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.