Skip to main content

Get a STEM Job With Less Than a 4-Year Degree

With rising cost of a 4-year degree, more people are asking: is a bachelor’s degree really worth it? The short answer is yes. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that most high-paying jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree for entry. But there is a growing recognition that what workers really need are the right skills and credentials to fill specific jobs. To that end, more employers are creating apprenticeship programs to train employees on the job, and more workers are turning to community colleges for certificate programs or associate degrees required for certain in-demand fields.

So what are these jobs? A number of them are in growing STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. We’ve identified a number of STEM jobs that need less than a bachelor’s degree to get started, and also pay close to or above the median for all occupations in May 2015: $36,200.

Chart showing STEM jobs that don't need a bachelor's degree that are also growing the fastest, 2014-2024

Two different ways to look at which STEM jobs have brightest future over the next decade are to ask what jobs are growing the fastest (above) and will have the most openings (below). These numbers are projections calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics every few years. In both charts, we’ve included median pay as of May 2015. Jobs that fall into both categories are web developers; computer user support specialists and computer network support specialists; civil engineering technicians; and environmental science and protection technicians, including health.

Chart showing STEM jobs that don't need a bachelor's degree and that have the most projected openings, 2014 to 2024.

Among all STEM jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, most are likely to need an associate degree for entry, but surveying and mapping technicians may need only a high school diploma and on-the-job training, while computer user support specialists often enter the occupation with only some college. This table has a complete list of the STEM occupations that typically need less than a bachelor’s degree for entry. Explore these and hundreds of other occupations in the online Occupational Outlook Handbook.

For help connecting with employment and training opportunities near you, visit your local American Job Center or call 877-USA-JOBS.

Christopher Harper and T. Alan Lacey are economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
3 + 6 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
Hi Deb, Some health care jobs would certainly fall into this category (jobs that don't require a 4-year degree and that pay around or above the median.) We've previously highlighted health care jobs here: And we'll likely be exploring more data related to health care jobs in the future, so stay tuned for more!
We are a crane and high lift inspection, maintenance and repair company. Our technicians earn from $46,000.00 to $120,000.00 per year, depending on experience and overtime. All our technicians come form high school shop classes and/or a two year Associates Degree in Diesel Mechanics, Electrical or Hydraulics. We hire a few right out of school,. However we look for more maturity and experience. Our work is field service, the Technicians drive company trucks furnished with the Technicians tools. Yes, candidates must have their own extensive tool inventory and show them before hire. Our work is challenging, the Technicians will be in the elements, all kinds of weather, while working on Mobile Cranes. in any case, be it Overhead Cranes, Mobile Cranes or High Lift Equipment, the Technician will diagnose equipment failures of mechanical, electrical or hydraulic nature. The technician will order the parts he needs to repair the equipment and interact with our customer.

In reply to by Eldon Willis (not verified)

I just might be the man your looking for an I finished high school a long time ago. I have a Bachelor of Science in Energy Management Technology.I have tools and I have mechanical experience Eldon. Where are you located I mean what states does your company do its service?

In reply to by Eldon Willis (not verified)

Where may I submit an application?
No degree required? Where does this info come from? Sounds nice on the surface, looks good on paper. Good luck getting connected and employed. If they do exist give detailed info on where to apply.
Not sure how fast the industry is growing but Public Safety Dispatchers can earn a living without a 4 year degree andpromotion opportunities with out a degree also. The agency I work for starts at approx. $24.00/per hour and goes up from there. They provide on the job training, full benefits, and a pension.
Its an age old decision. I was a baby boomer ,most of us didn't have to decide whether to get a degree are not being a teenager in the 60's and male uncle Sam made that decision for us. But in the last 30 years its a different thing all together. When asked I always say go to collage and get a degree. But after working 56 years in the job world I'm not sure its the best thing either. I think that entering the job market and seeing what you would like to do with your self and then looking at a degree in a special field is smarter thing to do. And it is the best way to spend your money. I know is many people that went to school ,spend 1000's of dollars and never use their degrees and this is becoming to rule and not the exception.
Good reading and information
Why did you not include healthcare jobs in your STEM report?
I see no information on where or how to get started.