancies across a number of sectors, please contact us today or use our online search facility.

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