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.
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.
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.