Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment outlook for occupations that don’t require a formal educational credential

| November 2018

There are plenty of occupations you can enter without a high school diploma or more education. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be more than 6 million openings each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026 in occupations that typically don’t require a formal educational credential—such as a high school diploma, a certificate, or a degree—for entry.

Although that’s a lot of openings, the median annual wage for occupations requiring no formal credential was $23,480 in 2017. That wage is less than the $37,690 median for all occupations.

Read on to find out which of these occupations BLS expects to have the most openings, what they pay, and more.

Commercial cleaners.


Projections by entry-level education

BLS analyzes the education typically needed for entry-level workers in the 819 occupations for which it projects employment. Of those occupations, BLS designates 105 as typically requiring no formal educational credential.

The BLS education designations focus on what is standard for most people entering an occupation for the first time. However, people who are already working in these occupations may have more education than is typically required for entry.

For example, in 2016–17, 25 percent of food preparation workers ages 25 and older had no formal educational credential; but about 38 percent of them had a high school diploma or its equivalent, and 37 percent had more education than that. Despite data showing that more than half of the workers already in the occupation had a high school diploma or more education, BLS found that people can enter this occupation without finishing high school. As a result, BLS counts food preparation workers among occupations requiring no formal educational credential.

Overall, BLS projects employment in occupations that don’t require a formal educational credential to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Openings by career field

This article features six career fields in which BLS projects many openings for occupations that typically don’t require a formal educational credential:

For each career field, the charts that follow highlight the number of openings projected to arise each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026 in selected occupations. Most of these openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave an occupation permanently. But some of them are expected to be from newly created jobs.

The charts also include information about median annual wages and on-the-job training. (A median wage is a wage such that half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) These wage data exclude those of self-employed workers. All of the occupations in the charts typically require on-the-job training for competency after workers are hired.

Cleaning

Chart 1 shows selected occupations in which workers do tasks to clean items or places. With more than 340,000 occupational openings projected to arise each year, on average, janitors and cleaners is expected to have the most openings of the occupations in the chart. This occupation also had the highest median annual wage of those in the chart: $24,990.

View Chart Data

Chart 1. Cleaning occupations, selected, that typically do not require a formal educational credential for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average

Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017 On-the-job training

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

344,100 2,384,600 $24,990 Short-term on-the-job training

Maids and housekeeping cleaners

202,000 1,443,200 22,860 Short-term on-the-job training

Dishwashers

83,000 514,300 21,500 Short-term on-the-job training

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

57,800 369,200 23,360 Short-term on-the-job training

Laundry and dry-cleaning workers

29,500 220,100 22,370 Short-term on-the-job training

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Once hired, workers become competent in these occupations after short-term on-the-job training of 1 month or less.

Construction and farmwork

In many of the construction and farming occupations in chart 2, workers are outdoors building structures, growing crops, or raising animals. Of the occupations shown in the chart, construction laborers is projected to have the most openings, on average, each year from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 2. Construction and farmwork occupations, selected, that typically do not require a formal educational credential for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average

Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017 On-the-job training

Construction laborers

145,300 1,216,700 $34,530 Short-term on-the-job training

Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse

76,800 503,700 23,380 Short-term on-the-job training

Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals

38,600 268,100 25,470 Short-term on-the-job training

Painters, construction and maintenance

35,200 381,500 37,960 Moderate-term on-the-job training

Cement masons and concrete finishers

22,400 178,900 40,650 Moderate-term on-the-job training

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Among occupations that typically don’t require a formal educational credential, those in construction had some of the highest wages. Two of the occupations in the chart—painters and cement masons and concrete finishers—had median annual wages that were higher than the median for all occupations. These two occupations also typically require up to 1 year of on-the-job training, which is more preparation than workers in the other occupations in chart 1 need in order to attain competency.

Cooking and baking

Chart 3 shows selected occupations that involve culinary tasks. Of these, the occupation of restaurant cooks is projected to have the most openings.

View Chart Data

Chart 3. Cooking and baking occupations, selected, that typically do not require a formal educational credential for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average

Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017 On-the-job training

Cooks, restaurant(1)

195,300 1,231,900 $25,180 Moderate-term on-the-job training

Cooks, fast food

67,200 517,600 21,040 Short-term on-the-job training

Cooks, institution and cafeteria

64,400 424,800 25,860 Short-term on-the-job training

Bakers

29,100 191,000 25,690 Long-term on-the-job training

Cooks, short order

24,700 185,900 22,740 Short-term on-the-job training
Footnotes:

(1)This occupation typically requires less than 5 years of work experience in a related occupation for entry.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

On-the-job training requirements vary for these occupations. Bakers, for example, is an occupation that typically requires more training than do the others in chart 3. In addition to moderate-term on-the-job training, experience in a related occupation is typically required for entry-level restaurant cooks. Institution and cafeteria cooks had the highest median annual wage, $25,860, of the occupations in the chart.

Food service and related

Workers in the occupations in chart 4 help to serve and prepare. BLS projects many annual openings in these occupations in the coming decade. In fact, combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast-food workers, is projected to have the most openings of any occupation in the economy: more than 730,000 of them each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 4. Food service and related occupations, selected, that typically do not require a formal educational credential for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average

Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017 On-the-job training

Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food

736,000 3,452,200 $20,180 Short-term on-the-job training

Waiters and waitresses

522,700 2,600,500 20,820 Short-term on-the-job training

Food preparation workers

157,700 871,100 22,730 Short-term on-the-job training

Counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop

113,200 505,200 21,280 Short-term on-the-job training

Bartenders

102,300 611,200 21,690 Short-term on-the-job training

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

All of the occupations in the chart typically require short-term on-the-job training of 1 month or less. These occupations also paid some of the lowest wages of the occupations shown in this article. With a median annual wage of $22,730, food preparation workers had the highest wage of the occupations in chart 4.

Sales

Workers in the sales occupations in chart 5 help customers buy products and services. With 670,000 openings each year, on average, the occupation of retail salespersons is projected to have the most openings of those in the chart—and the second most of any occupation for which BLS makes projections.

View Chart Data

Chart 5. Sales occupations, selected, that typically do not require a formal educational credential for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average

Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017 On-the-job training

Retail salespersons

670,300 4,602,500 $23,210 Short-term on-the-job training

Cashiers

653,700 3,555,500 21,030 Short-term on-the-job training

Counter and rental clerks

61,800 458,200 25,820 Short-term on-the-job training

Telemarketers

33,300 216,600 24,460 Short-term on-the-job training

Parts salespersons

32,900 251,900 29,380 Moderate-term on-the-job training

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Short-term on-the-job training is typically required for competency in all of these occupations, except for parts salespersons, an occupation that usually needs moderate-term on-the-job training. That occupation and two others in chart 5—counter and rental clerks and telemarketers—had a median annual wage above the median for occupations with no formal educational credential.

Transportation and material moving

The transportation and material moving occupations shown in chart 6 involve tasks related to getting people and products where they need to be. Hand laborers and material movers is the occupation projected to have the most openings each year, on average, of the ones in the chart.

View Chart Data

Chart 6. Transportation and material-moving occupations, selected, that typically do not require a formal educational credential for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average

Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017 On-the-job training

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

388,400 2,628,400 $27,040 Short-term on-the-job training

Packers and packagers, hand

108,400 710,800 23,430 Short-term on-the-job training

Industrial truck and tractor operators

65,900 549,900 33,630 Short-term on-the-job training

Taxi drivers and chauffeurs

32,700 305,100 24,880 Short-term on-the-job training

Parking lot attendants

23,900 151,600 22,810 Short-term on-the-job training

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Workers typically attain competency in these occupations through short-term on-the-job training. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs may need a special taxi or limousine license, depending on the state or local municipality. Industrial truck and tractor operators, which includes workers who operate forklifts in warehouses and storage yards, had the highest median annual wage of the occupations in the chart: $33,630.

Other

Whether they’re involved in landscaping, recreational, or entertainment activities, workers in the occupations in chart 7 do a variety of tasks. Of these occupations, landscaping and groundskeeping workers is projected to have the most openings annually, on average, over the decade.

View Chart Data

Chart 7. Other selected occupations that typically do not require a formal educational credential for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average

Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017 On-the-job training

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers

163,000 1,197,900 $27,670 Short-term on-the-job training

Amusement and recreation attendants

73,200 300,000 21,060 Short-term on-the-job training

Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers

39,700 152,100 21,290 Short-term on-the-job training

Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers

30,500 117,700 20,820 Short-term on-the-job training

Musicians and singers

17,800 172,400 N/A(1) Long-term on-the-job training
Footnotes:

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

(1)Wages for occupations that do not generally work year-round, full time are reported either as hourly wages or annual salaries, depending on how they are typically paid. Musicians and singers had a median hourly wage of $26.96 in 2017.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Short-term on-the-job training is required for all the occupations in chart 7 except musicians and singers, which typically requires years of training to develop skills. Some occupations may have additional requirements; for example, lifeguards and ski patrol workers usually need training in first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Landscaping and groundskeeping workers had the highest median annual wage of the occupations in chart 7.

For more information

See the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) to learn more about the occupations in this article, as well as hundreds of others. For example, the work environment section of the OOH highlights some of the top-employing industries for workers in an occupation.  

If an occupation that you had hoped to see wasn’t included in this article, it may be designated as typically requiring a formal educational credential. Or it just might not have as many projected openings as the occupations selected for this article. To see the full set of occupational projections, including typical entry-level requirements, visit the Employment Projections site.

About the Author

Elka Torpey is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. She can be reached at torpey.elka@bls.gov .

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Suggested citation:

Elka Torpey, "Employment outlook for occupations that don’t require a formal educational credential," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2018.

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