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Half the United States’ Most Skilled Workers Don’t Have a Bachelor’s Degree

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Think you need a college degree to be a skilled worker? Think again.

With so much focus on staying competitive in global markets, jobs in the US bearing the STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—moniker are in high demand. A new attempt to evaluate how 26 million US STEM workers use these skills revealed that half didn’t need a bachelor’s degree.

“There’s a sense that the only route to the middle class now is a bachelor’s degree or higher, and I would say that’s the surest route,” says Jonathan Rothwell, the researcher behind the study.”But for the two-thirds of the population that does not a have a bachelor’s degree, and does not look like they are going to back to school anytime soon for a four-year degree that will cost tens of thousands of dollars and result in massive debt, I’d like people to be aware there are other ways to acquire valuable skills.”

Consider machining, often done today with sophisticated automated mills. The people who use drafting software to program those mills aren’t necessarily considered STEM workers, but it takes a fair mix of computing and engineering know-how to run those machines. Scholars at the Brookings Institution took advantage of a massive survey of US workers to find other jobs that fit the STEM bill but aren’t normally classified that way, including the technicians who install, maintain and repair machinery across a variety of sectors, health-care workers, and even car mechanics.

Read more at Quartz.

Tim Fernholz covers state, business and society for Quartz.

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