8 Highest-Paying Associate Degrees That Pay Well

October 26, 2021

8 Highest-Paying Associate Degrees That Pay Well

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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

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Associate Degree Programs

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Other Popular Associate Degrees

What can you do with an associate degree in business administration? Learn about job opportunities, coursework, and career advancement with a business administration degree. Homeland security offers several in-demand career opportunities in federal and local law enforcement. Learn about earning an associate degree in homeland security. Healthcare administrators manage hospitals, outpatient care centers, and healthcare departments. Learn about the benefits of earning an associate degree in healthcare administration. Paralegals assist attorneys with legal research and writing. Learn about legal services careers that students can pursue with an associate degree in paralegal studies. Management training benefits professionals in many fields. An associate degree in business management introduces students to key business and management topics while opening new career doors. A psychology degree covers topics like human behavior and abnormal psychology. Learn about the career paths and educational opportunities an associate degree in psychology offers. Management information systems programs teach IT, cybersecurity, and programming skills. Learn about the career paths and advancement opportunities available to graduates with an associate degree in management information systems. Medical assistants keep healthcare facilities running smoothly by assisting physicians and performing clerical tasks. Learn about careers students can pursue with a medical assisting degree. Medical billing and coding students learn how to create medical records, submit bills to insurance systems, and interpret medical terminology. Learn more about medical billing and coding programs. A computer programming degree gives students computer science knowledge and skills. Learn more about online computer programming degrees.

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