It's no secret that you can succeed in tech without going to college. These 15 jobs prove that experience often trumps formal education when it comes to knowing your way around computers.
Workplace transparency platform Comparably has combed through "hundreds of thousands" of self-reported tech job salaries on its website, finding that many entry-level jobs in the industry pay incredibly well even without a college degree.
The existence of a tech worker shortage has been well established for some time, and Comparably said that COVID-19's financial burden has put many young people in a difficult position that could make the problem worse. "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," the company said in its report.
SEE: The best programming languages to learn--and the worst (TechRepublic Premium)
The tech industry may hold hope for those worried about the diminishing possibility of a college education and the increase in salary that comes with it, Comparably said. According to Comparably, about 245,500 new tech jobs are projected to be added in 2021, bringing the total tech industry employment to somewhere around 12.4 million.
Many of the tech industry jobs up for grabs in 2021 pay incredibly well, even at the entry-level, for candidates who have experience and skill but not a college degree to back it up. These 15, Comparably said, are the highest paying ones.
Software architect: Developers who make high-level design choices, enforce standards and define structures of software and systems. Average salary without a degree: $93,368; average salary with a degree: $97,490.
DevOps engineer: Work with developers to create a solid CI/CD development cycle, automate systems and software deployments, and build smooth maintenance and update cycles. Average salary without a degree: $92,644; average salary with a degree: $93,095.
Developer: Design, program, test and build software. Average salary without a degree: $92,145; average salary with a degree: $96,550.
IT manager: Implement and maintain IT hardware and infrastructure, as well as enforce policies and cybersecurity best practices. Average salary without a degree: $92,045; average salary with a degree: $85,519.
Data scientist: Use a variety of data types to build predictive models, enhance algorithms and perform other types of analysis. Average salary without a degree: $92,000; average salary with a degree: $93,713.
Product manager: Work with organizational leadership to develop roadmaps and strategies for products that software developers will build. Average salary without a degree: $88,716; average salary with a degree: $102,156.
Mobile developer: Build applications for mobile operating systems like iOS and Android. Average salary without a degree: $84,204; average salary with a degree: $95,004.
UI/UX designer: Design front-end software like user interfaces and user experiences. Average salary without a degree: $80,500; average salary with a degree: $83,486.
Sales engineer: A B2B sales position in which the employer uses their technical expertise to sell products and services. Average salary without a degree: $79,880; average salary with a degree: $94,478.
Product marketing associate: Develop go-to-market plans for new products involving white papers, demos, email marketing and similar strategies. Average salary without a degree: $76,233; average salary with a degree: $74,954.
QA analyst: Test software for bugs and problems and ensure those problems are fixed before release. Average salary without a degree: $68,212; average salary with a degree: $66,821.
Business analyst: Use data analytics to determine the best IT strategy for an organization. Average salary without a degree: $65,449; average salary with a degree: $69,673.
Web/visual designer: Design web pages, including layout content and graphic design. average salary without a degree: $62,969; average salary with a degree: $65,492.
Sales rep/associate: Not strictly a tech position, but existing within the tech industry, sales reps sell products to new and existing clients. Average salary without a degree: $60,684; average salary with a degree $68,122.
Social media/community manager: Manage brand reputation and customer engagement on social media and other online platforms. Average salary without a degree: $58,899; average salary with a degree: $48,994.
Interestingly enough, some of the positions listed earn less with a college degree. Comparably only has a potential explanation for one of those unexpected disparities. Social media managers, Comparably said, may earn more without a degree because younger people who haven't had a chance to go to college "have grown up in the mobile era, with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram ingrained in [their] daily lives."
Comparably also looked at salary differences between men and women when accounting for a college degree, and found that women without college degrees earned more money in seven of the 15 positions: Developer, IT manager, data scientist, product marketing, QA analysis, sales representative and social media management.
For those with a college degree, women only earned more than men in four positions: Development, product marketing, web design, and social media management. Comparably speculated that newly hired workers are benefiting from a trend to weigh talent over degrees, which may be working in favor of women. "New pay scales for non-grads and for women seem to have been implemented just recently. In other words, the social protests highlighting inequity for women in tech roles, along with more salary transparency resources, is starting to be being compensated for," Comparably said.
- Listen to TechRepublic's Dynamic Developer podcast (TechRepublic)
- How to become a developer: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- 5 programming languages application solutions developers should learn (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- A guide to The Open Source Index and GitHub projects checklist (TechRepublic Premium)
- Programming languages: Developers reveal most loved, most loathed, what pays best (ZDNet)
- Programming languages and developer career resources (TechRepublic on Flipboard)