Highest Paying Jobs With Only an Associate’s Degree

Which associate’s degrees will lead to the highest paying jobs? Find out how you can succeed with a quick return on your tuition investment.

For some industries, the more education you have, the more money you’re likely to earn in a lifetime, but that’s not always the case given the rising cost of education and some careers that only require an associate’s degree. What many people still don’t realize is that you don’t need to attend a four-year college in order to increase your earning potential. Some of the highest paying jobs only require an associate’s degree.

A 2007 study conducted by The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the median salary for young adults with an associate’s degree was $35,000, over $5,000 higher than those with a high school diploma or GED.

Some of the high paying jobs in the list require certification, which can be obtained after earning your degree. Other jobs may require continued education.

The average community college student graduates with only a few thousand dollars in debt, compared to their bachelor’s degree cohorts, who average about $20,000 in debt.

Fast Return on Tuition Investment

Although the cost of tuition has risen for most 4-year colleges and universities, community colleges and trade schools remain an affordable option for those looking to earn an associate’s degree.

The average community college student graduates with only a few thousand dollars in debt, compared to their bachelor’s degree cohorts, who average about $20,000 in debt. This means that associate’s degree recipients are more likely to see a return on their investment sooner than those with a bachelor’s degree.

High Salary Associate’s Degree Jobs

The associate’s degrees that return the highest investment are in the fields of healthcare, technology or occupational trade. Generally, the more math and science courses you take in your program, the higher a salary you will receive upon graduation. Seventeen percent of employees in science and engineering professions in the United States have earned an associate’s degree as their highest level of education.

In 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a list of the 25 highest paid occupations with an associate’s degree.

Click on the links for complete information on each occupation.

Highest Paying Associate’s Degrees By Median Wage

Health Care

Radiation Therapists ($74,200)
Dental Hygienists ($67,400)
Registered Nurses ($63,800)
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers ($63,000)
Respiratory Therapists ($53,300)
Radiologic Technologists and Technicians ($53,200)
Occupational Therapist Technicians ($50,300)


Computer Specialists, All Other ($77,600)
Nuclear Medicine Technologists ($67,900)
Nuclear Technicians ($67,300)
Engineering Technicians, Except Drafters, All Other ($57,500)
Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians ($57,000)
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians ($54,800)
Geological and Petroleum Technicians ($53,200)
Electrical and Electronics Drafters ($52,100)
Avionics Technicians ($50,600)

Skilled Trade

Commercial Pilots ($65,800)
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation, and Relay ($62,300)
Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers, Except Line Installers ($55,600)
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians ($52,800)
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial Equipments ($50,700)


Fashion Designers ($64,300)
Insurance Appraisers, Auto Damage ($55,400)
Funeral Directors ($54,400)

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