In this article, we’ll explore the 30 highest paying associates degree jobs. Associates are two-year undergrad degrees that cut bachelor’s study time in half. Across America, there are more than 1,130 community colleges that offer fast, career-oriented associates programs. Many associates majors work full-time while commuting to campus or logging into online courses. Getting an associate-level education is often more flexible and affordable. In 2019, CNBC reported average tuition of $3,660 at two-year institutions. Mean attendance costs have only increased $930 since 2009. That’s incredible when compared to the $26,593 annual average at four-year universities. Associates degree paths can be a cheap stepping stone for transfers. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that 34 percent of community college graduates then pursue a bachelor’s. Others excel in well-paid associate degree careers and pay off any student loan debt quickly. Numerous high yield jobs can be unlocked with just 18-24 months of low-cost training. Let’s look at some of the best jobs with an associate’s degree with strong ROI.
30. Environmental Engineering Technician
Average Annual Salary: $54,800
Environmental engineering technicians are Mother Earth protectors who minimize the threats of climate change. They carry out engineers’ plans to make the planet a healthier habitat. Daily duties include surveying pollution, taking soil samples, testing for lead, mitigating water contamination, cleaning up hazardous waste, and safely disposing of asbestos. An associate’s degree in environmental engineering technology is required. The 17,310 environmental engineering technicians make $32,380 to $82,800. Demand for this eco-friendly job will grow 9 percent by 2028.
Average Annual Salary: $57,620
Morticians are benevolent bereavement counselors who help grieving families plan funerals for the departed. They direct every aspect of the memorial and burial process to celebrate loved ones’ lives. Common tasks include transporting the fallen, embalming bodies, meeting with mourners, arranging religious rites, writing obituaries, finding cemetery plots, and filing death certificates. Morticians need a two-year associates degree for state licensing. The 25,740 morticians nationwide have earnings of $29,050 to $89,050. Hiring of morticians will increase 4 percent.
28. Physical Therapy Assistant
Average Annual Salary: $57,750
Physical therapy assistants are injury rehabilitators who teach patients how to regain movement with less pain. They use various exercise equipment like weights and traction machines to recover patient strength. Their role includes taking patient histories, observing muscles in motion, demonstrating stretches, massaging soreness, and cleaning treatment areas. Physical therapy assistants must attend a CAPTE-accredited (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education) associate’s program for two years. The 94,250 PTAs report income from $33,780 to $79,810 yearly. Rapid employment growth of 27 percent is projected.
27. Industrial Engineering Technician
Average Annual Salary: $57,810
Industrial engineering technicians are magical manufacturers who help boost factory production levels. They implement engineers’ ideas to enhance the logistical workflow from prototype to product. Day-to-day tasks include changing plant layouts, planning work schedules, testing machine efficiency, doing quality control, and cutting cost estimates. Industrial engineering technicians need associate-level training with ABET accreditation (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). The 66,540 U.S. technicians bring home $34,920 to $88,340. The outlook in industrial engineering shows a 1 percent decline.
26. Cardiovascular Technologist
Average Annual Salary: $58,730
Cardiovascular technologists are heart and lung photographers who give physicians crystal-clear internal images. They also use EKG machines to examine organ functioning and diagnose diseases. Common duties include attaching electrodes, measuring pulse, recording breath sounds, conducting stress tests, and assisting catheterizations. Cardiovascular technologists qualify for CCI certification (Competency & Credentialing Institute) after graduating from associate’s programs. These 56,560 health technologists are paid $29,340 to $93,100. Cardiovascular technologists can expect 19 percent more jobs.
25. Food Service Manager
Average Annual Salary: $58,960
Food service managers are meal coordinators who satisfy our hunger by preparing delectable dishes. They plan nutritious menus for restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, and other dining centers. Required tasks include training cooks, purchasing ingredients, supervising kitchen staff, abiding health regulations, inspecting finished plates, and responding to diner complaints. Food service managers usually hold a one-year certificate or associates in culinary arts. The 219,160 managers reap $31,580 to $92,410. Openings in food service management will spike 11 percent.
24. Electro-Mechanical Technician
Average Annual Salary: $60,240
Electro-mechanical technicians are tech-savvy tradespeople who generate power to keep EM equipment running. They help operate submarines, robots, industrial machines, heating/cooling systems, and more. Daily duties include reading schematics, assembling machinery, wiring electrical circuits, soldering parts, calibrating interfaces, and testing product performance. Electro-mechanical technicians with ABET-accredited associate degrees are preferred. The 13,520 technicians make between $37,090 and $88,860. Job growth for EM techs is a sluggish 1 percent.
23. Occupational Therapy Assistant
Average Annual Salary: $60,410
Occupational therapy assistants are skill builders who help patients handle everyday tasks for independent living. They serve people of all ages who suffer from Parkinson’s, MS, brain injury, autism, arthritis, and more. Their role includes carrying out treatment plans, nurturing motor development, demonstrating activities, using assistive technologies, and recording progress. There are more than 200 ACOTE-accredited (Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education) associate’s options available. The 42,660 American OTAs make $39,620 to $80,980 each year. Hiring in occupational therapy has skyrocketed 33 percent.
22. Lodging Manager
Average Annual Salary: $62,270
Lodging managers are hospitable hotel helmspersons who oversee services for business or vacation travelers. They coordinate all guest amenities from check-in to check-out to ensure enjoyable stays. Daily duties include hiring friendly staff, inspecting guest rooms, enforcing hotel policies, setting budgets, planning special events, monitoring security, and resolving complaints. Lodging managers have one of a few upper-level jobs with an associate’s degree. The 36,610 managers get compensation of $28,930 to $98,370. The 10-year job forecast shows a 1 percent uptick.
21. Respiratory Therapist
Average Annual Salary: $62,500
Respiratory therapists are breathing disorder specialists who improve air flow into the lungs for good oxygen levels. They treat patients with asthma, COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, cancer, and other illnesses. Required tasks include measuring lung capacity, using blood gas analyzers, demonstrating inhalers, connecting ventilators, removing mucus, and giving CPR. Respiratory therapists must be licensed in 49 states after associates degree training. The 129,600 RTs are paid $43,750 to $83,520 annually. Respiratory therapy is seeing quick growth of 21 percent.
20. Geological and Petroleum Technician
Average Annual Salary: $62,890
Geological and petroleum technicians are gas production experts who extract oil resources from Earth’s crust. They assist engineers with conducting scientific tests to find the best drilling spots. Their responsibilities include studying rock formations, testing soil samples, analyzing drill cuttings, mapping oil wells, recording data like pressure, and minimizing ecosystem impacts. Geological and petroleum techs typically graduate with two-year associate’s degrees. The 15,060 technicians earn $28,020 to $108,110. The number of positions available will jump 7 percent this decade.
19. Sound Engineering Technician
Average Annual Salary: $63,500
Sound engineering technicians are audio equipment operators who transmit broadcasts that are music to our ears. They run electrical devices for radio stations, TV shows, concert arenas, Broadway plays, and more. Common tasks include synchronizing sounds, mixing music, recording voices, converting audio files, installing sound systems, and troubleshooting tech glitches. Sound engineering technicians usually need college courses for a certificate or associate. These 13,510 techs generate $25,680 to $117,600. Sound engineering jobs will multiply by 8 percent.
18. Fire Investigator
Average Annual Salary: $64,140
Fire investigators are smoke-focused sleuths who collect scene evidence to determine the cause of blazes. They promote justice by linking arsonists and other offenders to criminal behavior for prosecution. Their role includes interviewing victims, taking photos, pinpointing the origin, testing DNA, documenting findings, arresting suspects, and testifying in court. Fire investigators usually combine hands-on firefighting experience with an associate degree. The 12,530 fire investigators are rewarded with $36,400 to $95,330. Eight percent field growth is expected by 2028.
17. Electrical Engineering Technician
Average Annual Salary: $64,290
Electrical engineering technicians are power problem-solvers who build, install, and repair all equipment that uses electricity. They work on circuit boards, radars, cars, mobile devices, robots, lights, and much more. Common tasks include planning prototypes, designing new equipment, drawing schematics, assembling the wiring, and testing electrical output. Electrical engineering technicians must finish at least an ABET-accredited associates program. The 128,320 techs enjoy earnings of $37,420 to $93,810. About 200 new electrical engineering tech jobs will be added.
16. Auto Damage Appraiser
Average Annual Salary: $64,680
Auto damage appraisers are car accident responders who determine how much repairs will cost. They work for vehicle insurance companies to ensure coverage claims are filed accurately after collisions. Their duties include assessing damages, consulting with auto mechanics, preparing cost estimates, investigating fraud, and filing claim settlements. Auto damage appraisers will need post-secondary education or years of automotive work. These 16,150 appraisers have median pay of $42,520 to $93,510. Employment in auto damage appraisal will rise 5 percent.
15. Electrical Drafter
Average Annual Salary: $64,900
Electrical drafters are creative CAD software users who make detailed blueprints for wiring installation plans. They sketch the layout of electrical lines for houses, offices, factories, schools, power plants, and other buildings. Daily duties include drawing diagrams, specifying dimensions, creating 3-D renderings, following building codes, and presenting to engineers. Electrical drafters must go beyond high school for a two-year associate’s degree. The 24,900 electrical drafters are granted $36,600 to $99,240. Demand for drafters will increase 4 percent this decade.
14. Aircraft Service Technician
Average Annual Salary: $65,230
Aircraft service technicians are FAA-certified flight mechanics who maintain and repair planes before takeoff. They diligently inspect parts from the cockpit to the rudder to protect passenger safety. Their hefty responsibilities include diagnosing errors, implementing sound fixes, replacing defective parts, monitoring gauges, ensuring standard compliance, and filing records. Aircraft service technicians must attend aviation schools for a certificate or associate degree. The 131,690 aircraft mechanics earn $36,760 to $97,820. Opportunities for plane techs will grow 3 percent.
13. Legal Support Specialist
Average Annual Salary: $67,960
Legal support specialists are attorney assistants who keep law offices organized and ready to win client cases. They prepare lawyers for the courtroom by performing research and drafting documents. Daily duties include reviewing legal statutes, gathering relevant evidence, writing trial statements, applying for affidavits, scheduling client meetings, and filing appeals. Legal support specialists finish ABA-accredited (American Bar Association) training for at least an associates. These 44,440 legal workers collect $31,410 to $128,950 each year. There’s much faster-than-average growth of 12 percent.
12. Computer Network Support Specialist
Average Annual Salary: $68,050
Computer network support specialists are high-tech IT troubleshooters who help organizations stay connected. They remedy user experience problems in local, wide area, and internet networks. Common tasks include analyzing connectivity, running maintenance checks, backing up secure files, solving glitches fast, answering client questions, and repairing network equipment. Employers generally seek computer network support specialists with an associate degree. These 181,360 IT workers receive $38,270 to $105,770. Network support jobs are expanding by 10 percent.
11. Aerospace Engineering Technician
Average Annual Salary: $68,970
Aerospace engineering technicians are infinite innovators who build air and space vehicles that are out of this world. They follow engineers’ plans to develop safe, effective flight systems for atmospheric travel. Their job includes forming airframes, installing radars, calibrating computers onboard, running flight simulations, and testing instrument functions. Aerospace engineering technicians should attend ABET-accredited schools for associate training. The 10,110 techs boast income of $42,610 to $100,310. Aerospace industry openings will speed up by 4 percent.
10. Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technician
Average Annual Salary: $72,230
Magnetic resonance imaging technicians are superb scanners who take precise pictures of internal body parts. They keep patients safe and comfortable inside MRI machines. Their role includes taking medical histories, explaining MRI procedures, positioning patients optimally, injecting gadolinium contrast dye, evaluating images, and forwarding results to doctors. MRI technicians made our list’s 10 best careers with an associate’s degree. The 38,540 magnetic resonance imaging techs earn $50,220 to $99,180. Employment of MRI technicians will swell by 11 percent.
9. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Average Annual Salary: $73,860
Diagnostic medical sonographers are mystery solvers who find evidence of illnesses and diseases on ultrasounds. They direct high-frequency sound waves correctly for images of organs and tissues. Daily duties include applying ECG gel, placing the transducer probe, scanning the ordered body parts, identifying abnormalities, and recording findings. Becoming a sonographer requires a two-year associate’s degree plus certification. The 71,130 diagnostic medical sonographers make $51,430 to $100,480. Market need for sonography is skyrocketing by 19 percent.
8. Dental Hygienist
Average Annual Salary: $75,500
Dental hygienists are tenacious teeth cleaners who keep our pearly whites spotless for good oral health. They provide preventive care to reduce the risk of mouth disorders like gum disease and cavities. Tasks include scraping tartar, polishing enamel, flossing, whitening stains, applying fluoride, taking oral x-rays, consulting with dentists, and teaching good hygiene. Dental hygienists choose from more than 300 CODA-accredited (Commission on Dental Accreditation) associate’s programs for licensing. The 215,150 hygienists bring home $51,930 to $101,820. Prospects for dental hygienists will expand 11 percent.
7. Registered Nurse
Average Annual Salary: $75,510
Registered nurses are compassionate caregivers who provide round-the-clock bedside medical treatment. They often specialize in clinical areas, such as pediatrics, oncology, addiction, gerontology, and surgical care. Duties include recording patient symptoms, taking vital signs, delivering medications, assisting doctors, doing lab tests, and teaching wellness tips. Registered nurses are eligible for the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination) licensing exam after community college education. The 2.95 million RNs are paid $50,800 to $106,530. Registered nursing jobs will grow 12 percent by 2028.
6. Web Developer
Average Annual Salary: $75,580
Web developers are ingenious internet originators who make the websites we surf regularly from scratch. They use computer coding like HTML and XML to create a seamless page design that meets user needs. Their job includes brainstorming designs, sketching layouts, adding graphics, integrating multimedia, fixing broken links, testing site performance, and running updates. Web development openings usually require an associate’s in computer-related majors. The 127,300 web developers reap $37,930 to $124,480 apiece. Rapid job growth of 13 percent is foreseen.
5. Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Average Annual Salary: $78,870
Nuclear medicine technologists are cautious clinicians who safely use radioactive drugs when imaging patients’ bodies. They conduct PET and CT scans of organs or bones from the brain to the feet. Daily tasks include following strict protocol, administering radiation, monitoring patient conditions, operating medical machines, and preventing nuclear disasters. Two-year associate’s degrees accredited by the JRCERT (Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology) are sufficient training. The 18,810 nuclear medicine technologists are given $55,330 to $104,730. Careers in nuclear medicine are growing 7 percent.
4. Nuclear Engineering Technician
Average Annual Salary: $79,970
Nuclear engineering technicians are radioactive rockstars who devise methods for nuclear energy production. They practice extreme diligence in handling hazardous materials that are combustible. Duties include monitoring nuclear reactors, measuring radiation levels, regulating power plant temperature, disposing nuclear waste, and responding to emergency crises. Nuclear engineering technicians graduate with associates and NEI certification in 24 months. The 7,230 technicians are paid $49,820 to $114,670. Hiring of nuclear techs will likely decline 4 percent this decade.
3. Radiation Therapist
Average Annual Salary: $86,730
Radiation therapists are cancer combatants who deliver oncology treatments to kill malignant body cells. They use protective devices to administer ionizing radiation safely without overexposure. Their role includes evaluating cancer patients, answering procedure questions, calibrating radiation machines, and checking for life-threatening side effects. Hospitals and clinics prefer hiring radiation therapists with an associate’s degree and ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists) credential. The 18,260 RTs earn wages of $56,360 to $124,320. Nine percent more radiation therapists will be needed in 10 years.
2. Funeral Service Manager
Average Annual Salary: $93,820
Funeral service managers are top-level mortuary administrators who oversee the funeral home’s operations. They strictly handle the business side of funeral proceedings for the deceased. Their responsibilities include hiring or firing staff, allocating budgets, planning ad campaigns, setting funeral prices, paying required taxes, resolving insurance claims, and renovating the parlor. Funeral service managers usually graduate with two-year, ABFSE-accredited (The American Board of Funeral Service Education) associates. The 8,400 managers generate $41,410 to $151,680 annually. The job forecast predicts 5 percent growth.
1. Air Traffic Controller
Average Annual Salary: $120,830
Air traffic controllers are tower watchdogs who track the paths of planes to avoid deadly collisions and crashes. They use radars to monitor aircraft movements on the runways and in the sky. Daily duties include communicating with pilots, okaying takeoffs, giving weather updates, diverting traffic, warning of potential hazards, and relaying landing instructions. Air traffic controllers must finish college and the FAA academy by age 31. The 22,390 controllers have the highest salary with an associate’s degree ($68,0909 to $178,650). Air traffic employment will increase 1 percent.
There are many other excellent options that didn’t quite make our 30 highest paying associates degree jobs too. For example, civil engineering technicians are compensated $54,670 on average for building our nation’s infrastructure. Chemical technicians earn a mean annual wage of $51,010 for producing sophisticated substance solutions. Medical equipment repairers reap median income of $52,710 for fixing high-tech patient care machines. Millwrights install and maintain factory equipment to manufacture a mean $51,630 salary. Surveying and mapping technicians are paid $47,690 on average for collecting measurement data of the Earth. Agricultural technicians help farmers and their crops thrive for mean earnings of $44,170. Broadcast technicians make a $46,770 median wage for producing high-quality media footage. Finishing an A.A. or A.S. degree can pay off in most fields depending on your interests.
Overall, getting great jobs without a bachelor’s degree is certainly possible. Careers available going to community college are still plentiful. Associates graduates often have better opportunities than diploma or GED recipients. According to SmartAsset, associate’s degrees provide an annual average salary of $41,496. That’s equivalent to $798 per week. In comparison, high school graduates make an average $35,256 yearly or $678 weekly. Median lifetime earnings with an associate credential are $1.2 million. Profit returns are usually higher than the initial investment in associate-level tuition. Joining the 47 percent of Americans with at least an associates degree can be rewarding. We’ve found top careers with an associate’s degree in diverse fields, including health care, hospitality, technology, and construction. They’re perfect for people who don’t have the time, money, or desire for an entire bachelor’s curriculum. Consider enrolling in two-year colleges for these best careers with an associate’s degree.
This concludes our ranking of the 30 highest paying associates degree jobs.
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