Is College Overrated? 6 Best STEM Careers Without a Degree


STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers are, without a doubt, the jobs of the future. With an increase of positions opening up every year and impressive salaries to go with them, finding a job in a STEM field is a much sought-after accomplishment.

While many STEM fields require a 4-year-degree, there are some STEM jobs that do not require a college education. You can find STEM careers without a degree that require only a high school diploma or a professional, high-quality portfolio of completed work instead of a degree.

In College Overrated? Best STEM Careers Without a Degree

Like most specialized fields, these career options may require on the job training or a large amount of self-taught knowledge. Thinking outside the box of the standard 4-year higher education model can help get you started in a STEM career much sooner than expected.

Here is a list of the 6 best STEM careers without a degree. Let’s explore.

1. Software Developers

Software Developer

While many software developers have a bachelor’s degree, there is no degree necessary for most software development jobs if the developer has a well-developed portfolio of software and applications that they have designed and implemented.

For autodidacts who don’t want to pursue a college degree, software development is a great field, though it does require quite a bit of knowledge that has to be learned alone if a degree in the field isn’t pursued.

This means you must teach yourself essential software development concepts, such as:

  • Cloud computing
  • Cybersecurity
  • Various computer languages

We did a roundup of some free coding courses and online resources that could help get you started. Also check out our post on how to teach kids to code.

Software development jobs are often determined more by a potential employee’s work history or portfolio of developed software than their educational background. As long as you prove that you can develop software, you can get a job in software development regardless of whether you went to college or not. 

Here is some information about careers in software development:

  • Median Pay in 2019: $107,510 annually; $51.69/hour
  • Necessary Entry-Level Education: High school or equivalent (not required)
  • Work Experience Needed in a Related Occupation: None (knowledge of computer languages necessary)
  • On-the-Job Training: Moderate
  • Projected Job Growth through 2029: 22%
    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Computer Support Specialists

A major benefit of anyone wanting to get into computer support is that many of the skills needed for IT and support specialists are easy to learn through experience and self-study rather than through an academic course. So, even without a college degree, you can easily get a job working with computers if you have the requisite skills. (I freelanced my way through school doing an array of IT and Tech support gigs.)

Because this career is dependent on tangible results such as being able to set up a network correctly, anyone who learns how to do the job can get paid for it provided they have the experience to develop a superior product or fix computers without education in them.

Computer support specialists typically work in IT roles that involve cybersecurity tasks, network maintenance, software repair, and other computer-related issues that might crop up while running a business.

Here is some information about computer support specialist careers:

  • Median Pay in 2019: $51,470 annually; $24.75/hour
  • Necessary Entry-Level Education: High school or equivalent
  • Work Experience Needed in a Related Occupation: None
  • On-the-Job Training: Moderate
  • Projected Job Growth through 2029: 8%
    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Pharmacy Technicians

Pharmacy Technician STEM Career

If you’d prefer a career that combines both science and mathematics and only requires a high school diploma to get started, you may want to consider becoming a pharmacy technician.

With both full-time and part-time positions available, these jobs are flexible for many. Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies and assist pharmacists in the dispensing and packaging of prescription drugs for their customers.

They also provide information to the customers and assist in cashing them out and other pharmacy-related tasks.

Here is some information about pharmacy technician careers:

  • Median Pay in 2019: $33,950 annually; $16.32/hour
  • Necessary Entry-Level Education: High school or equivalent
  • Work Experience Needed in a Related Occupation: None
  • On-the-Job Training: Moderate
  • Projected Job Growth through 2029: 4%
    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Electrical and Electronics Installer and Repairers


These careers include engineering and technology skills and are great for people who are interested in technology and how things work. The requirements for jobs in this field are a high school diploma and usually some certifications and classes that can be taken at a local technical college or trade school.

This job spans multiple STEM fields, including but not limited to:

  • Transportation
  • Commercial electronics
  • Telecommunications

If you are interested in electronics and repairing and maintaining their systems, this may be the right field for you.

Here is some information about careers in electrical/electronics installment and repairs:

  • Median Pay in 2019: $59,080 annually; $28.40/hour
  • Necessary Entry-Level Education: None
  • Work Experience Needed in a Related Occupation: None
  • On-the-Job Training: Moderate
  • Projected Job Growth through 2029: -1%
    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

5. Machinists

Mcchinist jobs blend engineering and technology. Machinists set up and operate complex machines that utilize computer software programs to create various precision parts. The parts are made to specific designs, and machinists test these parts to make sure they meet quality and functioning standards.

You will need a high school diploma to enter into an apprenticeship program that many companies will offer for these types of jobs. On-the-job training is the primary education to advance in your career as a machinist. You can also find training programs in this field at technical or vocational training schools.

Here is some information about machinist careers:

  • Median Pay in 2019: $45,750 annually; $21.99/hour
  • Necessary Entry-Level Education: None
  • Work Experience Needed in a Related Occupation: None
  • On-the-Job Training: Long-term on-the-job training
  • Projected Job Growth through 2029: 3%
    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

6. Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Vet Tech

If you have an affinity for animals and are looking for a career in the sciences, then you may want to consider working as a veterinary assistant or a caretaker for laboratory animals. You can find these jobs in animal hospitals, research facilities, or in clinical settings.

With on-the-job training, you will be responsible for the following duties:

  • Cleaning and maintaining lab equipment
  • Delivering specimens
  • Restraining animals during procedures
  • Monitoring post-op animal behavior
  • Assisting with medical care
  • Feeding, bathing, and caring for the animals

This is a perfect opportunity for anyone considering a career in the veterinary field as well because you will gain up-close and personal experience working with a vet.

Here is some information about veterinary assistant and laboratory animal caretaking careers:

  • Median Pay in 2019: $28,590 annually; $13.75/hour
  • Necessary Entry-Level Education: high school diploma
  • Work Experience Needed in a Related Occupation: None
  • On-the-Job Training: Short-term on-the-job training
  • Projected Job Growth through 2029: 16%
    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wrap Up: Is College Overrated? STEM Careers Without a Degree

If you are looking to get started in a career in STEM, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the list of requirements the most popular STEM careers have to get started. It may cause you to believe that it’s impossible to get a job in a STEM-related industry without at least a bachelor’s degree if not advanced degrees.

No degree? No problem! STEM Fields are still a good choice for people without a degree, or don’t have the means or desire for a college education. We’ve shared some STEM jobs that don’t require a college education; you just need on-the-job training or self-taught experience in the field.  

College tuition is rising, and college may not be right for everyone. With more colleges and universities shifting online, some folks feel college is overrated. You can start by honing your interests and skills to find which areas of STEM suit you the best. With some research and determination, you may find the perfect fit for you without the need to find a university as well.

Related Post: Considering all of the advantages of STEM education, people often wonder if STEM students are smarter. Follow the link to our post and find out!

hevanmiller

H. Evan Miller is as dedicated to fatherhood as he is to life long learning. Musician, Photographer, Educator, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Blogger, and founder of STEMtropolis, where you can share his adventures in STEM and STEAM with his family.

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