New York City has quickly become an information technology hub, with many startups being based out of NYC. A recent report, coming out of a story in the New York Times, shows that half of all tech jobs in New York City are held by people without college degrees. This is an astounding number, however, as it shows something interesting—that a college degree isn’t necessarily the only ticket to a life of job security and prosperity, and that the vast influx of new jobs being created by the tech sector does not need to be filled by those with 4-year degrees.  San Francisco and other cities across the U.S. are seeing similar tech booms.

The tech sector accounts for a major portion of the economy, growing at a much faster clip than the other industries in the United States, with many experts expecting only continued growth. A 2012 report from TechAmerica showed an increase in tech jobs 67,400 jobs in 2012 alone, making the pace of job growth faster overall than other private sector industries. And these tech jobs are well paying jobs as well—the same report found the average tech job paying $93,800, compared to $47,400 for an average private sector job. For all the growth and great pay, however, there are still a huge number of tech sector jobs waiting to be filled.

According to some reports, there are as many as 4 million unfilled jobs, most of them high-tech jobs, even as unemployment hovers just below 7%. This is mainly due to a lack of qualified applicants. What’s more problematic is that tech sector job growth is predicted to grow by 17% by 2018, compared to just fewer than 10% for non-tech related jobs.

The digital and tech economies are creating jobs faster than people are able to fill them. And as we know, many of these jobs don’t necessarily require an expensive college education that can leave a graduate debt-ridden for decades. In response, many are turning to unorthodox methods for educating themselves and for finding new talent.

A new wave of online schools such as Treehouse and Khan Academy are offering students the opportunity to educate themselves on skills such as HTML, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, and many other computer programming languages. Other companies, like Coursera, offer more in-depth classes on things like databases and machine learning, two skills highly in need in many new high tech startups. There’s also been an influx of something called hacker schools, like General Assembly and HackerYou, which offer in-depth, months-long full-time classroom teaching on many of these topics.

To fill these jobs, we should encourage more children to show interest in science, math and engineering fields, and continue to foster these new and innovative education startups, which are truly democratizing education for those unable to afford a 4-year college degree.

The government can also loosen up the regulations and restrictions on H1-B visas, allowing more high tech job prospects into the country to fill these needed tech positions that will continue to grow into the future. Capital will follow labor, but failure to attract enough tech labor into the U.S. will mean that capital will go overseas.

To continue the rocket growth of the U.S. tech sector, we need to stay competitive—and to continue that growth, we’ll need to start training, retaining and letting into the country as much talent as possible.

Zack Christenson writes on digital tech issues for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, a nonprofit educational and research organization.  For more information about the Institute, visit