STEM Jobs that Don’t Require a Four-Year College Degree

STEM Jobs that Don’t Require a Four-Year College Degree

It’s a common misconception that a four-year college degree is a requirement when applying for high-paying jobs, especially in STEM fields. 

But with ever-increasing college tuition rates and student debt on the rise— the average student debt is at $37,172, an increase of $20,000 since 20051—many people are thinking twice before making the leap.

Although associate’s degrees are sometimes considered less valuable than bachelor’s degrees, times are changing. As more states keep track of graduates’ income, it is becoming clear that a two-year associate’s degree from a technical college can provide higher earnings than a four-year college degree—and at a much lower cost.2

Here are some STEM careers you should consider that don’t require a bachelor’s degree:

Nuclear Technician

Nuclear technicians work with physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear energy production.3 They work at nuclear power plants in offices and control rooms, where they monitor and help operate nuclear reactors with the help of computers and other equipment.

    • Median annual wage (2017): $80,370.
    • Education: Associate’s degree in nuclear science or nuclear-related technology (may involve moderate on-the-job training).

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists administer radiation to patients under the instruction of oncologists and radiologists, locate tumors, measure the amount of radiation given to patients, and update treatment reports.4

    • Median annual wage (2017): $80,570.
    • Education: Associate’s degree or a certification in radiation therapy.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 12.8 percent.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes. Most nuclear medicine technologists work in hospitals, but some work in physicians’ offices, diagnostic laboratories, and imaging clinics.

    • Median annual wage (2017): $75,660.
    • Education: Associate’s degree from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. (Most nuclear medicine technologists also become certified in nuclear medicine.)
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 9.8 percent.

Dental Hygienist 

Dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices. They clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases, and provide preventive dental care.

    • Median annual salary (2017): $74,070.
    • Education: Associate’s degree in dental hygiene. The programs usually takes three years to complete, and all states require dental hygienists to be licensed.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 19.7 percent.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers (also called diagnostic imaging workers) operate special imaging equipment to develop images of patients’ organs, which helps physicians diagnose medical conditions.

    • Median annual salary (2017): $71,410.
    • Education: Associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate or a professional certification.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 23.2 percent.

Web Developer

Web developers design and create websites. They are responsible for a website’s looks and technical aspects such as performance and capacity. They may also create content for the website.

    • Median annual wage (2017): $67,990.
    • Education: Anywhere from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree. Requirements vary depending on the type of work, but all web developers need to be experienced in graphic design and programming.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 15 percent.

Computer Network Support Specialist

Computer network support specialists maintain and troubleshoot computer networks and provide direct technical assistance to computer users.

    • Median annual wage (2017): $62,340.
    • Education: Associate’s degree (for some positions) or postsecondary classes.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 8.3 percent.

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists are responsible for patients who have trouble breathing, like those who may suffer from a chronic respiratory disease such as asthma or emphysema. They may also offer treatment to premature infants and elderly patients.

    • Median annual wage (2017): $59,710.
    • Education: Typically an associate’s degree, but some may have a bachelor’s degree. All states except Alaska require respiratory therapists to be licensed.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 23.4 percent.

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants work in occupational therapists’ offices, hospitals, and nursing care facilities. They help injured, ill, or disabled patients develop and improve skills needed for daily living and working.

    • Median annual wage (2017): $59,310.
    • Education: Associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 28.9 percent.

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists (also known as radiographers) perform diagnostic imaging exams, such as x-rays, on patients.

    • Median annual salary (2017): $58,440.
    • Education: Associate’s degree. Radiologic technologists need to be licensed in most states; however, some employers might require would-be technologists to be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists even if the state does not require it.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 12.5 percent.

Physical Therapist’s Assistant

Physical therapists’ assistants work under the direct supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries or illnesses manage pain and regain movement.

    • Median annual salary (2017): $57,430.
    • Education: Associate’s degree from an accredited program. All states require physical therapists’ assistants to be licensed.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 31 percent.

Hearing Aid Specialist

Hearing aid specialists select and fit hearing aids for customers. They also administer and interpret hearing tests, assess hearing instruments, and take ear impressions to prepare, design, and modify ear molds.

    • Median annual salary (2017): $54,860.
    • Education: High-school diploma (or equivalent) and some on-the-job training.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 19.5 percent.

Environmental Science and Protection Technician

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate the sources of pollution and contamination, especially when they impact public health.

    • Median annual wage (2017): $45,490.
    • Education: Associate’s degree or two years of postsecondary education. Some posts within the field may require a bachelor’s degree.
    • Projected increase in employment opportunities (by 2026): 11.3 percent.

Endnotes

  1. Abigail Hess, “Here’s how much the average student loan borrower owes when they graduate,” CNBC, Careers, February 15, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/15/heres-how-much-the-average-student-loan-borrower-owes-when-they-graduate.html.
  2.  Liz Weston, “When a Two-Year College Degree Pays Off,” Money, April 21, 2015, http://time.com/money/collection-post/3829131/two-year-college-degrees-payoff/.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nuclear Technicians, accessed July 15, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/nuclear-technicians.htm. All further citations, unless otherwise noted, are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.
  4. “How to Become a Radiation Therapist,” All Allied Health Schools, accessed July 15, 2018, https://www.allalliedhealthschools.com/medical-imaging/radiation-therapist/.

 

2018-10-06T01:05:57+00:00October 4th, 2018|Matilda Advice|0 Comments

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