Careers for Associate Degree Graduates

Associate Degree Graduates

A two-year associate degree can prepare graduates for high-paying jobs in growing fields. Here, we look at some of the best careers for associate degree-holders with the highest-paying salaries.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • What Is an Associate Degree?

    An associate degree trains postsecondary students in a major field. Learners also take general education courses. A two-year associate program may focus on academic or vocational majors.


  • How Long Does it Take to Earn an Associate Degree?

    Earning an associate degree typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. Some schools offer an accelerated route to complete the degree faster. Associate degrees usually require around 60 credits; however, some programs may require additional credits, increasing degree completion times. For example, dental hygienist associate programs generally take three years to complete.


  • Why Earn an Associate Degree?

    An associate degree can lead to higher earning potential and more job opportunities. On average, professionals with an associate degree earn $7,000 more each year than those with only a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    In many fields, an associate degree leads to above-average salaries. The best associate degrees for salary include dental hygienist, web developer, air traffic controller, and radiation therapist. With an associate degree, professionals can also transfer to a four-year college or university to earn their bachelor’s degree.


  • Can I Earn an Associate Degree Online?

    Yes, degree-seekers can earn an associate degree online, but some fields require in-person requirements. For example, dental hygienists may complete clinical hours at a local setting while taking courses online.


What Are the High-Paying Careers for Graduates With an Associate Degree?

    Many high-paying associate careers offer above-average salaries. This section introduces the highest salary associate degree careers.

  • Air Traffic Controllers

    One of the best careers for associate degree-seekers, air traffic controllers monitor aircraft and direct their movement. Before takeoff, they direct ground air traffic and issue takeoff instructions. As flights take off, air traffic controllers transfer control to other traffic control centers. During a flight, they communicate with pilots about conditions. They also issue landing instructions.

    Air traffic controllers typically need an associate or bachelor’s degree from an FAA-approved air traffic controller program. In these programs, students learn about topics like aviation, weather, federal regulations, and safety rules.

    Career Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
    Air Traffic Controllers Less than $68,330 $122,990 More than $176,320

    Source: BLS

  • Radiation Therapists

    Radiation therapists administer radiation treatments to patients with cancer and other health conditions. They prepare patients for treatments, follow safety procedures to limit radiation exposure, and operate equipment to treat patients. Radiation therapists also maintain treatment records.

    These professionals typically hold an associate degree in radiation therapy. During a radiation therapy program, students learn about anatomy, radiation science, and physics. They also gain clinical experience. Most states require radiation therapists to hold licensure or certification.

    Career Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
    Radiation Therapists Less than $59,280 $85,560 More than $128,630

    Source: BLS

  • Nuclear Technicians

    One of the best careers for associate degree students, nuclear technicians work in nuclear energy facilities or nuclear research labs. They operate equipment to generate nuclear power and monitor radiation levels using special tools. Nuclear technicians also collect samples to test for radioactive contaminants and instruct people on radiation safety rules.

    This career path requires an associate degree in nuclear science. The degree trains students in areas like nuclear energy, radiation, and nuclear power equipment. Nuclear technicians also complete on-the-job training.

    Career Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
    Nuclear Technician Less than $52,860 $82,080 More than $117,480

    Source: BLS

  • Funeral Service Managers

    Funeral service managers oversee the process of preparing a deceased person for a funeral ceremony. They meet with family members to discuss funeral service options, file legal documents, and manage staff in a funeral home. As managers, they also plan schedules and budgets for funeral homes.

    Most funeral service managers hold an associate degree, complete supervised training, and take a state licensing exam. The American Board of Funeral Service Education grants accreditation to funeral service management programs.

    Career Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
    Funeral Service Managers Less than $44,120 $76,350 More than $161,870

    Source: BLS

  • Nuclear Medicine Technologists

    Nuclear medicine technologists administer radioactive drugs to patients. They prepare patients for procedures, administer radioactive drugs, and monitor patients for their reaction. They must also follow safety procedures to protect people from radiation exposure and to dispose of medicines.

    Most nuclear medicine technologists hold an associate degree in nuclear medicine technology, one of the best associate majors. These programs cover topics like anatomy, physics, and radioactive medicines. They also include clinical requirements.

    Career Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
    Nuclear Medicine Technologists Less than $56,560 $77,950 More than $105,690

    Source: BLS

  • Dental Hygienists

    Dental hygienists clean patients’ teeth and offer preventative care. They identify warning signs for oral diseases, educate patients on oral hygiene, and report information on oral health to dentists. These professionals also apply dental treatments and take dental x-rays.

    As allied health professionals, dental hygienists need an associate degree in dental hygiene. During a program, learners study oral anatomy and periodontics while gaining clinical experience. Programs typically take three years to complete.

    Career Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
    Dental Hygienists Less than $53,130 $76,220 More than $103,340

    Source: BLS

  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

    Diagnostic medical sonographers, also known as diagnostic imaging workers, use medical equipment to create images. They discuss procedures with patients, prepare imaging equipment, and operate the equipment. They also analyze images and summarize their findings.

    Most diagnostic medical sonographers complete an associate degree in sonography or medical imaging technology. During their program, students learn about human anatomy, imaging technology, and medical terminology. Programs typically incorporate clinical requirements.

    Career Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
    Diagnostic Medical Sonographers Less than $29,710 $57,720 More than $94,370

    Source: BLS

  • Web Developers

    Web developers, also one of the best careers for associate degree-seekers, write code for websites. They often create the visual look and interactive qualities on websites while managing the code to keep websites running smoothly. Web developers use programming languages like JavaScript and HTML to build websites. They also test applications and other features on websites.

    Typically, these professionals hold an associate degree in web development, though some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree.

    Career Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
    Web Developers Less than $39,550 $73,760 More than $142,080

    Source: BLS


Other Popular Associate Degrees

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