8 high-paying jobs you can get with an associate degree


Not sure a full four-year college degree is right for you? You’re not alone. In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau found that a full 67 percent of Americans did not have a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, there are other educational options out there for workers, including associate degrees, that can lead to great careers.

Earning an associate degree has lots of benefits: Community colleges are often cheaper than traditional universities and coursework is completed faster. If you think your job options are limited with just an associate degree, think again.

Here are eight high-paying jobs you can snag after just two years of higher education.

1. Nurse

Sure, you can go all the way and get a bachelor’s in nursing, but the two-year associate degree in nursing will give you your RN credential and qualify you to work in the vast majority of medical settings—with an average salary of about $63,000 per year. As the nursing shortage is projected to worsen in the coming decades, nursing will be a lucrative career with many job opportunities.

nurse photo
Getty Images | Christopher Furlong

2. Web Developer

HTML, CSS, Ruby and Python. Say what? If you were a web developer, those terms would undoubtedly mean something to you, and they’d be skills you use at work every day. Courses at a community college (or a simple certificate) can help you become comfortable in the web world—and eventually net you a salary that’s about $66,000 per year.

internet photo
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

3. Ultrasound Technician

Want to learn how to use a wand? No, not the Harry Potter kind—the medical kind! Often called diagnostic medical sonographers, ultrasound techs wield the wands that reveal to medical professionals what’s going on in your organs. Yes, they often deal with pregnancy, but sonographers can work in a variety of medical specialities, including gastroenterology and breast health. Jobs are available at doctors’ offices, hospitals and centers specifically devoted to ultrasound. An average yearly salary of $71,000 makes this a good career option for those who want to work in the medical field after earning a two-year degree. Look for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.


4. Dental Hygienist

There’s a reason those hygienists at your dentist’s office are so friendly—they’re being paid well for their work! Hygienists are generally the people who provide teeth cleaning, x-rays and other services in dental practices. With an associate degree, dental hygienists have the potential to earn around $73,000 per year.

dental photo
Flickr | University of the Fraser Valley

5. Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists have a huge range of options in the healthcare field, from neonatal intensive care units and nursing homes to asthma or sleep clinics. Many respiratory therapists also work in traditional hospital settings, including intensive care units. The responsibility of helping people breathe comes with a hefty paycheck, too—about $58,000 a year, or $28 an hour. Only a two-year degree is necessary to become certified, but some people choose to pursue a four-year degree as well.

respiratory therapist photo
Flickr | Medill DC

6. HVAC Technician 

Where would we be without HVAC technicians? These invaluable professionals help keep us cool in summer and warm in winter. Their schooling, often offered at two-year colleges and followed by a national certification process, provides them with the skills needed to install and service heating, cooling and refrigeration systems. There are lots of work options, too, from self-employment to steady jobs working for big employers like school or hospital systems. The average salary in the U.S. is about $46,000 per year.

HVAC photo
Getty Images | Joe Raedle
7. Pastry Chef

Making cakes, cookies and bread can net you a great salary? Yes! Most pastry chefs in the U.S. have done coursework at a culinary school, usually a two-year or certificate program. You don’t start off making the big bucks, of course, but if you work your way up to the upper echelons of pastry-making in high-end hotels and restaurants, the pay ranges upwards of $40,000 a year. Better news? The field is rapidly growing, especially in the United States.

pastry chef photo
Getty Images | Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

8. Drafter

Computer whiz with a love for design? Becoming an AutoCAD drafter might be a great way for you to use your skills to make a salary of about $53,000 a year with just an associate degree. Drafters generally work in the architectural engineering field, making computer-generated drafts for buildings and other projects.

architect photo
Flickr | IrishCzechJapanMen

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