STEM Jobs for Associate’s Degree Holders

Having a degree is a requirement for those who are interested in entering STEM fields, but that doesn't always mean that students need to get involved in enrolling at a four year university in order to be considered. There are many STEM positions that are available to associate's degree holders. Some areas offer more STEM jobs for two year college grads, for example. A recent report by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program examined the prevalence of STEM jobs for two and four year degree holders. The study, titled The Hidden STEM Economy, suggests that approximately half of all STEM jobs do not require a bachelor's degree and they pay around 10 percent more than jobs that require a minimum of an associate's degree in other fields.

Another interesting discovering was that these lower level positions are prominent in nearly all metropolitan areas, while jobs for bachelor's degree holders seem to be more prevalent in certain cities instead. This is more obvious in the Scranton/Wilkes Barre region of Pennsylvania, as it is 92nd on the list of regions that are offering positions for those with bachelor's degrees. Conversely, the area is considered to be ninth in terms of STEM jobs that would require an associate's degree or less in order to attain those jobs. "We tell our students this all the time. The regional labor market favors the grad with a two-year degree, especially in the STEM fields," Gary Mrozinski, the dean of business and technologies at Luzerne County Community College in Pennsylvania, told The Times Leader. "We produce engineer technicians, while four years would produce an engineer. There might be 10 engineer technician positions for every engineer position."

However, it's important to understand that not all regions are considered to be lucrative for associate's degree holders in terms of STEM. Unlike the east Pennsylvania area, there are regions that do not have many offers for STEM workers at all, especially if they have less than a four year degree. The Times Union reports that the Albany, NY metropolitan area is less likely to have lower level jobs. This region ranks 82nd on the list of areas with these types of positions. Less than 45 percent of the STEM jobs available there are held by people with less than a bachelor's degree.

Overall, the findings suggest that college students who want to pursue STEM careers may not need to seek bachelor's degrees instantaneously. The availability of lower level jobs provides students with the option to get an associate's degree and enter the workforce while they are still working towards their bachelor's degree. This can help them to pay for school and all give them hands on experience which would be great for furthering their studies. In many cases, it is the hands on experience which provides many of the skills that these students will be using on a regular basis once they have reached their career of choice.