Bachelor’s Degrees Earn You a Lot More: Study

Computer Science degree
Computer Science degrees

You don’t need a degree to get into tech. Plenty of developers and engineers are working happily in tech without ever setting foot on a college campus. All that being said, a new study shows getting a degree may pay off.

According to SmartAsset, a bachelor’s degree offers the most bang for your buck:

Across the 200 largest cities, earning a bachelor’s degree as opposed to an associate’s degree offers the biggest pay off. We found that bachelor’s degree holders earned 46 percent more than associate’s degree holders, on average.

The second-most lucrative degree is a graduate degree, which yields a 32 percent increase over an associate’s degree.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, tech hubs such as Silicon Valley seem to favor education. SmartAsset says having a degree in cities with established tech economies can “seriously boost earnings.” The report also notes that STEM fields tend to pay the most, so choosing the right major really does matter.

Location is likewise important. SmartAsset says Jersey City, New Jersey is the best place to hold a degree: a bachelor’s degree earns you an 83 percent salary boost over an associate’s degree. San Jose ranks second on this list; it sees the same bachelor-versus-associate’s degree percentage boost as Jersey City, while a graduate degree earns you $34,000 more per year on average.

Arlington, Virginia and Huntsville, Alabama tie for third place. In Arlington, a bachelor’s degree earns you 108 percent more than an associate’s degree; salary averages jump from $36,500 to $75,900.

A bachelor’s degree in Huntsville, Alabama earns 98 percent more than an associate’s degree. The differentiating factor here is a graduate degree, which gets you 60 percent more than a bachelor’s degree.

In San Francisco, a bachelor’s degree earns you 85 percent ($35,000) more than an associates degree. Atlanta, Georgia rounds out the top ten, where a bachelor’s degree doubles your earning potential versus an associate’s degree.

STEM degrees are still your best bet. SmartAsset’s findings compare generalized numbers, but other studies show tech fields are still growing steadily, and pay really well. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know if those with degrees are paid better than non-degree holders in the same jobs, or if a job-holder with a traditional degree earns more than someone with a nanodegree from Udacity or a bootcamp certificate.

32 Responses to “Bachelor’s Degrees Earn You a Lot More: Study”

  1. Yeah, right. My B.S. in nuclear engineering (I’ll spare you the obvious comment here) and my three years of grad school in mechanical engineering has earned me a $9/hour job as a rent-a-cop. So spare me the “go to college if you want to be a success” crap.

  2. Hello Scott,

    If you have a BS. in nuclear engineering and a MS in mechanical engineering the obvious problem is probably “You.” U could be a math teacher, tutor, adjunct faculty work, sell insurance, officer in the military just about anything would give you a higher salary then a rent-a-cop.

    The idea of someone with two valuable engineering degrees doing security guard work, gives me the impression that you lack serious people skills or that this is a troll post.

    • You are correct, Sir. I am not a “people person”. I strongly believe that I have a mild case of Asburger’s, on top of my major depression, anxiety, and OCD. My lack of people skills seems to be why I was pressured to resign my easy $94k job. Now we are struggling to get by, and would be homeless if my wife’s teacher pension weren’t barely enough to get us by. But we had to move into a much smaller house, and are having trouble selling the old one.

      So much for accomodating “disabilities”. Even a letter from my shrink did not save me. If you are different, you will be culled from the herd.

      I appreciate your response, because it was truth. By the way, I am also in Mensa, and speak French and Russian. And am making $9/hour as a rent-a-cop.

  3. Jay Martin

    I graduated with Bachelors degree in Computer Information Systems and never been employed after 2 years after graduating and I am still going on unemployed. I applied for many internships, entry/junior roles from data analyst, web design, C#/Java developer, helpdesk/IT support positions, system analyst, programmer, etc. Still never got hired anywhere. I wasted 4-5 years of classes and almost 100 grand for what? a piece of paper.

    • Harold Thomas

      Why do we need an H1B visa program anyway? The big companies are buying congress to get cheap foreign labor. I’ve known many talented AMERICAN technical people, including myself, who are unemployed. Our AMERICAN workforce can meet the needs of American companies. Not one to say eliminate as I’m sure their is a need to get some top talent abroad, but overall we would be better taking it from 85,000 to around 5,000.

      • Santosh Nair

        I guess you don’t know what the H1-B program is about. It has been abused by companies, I realize that but i think we all have to be mature than just corelating american unemployment to H1-B positions.
        And to your point – American workforce could not meet the needs of American companies, which is one of the reasons (apart from cheaper labor) why programs like H1-B were born in the first place.
        I know this first hand with recruitment experience in a top american company; the skillsets demand nowadays for tech positions has grown by leaps and bounds – there is no way companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and many many others can survive without H1-B talent.

    • Santosh Nair

      First of all, not true! H1-B doesn’t affect American tech jobs. Jobs which are not filled by tech workers in USA due to whatever reasons are filled by H1-B personnel.
      Secondly, do you even know how difficult it is to get through H1-B, especially in recent years? .. America has very very strict regulations regarding whom to grant an H1-B, It is not a joke trust me. Find out about it without being judgemental upfront about it and you will see my point.

  4. I agree with the first comment on this topic.. any kind of degree won’t get you anywhere.. I have graduated 4 years ago and received bachelor degree in engineering management.. I am 30 now I have no job except I am building network on the internet for financial market industry and I work for free of course.. during this 4 years since I have graduated I had couple of jobs for few months and I quit and the reason is that they were everything but just not engineering meaning I was working physical jobs, secretary’s job etc. Trust me I feel like loser for being unemployed with 30 years of life and trying for the past 2 years to start my own business and it’s just not working because I need at least €12500 if I want it to happen.. btw I tried to freelance and I don’t quite understand how that works.. I had couple of clients offering me a job but to work for free ????? what’s going on …

  5. Actually tech salaries are really high in America most people I know earn more than 120K in computer science and these are my classmates from a boot camp not some university grads.
    Despite data science and software engineer being the top paid jobs in America, companies still have to import workers to do these jobs, because of a huge lack of talent. The problem is so big that they also have to outsource large numbers to India and other coubt

    • Santosh Nair

      True that! .. Technology requirements are going up by leaps and bounds for most of companies in USA to be on the cutting edge – we need the best minds in the world and H1-B facilitates that. I know this program has been abused many times in the past which has given it a bad rep, but the advantages to companies and indirectly to the economy much much outweighs the pitfalls.
      In retrospect, H1-B visa is now much more stricter and scrutinized than few years back.

  6. starpageup

    If a degree doesn’t helps (which I believe does, because it shows your aptitude in some way), try have an Idea that could work wonders for The society we live in.

    I know somebody who invented a GPS tracking collar for dogs and is making good money selling them, why not you do something similar?

    If not degree neither the idea, then I will say at least you got to have an attitude, that could take you forward and do better in life!!

    • Am I the only one that sees the absurdity of this comment chain? Who told you that a degree guarantees a paycheck? Degrees are meant to represent what you are capable of, they are not tickets to ride the money train. I have no degree, am self taught and earn 120k plus as an IT analyst. How did I do this without a degree?!?

      The answer is simple and something I would bet that most of you complaining have never done in your life – work hard – VERY hard.

      Try that first and if you don’t get anywhere, try again. Complaining certainly doesn’t pay the bills.

  7. I have had a bsit since to 2012 concentration software engineering and still have not receive even a interview for a job in that field. Graduated from UOP
    Don’t waste your money or time! Go somewhere and get hand On and this will work better for anyone trying to get I to this field!!!!

  8. I have a BS in Computer Information Systems from 1988. I have been constantly employed in my field (except for my decision to take time off for children). I currently make around $120k. My field of study was the best choice I ever could have made.

  9. Malimo Salim

    I agree with with Doug is comment about working hard as having a degree is a plus but at the sametime starting entry level and working your way up from a job that doesn’t relate to IT or any sort of technology can work wonders as you need that one organization to give you a chance on hands on than everything will come together. Hard work pays off.

  10. Experience is the key. Having the degree is nice but it may not be enough to justify the expense. Get experience before you graduate, learn and earn at the same time or just learn the skills and move up from the ground floor and forget the expensive paper. Once you are in, than if you need too, get the paper. Also, have other marketable skills so you can pay the bills. The days of “go to college, get a degree and find a great job” are gone ladies and gentleman, find creative ways to earn and learn. No more boxes!

  11. I am a 34 year old guy who went to college after high school. Had to drop out a year later due to financial struggles. I’m now two years into my bacherlors degree program and work as a Project Manager for a large Healthcare corporation. I believe my colleagues have more respect for the fact I’m pursuing my degree now. I can say that the first time I went to school for the experience. This time I’m going for the education and loving every minute of it!

    • noCorpTaxCut

      I am educated and work very hard in IT for a fortune 50 that contracts 60% of their IT resources. I am so good at what I do that they trust me to do the work that the 40% of their higher paid and benefited employees get bonuses for. For those feeling successful in IT, you may want to count your blessings and not pat your back too hard. Someone has to make up the 60%. And you’re welcome to the contract company taking the large margin off my earnings. This is a serious problem. A lot of hardworking citizens hurting out here.

  12. I also have a B.S. in Information Systems. I didn’t ‘cruise’ through college. I finished in 3 years instead of 4. I worked my tail off. Kids that I graduated with all ended up working at Microsoft, IGT, or Capgemini. They got great jobs. I didn’t. I also did my Masters in Educational Technology (I taught high school kids in Thailand). While I do agree with the posts about ‘working hard’… I also do feel the same way with the folks that got degrees and have no job. If I could go back, I wouldn’t have gone to school at all. I went in my mid 30’s and feel it was complete [expletive]. I believe about 10% of what I learned is applicable. I’ve self taught myself how to code some different languages but not enough to actually be super good (what employers look for). I think because I am so burnt out on learning [expletive] that doesn’t guarantee me anything, I’m not focused as much anymore and don’t put much work in.

    I ended up a truck driver. I hate the trucking industry but after two years of going through more [expletive], I landed a pretty good paying gig only driving two runs a week.

    I can truly say it is ‘ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW’. I’ve come across so many [expletive] that have history degrees but get promoted to higher positions because they knew someone in the tech field.

  13. My take,

    I graduated with a BS in Computer and Information Technology. After 6 months of interview interview interview, I jumped to certifications. I got my CompTIA A+, Security+ and got a job as a Firewall Provisioning Installer making $12/h. 12 months went no increase, no permanent position. I then jumped into networking and got CCNA Routing and Switching cert. From there I got a job as a Network Operations Technician. 12 month went by no permanent position. I got certified CCNA cyber security and currently on contract as a cyber security Analyst.
    I also have a BS in Mathematics
    My advise,

    I see that diversifying your knowledge and skills is very important. One thing I have learned from traditional education with the many courses taught is that try different options and see what God will allow you have. Sometimes, it will not work with what we want.

    Hope it helps

  14. For all of those with the rhetoric of:
    “This article is wrong, I have an Engineering degree, and still don’t have a job”
    It may be because you’re a shitty engineer.
    A good engineer would’ve learned to not use yourself as a single isolated example to draw conclusions about a statement being true or not.

    • Forgive me. I was a fantastic engineer, and nobody ever disputed it. What my problem is is the fact that I don’t deal well with people (I suffer from a mild case of Asberger’s, and also major depression and OCD. My shrink has documented this. But I am out of a job because I was different, and because EEOC is a total joke. Thanks for your understanding.