15 Best Companies to Work for without a Degree

15 Best Companies to Work for without a Degree
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Securing a college degree is traditionally seen as the surest way to obtain a good-paying job. Statistics also bear out the fact that the best opportunities await those with higher education. Anyone can look up the numbers and confirm this workplace reality. In 2018, for example, 83% of the United States population between the ages of 25 and 64 with a bachelor’s degree or higher were employed. Meanwhile, among the civilian population in the same age group with high school as their highest educational attainment, only 68.8% were in the labor force (Ma et al., 2019).

Despite the staggering difference between the employment status of college degree holders and non-college-educated workers, the unemployment rate for the latter has been steadily decreasing in the past nine years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals age 25 or older who have a high school diploma had gone down to 3.7% in 2019 from 10.3% in 2010. A major driving force behind the decrease in the unemployment rate of non-degree holders is the growing number of companies that recognize the value of experience and hands-on skills instead of just focusing on educational attainment, especially if there are good character and professional references.

In this article, we will look into some of the best companies to work for without a degree. But first, let us briefly examine some of the factors that play significant roles in an individual’s decision to not acquire or pursue a college degree.

15 Best Companies to Work for without a Degree

    1. Apple
    2. Google
    3. Penguin Random House
    4. Ernst & Young
    5. Hilton
    6. Costco Wholesale
    7. Publix
    8. Whole Foods
    9. Starbucks
    10. Nordstrom
    11. IBM
    12. Home Depot
    13. Bank of America
    14. Lowe’s
    15. Chipotle

Reasons for Choosing Work Over a College Degree

There are several known reasons why students do not go to college and take a different route. Here are some of them:

  • College is too costly. The expensive price tag of a college education remains the most common reason for not going to college particularly in the U.S. With the cost of tuition fees steadily increasing for nearly two decades now, it is not at all surprising that the trend in the number of students attending higher institutions has been going in the opposite direction. Based on the data provided by the College Board for the school year 2020-2021, the average published cost of college education for students attending in-state public universities full time has increased by 1.1% compared to the previous school year. For students attending out-of-state universities, especially private institutions, the total fee is even higher, especially with room and board added to the overall cost.
  • Vocational schools are more practical. Not being able to afford college is not the only reason why there are students who choose to stop or pause their academic pursuits after high school. Some choose to attend a trade or vocational school, which is not only more affordable but also offers students a more defined career path and in a shorter period of time.
  • The availability of well-paying jobs. Contrary to popular belief, a four-year college degree is not required for a person to secure a stable job that offers a competitive salary. A list of the highest paying trade school careers reveals that an air traffic controller can earn as much as $124,540 a year. Meanwhile, an elevator mechanic received around $79,780 in 2018. Furthermore, a dental hygienist also in 2018 could get approximately $74,820 in one year (Vista College, 2019).

Why do companies hire employees who have no college degree?

Now, let us look at the subject from the companies’ point of view and find out some of the reasons why they hire individuals who did not study or graduate from college:

  • To expand the hiring pool. Limiting the hiring pool to degree holders may cause companies to miss out on talents who have firsthand knowledge and experience but did not attend college.
  • It all boils down to training. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, three in every 10 college-educated employees believe that they do not have the proper training to advance in their line of work. According to the same study, training is what roughly 54% of employees expect their employers to provide in order for them to acquire new skills and knowledge that can help them grow in their chosen career.

As the economic landscape shifts and reshape the working environment, more and more companies are giving non-college graduates opportunities to flourish in their chosen career path. In the next section, let us take a look at the best companies to work for without a degree in 2020.

Salary Outlook for Workers without a College Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median usual weekly earnings of 25 and older full-time workers has increased from $669 during the first quarter of 2015 to $793 in the third quarter of 2020. For full-time workers in the same age group who have some college education and at least an associate degree, they can earn as much as $914 on average weekly. And for workers who were not able to graduate from high school, the usual weekly earning has peaked at $642 for the past 20 years (BLS Reports, 2020).

For hourly-paid workers in 2019, 2% of those with at least a high school diploma, some college, or associate degree received the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or less. Meanwhile, 3% of workers without a high school diploma were paid the federal minimum hourly wage or less (BLS Reports, 2020).

High-salary jobs, on the other hand, are also not uncommon among non-college-degree holders. Even without a college degree, workers can hold managerial positions that offer competitive compensations. For example, workers with no college degree can be property managers as long as they have a high school diploma or GED and pass the certification exam to obtain a license. As a property manager, a non-college-degree holder can earn as much as $50,000 a year based on the national average salary. As a retail store manager, someone without a college degree can receive more than $48,000 a year. Other managerial positions that do not require college degrees are fitness manager ($49,567 a year), hotel manager ($50,510 a year), and food service manager ($53,304 a year).

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Highest Paying Jobs without a College Degree

Despite the stark difference between the average salary of degree holders and non-college graduates, there are industries where the latter can thrive both professionally and financially. One of the best industries that cater to those without a four-year college degree is the tech industry where they can earn 58% more than in other industries (Foote & Atkinson, 2019).

With only vocational training, apprenticeship, certificate, or a two-year associate degree, one can earn as much as $99,730 a year as a computer security analyst. Meanwhile, a database administrator job can earn as much as $93,750 per year. Furthermore, a computer programmer job offered as much as $86,550 median pay in 2019 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What are the best companies to work for if you don’t have a college degree?

The best companies to work for in the world are those that help you grow as a professional. For adults who have no college degree, below are some of them.

1. Apple

In 2019, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced that around 50% of the company’s employees hired in 2018 did not hold any four-year degree (Eadicicco, 2020). According to MarketWatch, below are some of Apple’s job listings that do not require applicants to be bachelor’s degree holders:

  • Brand director
  • Account executive
  • Apple specialist
  • Technical support
  • Operations supervisor
Pros of working at Apple
  • Opportunity to become a shareholder
  • Extensive medical coverage for physical and mental health that extends to family members.
  • Opportunity to learn for free either through Apple University or other academic institutions—Apple reimburses certain costs, including tuition fees.
  • Paid leaves
  • Price deals on Apple products
Cons of working at Apple
  • Demanding work schedule
  • Low to average pay
  • Extreme confidentiality

Source: Apple Annual Report 2020

2. Google

Just like Apple, Google has made it a mission to welcome employees who do not possess a four-year college diploma. These employees are given equal treatment and opportunities for non-entry level positions, such as the following:

  • Network specialist
  • Account strategist
  • Senior interaction designer
  • Business intelligence manager
  • Technical program manager
Pros of working at Google
  • Good work/life balance
  • Free meals
  • Free cooking classes
  • Free workout classes and gym facilities
  • Free shuttle system in select Google campuses
  • Education subsidies and tuition reimbursements
  • Discounts at some museums and events
Cons of working at Google
  • Getting promoted is harder for employees with no college degree.

3. Penguin Random House

A global publishing giant, Penguin Random House has more than 10,000 employees around the world who are responsible for a variety of professional roles. Among these jobs are those that do not require a four-year college degree for employees to fulfill, and below are some of them:

  • Editorial assistant
  • Social media marketing manager
  • Web designer
  • Design fellowship
  • Publicist
Pros of working at Penguin Random House
  • Flexible schedule
  • Free books
  • Great career advancement opportunities
  • Lots of paid time off
Cons of working at Penguin Random House
  • Mediocre working environment
  • Limited opportunities for career advancement

4. Ernst & Young

This London-based multinational company provides professional services, including tax services, strategy and transactions, assurance, and consulting. For potential employees, Ernst & Young is not only open to experienced professionals but also to students who can get in through the company’s academic programs. Among the positions in the company that does not require a college degree are the following:

  • International Tax Manager
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • Tax Services Senior Manager
  • Financial Services Manager
  • Internal Tax Senior
Pros of working at Ernst & Young
  • Great training and learning opportunities
Cons of working at Ernst & Young
  • Low compensation
  • Demanding schedule
  • Little to no work/life balance

Source: Ernst & Young - Global Review 2020

5. Hilton

Hilton is a hospitality corporation that started and continues to thrive in the U.S. and various places around the world. The company also has approximately 169,000 employees from all over the world. Aside from hiring degree holders and experienced professionals, Hilton also offers career opportunities in the form of internship programs. Below are some of the positions available in the company:

  • Sales representative partnership
  • Part-time night auditor
  • Room attendant
  • Security officer
  • Food and beverage manager
Pros of working at Hilton
  • Competitive starting salary
  • Free meals
  • Hotel  and travel discounts
  • Educational assistance
  • Health and welfare benefits
  • Retirement savings
  • Employee stock purchase
  • Adoption assistance benefits for employees who opted to legally adopt children.
  • Paid time off including parental leave
Cons of working at Hilton
  • Demanding schedule
  • Limited advancement opportunities

6. Costco Wholesale

This is another multinational corporation based in the United States that operates various membership-only warehouses. Among the jobs it offers are the following:

  • Pharmacy technician
  • Stocker
  • Membership assistant
  • Cashier assistant
  • Portfolio manager
Pros of working at Costco
  • Free executive membership
  • Competitive salary
  • Lots of advancement opportunities
  • Being the first ones to get hold of hot ticket items
  • Free Thanksgiving turkey
  • After-hours shopping
Cons of working at Costco
  • Demanding working environment

7. Publix

Publix claims to be the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the U.S. Its headquarters is located in Lakeland, Florida, and it also has branches in the cities of Deerfield Beach, Atlanta, and others. It offers a variety of career opportunities for college graduates and non-degree holders, including the following:

  • Cloud architect
  • Fuel truck operator
  • Pharmacist
  • Warehouse selector
  • Maintenance technician
Pros of working at Publix
  • Free stock shares for employees
  • Great benefits
  • Career advancement opportunities
Cons of working at Publix
  • Demanding work schedule

8. Whole Foods

Another U.S.-based supermarket chain, Whole Foods, carved its name in the market by only selling organic produce and has been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a grocer that sells products that are free from preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors. The career opportunities it offers include:

  • Cake decorator
  • Grocery team member
  • Store support cashier
  • Floral team member
  • Meat cutter apprenticeship
Pros of working at Whole Foods
  • Competitive pay
  • P.T.O. cash-out
  • 20% in-store discount
  • Comprehensive health insurance
  • Mental health assistance
Cons of working at Whole Foods
  • Demanding work schedule and environment

9. Starbucks

As the world’s largest coffeehouse chain, Starbucks employs approximately 340,000 individuals across more than 31,000 stores around the globe. Below are just some of the popular job opportunities offered by the company:

  • Barista
  • Store managers
  • Shift supervisors
  • Brand manager
  • Product manager
Pros of working at Starbucks
  • Competitive 401(k) retirement plan
  • Discounts in company stocks
  • Paid time off, including parental leave.
  • Education assistance
  • Commuter expenses assistance
  • In-store discounts
  • Affiliate discounts
  • Free Spotify Premium subscription
  • Elite athlete program
  • On-site gym, daycare, and dry cleaning services
  • Adoption assistance benefits for employees who opted to legally adopt children.
Cons of working at Starbucks
  • Long working hours
  • Low compensation

10. Nordstrom

This luxury department store company was originally a shoe store established in 1901 by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin. It now has several subsidiaries, including Nordstrom Rack, Haute Look, Sole Society Holdings, and more. When it comes to career opportunities, Nordstrom offers the following:

  • Salesperson
  • Retail sales
  • Beauty counter manager
  • Data administrator
  • Loss Prevention ambassador
Pros of working at Nordstrom
  • Competitive pay
  • Health and life insurance (part-timers included)
  • 401 (k) benefits (part-timers included)
  • P.T.O. (part-timers included)
  • Adoption assistance
Cons of working at Nordstrom
  • Demanding schedule

11. IBM

Also known as International Business Machines Corporation, this tech giant and consulting company has opened its doors to employees who do not have four-year college degrees. Some of the career opportunities offered by IBM are the following:

  • Research staff member
  • Entry-level system services representative
  • Interns
  • Privacy analyst
  • Data scientist
Pros of working at IBM
  • Competitive salary
  • Option to work from home
  • Flexible schedule
  • Life insurance, health, and 401 (k) benefits
  • Paid time off
Cons of working at IBM
  • The working environment can be very stressful.

12. Home Depot

Considered as the largest home improvement store in the U.S., Home Depot nurtures talents in various areas of retail, customer service, marketing, management, and more, such as the following:

  • Store support
  • Outside sales consultant
  • Lead generation manager
  • Product manager
  • UX designer
Pros of working at Home Depot
  • Employee stock purchase plan
  • 401 (k) benefits
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Paid time off
  • Regular merit increases
  • Comprehensive health and life insurance plans
  • Exclusive travel deals
  • Discounts on mobile carrier services, electronics, gym memberships, travel, and more.
Cons of working at Home Depot
  • Low compensation
  • Demanding work environment

13. Bank of America

This global investment bank and financial services company has headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has major branches in New York City, Dallas, Toronto, and Hong Kong. Among the job opportunities it offers are:

  • Visual designer
  • Private wealth associate
  • Client service representative
  • Client associate
  • Treasury solutions
Pros of working at the Bank of America
  • Competitive salary
  • Career mobility
  • Financial, physical, and psychological wellness support.
  • Life Event Services group that offers support for critical events, gender transition in the workplace, domestic violence, and more.
Cons of working at the Bank of America
  • The working environment can be very stressful.

Source: Bank of America 2019 Annual Report

14. Lowe’s

Lowe’s is an independent home improvement retail company with its main branch located in Mooresville, North Carolina. The career opportunities if offers include:

  • Lumber associate
  • Merchandising support
  • Plumbing associate
  • Lead brand advocate
  • Sales specialist
Pros of working at Lowe’s
  • Stock purchase plan
  • Comprehensive health and life insurance
  • On- and off-the-job accident benefit
  • Auto and home insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Flexible Spending Account
  • Health Savings Account
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Medical assistance for part-time workers
Cons of working at Lowe’s
  • Low salary
  • The working environment can be very stressful.

15. Chipotle

Officially known as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., this food chain corporation operates in cities across the U.S. and in other countries, such as Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. It offers the following positions:

  • Kitchen manager
  • General manager
  • Restaurant team member
  • Service manager
  • Restaurant shift leader
Pros of working at Chipotle
  • Health and wellness benefits
  • Quarterly bonus
  • Education assistance
  • Free meals
  • Paid time off
  • Paid breaks
  • Stock purchase plan
  • 401 (k) benefits
  • Gym membership and brand name discounts
Cons of working at Chipotle
  • Demanding work environment

The Education vs. Experience Debate

Some experts may believe that having a college education is still the best way to secure a stable career. But according to a study that looks into how American view college education in general, only 16% believes that a four-year degree is necessary to ensure that an individual is well-equipped to tackle the challenges of establishing oneself as a successful professional (Pew Research Center, 2019). The knowledge that there are companies who recognize the value of skills and experience aside from having a college diploma is, in some way, reassuring. After all, in a continuously evolving economic landscape, having multiple options on how to lay down the foundations of one’s career path is always welcome.



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