For many high-paying jobs, you will need a bachelor’s degree or greater. Many jobs require special skills. However, needing a bachelor’s degree or higher is not always necessary for a high-paying job. Some high-paying jobs require only an associate degree. Healthcare jobs, science jobs, and others are high-paying jobs you can get with an associate degree.
What Is an Associate Degree?
An associate degree is a two-year college degree you can earn. You can earn these from several places such as a community college, online university, junior colleges, or four-year institutions. Associate degrees come in different disciplines. An Associate of Arts degree involves general education courses and humanities. The Associate of Science focuses on math and science courses. An Associate of Applied Science is a vocational degree that prepares students for roles such as paralegal jobs.
Additional associate degree options include:
- Associate of Applied Arts
- Associate of Applied Business
- Associate of Business Administration
- Associate of Education
- Associate of Engineering
- Associate of Fine Arts
- Associate of Forestry
- Associate of General Studies
- Associate of Industrial Technology
- Associate of Pre-Engineering
What Can You Do With an Associate Degree?
People who get an associate degree can pursue several paths for their careers and education. High-paying roles that typically require at least an associate degree include nurse and paralegal. One potential benefit of an associate degree is that it can allow you to enter your chosen industry without spending as much as you would on a more advanced degree.
Why Get an Associate Degree?
In addition to generally being more affordable than earning a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree often takes less time to earn than a bachelor’s degree. If you’re considering an associate degree program, it’s worthwhile to consider some of the benefits of such programs.
Entering Job Market Earlier
People with associate degrees can enter the job market earlier than those with bachelor’s degrees. High-paying jobs with an associate degree give you an advantage professionally over those who are still in higher education.
Associate degrees can help you earn more in your chosen field. Employees who have associate degrees have higher salaries than those with high school diplomas. According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, people with associate degrees earn, on average, around $1.7 million during their careers. This is $400,000 more than those who have high school diplomas. High-paying jobs with an associate degree are possible, according to Indeed.com, where statistics show people with an associate degree can earn a median annual income of $46,124 per year. Compared to those with high school diplomas, this is an almost 50% increase in yearly earnings. This also means an unemployment level that drops to 2.7%.
Greater Professional Opportunities
Earning an associate degree gives you opportunities in a wide range of jobs in more industry sectors, such as aviation and healthcare. High-paying jobs with an associate degree give you a lower cost entry and higher salary returns into diverse areas of professional opportunities.
Jobs where employees need an associate degree have a projected growth rate of 6.2 % over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, depending on your chosen industry.
Many community colleges and other educational institutions offer flexible classes and online classes to accommodate working students and high-paying jobs with an associate degree. A bachelor’s degree usually requires full-time investment, offering a less flexible option for busy students.
Many associate programs are focused on earning a bachelor’s degree. Students who have an associate degree have a head start in getting a bachelor’s degree if they choose to pursue one.
Lower Unemployment Rates
Students who have an associate degree have lower unemployment rates than people with a high school diploma and high-paying jobs with an associate degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2017, people with an associate degree had an unemployment rate of 3.4%, while those with only a high school diploma had an employment rate of 4.6%.
The requirements for associate degree programs vary greatly depending on the school and area of study. Most requirements fall within the following categories.
Students are usually required to be 18 years of age by the time they begin their first day of class. An exception to this is in states that have Running Start programs that allow students to start community college while they are still in high school.
High School Diploma/GED
Students must have a high school diploma or GED before starting an associate degree, except for those in Running Start programs.
Some community colleges require a specific grade point average (GPA) to start an associate degree program. Check with your community college before applying to find out the college’s specific requirements.
Careers that Only Require an Associate Degree
Many jobs and career paths require only an associate degree as a minimum requirement. Some roles and employers will require a more advanced degree, but requisites vary. Consider some of the following high-paying jobs:
Web developers create and manage websites by coding with computer languages such as HTML or XML. A web developer usually gets an Associate of Science. The average annual salary for web developers is $77,200. The projected growth job rate for web developers is 13 percent, which is faster than average. Web developers can work in many industries, not only computer science.
Dental hygienists examine patients for dental disease and provide preventative care. They usually get an Associate of Dental Hygiene and require a license in their state. The median annual wage is $77,810, and the projected growth rate is 11 percent, which is faster than average.
Registered nurses (RNs) provide care to patients by providing direct care and patient counseling. They earn their Associate of Nursing degree. The median annual wage is $77,600, with a projected growth of 9 percent, which is as fast as average.
Diagnostic Imaging Worker
Diagnostic imaging workers use imaging equipment to create images to help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions such as broken bones and internal diseases. A diagnostic imaging worker gets an associate degree in science and has a median salary of $61,980. The growth rate for diagnostic imaging workers is 9 percent, which is as fast as average.
Computer Support Specialist
Computer support specialists use computers to help users and organizations troubleshoot computer problems. An associate degree in computer science is useful for this profession. The median annual is $57,910 with a projected growth rate of 9 percent, which is as fast as average.
Other Areas to Consider
The roles mentioned above are just some of the jobs you can pursue with an associate degree. Professionals with an associate degree—either standalone or in addition to other degrees—can be employed in roles in a range of industries. (Associated salaries are medians reported by the BLS as of 2021.)
- Radiation Therapists ($82,790)
- Dental Hygienists ($77,810)
- Registered Nurses ($77,600)
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers ($77,740)
- Respiratory Therapists ($61,830)
- Radiologic Technologists and Technicians ($61,370)
- Nuclear Medicine Technologists ($78,760)
- Nuclear Technicians ($99,340)
- Engineering Technicians, Except Drafters, All Other ($73,580)
- Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians ($73,580)
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians ($63,640)
- Geological and Hydrologic Technicians ($50,630)
- Electrical and Electronics Drafters ($61,510)
- Avionics Technicians ($69,860)
- Commercial Pilots ($99,640)
- Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation, and Relay ($93,420)
- Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers, Except Line Installers ($60,370)
- Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians ($65,550)
- Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial Equipments ($61,760)
- Fashion Designers ($77,450)
- Insurance Appraisers, Auto Damage ($64,710)
- Funeral Directors ($58,900)
Consider an Associate Degree
An associate degree can help you qualify for high-paying jobs such as computer support specialist, registered nurse, or paralegal. Associate degree programs can also be stepping stones to more advanced degrees. Whether you’re just entering the workforce or considering a career change, associate degree programs are worth examining.
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