Graduates throwing graduation hats Up in the sky after finishing university.

Do I have to go to university to get a good job?

It seems that university is the default option when finishing high school/college for many, but do you need a degree to be successful?

Whether the idea of student loans puts you off, you need a break from formal education, don’t know what you want to study or simply don’t think university is for you, you don’t need to feel any shame in considering not going into higher education.

However, it is worth considering all of your options before completely ruling it out. The traditional full-time on-site method is not the only way to complete studies.

Benefits of getting a degree

There are obviously benefits to getting a degree, otherwise, no one would spend upwards of 3 years working towards obtaining one. In addition to this, some professions require a degree to even begin, for example, most jobs in medicine or education.

  • More job opportunities for entry-level positions
  • The median salary for working-age graduates in 2021 was £36,000 vs £26,000 for non-graduates.
  • Connections within your field before even starting.
  • Access to internship programmes etc.
  • Typically lower rates of unemployment.

Alternatives to the traditional university route

Are you thinking you want a degree, but don’t like the idea of the traditional route? There are lots of ways to get a degree without the usual schedule.


Apprenticeships are a great way to get experience on the job alongside completing your degree. The majority of apprenticeships will not only pay for your studies, meaning you have no student loan debts, but also pay you to work for them.

In addition to this, the likelihood of being offered a full-time position upon completion of your degree programme is considerably higher, so you don’t have to go through the process of finding a graduate role.

Part-time courses

Part-time courses are a lesser talked about option, but great if you are someone who doesn’t want to or can’t commit to full-time education. This could be due to financial obligations meaning you need to continue working, or a great opportunity for parents or carers to still obtain a degree alongside caring responsibilities.

Many businesses will also offer the opportunity to study on a part-time basis alongside their role, often with the costs covered by the business, assuming you complete the full course of study.

The only drawback for some is that a part-time course will take longer to complete. For example, a course that typically takes 3-4 years could take 5-7 years instead.

Remote courses or distance learning

Usually, this sort of course is associated with bodies such as The Open University, but there are a variety of other universities now offering a remote option also. If you want to study with a particular university, take a look and see if this is an option.

Another benefit of this form of study is that some providers will offer the service at as much as 70% less than the price of other universities – currently at the cost of £9,250 per year.

Wait to study until you are older

Don’t know what you want to study? Or maybe you’re not ready to commit to a long-term course yet? Not going to uni directly after finishing high school/college doesn’t mean you can’t go later in life. The traditional ‘gap year’ can go on for as long as you like.

Lots of people start working, work out what they want to do and then decide if a degree is something they need to further their career (or simply something they would enjoy doing!).

Do I have to go to university to get a good job?

The simple answer? No.

There are lots of extremely successful people who didn’t go to university and (as long as you don’t want to be something like a doctor!) there is no reason you can’t do the same. You shape your future and have to make the decisions you believe are best for you and your family.

In addition to this, there are lots of people with degrees which are completely irrelevant to their current role. In fact, less than half of graduates are working in a job related to their degree.

Jobs you can get without a degree

Many professions may be easier to get into or benefit from a degree, but that does not mean they are required. Many employers will ask for a relevant degree OR previous experience.

Some of the highest-paying jobs you can get without a degree include:

  • Firefighter
  • Police Constable
  • Entrepreneur
  • Air Traffic Controller
  • Sales Manager
  • Construction Manager

Successful people who didn’t go to or dropped out of university

A headshot of Bill Gates smiling.

Dropped out of Harvard after 2 years to start Microsoft

Steve Jobs laughing.

Founder of Apple. Dropped out after one semester.

Richard Branson headshot.

Founder of the Virgin Group. Dropped out of school at 16.

Headshot of Oprah Winfrey.

Now one of the most influential women in the world, Oprah decided not to complete her degree to follow her dream of broadcasting.

Headshot of Coco Chanel.

The founder of the world-famous fashion brand, Chanel, had no formal education in fashion.

Headshot of Steven Bartlett.

Popularised for his role as a Dragon on Dragons Den, he dropped out of his course after one lecture.

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