The Associate Degree Jobs with
the Most Earning Potential

A bachelor’s degree has long been the preferred undergraduate degree for high-paying entry-level jobs. However, associate degrees should not be overlooked, especially in today’s quickly changing work environment. Certain associate degree programs can qualify you to land rewarding jobs with high salaries.

If you’re interested in learning more about the highest-paying associate degree jobs this year, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll tell you why you should pursue an associate degree, and all of the key details you need to know.

What Is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is a two-year undergraduate academic program. Associate degrees are designed to provide students with the necessary skills and experience to begin working in a specific area.

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Associate degrees are typically available at community, technical, and junior colleges. Students usually pursue an associate degree as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree. However, students can also use associate degrees as a qualification for a specific profession.

There are several key differences between bachelor’s degrees and associate degrees. These include program length, program depth, and cost. Many students believe associate degrees are not conducive to high earning potential or rewarding career paths, but this is not true.

Why You Should Earn an Associate Degree

Associate degrees aren’t as popular as bachelor’s degrees, as students believe the latter will prepare them for better jobs. This isn’t completely true, however, as associate degrees can lead to lucrative and exciting career paths. They are also less expensive and less time-consuming than other post-graduate degrees.

In a world that is quickly changing and creating new industries, there are several possible career paths that can be entered with just an associate degree. Read on to find out about the best and highest-paying associate degree careers in 2021.

Quick Look at the Top 15 Highest-Paying Associate Degree Careers

Profession Average Salary with
an Associate Degree
Air Traffic Controller $130,420
Radiation Therapist $86,850
Nuclear Technician $84,190
Nuclear Medicine Technologist $79,590
Web Developer $77,200
Dental Hygienist $77,090
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Technologists
and Technicians
Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians $68,570
Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians $67,550
Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians $66,680
Radiologic and MRI Technologists $63,710
Respiratory Therapist $62,810
Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides $60,950
Mechanical Engineering Technician $58,230
Computer Support Specialist $55,510

Detailed Look at the 15 Highest-Paying Associate Degree Careers

As you can see above, associate degrees can qualify you for a plethora of interesting and lucrative career paths. Whether you’re interested in going into healthcare, engineering, or information technology, you do not need a higher post-secondary degree to enter the industry of your choice.

Associate degrees are two-year degrees that do not need general education requirements to enroll in. We’ll go into depth regarding each of the highest-paying associate degree careers. Each of the median annual wages listed have been provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Air Traffic Controllers

Air traffic controllers coordinate the flight paths of planes to keep them at a safe distance from one another. This profession is expected to see a one percent increase in employment by 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much lower than other professions, which may explain why the field is increasingly competitive to get into.

Air traffic controllers operate in places such as control towers and approach control stations. A job as an air traffic controller can be stressful because it comes with a lot of responsibility. In addition, you may work long weekend and night shifts. However, if you’re focused and a good communicator, then you may find air traffic control to be a rewarding career path.

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapy involves working with medical staff to treat patients who have cancer or other diseases. The employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow seven percent by 2029. This is because the need for healthcare professionals continues to grow to assist the ever-growing number of patients.

Radiation therapists work in hospitals, physician offices, and outpatient centers. Most radiation therapists work full time, assisting medical staff and patients on a daily basis. If you are hardworking, compassionate, and dependable, you could fit well into this profession.

Nuclear Technician

Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear energy production. Although it is a high-paying job, the employment of nuclear technicians is projected to decline 19 percent by 2029, according to BLS. This is because nuclear energy is likely to be replaced by alternative energy sources in the near future.

Nuclear technicians typically work in the offices and control rooms of power plants. You will monitor and maintain equipment and use computers to help operate nuclear reactors. If you’re interested in the science of nuclear power generation and technology, then this may be the job for you.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs for imaging or treatment. The employment of nuclear medicine technologists is projected to grow five percent by 2029, according to BLS. This correlates to the increasing need for healthcare experts to assist with patient care.

As a nuclear medicine technologist, you can expect to work in hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and clinics. Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time. If you’re interested in nuclear science and the field of medicine, then this job may be perfect for you.

Web Developer

Web developers create and maintain websites. The employment of web developers and digital designers is projected to grow eight percent by 2029. This is substantially above the average of other occupations. This demand for web developers is due to the rising popularity of mobile devices and ecommerce.

Web developers are also in charge of the technological aspects of websites, such as the site’s efficiency and traffic capacity. Web developers are also involved in generating a website’s content. This is the right profession to look at if you’re imaginative and interested in programming.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists check patients for symptoms of oral diseases and offer preventive treatment. By 2029, the employment of these professionals is expected to rise by six percent. This is higher than the average for other occupations.

As the population ages and research continues to connect oral health to overall health, the demand for dental services will rise. Dental hygienists work in dentist’s offices almost exclusively, and many work part-time. This is a good option for those who want to work in medicine and have strong problem-solving and interpersonal skills.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Diagnostic medical sonographers, cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, use specialized imaging equipment to produce photographs and perform tests.

If you pursue a career in this sector, you can look forward to a 12 percent increase in job opportunities by 2029. This is because imaging technology will continue to be widely used to administer a variety of medical diagnoses.

The majority of diagnostic imaging employees work in hospitals, while the remainder work in doctors’ offices or medical and diagnostic laboratories. This is a good field to break into for anyone who is interested in the medical sciences.

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing, producing, and maintaining new aircraft and spacecraft. The employment of these professionals is expected to rise by seven percent by 2029.

Several scientific and technical industries will look for these technicians to complete aerospace design projects related to fuel efficiency or environmental pollution. Pursue this career and you will be typically employed in factories, labs, and offices.

If you’re interested in an exciting and challenging job that involves aerospace technology, then this is a great field to break into.

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help design and develop electrical and electronic equipment. The employment rate for this profession is projected to grow by two percent by 2029. While this is slower than the average, demand for these technicians is expected to be sustained due to modern life’s growing need for electrical and electronic systems.

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians work closely with electrical engineers. You will work in manufacturing settings, engineering services, the federal government, research-and-development labs, and the utility industry. If you have an aptitude for the sciences, and strong observational and logical skills, then this profession is a good pick.

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians fix and maintain aircraft on a regular basis. Employment for these professions is expected to rise at a relatively high rate of five percent by 2029. This is due to the need to replace the growing number of employees who are leaving the industry.

Hangars, repair stations, and airfields are all places where these specialized mechanics and technicians work. This work could be right for you if you’re physically fit, detail-oriented, and have a passion for aircraft.

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Diagnostic imaging techniques are created by radiologic and MRI technologists. By 2029, the overall employment of radiologic and MRI technologists is expected to rise by seven percent. As the population ages, the number of medical conditions that require imaging as a diagnostic tool will rise.

Radiologic and MRI technologists work in laboratories, with more than half of them working in hospitals. The majority of radiologic and MRI technologists are full-time employees. You should consider these roles if you are detail-oriented and have strong communication skills. On the academic front, you will need to be well-versed in science and mathematics.

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists are involved in helping patients with breathing difficulties, such as those suffering from asthma. As a respiratory therapist, your chance of employment is expected to rise 19 percent by 2029. This is far higher than the national average and reflects the recent rise in the number of respiratory disorders caused by COVID-19.

The majority of respiratory therapists are full-time employees. You will work in several medical facilities that may be open 24/7, such as hospitals and clinics. Respiratory therapists should have a decent understanding of science and have good interpersonal skills.

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides support patients in developing, recovering, improving, and maintaining skills for daily life. Occupational therapy assistants and aides are expected to see a massive 32 percent increase in jobs by 2029. This type of therapy will continue to play a vital role in the support of patients with rehabilitation needs.

Occupational therapy assistants and aides typically work in occupational therapists’ offices, hospitals, and nursing homes. If you’re thinking of pursuing either of these roles, you need to be physically fit to excel. In terms of personal traits, you should be dependable and helpful.

Mechanical Engineering Technician

Mechanical engineering technicians assist mechanical engineers in the development, testing, and production of mechanical devices. Job openings for mechanical engineering technicians are expected to rise by three percent by 2029.

If you can learn modern technologies plus conventional manual skills, you should be able to enter the field. You will be helping with research, manufacturing, and construction phases in laboratories and factories. So, you also need to be creative and meticulous and have great communication and math skills.

Computer Support Specialist

Computer support professionals provide assistance and guidance to individuals and organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2029, the employment of computer support specialists is expected to rise by a rate of eight percent. This is much faster than the average for other occupations.

As businesses continuously update their computer hardware and software, further support resources will be needed.

The majority of computer support professionals work full-time, but many do not work traditional nine-to-five jobs. You should be prepared to work nights and weekends since computer support services are required 24/7. If you’re well-versed in computer systems and solving problems, then this job is perfect for you.

Should You Pursue an Associate Degree?

In the end, whether or not you wish to pursue an associate degree depends on your goals. Students who want to explore their options tend to pursue associate degrees since they are affordable and take only two years to complete. Even students who wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree start with an associate degree to strengthen their foundations.

As the world becomes increasingly advanced technologically, there is an influx of new jobs that do not require higher post-secondary degrees. If you want to get on a lucrative career path in several exciting industries without sacrificing too much time or money, then pursuing an associate degree is a great option.

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