Think you need a college degree to land a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) job? Think again. According to new data from the Pew Research Center, some 35 percent of the STEM workforce lacks a bachelor’s or higher-level degree.
Some 15 percent of STEM workers have completed an associate degree, while 14 percent have some level of college education but no bachelor’s degree. “These workers are more prevalent among health care practitioners and technicians, computer workers and engineers,” Pew explained in a research note accompanying the data.
The number of STEM workers without a bachelor’s degree almost matches the percentage of those who do (36 percent) and surpasses those with a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree (29 percent).
Salary-wise, jobs in STEM fields remain valuable, with full-time STEM workers earning an average of $54,745, versus non-STEM workers who pull down $40,505, a full 26 percent less. That salary differential remains consistent through ascending tiers of education; for example, STEM workers with a professional degree or doctorate earn an average of $120,000, versus non-STEM workers with the same education who make around $91,242.
“Among college-educated workers employed full-time year-round, the median earnings for those who have a STEM college major are $81,011, compared with $60,828 for other college majors,” Pew’s note added. “The earnings advantage for those with a college major in a STEM field extends to workers outside of STEM occupations.”
Based on Pew’s data, it seems easy to conclude that participating in a STEM field pays off, no matter what your educational attainment. Similar analyses by other organizations over the years have supported that assessment. (For instance, Carlos Rodriguez, CEO of payroll-processing giant ADP, told Fortune in June 2017 that graduates with STEM degrees could expect to pull down as much as $65,000 during their first few years in the workforce.) That being said, there are hints that not all STEM paths are created equal.
For example, in November 2017, The New York Times highlighted research by Edward Lazowska, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, who broke down Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts and concluded that 73 percent of STEM growth over the next seven years will take place in computer-related fields. To accompany the article, the Times created a visualization showing that computer science is the only STEM field where demand outpaces graduation rates.
So while science and math careers in general are good for your paycheck, it seems that computer science is even better.