An associate degree can be a great way to get essential technical and academic skills to kickstart your career. Even if you don’t complete a bachelor’s degree afterward, you can still earn very well with your associate degree. In this guide, we’ll focus on the highest-paying associate degrees and their advantages.
This guide will also examine different associate degree jobs and Associate of Science degree jobs. You will also learn about the highest-paying jobs you can gain access to upon graduation. Ready? Let’s dive in.
What Is an Associate Degree?
An associate degree is an undergraduate degree that typically takes two to three years to complete. Most associate degrees are offered by vocational schools or community colleges. Often, students use an associate degree as a stepping stone towards a four-year degree.
Typically, associate degrees require 60 credits to complete, divided into 15 credits per semester on average. To fulfill the education requirements, you might need to take an array of core and elective courses. An associate degree usually requires prospective students to have a high school diploma or GED.
What Can I Do With an Associate Degree?
Having an associate degree can help you start a rewarding career in a wide range of fields, including healthcare, manufacturing, production, and electricity. There are also other fields that you can go into such as law and engineering.
You can also use it as a stepping stone to earning a four-year college degree if you want to open up even more career opportunities. A two-year degree will generally qualify you for entry-level positions.
What Are the Highest-Paying Associate Degrees?
The top five highest-paying associate degrees are the Associate in Science in Nuclear Technology, Associate in Science in Radiation Therapy, Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Nuclear Medicine Technology, and Associate of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene.
Why You Should Get an Associate Degree
You should get an associate degree if you just graduated from high school and have no practical experience but want to work immediately. Regardless of your field of study, there are numerous job opportunities with a 2-year degree. Associate degrees are also a good idea if you are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the future.
Highest-Paying Associate Degree Jobs
|Job||Average Salary||Best Associate Degree Program|
|Nuclear Technicians||$99,340||Associate in Science in Nuclear Technology|
|Radiation Therapists||$82,790||Associate in Science in Radiation Therapy|
|Nuclear Medicine Technologists||$78,760||Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Nuclear Medicine Technology|
|Dental Hygienists||$77,810||Associate of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene|
|Electrical Engineering Technicians||$63,640||Associate of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||$61,520||Associate of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant|
|Mechanical Engineering Technicians||$60,460||Associates of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology|
|Civil Engineering Technicians||$58,320||Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology|
|Petroleum Technicians||$50,630||Associate of Applied Science Petroleum Service Technology|
|Physical Therapy Assistants||$49,180||Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant|
Highest-Paying Associate Degrees and Their Job Outlooks
Earning an associate degree can set you up for a great career with a strong annual salary. You can find high-paying associate degrees in a variety of fields. Keep reading to find out about some of the best degree options.
- Average Salary: $99,340
- Job Outlook: -12%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate in Science in Nuclear Technology
A nuclear technician works in nuclear energy production. You can also see them working with physicists and engineers. They monitor the performance of equipment used in power generation and nuclear experiments. They give instructions to other personnel on radiation safety and procedures. They also maintain and operate radiation monitoring equipment.
- Average Salary: $82,790
- Job Outlook: 9%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate in Science in Radiation Therapy
A radiation therapist administers doses of radiation to patients who have serious diseases like cancer. They explain the treatment plan to patients and answer any questions that they might have.
They oversee the radiation treatment process and make sure that the patients are protected from being overexposed to high radiation levels. They also take records of the treatment done to patients. This is one of the most lucrative associate degree jobs in the healthcare industry.
- Average Salary: $77,810
- Job Outlook: 11%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene
A dental hygienist provides oral care to patients by examining any signs of oral diseases like gingivitis. They also provide preventive care and oral hygiene using special equipment. They are the ones who remove stains, plaque, and tartar from teeth. They develop and take dental x-rays and they evaluate patients’ oral health. The medical field has some of the highest-paying positions for associate degree students.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists
- Average Salary: $78,760
- Job Outlook: 8%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Nuclear Medicine Technology
A nuclear medicine technologist prepares radioactive drugs and gives them to patients for treatment or imaging. They give technical support to physicians or other medical professionals who diagnose and care for patients. They interact with patients on a daily basis and explain to them medical procedures. They also operate and maintain special imaging equipment.
Civil Engineering Technicians
- Average Salary: $58,320
- Job Outlook: 2%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology
A civil engineering technician supports civil engineers when it comes to designing, planning, and building bridges, highways, utilities, and other infrastructure projects. They review and read plans and drawings to identify the sizes of structures. They use computer-aided design or CAD software to draft project drawings. They also test the appropriateness of soil samples.
Mechanical Engineering Technicians
- Average Salary: $60,460
- Job Outlook: 6%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associates of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology
Mechanical engineering technicians support mechanical engineers to develop, design, test, and manufacture tools, machines, tools, engines, and other devices. They put together drawings and layouts of the assembly process and parts to be created. They use three-dimensional design software. They also perform tests of complete units and their components, then record results.
Occupational Therapy Assistants
- Average Salary: $61,520
- Job Outlook: 34%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant
Occupational therapy assistants help their patients develop, recover, or improve the skills they need to perform daily activities related to living and working. They usually support occupational therapists and keep track of therapy plans for their patients. They also record their patient’s progress and then report to the occupational therapist.
Electrical Engineering Technicians
- Average Salary: $63,640
- Job Outlook: 2%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology
An electrical engineering technician supports electrical engineers in developing and building communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, computers, or other equipment that’s powered by electricity. They assemble electronic systems and prototypes. They also calibrate, build, and repair electrical instruments or testing equipment.
- Average Salary: $50,630
- Job Outlook: 9%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate of Applied Science Petroleum Service Technology
A petroleum technician maintains and installs laboratory and field equipment. They perform scientific tests on samples to identify their characteristics and content. They provide technical assistance to gas and oil production-related issues. They troubleshoot problems with equipment or machinery like compressors or pumps and identify the possible causes.
Physical Therapy Assistants
- Average Salary: $49,180
- Job Outlook: 32%
- Best Associate Degree Program: Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant
A physical therapist assists and helps patients during and after therapy while noting the patient’s progress and then reports it to the physical therapist. They also help patients with the specific exercises included in their treatment plan. They use different equipment and devices like walkers to help patients as well. They also answer any questions that patients might have and educate them.
Tips for Getting a High-Paying Job With an Associate Degree
- Know how to write a resume. Writing a resume when you don’t have experience can feel nerve-wracking, but it’s not an impossible task. Make sure to list your strengths, education experiences, and any relevant work or job training.
- Highlight your skills. Your resume should contain the skills you’ve gained from your associate degree which are applicable to the job you’re applying to. Include technical skills and soft skills such as communication, leadership, and critical thinking, which are all essential no matter what field you are in.
- Invest in further studies. You can always invest in further studies if you want to broaden your knowledge, gain additional training, and access better jobs. You can get a certificate or professional certification related to your field or just attend free courses online.
- Ask for strong recommendation letters. There will be employers who would ask for references or recommendation letters regarding your work ethic during an internship or apprenticeship. Make sure you ask the close people you’ve worked with and who have seen your growth and progress.
- Show confidence during your interview. It’s normal that candidates feel nervous during their first time getting interviewed, but even so, make sure that you answer their questions accurately. Be brief and specific when you can. Share real situations that showcase your skills.
Is an Associate Degree Worth It?
Yes, an associate degree is worth it because you can complete it in about two to three years and it can set you up with an entry-level job. It is worth it because it can also be a way for you to earn your bachelor’s degree and start a high-paying career.
There are a lot of opportunities waiting for you once you earn your associate degree. Some of these jobs include nuclear technician, nuclear medicine technologist, and civil engineering technician.
Highest-Paying Associate Degrees FAQ
The easiest associate degree to get is the one that you are passionate about such as education, business administration, or marketing. It is important that you like the program you’re getting into so that regardless of some challenges you’ll face, you’ll continue to pursue it.
The fastest associate degrees you can get take 18 months. They include Associate of Arts, Accounting Technology, Business Administration, and Criminal Justice Technology degrees. Some programs offer accelerated degree tracks to help you earn your degree faster.
The most popular associate degree for women includes liberal arts and sciences, general studies, medical or clinical assistant, business administration, and medical records technology.
The most popular associate degrees for men include liberal arts and liberal studies, general studies, business administration and management, commerce, criminal justice and automotive mechanics.
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