Purpose of The Study
With COVID’s financial burden continuing to wreak havoc on the economy, many recent high school grads and those with some college (but no degree) are finding it challenging to pay for college. They have either postponed their education or quit altogether to help provide for their boot-strapped families. But in tech, the sector that remains the buzziest in the world, there is some hope. U.S tech industry experts CompTIA report that there were 3.9 million job postings for tech jobs in 2020, with the median tech occupation wage in the $2 trillion industry two times the average national median.
A college degree still holds merit as evidenced by the salaries of many executive jobs across the country. But it seems that real-world experience and expertise are perhaps more valuable in the Wild West of tech disruptors and engineers. Some workers are enjoying substantial paychecks without the benefit of a college degree, thanks to a changing paradigm and increased focus on thinking outside the box when it comes to qualifications for employment; evidence of real change in a world struggling to rewrite the rules of equality, ability, and the value of stone-cold talent.
With 12.4 million projected net tech employment in the U.S. and about 245,500 projected net new tech jobs in 2021, Comparably sought to produce a ranking of the highest-paying entry-level jobs available in tech to workers without a college degree to determine how much more value holding a degree has in tech. Those who want to change careers altogether and pursue one in tech also have opportunities to do so, as evidenced by the data. To determine the rankings, we looked in our database of hundreds of thousands of salary records for entry-level employees who did not have a college degree (only some college or a high school diploma) in the most popular roles. We also added average salaries for workers with collegiate degrees in those same roles for point of comparison.
- The highest-paying jobs that make a minimum of $80K or more for non-degree holders include these eight roles: Software Architect, Dev/Ops Engineer, Developer, Data Scientist, Product Manager, Mobile Developer, UI/UX Designer, and IT Manager.
- For college degree holders, the highest-paying positions making at least $90K include these seven roles: DevOps Engineer, Sales Engineer, Software Architect, Developer, Mobile Developer, Data Scientist, and Product Manager, the only six-figure job on the list.
- Collegiate degree holders typically earn more than non-degree holders, with the exception of four roles: Product Marketing, IT Manager, QA Analyst, and Social Media/Community Manager, with the latter making a surprising $10,000 difference in pay. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they have grown up in the mobile era, with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram so ingrained in the daily lives of teenagers that a degree doesn’t necessarily trump lived experience in this role.
- The closest pay parity ($3,000 or less difference) between degree holders and non-degree holders are in these six positions: DevOps Engineer, Product Marketing Associate, Data Scientist, QA Analyst, UI/UX Designer, and Web/Visual Designer.
- The largest salary disparities ($8-10K birth) for degree holders vs non-degree holders exist in these four roles: Product Manager, Mobile Developer, Sales Engineer, IT Manager, and Social Media/Community Manager where surprisingly the latter two earn higher paychecks as non-degree holders.
Compensation by Gender
- For seven out of 15 roles – Developer, Data Scientist, IT Manager, Product Marketing, QA Analyst, Social Media Manager and Sales Rep/Associate – women in entry-level positions without college degrees made more than their male counterparts.
- The biggest gaps in equity among entry-level roles for those without a college degree exist in the roles of Software Architect, UI/UX Designer, Business Analyst – where men are on record making considerably more – and QA Analyst – where entry-level women earn startlingly high salaries compared to their male counterparts.
- The closest pay parity between degree holders and non-degree holders are in these four positions: Social Media/Community Manager, Product Marketing Associate, Data Scientist, and DevOps Engineer.
- In four of the 15 roles – Developer, Product Marketing, Web/Visual Designer, and Social Media/Community Manager – women in entry-level positions with college degrees made more than their male counterparts.
- There are only three roles where we see both women with and without college degrees earn more than their male counterparts: Social Media Manager, Product Marketing, and Developer.
- In four positions, men without a degree still earn more than their college-educated female counterparts: Software Architect, DevOps Engineer, UI/UX Designer, and Business Analyst.
- The largest pay inequities for women with collegiate degrees vs their male counterparts are in these five positions: DevOps Engineer, Mobile Developer, UI/UX Designer, QA Analyst, and Sales Engineer.
- The closest pay parity for female college grads vs men exists in these eight roles: Developer, Software Architect, IT Manager, Product Manager, Sales Rep, Social Media/Community Manager, Web/Visual Designer, and Business Analyst.
- Workers hired recently in tech seem to be benefiting from this new trend to weigh talent heavily, with less emphasis on new hires holding a degree and perhaps taking into consideration internships or hands-on, self-taught experience. One can also deduce that new pay scales for non-grads and for women seem to have been implemented just recently. Although more work needs to be done, the social protests highlighting inequity for women in tech roles, along with more salary transparency resources, is starting to be being compensated for.
- Jobs listed are derived from the self-submitted salary records of approximately 18,500 employees in tech jobs across the country with 0-3 years of experience, reporting either a high school degree or some college.
- Salaries shown are averages for workers of all ages, genders and ethnicities, across all company sizes. Hence, salaries may be higher than the average at larger companies or less than the average at smaller companies.
- Salaries listed do not include bonus, stocks or equity.
- Employees hail from across small, mid-size, and large tech companies (VC-funded, privately-held, and public) to household brands like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Uber, etc.)
- Data was collected between May 2020 through May 2021.
Comparably (www.comparably.com) is a leading workplace culture and compensation monitoring site that provides the most comprehensive and accurate representation of what it’s like to work at companies. Employees can access salary data and anonymously rate their workplaces in nearly 20 different culture categories, providing the public a transparent and in-depth look at the experiences workers have based on their gender, ethnicity, age, tenure, industry, location, and education. Since launching in 2016, Comparably has accumulated 10 million ratings from employees across 60,000 North American companies. It has become one of the most used SaaS solutions for employer branding and one of the most trusted third-party sites for salary and workplace culture data. For highly-cited workplace culture and compensation studies, including Comparably’s annual Workplace Culture Awards: www.comparably.com/news.