Many lucrative jobs do not require an advanced degree. Some examples from this list show that students who receive in-demand academic training, practical experience, and professional certification can quickly complete a relatively inexpensive associate degree program and earn a good salary.

If you’re looking to enter a technical field, but you’re unsure about whether a four-year program is the right fit for you, an associate degree could be a good option. Associate degrees provide students with the foundation they need to complete a four-year program down the road, and fulfill many general education requirements.

Best Colleges is an advertising-supported website. We feature or trust partner programs from schools that compensate us, but our school rankings, resource guides, and other editorially-independent information are not influenced by this compensation.

Why Choose an Associate Degree?

Many people choose to get an associate degree over a bachelor’s degree, because associate degrees usually take two years to complete and graduates can start their careers quickly. Depending on the field, they may also earn more than people with a bachelor’s degree.

An associate degree provides learners with the opportunity to complete prerequisite and general education coursework before enrolling in a four-year program.

What Are the Highest-Paying Associate Degrees?

Most high-paying jobs require a technical degree, and many of these degrees are rooted in science and math. These programs give students the opportunity to work in their field of choice, as well as experience working with real-world tasks.

1. Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapists work as part of an oncology team supporting cancer patients. They learn about important topics, such as human anatomy and physiology, through courses and complete an in-person clinical experience. This allows them to provide the best possible care for their patients.

Median Annual Salary: $85,560

2. Nuclear Technology

Nuclear technicians typically have a degree in physics, thermodynamics, and radiation safety. They work alongside physicists and nuclear engineers to operate and maintain radiation-monitoring equipment, help with research, and test for radioactive contamination.

Median Annual Salary: $82,080

3. Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine technicians often work with CT and MRI scanners, as well as carrying out radiopharmaceutical medicine procedures. They may also have a degree in nuclear medicine technology. This program features coursework in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and radioactive drugs. Clinical work is a critical part of this program. Graduates can pursue state licensure

Median Annual Salary: $77,950

4. Dental Hygiene

Dental hygienists play a critical role in the dental office by examining patients for oral diseases and providing preventive care. They use a variety of tools and methods to help prevent dental problems from developing and work directly with patients to combat them.

See also  Top 0 best paying jobs without degree

To become a dental hygienist, you need at least an AS degree in dental hygiene. This program typically takes three years to complete and offers classroom, clinical, and laboratory instruction.

Median Annual Salary: $76,220

5. Web Development

Web developers are responsible for the aesthetics, performance, and maintenance of websites. They work closely with clients to map out the needs and design a website that meets those needs.

Web development degrees typically require students to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They also gain experience in database design and networking. Many associate degree programs require students to take an internship in the field.

Median Annual Salary: $73,760

6. Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Diagnostic medical sonographers are responsible for preparing patients for diagnostic imaging procedures, operating the equipment, and interpreting the images. They work closely with doctors to provide accurate information about a patient’s health.

To become a professional medical sonographer, students usually need an associates degree in medical sonography. There are specializations like abdominal and breast sonography, which often include extensive clinical training.

Median Annual Salary: $68,750

7. Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineers and technicians are trained to operate and maintain the equipment used in aircraft and spacecraft production, quality assurance, operations, and testing. They help ensure that the aircraft or spacecraft is functioning as it should.

Aerospace technicians generally need an AS degree in aerospace engineering to work in the industry. This tech-centric degree focuses heavily on math, science, computers, and software.

Median Annual Salary: $66,020

8. Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering technicians work with electrical engineers to develop electronic devices and systems. They may inspect designs for quality control, draw diagrams, write specifications, and evaluate construction sites.

Many professional engineers in this field earn an associate degree in electrical engineering. Coursework covers physics, circuitry, and programming languages.

Median Annual Salary: $65,260

9. Aeronautics

Aeroplanes need reliable parts and regular maintenance to stay in operation. Trained and licensed aeronautics professionals hold a variety of specialized titles, including avionics technicians, inspection-authorized mechanics, and designated airworthiness representatives.

Aeronautics degrees typically require 60 credits, and professionals usually need to pass FAA-approved exams to qualify for jobs in the field. Full-time students can complete these programs in two years if they take classes regularly.

Median Annual Salary: $64,310

10. MRI Technology

MRI technicians are specially trained in using and maintaining magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. They help physicians work with patients before and after medical procedures, as well as keep detailed patient records.

Typically, healthcare professionals who hold an AS degree in anatomy, pathology, and radiation physics and protection are required to complete coursework that includes anatomy, pathology, and radiation physics. Most programs also include a clinical component where students must become licensed before entering clinical practice.

Median Annual Salary: $62,280

11. Radiology Technology

Radiologic technologists specialize in performing diagnostic imaging exams on patients. These professionals can also specialize in mammography.

Radiologic technologists who have an associate degree in radiologic technology receive both classroom and clinical learning. This includes studying patient care, image evaluation, and radiation physics and protection. They must also obtain professional certification and state licensure to practice their profession.

Median Annual Salary: $62,280

12. Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapists support doctors and nurses in the treatment of respiratory illnesses, often playing a critical role in helping patients recover. These professionals examine patients, consult with physicians to develop treatment plans, and provide information about medications and medical equipment to those suffering from respiratory illness.

Respiratory therapists usually hold an AS degree in respiratory therapy, which prepares them for licensure in almost every state. They take courses like introduction to respiratory therapy, administrative procedures, and advanced respiratory pathophysiology to get ready.

See also  Top 0 what is the best paying job

Median Annual Salary: $61,330

13. Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists work with patients to recover from injury or illness and build the essential skills required for daily living and work. They may oversee therapeutic exercises, help children with developmental disabilities, and teach patients how to effectively use medical equipment.

Most occupational therapy programs take two years to complete and cover topics in biology and pediatric health. Upon graduation, most students take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam.

Median Annual Salary: $59,200

14. Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, and manufacture mechanical devices. Mechanical engineering students who earn an AS degree in this subject typically perform these tasks.

In addition to general education coursework, mechanical engineering students typically take classes like Introduction to Engineering and Design, Engineering Materials, and Engineering Computer Applications.

Median Annual Salary: $56,980

15. Network Engineering

Network engineers design, administer, and maintain networks that connect businesses and other institutions. They often require a degree in engineering or a related field.

In an AS program, students learn how to deploy LAN, WAN, and remote access services. They are also taught how to manage data center facilities and support infrastructure operations. Additionally, they are taught about the importance of network security and how to protect networks from breaches.

Median Annual Salary: $54,760

16. Air Traffic Controller

Salary: $124,540
Job Outlook: 3%
Number of Jobs: 24,900

Air traffic controllers help keep the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of air travel by issuing landing and takeoff instructions and monitoring movement of planes on the ground and in the air. While associate degrees are sufficient to qualify for this career, many schools offer two-year programs that specifically focus on air traffic control.

17. Computer Programmer

Salary: $82,240
Job Outlook: -8%
Number of Jobs: 294,900

Computer applications and software require proper coding in order to function. This is the responsibility of a programmer, who will often hold a bachelor’s degree. However, there are many positions that remain open despite this decline, as employers are willing to hire someone with an associate degree. Indeed, according to recent data, the field may even see growth by 8%.

18. Registered Nurse

Salary: $70,000
Job Outlook: 15%
Number of Jobs: 2,955,200

Many nurses choose to obtain a bachelor’s level of education, but an Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, can be faster and more affordable. An ADN will help you land a job and gain valuable experience.

19. Aerospace Engineering Technician

Salary: $67,240
Job Outlook: 7%
Number of Jobs: 12,100

Computer-aided modeling, robotics, and automation are used to maintain the equipment that is used in aircraft and spacecraft. Aerospace technicians work with engineers and operators to implement test procedures, and they can also be involved in the design and construction of test facilities.

20. Medical Sonographer

Salary: $65,620
Job Outlook: 17%
Number of Jobs: 122,300

Sonographers use special imaging equipment to create images of the body that can be used by physicians to assess and diagnose patients.

21. Medical Sonographer

Salary: $65,620
Job Outlook: 17%
Number of Jobs: 122,300

Sonographers use special imaging equipment to create images of the body that can be used by physicians to diagnose patients. Ultrasonic imaging devices use sound waves and vibrations to create an image of a specified organ.

22. Electronic Engineering Technician

Salary: $63,660
Job Outlook: 2%
Number of Jobs: 137,000

These professionals work with the physical technology of electronics, designing a wide range of equipment. They can do this for both the government and private companies. For example, someone with an associate degree in electronic engineering can work for both the government and private companies developing navigation devices, electrical components, medical technology, or communications tools.

See also  Top 24 best paying jobs in consumer non-durables

23. Police Officer

Salary: $62,690
Job Outlook: 7%
Number of Jobs: 807,000

Police officers protect lives and property by allowing society to function properly. The work can be physically and emotionally demanding, as well as dangerous, but it is also rewarding and fulfilling. Police officers are expected to have good job prospects in the near future due to a 7% growth between 2016 and 2026.

24. Funeral Service Worker

Salary: $53,550
Job Outlook: 5%
Number of Jobs: 54,400

A career in funeral service work combines training in ethics, science, law, and many other areas. A flexible schedule is often required for this position as many people work evenings and weekends.

25. Drafter

Salary: $53,480
Job Outlook: 7%
Number of Jobs: 207,700

Drafters are professionals who use software to create technical drawings. They need highly-specific training, which can usually be acquired through a two-year degree. Most of the work in this position is done in an office, but drafters will visit job sites and collaborate with other team members on a regular basis.

26. Computer Network Specialist

Salary: $52,160
Job Outlook: 10%
Number of Jobs: 835,300

Computer support specialists help keep systems running in organizations and businesses. Most positions do not require a college degree, but some may need specific training in an associate degree program.

27. Paralegal

Salary: $49,500
Job Outlook: 15%
Number of Jobs: 285,600

The career of a paralegal is lucrative and generally requires only an associate degree to enter the field. This is an excellent opportunity to gain experience in the legal profession, which will be beneficial if you aspire to pursue a career in law. The job entails many responsibilities, such as organizing files, conducting research, and drafting documents.

28. HVAC Installer

Salary: $45,910
Job Outlook: 15%
Number of Jobs: 332,900

Many heating and cooling professionals have undergone specific training in order to work on systems involving home insulation, ductwork, and furnaces. Depending on the level of training they possess, these professionals may be able to repair refrigeration units or work on a home’s duct system. Employers typically prefer candidates who have completed an apprenticeship as well as a postsecondary education in order to gain the most experience.