An associate’s degree is ideal for building skills and knowledge efficiently, in as little as two years.

Want to consider building multiple unrelated skill sets? It makes more sense to earn multiple associate degrees than multiple four-year degrees.

Similarly, the risk of financial waste is much less with an associate’s degree. Earning an associate degree is several times less expensive than earning a traditional bachelor’s. The payoff of pursuing this two-year degree is excellent – especially if you choose an associate degree that pays well.

Featured Programs

RELATED: Highest Paying Degrees in Associates – Majors & Careers

How much can you earn with an associate’s degree? For the highest-paying associate degree jobs, you will find median annual salary data of more than $45,000. Our list of the highest paid associates degree jobs includes roles with median annual salaries in the $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 and $90,000 ranges. In fact, the best jobs with associates degree level of education may have median salaries approaching or exceeding the six-figure range.

For more on the best and most lucrative careers available to a professional with an associate’s degree, read on.

Highest paying associate degree jobs

A Shift Toward Associate Degrees

The evolution of higher education over the past seventy years proves one thing. The best education path – in terms of value and efficiency – is in a state of constant flux.

From the fifties to the early nineties, the four-year degree reigned as the undisputed king of jumpstarting careers. Earning a bachelor’s degree affordably and effectively unlocked top-tier salaries. 

RELATED: Associate Degrees: Bang for Your Education Buck

Today, the abundance of possible education paths shifts the value away from the four-year bachelor’s degree. It’s not that students aren’t pursuing bachelor’s degrees anymore. Rather, more students want to consider alternative paths.

Millennial and Generation Z workers are more likely to have side hustles and entrepreneurial pursuits. These pursuits may even replace the traditional, linear career paths that were the norm of their predecessors.

Gen X’ers are now jumping on board, too. Stay-at-home moms are starting Shopify and Etsy businesses. Dads are adopting side hustles to boost the income of their day jobs. Time is money, after all.

With all this in mind, the key to building a lucrative career seems to be adaptability. The most successful entry-level professionals are able to jump on specific skill development to capitalize on the emerging needs of the market.

In the 2020s, everything moves fast. As such, it is becoming more common for the younger generations to decide against a four-year commitment in favor of programs of study and training that prepare students for multiple tangential career paths at once.

College still provides a strong base for any aspiring professionals. Associate degrees might get you the same results more efficiently and affordably. An associates degree represents one of the best options available to build skills quickly.

RELATED: Which College Degree Is Easiest?

Our Ranking Methodology 

How do you identify the best-paying associate degrees? You start by looking at the median annual salaries of jobs you can get with only an associate degree. As it turns out, there are plenty of good paying jobs with associates degree education. You just have to look at the data and be willing to keep an open mind to find them. 

We organized this ranking according to the following methodology:

  • They then filtered results for salaries of $45,000 or above. 
  • We removed careers with poor job growth trajectories. 
  • Finally, we ranked the results according to the occupation’s median salary as well as higher-end salary potential. 

50 Highest-Paying Associate Degree Careers

Before we dive into the ranking, there are some clear takeaways to note: 

Firstly, many of the most lucrative careers listed in this resource require a high level of specialization. These jobs may not require a college education. However, they usually require considerable skill development or education.

The process of acquiring this specialized knowledge can take the form of: 

  • Apprenticeships
  • Trade schools
  • The associate’s degree program itself 

Secondly, many of these high-end careers offer top-notch salaries because the skill requirement for these roles is so high. Although this list encompasses the highest-paying associate degree jobs, achieving top earning potential in these jobs may require more than an associate’s degree. To unlock the upper-percentile salaries in any one of these fields, you may need additional work experience or schooling. 

Ultimately, your ability to earn the highest salary with an associate degree depends on the extent of your skills and experience. 

Air Traffic Controller 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Air Traffic Control

Median Annual Salary – $124,000

Career Description

Air traffic controllers take home some of the most impressive salaries you will see for a career that does not require a bachelor’s degree. Air traffic controllers earn a six-figure median salary. The high-end air traffic controller salary, however, is indicative of the high level of responsibility required of air traffic controllers.

Air traffic controllers are the quarterbacks of the skies. An air traffic controller directs landing and taking-off procedures for all manner of aircraft. Another responsibility of an air traffic controller is to monitor all in-progress flights. Have ever wondered how thousands of planes could all take off, fly thousands of miles and land without crashing into one another? Air traffic controllers are the ones to thank. Given the importance of this role, it’s no wonder that air traffic controller is one of the best associate degree jobs.

<best paying associate degree jobs

Career Requirements 

Most air traffic controllers work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). If you want to become an air traffic controller, you need to earn a degree accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

An array of institutions offer associate degree programs that are fully accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration for aspiring air traffic controllers. At some schools, an aspiring air traffic controller can complete a degree program accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration for a tuition cost of less than $20,000.

This is still a fairly large expense when compared to other associate’s degree programs. However, the high salaries air traffic controllers earn balance out this expense.

If you want to consider pursuing air traffic controller leadership roles in the aviation industry after graduation, you may need a higher level of education than an associate degree. However, air traffic controllers may be able to land these promotions with only an associate’s degree once they have built a successful work history.

Computer Scientist – Full-Stack Engineer

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Computer Science in Computer Engineering

Median Salary – $120,000

Career Description

Another of the highest paying associate degrees is computer science. A degree in computer science can prepare you for any number of high-paying jobs. However, the highest paying jobs with associates degree in computer science is full-stack engineer.

If you are even somewhat familiar with the field of computer science, then you have probably heard the terms ‘front-end’ and ‘back-end’ development. A full-stack computer science professional has mastered both sides of development. Full-stack engineers employ a hybrid approach that allows them to develop both components simultaneously where possible.

The level of skill and knowledge required to pull this off is sizable. Full-stack engineers earn some of the industry’s best starting salaries. For established professionals, the upper-level salary potential is jaw-dropping, exceeding $200,000. 

Career Requirements

There are few degree programs that are specialized enough to prepare students for a full-stack career in computer science. Working as a full-stack engineer requires the knowledge and skills of two separate approaches and principles, as well as a level of natural aptitude. Aspiring full-stack engineers should consider earning an associate degree in computer science with a specialization in computer engineering. In addition to a two-year degree, consider enrolling in a coding bootcamp or apprenticeship that specifically targets full-stack engineering. 

RELATED: 50 Best Online Associate’s Degrees 2021

Transportation Manager

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Transportation Management

Median Salary – $92,000

Career Description

Another of the good associate degree jobs with a median annual salary above $90,000 is transportation manager.

Transportation managers direct all forms of transportation in order to maintain supply lines of large corporations and logistics operations. To accomplish this feat, they employ a variety of skills and software programs. 

There are various levels of employment in the transportation operations line of work. To achieve the median annual salary of a transportation manager, though, you’re likely to need formal education. A relevant degree, such as an associate degree in transportation management, will open the doors to a management position with strong earning potential requires highly specialized knowledge of a company’s unique transportation management system software.

Even after earning an associate degree, you will need on-the-job training to find success as a transportation manager. The best transportation managers also have communication and leadership skills. They are hands-on managers comfortable with boots-on-the-ground protocols. 

Career Requirements

Professionals can break into this career with an associate’ degree in transportation management. To start commanding upper-end salaries, established and aspiring transportation managers should build a sub-specialization in areas of the market such as warehousing or supply-chain technology. 

Some of the best associate’s programs for transportation management allow students to begin building an area of expertise as they work toward their two-year degree. This ability to focus their education also helps students right off the bat by giving them a major leg upon entering the job market. The best-paid transportation managers have established a successful reputation in the field, as well as cultivated specialized areas of expertise. 

Logistics Manager

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Logistics Management

Median Annual Salary – $92,000

Career Description

Like transportation manager, logistics manager is among the top associates degree jobs in terms of earning potential. The median annual salary for this role exceeds $90,000. 

A logistic manager works in tandem with transportation management. The role of a logistics manager is to organize schedules and to ensure requirements are met in order to keep operations running smoothly. These professionals are detail-oriented masters of efficiency. Good logistics managers effectively lead teams to meet daily goals. In this sense, logistics management is as much about directing teams of professionals and freight crews as it is about directing the logistics of the larger operation.

There’s often a lot of overlap between the roles of a transportation manager and a logistics manager. In many cases, the biggest difference between these jobs is the emphasis the position places on transportation software. Generally, logistics managers focus more on the logistics of boots-on-the-ground operations. Transportation managers are more concerned with software mastery.

high paying associate degree jobs - logistics

Career Requirements

An associate’s degree in logistics management will function as an excellent foundation for breaking into this field. The median salary range of jobs in this field makes logistics management one of the best-paid associates degrees.

Still, management-level jobs in logistics are highly competitive. You might not be able to jump straight into a logistics manager role with an associate degree in logistics. Often, logistics professionals need to build an extensive resume in a related field before landing a management position. Some logistics managers pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree program, but a more advanced degree isn’t generally required. Logistics specialists can advance their careers by gaining experience in the acquisition, storage, and distribution of goods as part of the supply chain. 

Radiation Therapist

Required Salary – Associate Degree in Radiation Therapy

Median Salary – $82,000

Career Description

Cancer treatment makes up a large portion of the medical industry. Radiation therapists are medical professionals. They specialize in cancer treatment protocols and relevant technology.

For radiation therapists, daily responsibilities include assisting radiologists, oncologists, and physicians in the treatment of cancer patients. A treatment plan for cancer patients often focuses specifically on identifying tumors in the patient’s body and administering various forms of therapy, including radiation therapy. Radiation treatments work to destroy cancer cells using beams of intense energy, often in the form of X-rays or protons. Radiation therapists work under the direction of physicians who treat cancer patients to administer radiation therapy. 

The median annual radiation therapist salary is in the $80,000 range. How does a radiation therapist command this level of earning potential? For the best jobs for radiation therapists – the ones with the highest earning potential – you must beat out the competition.

The need for qualified radiation therapists who can safely and effectively administer radiation treatments is strong. Still, job opportunities are limited in remote areas. It can be difficult for radiation therapists to land the job they want in the area they want. This is one reason why radiation therapists enjoy such high earning potential. 

Career Requirements

There are two main paths into a career in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists start out their careers with either a professional certification in radiation therapy or an associate’s degree. Certification is the most efficient way to get into the radiation therapist occupation. This path only requires one year to complete. However, with only a certification, you will be limited to more entry-level positions. Earning a two-year associate degree prepares students for mid-level radiation therapist positions.

Once radiation therapists have seniority in their field, they can take on radiation therapy positions with more responsibility and managerial duties. These roles offer highly impressive earning potential. This opportunity makes an associate degree in radiation therapy program one of the best paying associates degrees

Nuclear Engineering Technologist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Nuclear Engineering Technology

Median Annual Salary – $80,000

Career Description

When considering the best career choices for an associate’s degree, nuclear engineering probably doesn’t come to mind. By median annual salary, though, an associate degree in nuclear engineering technology is one of the high paying associate degrees out there. 

So much of the field of nuclear science is shifting toward computer applications. Learning these computer applications can help aspiring nuclear technicians break into the field of nuclear technology. 

Nuclear technicians work primarily at power plants field by nuclear materials. The work of nuclear technicians involves monitoring daily activity using various types of computer software. In mid- to upper-level nuclear technician positions, the job duties are more extensive. Nuclear technicians at these levels may research and design new power plant protocols for the following points:

  • Safety
  • Efficiency
  • Waste management of nuclear materials 

Career Requirements

The day-to-day mechanics of the nuclear technician profession emphasize highly specialized computer applications. Still, nuclear technicians need a solid base of knowledge in nuclear engineering, nuclear science and nuclear technology. 

A two-year associate’s degree program in nuclear engineering technology is sufficient for entry-level nuclear technicians. Nuclear technicians who aspire to mid- to upper-level positions may need a bachelor’s degree. Some nuclear technicians pursue a master’s degree in a field like nuclear technology. Nuclear technicians in the upper reaches of the field hold a doctorate in nuclear engineering or nuclear technology. 

The favorable job growth rate for nuclear technicians should generate new opportunities in this field. Thanks to the high demand in the nuclear technology field, there will likely be more mid- to upper-level opportunities for nuclear technicians with only an associate degree. For nuclear technicians in these roles, having strong management skills and impressive work history can compensate for not having a higher level of education. 

Mortuary Scientist 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Mortuary Science

Median Salary – $79,180

Career Description

Mortuary science deals with the posthumous handling of human bodies through funeral services. Mortuary scientists work in a variety of roles, including: 

  • Funeral service workers
  • Funeral home workers
  • Funeral service managers
  • Funeral directors 

Job duties of a funeral service worker include the following: 

  • Repairing damaged bodies for presentation during the funeral
  • Consoling bereaved families
  • Directing daily operations at funeral homes

The median annual salary for a funeral service worker amounts to nearly $80,000. This impressive salary indicates how uniquely demanding funeral service work is. Naturally, the higher your level of seniority as a funeral service worker, the greater your earning potential. Funeral service managers earn more than the average funeral service worker. Funeral directors have the potential to earn even more money. 

You can work in the funeral services profession with only an associate degree. However, not just any associate degree will do. Funeral directors and funeral service workers must have highly specialized skills. They can acquire these skills through an associate degree in mortuary science. 

high paying associate degrees mortuary science

Career Requirements

Earning an associate degree in mortuary science typically takes just two years. An aspiring funeral director or funeral service worker must have an aptitude for both the social and medical sciences. 

Most aspiring funeral service workers hope to advance to a funeral manager or funeral director role. Funeral service professionals may take on a management role in addition to their usual mortuary science duties. Managers in funeral service work earn the most money.

Opportunities for funeral service managers are competitive. There are, after all, a limited number of funeral homes. Most professionals in this field who advance to funeral service manager or funeral director roles have in impressive resume, seniority in their organization and high levels of talent. 

Elevator Installer 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Elevator Mechanics

Median Salary – $79,000

Career Description

A surprisingly high median salary makes elevator mechanics one of the top paid associates degree programs

Ever wonder what goes into installing and maintaining those amazing elevators that are able to scale 50 floors in a minute? Elevator mechanics who specialize in the installation process are able to bring home the big bucks.

Entry-level professionals in the field hold positions beneath a managing mechanic. They use the most current technology to build elevator tracks, lifts and electrical systems. 

The best installation companies will send good elevator mechanics around the world to install various types of elevators. Still, the demand for the best-performing elevators is limited. For the best installation contracts, competition is high. This fact makes the best-paying elevator installer jobs very competitive, as well. If you want to command a top-tier salary as an elevator installer, you will need to prove yourself. 

Career Requirements

Aspiring elevator installers can prepare for this role in a couple of ways. Some professionals in this field receive specialized training through an apprenticeship in elevator installation. Others instead pursue professional certification as an elevator mechanics technician. 

For the best positions, you will need a stronger background in the field of elevator mechanics. One of the best ways to attain the specialized training and knowledge you need is through an associate degree in elevator mechanics. An associate degree in mechanics with a specialization in elevator technology is another degree option to consider. 

Electrical Repair for Powerhouse, Substation, Relay 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Industrial Technology (Electrical)

Median Annual Salary – $78,000

Career Description

Associate degrees in industrial technology and electrical repair may not be among the most popular college majors. They are, however, among the top associate degrees that pay well

Ever wonder who maintains all the complex electrical systems behind power lines or subway stations? Line technicians work to make sure the daily operations of such technology run smoothly. These specialized professionals also repair faulty components in these electrical systems.

Electrical repair is a challenging and potentially dangerous line of work. Line technicians must scale heights to repair power lines that are high off the ground. When parts fail in subground railway units, line technicians have to climb deep down into these areas. 

The higher level and more specialized your role as an electrical repair technician, the greater your earning potential. For the best salaries, you should focus on either developing a specialization in one type of maintenance or advancing to a managerial role. 

Career Requirements

The minimum level of education to become a line technician is a high school diploma. Once hired, you will undergo on-the-job training. Specific training in your company’s unique protocols is important, even if you already have the knowledge and experience to repair electrical lines and systems in general. 

Earning an associate degree can give your career a boost and prepare you to qualify for better (and better-paying) positions. Prospective line technicians can benefit from pursuing an associate degree in industrial technology. Some community college programs offer an emphasis in electrical repair. Completing an apprenticeship under an established line repair tech can also help you get the training you need for this role

Fire Science Management

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Fire Science Management

Median Salary – $76,000

Career Description

It isn’t only the median annual salary that lands an associate degree in fire science on our list of good associate degrees. A fire science associate degree also allows you to make a difference. 

Fire science is the field of study that prepares students to be firefighters or fire science consultants. The fire science role is the most impressive median annual salaries is fire science manager. Fire science management professionals who work in managerial positions hold roles like the following: 

  • Fire department leader (fire chief or fire commissioner)
  • Fire investigator
  • Forest fire inspector
  • Fire prevention specialist

In any one fire science manager role, you may hold a range of job responsibilities. Of course, management roles in fire science are competitive, since any given fire department or agency only needs so many leaders. 

highest paying associate degrees

Career Requirements

Before you start earning an associate degree in fire science, consider acquiring some entry-level work experience in the industry. Working around something as dangerous as fire poses some serious risks. Employers often want to see a successful work history in this field before they will consider you for the kinds of managerial roles to which an associate degree is relevant. 

As you start your school search and prepare to apply to college, work on cultivating this experience. Undergo specialized training or professional certification as an entry-level firefighter or fire investigator. Then pursue an associate degree in fire science management so that you’re prepared for a managerial role. 

Cyber Security Specialist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Cybersecurity 

Median Salary – $76,000

Career Description

Cybersecurity degrees and related areas, like information technology, information security and computer science, are all good associate’s degrees to consider. 

The cybersecurity industry focuses on protecting data, privacy, and software from corruption or theft. Cybersecurity specialists ensure the safety of a company’s or individual’s digital resources from data security breaches and cyber-attacks. 

The field of cybersecurity is expansive. It encompasses various areas of computer science that pertain to securing data and putting protocols in place to prevent security breaches. Cybersecurity specialists need to be proficient in each of these areas. However, most cybersecurity professionals specialize in an area like business-to-business correspondence or anti-identity theft measures. The specialized skill sets that have become prevalent in the field of cybersecurity are driving up compensation potential in this industry. 

Career Requirements

 How do you get started in cybersecurity? You can choose from a number of suitable entry points into this profitable career. Possible paths include the following: 

  • Cybersecurity professional certifications
  • Apprenticeships
  • Cybersecurity skill-based boot camps
  • A formal college program of study
While you don’t necessarily need a college degree to work in cybersecurity, you need strong computer skills. Earning a degree equips you with these skills and demonstrates your skills to prospective employers

College programs in cybersecurity exist at various levels of study. An associate degree is a great starting point for a cybersecurity career. Associate degrees equip you with the basic knowledge you need for an entry-level position. This level of study can serve as a stepping stone toward a bachelor’s degree and graduate school, if you decide to advance your education. 

Any major in the areas of computer science, information technology and information security can prepare students to work in cybersecurity. However, the more specialized your curriculum, the better your odds of reaching an impressive salary. Majoring in cybersecurity allows you to better master the use of software programs relevant to preventing and managing data security breaches.

We recommend looking at community colleges that offer associate degrees or concentrations in cybersecurity specifically. If you are interested in a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree program, look for cybersecurity majors or computer science programs with specializations in cybersecurity.

Dental Hygienist

Required Degree – Associate in Dental Hygiene

Median Salary – $74,000

Career Description

An Associate of Applied Science in dental hygiene is unique among the associates degrees that pay well. While the dental hygienist salary is high, this program requires more study than traditional associate degrees. 

If you’ve ever been to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned or a cavity filled, you have encountered a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists are healthcare professionals. They assist dentists with examining patients and carrying out treatment plans to address and prevent dental diseases. 

Dental hygienists are to dentists what surgical techs are to surgeons. A dental hygienist provides valuable support and assistance for dentists examining patients and implementing treatment plans. Often, dental hygienists take on the responsibility of educating patients about oral diseases and best practices in dental hygiene. 

RELATED: Best Major for Dentist: What Major Do You Need to Be a Dentist?

The dental hygienist career is a terrific middle-ground if you are interested in dentistry but not able or willing to go to dental school. Even entry-level dental hygienists take home an impressive salary. The more experience and specialized knowledge dental hygienists have, the greater their earning potential. 

Like other areas of the healthcare industry, the need for dental healthcare is steady. In fact, the dental hygienist occupation is seeing considerable job growth. That’s good news for aspiring dental hygienists. Dental hygienists enjoy high salaries even for entry-level positions. The favorable job growth rate offers opportunities for new dental hygienists. Overall, the job security for a dental hygienist career is excellent. 

highest paying associate degree jobs - dental hygienists

Career Requirements

Dental hygienists working in clinical practice need a specialized associate degree. In an associate degree program in dental hygiene, students learn about oral diseases and safety protocols for examining patients and assisting a dentist with dental procedures. Aspiring dental hygienists gain experience educating patients and helping carry out treatment plans in clinical settings. This specialized associate degree program typically takes three years to complete. 

For a dental hygienist interested in primarily clinical practice, this specialized associate degree is enough to work in this career long-term. Teaching and clinical research positions for dental hygienists require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Most dental hygienists are concerned with the hands-on work of cleaning teeth and assisting dentists with dental procedures and carrying out treatment plans, not with research into oral diseases and developing new methods of dental interventions. 

An aspiring dental hygienist will pay a higher tuition rate for their associate degree in dental hygiene than the average associate’s degree. The average tuition cost for a dental hygiene associate degree is around $22,000 from start to graduation. Considering the lucrative median annual salary for dental hygienists and the more extensive education these programs provide, the additional expense seems reasonable. 

Check out these 15 affordable degrees in dental hygiene (associate’s and beyond).

Nautical Engineering Technologist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Marine Engineering

Median Salary – $73,000

Career Description

Nautical engineering technicians and technologists assist engineers in the research and design of all manner of marine crafts. The field of nautical engineering also includes overseeing offshore operations such as oil rigs and marine research stations. 

In their work, nautical engineering technologists use specialized skills and knowledge to maintain the safety and efficiency of marine operations. For example, nautical engineers and the engineering technologists that assist them might serve as consultants for off-shore oil operations. They help companies use efficient methods for drilling and ferrying staff that comply with federal guidelines. 

Career Requirements

To qualify as a nautical engineer, you need a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in nautical engineering. However, an associate degree is sufficient for a nautical engineering technologist role.

Your local community college may not offer an associate degree in nautical engineering. A general engineering program can cover the basics. An internship or apprenticeship can help you develop specialized knowledge of nautical engineering technology. 

Students who aspire to become licensed engineers will still need a bachelor’s degree. If you’re not too concerned with the title and prestige, though, having only an associate degree will put you on the path to the nautical engineering technologist median annual salary, which surpasses $70,000. 

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology 

Median Annual Salary – $72,000

Career Description

As medical technology evolves, so too does the market for highly specialized professionals. Nuclear medicine technologists put into action nuclear medicine technology for clinical patient care. 

One such form of nuclear medicine technology is a medical imaging method called radiotracing. In radiotracing, a patient ingests or is injected with trace amounts of radioactive materials. Medical professionals use imaging equipment to track how these radioactive materials move and how the patient’s body processes them. Imaging tests that utilize nuclear medicine technology can help medical professionals identify diseases. Medical professionals like nuclear medicine technologists and physicians use this technique and similar approaches to make diagnoses not possible by that other methods. 

Nuclear medicine technologists aren’t doctors. They do, however, play critical roles in the clinical use of nuclear medicine for diagnosis and patient treatment plans. Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer the radioactive drugs used for imaging tests and treatments

Career Requirements

How do you become a nuclear medicine technologist? First, aspiring nuclear medicine technologists should complete a two-year associate degree in nuclear medicine technology program. Either through their associate degree program or after graduation, aspiring nuclear medicine technologists need to attain professional certification. The more extensive work history and specialized skills a nuclear medicine technologist acquires, the greater their earning potential. 

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Required degree – Associate Degree in Diagnostic Sonography

Median Salary – $72,000

Career Description

Another of the best associate degree jobs in the healthcare industry is diagnostic medical sonographer. 

While nuclear medicine technologists use radioactive materials for medical imaging, diagnostic medical sonographers use sound. In diagnostic medical sonography, special imaging equipment projects sound waves to create images of the organs and tissues inside a patient’s body.

The images diagnostic medical sonographers produce are called ultrasounds or sonograms. One of the most well-known examples of the work of diagnostic medical sonographers is allowing an expecting mother to see early-development pictures of her child. 

Medical professionals use the images generated through diagnostic medical sonography testing to diagnose patients. Diagnostic medical sonographers may also assist doctors in performing other diagnostic tests and medical procedures, such as ultrasound-guided biopsies. 

The median annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers exceeds $70,000. Pursuing specialization can help you maximize your earning potential in a diagnostic medical sonography career.

The diagnostic medical sonography specializations that can boost your annual salary the most include: 

  • Abdomen
  • Breast
  • Vascular
  • Cardiac 

highest paying associate degree jobs - diagnostic sonographer

Career Requirements

An associate degree in diagnostic sonography program can help you get started in this career. Associate degrees are sufficient for entry-level roles as diagnostic medical sonographers and to begin working toward certification in this field. 

After earning your associate degree, you can start building a work history in an area of specialization that interests you. Some associate’s degree programs offer courses or areas of concentration in one or more specializations. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Magnetic Imaging Resonance Technology 

Median Salary – $71,000

Career Description

Along with diagnostic medical sonographers and nuclear medicine technologists, magnetic resonance imaging technologists are healthcare professionals who can qualify for their career with only an associate degree. 

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a type of diagnostic tests used to create images of the inside of the body. In magnetic resonance imaging, high-tech scanners create high-detail images of the inside of the body. What makes diagnostic tests using magnetic resonance imaging different from other imaging technology is the use of high-power magnetic waves to create the image.

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists are also called MRI technicians. MRI technicians operate magnetic resonance imaging equipment to help doctors reach diagnoses and develop a patient treatment plan. 

Career Requirements

An associate’s degree is the most common path to a career in magnetic resonance imaging. Before magnetic resonance imaging technologists can qualify for full-time employment, they often need to acquire professional certification.

Web Developer

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Computer Science 

Median Salary – $70,000

Career Description

Web developers bring websites to life.

Web developers bring websites to life. Responsibilities web developers encompass the design and installation of complex website functionalities, including: 
  • Social functionalities
  • Data hosting
  • Media sharing

There are so many different web programming avenues that it is difficult to master them all. The most popular programming languages for web development include HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Most web developers specialize in web development using one or two of these languages. 

Career Requirements

For web developers, success has more to do with skills and results than a formal degree. There is no set degree path for web development. This career path is highly flexible. Some web developers have no formal education, while others have a graduate degree. 

Earning an associate degree is a great way to prepare for this career path. An associate degree in computer science equips students with the skills they need to get started without requiring as much time or financial investment as a bachelor’s degree. For prospective web developers, the most effective associate’s degree to pursue will be a program in computer science with a focus on web development.

Earning potential for web developers depends on how effectively they master programming languages to become able to build the desired websites and functionalities. Median annual salary for web developers also depends on the extent to which they focus on front-end or back-end development. Web developers who master both approaches enjoy a massive jump in salary (see our entry on full-stack engineering above). 

Engineering Technologist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Engineering Technology 

Median Annual Salary – $67,000

Career Description

Careers in the engineering services pay well and have the potential for high job satisfaction. Unfortunately, you can’t be an engineer with only an associate degree; you would need at least a bachelor’s degree. You can, however, leverage an associate degree to work as an engineering technician or technologist. 

An engineering technologist takes engineering into the mainstream. Engineering technicians implement complex engineering principles or techniques into products or organizations. Engineering technicians may help the manufacturers improve their products. For example, an engineering technician may help a coffee machine manufacturer make their product quieter, faster, less wasteful and more affordable to produce. 

Being able to apply engineering technologies to a variety of products, processes and organizations is a skill in high demand. Any industry that might benefit from the creative problem-solving of an engineer may employ engineering technicians. 

Engineering technologists work in an astounding variety of environments and disciplines of engineering. Electronics engineering technicians work with electronic and electrical equipment and bring to fruition the designs of electrical engineers. Mechanical engineering technicians work with mechanical engineers. Environmental engineering technicians support the work of environmental engineers. Aerospace engineering technicians support the work of aerospace engineers. 

Several types of engineering technicians have landed individual sports on our list of the highest-paying associate degree jobs. 

highest paying associate degrees jobs - engineering technicians

Career Requirements

Either an associate’s degree program or a bachelor’s program can prepare students for entry-level technician careers in the engineering technologies. Starting with an associate degree allows engineering technicians to more quickly acquire entry-level skills that they can apply to work in the engineering services. From there, engineering technicians can either pursue bachelor’s degrees or build their expertise through work experience and on-the-job training. 

The more advanced and specialized skills engineering technicians possess, the higher their annual salary. 

Applied Behavior Analysis Assistant

Required Degree – Bachelor’s / Board Certified BCaBA Certification

Median Salary – $65,000

Career Description

Behavior analysis is a massive industry. Professionals in this field work in industries ranging from sports to the medical field to corporate human resources. 

A sub-specialization of this profession is applied behavior analysis. Board-Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs) are trained to evaluate behavior according to very specific testing procedures and protocols.

Some applied behavior analysis assistants work with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in private healthcare facilities, monitoring behavior and analyzing test results. Others work in hospitals, administering tests to patients with brain trauma. BCaBAs may also work in a consulting capacity. They may, for example, assist in testing the results of a new drug or supplement intended to alter brain function. 

Career Requirements

You need more than an associate degree for this career path. A Board-Certified Assistant Applied Behavior Analyst must have at least a bachelor’s degree. That degree, however, can be in any discipline.

Despite the need for a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree is an excellent starting place for a BCaBA career. Because a specific major isn’t required, it’s easy to transfer from an associate degree program at a community college to a bachelor’s program (in any major) at a four-year school. If you want to qualify for the BCaBA credential, you need to complete an accredited BCaBA certification course and pass the certification exam. 

Electronics Engineering Technologist 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Engineering Technology in Electronics Technology

Median Salary – $64,000

Career Description

Electronics engineering technology is one of the specialized fields of engineering technology. Electronic engineering technicians focus onelectronic and electrical engineering technology. Electronics engineering technicians and electrical engineering technicians work closely with electronics engineers and electrical engineers, respectively. They assist in the design and development of electronic components and devices, including instrument panels and other types of electronic and electrical engineering technology. 

If you’re wondering why electronics engineering technicians and electrical engineering technicians rank lower on our list than engineering technicians in general, it’s because that category encompasses a variety of specialized engineering technicians. Some of these roles in engineering technology are harder to obtain, and thus more lucrative, than others.

Still, electronics engineering technicians and electrical engineering technicians are well-compensated for their work. A degree in electronics and electrical engineering technology remains one of the highest-paying associate degrees. Electronics engineering technicians can earn even higher annual salaries if they specialize in certain types of electronics engineering – particularly industrial electronics. 

Career Requirements

For aspiring electronics engineering technicians who already have a background in working on electrical systems, little or no further formal schooling is necessary. Trained electricians often make the switch to roles as electronics engineering technicians. Earning an associate degree in engineering technology is a good option for aspiring engineering technicians who still need to develop their electrical skills and cultivate a background in electrical work. 

Avionics Technology Technician

Degree Requirements – Associate Degree in Avionics, Aeronautics or Aviation Electronics Technology

Median Salary – $64,000

Career Description

Another of the highest paying associate degree jobs is avionics technician. The avionics technician salary of $64,000 lands this occupation a spot on our rankings list. 

Aviation technology encompasses the operation and maintenance of aircraft. Work in the field of aviation technology may include aircraft navigation equipment and aircraft structures. 

The broad responsibilities of avionics technicians are similar to a mechanic but focus on planes and aircraft. The exact duties of the avionics technician profession vary from technician to technician. Factors that affect the job duties of an avionics technician include the type of certification they hold. This certification establishes which types of aircraft avionics technicians are qualified to work on and what maintenance methods they can employ. 

Even entry-level avionics technicians enjoy solid annual salaries. The more certifications avionics technicians hold and the more extensive their level of specialization, the higher their earning potential. With an extensive work history and professional credentials, avionics technicians can earn six-figure annual salaries. 

Career Requirements

Before you start working toward a career as an avionics technician, you need to make some choices. What type of machines do you want to work with? What maintenance methods would you like to develop skills in? Answering these questions is the first step to deciding what certifications you need for the avionics maintenance work you would like to do. 

Fast-paced aviation maintenance technology certification programs can train new mechanics to enter the job market as quickly as possible. If you don’t already have a background in using aviation software, though, you may need some more extensive training. Associate degrees are popular career preparation paths for avionics technicians, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. 

Cardiovascular Technologist

Required DegreeAssociate Degree in Cardiovascular Technology

Median Salary – $64,000

Career Description

As our list has shown, the medical field encompasses several of the highest-paying associate degree jobs. Cardiovascular technologists are among these careers. 

Heart disease is a major problem around the world. Cardiovascular physicians – heart doctors – use a number of diagnostic approaches to assess a patient’s heart health and develop treatment plans. At the center of this effort are cardiovascular technologists.

Cardiovascular technicians, or cardiovascular techs, offer critical support to physicians making decisions about patient care. Computer software, diagnostic instruments and medical imaging technology are among the tools and methods cardiovascular technologists use to provide cardiologists and other healthcare providers with the information they need about a patient’s heart health. 

Cardiovascular techs usually work in hospitals. They can also work in research facilities that target the development of new medical technology.

Career Requirements

To land a job as a cardiovascular technician, you need the right professional certifications. Cardiovascular technologists may pursue these certifications in the course of earning an associate degree in cardiovascular technology or as a separate endeavor. 

Most cardiovascular technologists prepare for this role in the healthcare industry through an associate’s program in cardiovascular technology.

Cardiovascular tech is a profitable career for workers with only an associate degree. Cardiovascular technologists who specialize report the highest earnings. Areas of specialization for cardiovascular technologists include cardiac catheterization, electrocardiogram (EKG) testing and pulmonary function. 

Electro-Mechanical Technician

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Electro-Mechanics 

Median Salary – $64,000

Career Description

The electro-mechanical technician salary in the range of $60,000 lands this career a spot among the highest-paying associate degree jobs. 

The field of electromechanics is concerned with designing, maintaining, and operating mechanical equipment.

Recent developments in the industry have shifted the market’s focus. Today, electro-mechanical technicians operate unmanned, automated and robotic electromechanical equipment. 

Electro-mechanical technicians make sure machines and mechanical equipment are working properly. If these machines are not working, electro-mechanical technicians implement action plans to fix them. 

Technicians with a background in electro-mechanical technology find work in a variety of environments. Any environment that utilizes machines or mechanical equipment may have a need for skilled electro-mechanical technicians. 

As an electro-mechanical technician cultivates work experience and specialized skills, they can move up in this career. 

Career Requirements

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common background of entry-level electro-mechanical technicians is an associate degree. Electro-mechanics is the most relevant field o study for this high-paying career. Other career options include professional diploma programs, apprenticeships and bachelor’s programs in electro-mechanics. 

Crane Operator

Required Degree – Apprenticeship; Journeyman Certification

Median Salary – $63,000

Career Description

You could make a career out of operating equipment used for construction and heavy lifting. Crane operator may seem like a straightforward career, but operating heavy machinery can be dangerous. A two-year college program can help prepare you for this occupation, which is one of the highest-paying associate degree jobs. 

Crane operators work in a variety of settings but most commonly on large-scale construction sites. The heavy responsibilities – and risks – of operating such large pieces of machinery are what make the median annual salary for crane operators so high. With more experience, crane operators can become qualified to take on jobs that require higher levels of skill and operate more highly technical equipment. This allows them to work on higher-paying jobs and bring home more money. 

highest paying associate degree jobs

Career Requirements

There aren’t a lot of hoops to jump through to prepare for career in crane operation. As long as you have a high school diploma, you can pursue a crane operation apprenticeship program or associate degree at a local community college. This education allows you to earn your Journeyman certificate. From there, crane operators looking to expand their skill set can develop their capabilities through on-the-job training. You can also enroll in specialized apprenticeship programs and professional development courses offered by unions. 

Network Administrator 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Network Administration

Median Salary – $62,000

Career Description

The computer technology field is home to yet another of the highest-paying associate degrees: network administration. 

Network administrators set up, maintain and troubleshoot computer network connections. Businesses and organizations in all industries rely on a computer network for both internal and external operations and communications. By solving network problems – both in the troubleshooting sense and the sense of planning to meet organizations’ computer network needs – network administrators play an important role in keeping organizations running smoothly. 

Network administrators may work in any setting where computer systems and a computer network are found. Some network administrators work in groups with other information technology professionals. Others work independently. The technical skills to solve network problems and manage computer systems are essential to success in this role. Soft skills matter, too. Most employers prefer to hire network administrators who have strong communication skills and work well with others. 

Network administration is a highly skill-based profession. Although the median annual salary for this job is high, compensation depends on having expertise you can demonstrate. Enhancing your skill set can improve your earning potential as a network administrator. 

Career Requirements

Many network administrators gain the skills necessary for this field through a four-year college education. Some network administrators even go on to pursue graduate education. Not every tech-savvy student is ready to commit to a four-year degree. The good news is that you don’t have to. What’s most important for network administrators isn’t a formal degree but rather the ability to complete the tasks of network administration. 

Earning an associate degree in network administration is a great way to test the waters. You can find out if you like the field and gain the basic technical skills needed for entry-level work managing computer networks. An associate degree is a particularly good choice if you already have some relevant work experience or if you have a natural aptitude for working with computers. 

Insurance Adjuster

Required Degree – Insurance Adjuster Certification 

Median Salary – $62,000

Career Description

The insurance industry remains strong as ever. Life is chaotic, plans often go awry, and disasters happen. Insurance claims are constantly and consistently flowing in, regardless of economic factors. Insurance claims adjusters manage these claims. That makes the insurance adjuster career in consistently high demand. 

Insurance adjusters work closely with policyholders and claimants. They handle claims and oversee the review of insurance policy documents and the progression of the claims process. 

The insurance adjustor career is best for detail-oriented professionals. Successful insurance adjusters are equally comfortable working with numbers and financial calculations and with individuals in a state of crisis. 

The older generation is steadily retiring out of this position. The result is an increase in opportunities for new adjusters and established claims adjusters eyeing promotions. 

Career Requirements

The requirements to become an insurance claims adjuster vary by state. In some states, a high school graduate can start this career immediately. Other states require a certification process. After attaining certification, you may need to complete continuing education credits on a regular basis. 

Many insurance adjusters have a bachelor’s degree, but this isn’t a strict requirement. An associate’s degree may be the perfect middle ground. This formal education helps you develop stronger skills in communication and critical thinking while setting you apart from candidates with only a high school diploma. At the same time, you aren’t investing four years of study, plus the high cost of tuition at a four-year school, into earning a degree that isn’t strictly necessary. 

Respiratory Therapist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy

Median Salary – $60,000

Career Description

The respiratory therapist salary of $60,000 makes an associate in respiratory therapy degree one of the highest-paying associate degrees. 

Respiratory therapist specialize in the health of human lungs. These medical professionals diagnose illnesses and diseases that arise in the lungs and provide respiratory care.

Generally, respiratory therapists help physicians assess patients’ lung health. They help correct conditions that affect respiration (breathing) through respiratory therapy. In the course fo their work, a respiratory therapist uses resources like the following: 

  • Diagnostic medical tools
  • Specialized equipment 
  • Computer software

In the course of providing respiratory therapy, a respiratory therapist must keep detailed records of patient care. They may also teach patients how to use devices like inhalers, nebulizers and other home respiratory therapy equipment. 

Respiratory therapists may work in any environment that requires providing respiratory care to patients. Possible work settings for a respiratory therapist include doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, research facilities, retirement homes and rehab facilities. 

highest paying associate degree jobs - respiratory therapist

Career Requirements

An associate degree in respiratory therapy is the most common level of education for these healthcare professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The main predictor of salary for respiratory therapists is work experience. By building a strong work history in the field and an area of specialization, you can improve your salary potential. 

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy

Median Salary – $60,000

Career Description

Another healthcare professionals career available with an associate degree is occupational therapy assistant. 

Occupational therapists help disabled patients who are struggling to manage the responsibilities of daily life. Examples of the kinds of patients who can benefit from occupational therapy include: 

  • Individuals recovering from traumatic injuries like broken bones or brain injuries
  • Stroke patients
  • Children who have a disability
  • Elderly patients who have trouble with certain physical tasks

After a serious injury or illness, the road to recovery can be long and arduous. Some patients never make a full recovery. For them, the goal of occupational therapy may be to learn how to function as independently as possible despite their limitations. 

Occupational therapists provide therapy through which patients can regain skills they have lost and build new skills. Occupational therapy assistants support patients in their therapy. They may teach patients to perform therapeutic stretches and movements or to use tools that allow for more independent living. Occupational therapist may help patients perform physical stretches and therapeutic exercises that they can’t do on their own. 

Career Requirements

Becoming an occupational therapist requires many years of study and a doctorate. Roles as occupational therapy assistants are ideal if you want a career in occupational therapy but aren’t eager to spend so many years in school. Occupational therapy assistants need only an associate degree to get started in this career. 

As occupational therapy assistants gain experience, their annual salary goes up. Another way to boost your income as an occupational therapy assistant is to pursue specialization. Occupational therapy assistants can specialize through either formal education programs or through building out their work history in one or more areas of expertise. 

Criminal Justice Professional

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

Median Salary – $59,000

Career Description

Criminal justice professionals work in several different roles in America’s legal system. Examples of criminal justice jobs include: 

  • Police officer, who enforces laws
  • Criminal investigator, who solves crimes 
  • Crime scene technician, who collects and analyzes crime scene evidence to assist in law enforcement investigations

The most lucrative positions are those that demand a specialized skill set. For example, entry-level pay rates are similar for private investigators and crime scene technicians. In both careers, professionals with advanced expertise can earn six-figure salaries. 

Career Requirements

Specific median annual salary amounts and career requirements vary from one role or industry to another. In general, though, what students learn in an associate degree in criminal justice program prepares them for a variety of roles in this field. An associate degree is a quicker and more affordable path to a criminal justice career than a bachelor’s degree. 

Depending on how you want to use your associate degree in criminal justice, you may want to pursue specialized skills and knowledge. An aspiring private investigator might consider specializing in fraud investigation. A crime scene investigator should specialize in forensic science and take courses in forensic evidence analysis. 

Physical Therapy Assistant 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Physical Therapy 

Median Salary – $58,000

Career Description

Physical therapy covers all manner of physical rehabilitation. Some of the types of patients who can benefit from physical therapy include: 

  • Patients who were born with disabilities
  • Patients recovering from an illness or a traumatic injury
  • Older patients who have sustained injuries and physical damage as they have aged 

Highly educated physical therapists put together a treatment plan and oversee the patient’s progress. They rely on physical therapy assistants to help them implement therapeutic exercises in the patient’s care. 

Physical therapy assistants, like physical therapists, work in hospitals, private physical rehabilitation facilities and physician offices. Physical therapy assistants collaborate with managing physical therapists, physicians and other medical professionals involved in the patient’s care. 

highest paying associate degree jobs - physical therapy assistant

Career Requirements

Physical therapists need a doctorate. You can become a physical therapy assistant with only an associate degree. Even if you want to become a fully-certified physical therapist eventually, an associate degree in physical therapy is a good starting place. The degree prepares you with a strong foundation for advanced studies later and the skills to work as a physical therapy assistant in the meantime. 

Not all physical therapy assistants want to become physical therapists. Suppose you want to maximize your earning potential as a physical therapy assistant. The best-paying roles in this career require a high level of specialized expertise. Consider taking continuing education courses and looking for other professional opportunities to develop specialized skills in an area like pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health, oncology or acute care. 

Mechanical Engineering Technician

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Mechanical Engineering 

Median Salary – $56,000

Career Description

Mechanical engineers technicians work side-by-side with mechanical engineers. The role of mechanical engineering technicians is to assist in the designing, manufacturing, and testing of mechanical devices.

Skills in mechanical engineering technology qualify workers for roles in industries like the following: 

  • Engineering services
  • Aerospace engineering and operations 
  • The automotive industry 
  • The chemicals in ustry 
  • The construction industry
  • The marine equipment industry 
  • The materials and metals industry 
  • The defense industries 

How much a mechanical engineering technician or mechanical engineering technologist will earn depends on their work experience and level of specialized skills. The median annual salary for mechanical engineering technicians, in the mid-$50,000 range, represents a considerable income for a job with only an associate degree. 

Career Requirements

You need at least an associate degree to begin your career as a mechanical engineering technician. Mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology is the most relevant major for this career. Many mechanical engineering technicians pursue further education by earning bachelor’s degrees or graduate degrees. However, a higher level of education is not required.

Even with only an associate degree, mechanical engineering technicians can advance their careers. Mechanical engineering technicians can improve their career prospects and annual salary by developing technical skills outside of college studies. Your best option for expanding your skills may be an apprenticeship for mechanical engineering technicians. Apprenticeships in mechanical engineering technology typically focus on the skills that are most lucrative and in high demand. 

Farm Manager 

Degree Required – Associate Degree in Agriculture

Median Salary – $56,000

Career Description

Among the best careers in industrial farming is farm manager. Farm managers oversee farming operations on mid- to large-sized farms. They supervise the work of large teams of farm workers. 

Entry-level farm managers earn a decent annual salary. Earning potential increases with seniority and experience. Top-tier salaries compensate mid- to high-level farm managers, who have a great deal of experience and expertise, very well. 

Career Requirements

It’s possible for experienced farm workers to advance to a farm manager role without further education. However, developing a base of agricultural knowledge through formal study is valuable, particularly for newcomers to the farming industry. An associate degree in agriculture is a great place to start. Some associate degree programs include specialized coursework in industrial farming. 

Industrial Technologist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Industrial Engineering

Median Salary – $55,000

Career Description

Industrial technologists use engineering principles to inform industrial manufacturing processes. Another term for industrial technologists is industrial engineering technician. 

Industrial engineering technicians work with assembly line engineers and other types of industrial engineers concerned with the manufacturing process.

Industrial technologists are essentially the creative problem solvers of the manufacturing industry. If an assembly line needs a bump in efficiency, the manufacturing company might consult industrial engineering technicians. An automobile plant that needs to reduce carbon emissions would ask in-house or consulting industrial engineering technicians to explore its options. 

Career Requirements

For industrial engineering technicians, job requirements vary widely from industry to industry. Specialized knowledge in an industrial engineering technician’s desired field is essential. To work in a car assembly operation, for example, an industrial engineering technician needs specialized knowledge of the automobile industry. 

Many industrial engineering associate’s degree programs offer the opportunity for such specialization. An associate degree in industrial engineering can also help an industrial engineering technician keep their career options open. Industrial engineering technicians who go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the field can eventually qualify as industrial engineers. 

Drafting & Design Technologist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Drafting and Design

Median Salary – $55,000

Career Description

Architects and engineers are busy people. They often outsource parts of their job to specialized contractors like drafting and design technologists. 

Drafting and design technologists draft a design according to an architect or engineer’s specifications. Working as a drafting and design technologist requires specialized skills in design and the use of computer-aided design software and 3D modeling software. Drafters also need to know the basics of engineering and architecture. 

Drafting documents is part of several disciplines of engineering. For example, mechanical drafters work under mechanical engineers and draft designs for machines and mechanical equipment. Electrical drafters work in electrical engineering and draft the designs of electrical systems. No matter what discipline they work in, drafting and design technologists must quickly and efficiently draft various blueprints for presentations, pitches or to be handed off to another team.

Despite entry-level salaries that are merely average, drafting and design technologists can earn hefty salaries after demonstrating success in their field. 

highest paying associate degree jobs

Career Requirements

Drafting and design school takes multiple forms. Associate degree programs in drafting and design are the most common entry point into the career. Associate degrees in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and civil engineering are also common. 

Drafting and design technologists eyeing more advanced roles might go on to pursue bachelor’s and graduate programs. 

Speech-Language Pathology Assistant

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Speech Pathology

Median Salary – $55,000

Career Description

Speech pathologists help their clients overcome speech impediments and other barriers to effective communication. A master’s degree is necessary for becoming a speech pathologist. However, the barriers to entry for a speech pathology assistant are much lower. 

Speech-language pathologist assistants often have many of the same responsibilities as fully-accredited speech pathologists. However, legal regulations prohibit these support personnel from working with patients in a one-on-one capacity. Rather, speech pathology assistants work under the supervision of a licensed speech-language pathologist and support their efforts. 

Career Requirements

A number of speech-language pathology assistant associate degree programs are accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). 

(Learn more about what degree you need to be a speech therapist.)

Architectural-Engineering Design Technologist

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Architectural and Engineering Technology

Median Salary – $54,000

Career Description

What happens after a professional drafter draws up design plans based on an architect or engineer’s specs? An architectural-engineering design technologist converts these initial design plans into a technical document. Architectural and engineering design technologists usually focus on a subset of the design process. For example, and architectural-engineering design technologist might specialize in area like the following: 

  • Structure and foundation design
  • Fire and safety systems
  • Anti-intruder system design

Technologists who specialize in different areas of the design process need to master different kinds of advanced computer-aided design software. 

Career Requirements

An associate degree in architectural and engineering technology is an excellent starting point for this career. Specialized skills are important for design technologists, so focus your school search on an architectural-engineering design technology associate’s program that offers courses in your preferred specializations. Proficiency with the most in-demand computer-aided design software qualifies these professionals to bring home higher salaries. 

Petroleum Technician

Required Degree – Associate in Applied Science in Geological Science

Median Salary – $53,000

Career Description

The industry concerned with extracting natural resources from our planet is a divisive one. Still, the petroleum and natural gas industry is home to some of the highest-paying career paths. 

One career option in this industry for those with only an associate degree is petroleum technician. Geological and petroleum technicians assist geological engineers and petroleum scientists in the extraction of these resources. The most lucrative of these resources is petroleum. 

Geological and petroleum technicians are deployed all over the world, from remote forest ranges to offshore deep-ocean rigs. The responsibilities of geological and petroleum technicians vary by role. In many roles, the job duties have geological and petroleum technicians spending a great deal of time outdoors. Still, some geological and petroleum technicians perform job duties more in line with a typical office job. 

Career Requirements

How do you get started in the field of petroleum technology? 

Not all petroleum technicians have formal schooling. However, students with at least some college education have the best odds of success. An associate degree is a quick and affordable option for preparing for a role as a petroleum technician. 

Associate degree programs focused exclusively on petroleum technology are few and far between. Instead, consider focusing your school search on community colleges that offer an Associate of Applied Science program in geological science. 

With an established work history and the ongoing development of specialized skills, you can move up in this career even if you never pursue a higher level of education. In fact, geological and petroleum technicians who keep taking on promotions may, in time, find themselves leaving technician-level roles behind. The earning potential and vertical mobility make the petroleum technician career one of the best entry-level jobs in the petroleum-extraction job market.

Civil Engineering Technician

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Civil Engineering Technology

Median Salary – $52,000

Career Description

Civil engineers plan, design and build all the various components of infrastructure. Examples of work in civil engineering include: 

  • Bridges
  • Building structures
  • Highways
  • Land development 

Civil engineering projects are enormous. Just collecting the necessary measurements requires a team of professionals such as civil engineering technicians. 

Civil engineering technicians assist civil engineers and other physical scientists in a wide range of duties. The work of civil engineering technicians supports professional engineers in completing civil engineering contracts in a timely manner.

Civil engineering technicians develop specialized skills in engineering technology. Civil engineering technicians may pursue further education and become full-fledged civil engineers. The more experienced roles in civil engineering technology are lucrative careers in their own right. 

Career Requirements

If you want your earning potential to approach the median annual salary for civil engineering technicians, you will probably need an associate degree in engineering technology. Ideally, you will focus your school search on programs that offer a civil engineering focus or that emphasize skills in the engineering technologies that are in high demand. Having specialized expertise in this career path boosts your annual salary potential. 

Electrical Technician

Required Degree – Associate of Science in Electrical Technology 

Median Salary – $52,000

Career Description

Working on electrical systems can be lucrative. In addition to electrician and roles in electrical engineering, you might consider a career as an electrical technologist or electrical technician. 

Electrical technicians and technologists master the operation and maintenance of electrical equipment. Their skills in electrical technology are in high demand across the electrician job market. Electrical technicians report impressive starting salaries. Earning potential soars as electrical technicians build expertise and work experience. 

Career Requirements

An Associate of Science or Applied Science in electrical technology is an excellent starting point for an electrical technician career. Upon graduation from an associate degree program in electrical technology, you will be prepared for on entry-level technician jobs. To give yourself the best chance of acquiring promotions (and salary increases), look for programs that allow you to specialize in machine maintenance or the operation of highly technical machinery. 

Demolitions Operative

Required Degree – Demolitions Apprenticeship or Associate Degree in Construction Management Technology

Median Salary – $51,000

Career Description

Have you ever seen a video recording of a building’s demolition? Did you wonder what kind of professionals were involved in such a feat?

The demolition of a building takes weeks, months, or even years of preparation. Demolitions operatives make a career out of preparing for building demolitions. 

Demolitions operative roles fit into the following categories: 

  • A laborer puts up safety screens, removes hazards and separates building materials on site.
  • A mattock dismantles various parts of the building, such roofing, doors and windows
  • A topman oversees laborers and mattocks and instructs demolitions operatives in safe practice

Demolition is a potentially dangerous job. Safety concerns are ever-present, and following safety protocols is essential. As such, employers reward seniority more among demolition workers than in most other professions. Even so, entry-level salaries in this field reflect the risks and the need for caution. 

Career Requirements

There are few barriers to entry for entry-level demolitions operative roles. Technical skills are valuable, but safety training is the most important preparation for the career. Many demolition workers prepare for the role through a quick and affordable demolitions apprenticeship. If you want a formal degree, consider an associate’s program in construction management technology. 

Solar Technician 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Solar Technology

Median Salary – $51,000

Career Description

The technology used to harness the power of the sun and convert it into usable energy has become more prevalent. These innovations have also generated new jobs. 

Solar technicians manage this newly developed solar technology. Another term for solar technicians is solar photovoltaic installers. Solar technicians assemble, install and maintain solar technology equipment. 

Much of a solar technician’s work takes place outdoors. Solar technicians must work on rooftops, so this role isn’t a good fit if you have a fear of heights. The largest contracts for solar technicians often require traveling. 

Career Requirements

Earning an Associate of Science in Solar Technology degree, along with gaining work experience, can help qualify you for the highest-paying jobs in the field. Solar technicians who take on more technically demand jobs enjoy salaries much higher than the median annual salary for the profession. 

Another degree option to consider is an Associate of Applied Science with a focus on electrical technology. 

Environmental Engineering Technician

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Environmental Engineering Technology

Median Salary – $50,000

Career Description

Are you passionate about the environment and environmental cleanup efforts? Consider a career as an environmental engineering technician. Environmental engineering technicians support the work of environmental engineers. An environmental engineering technician’s primary job duty is to help put environmental engineers’ plans into action. 

Environmental engineers use specialized engineering skills in the service of two major goals: 

  • Protecting humans from negative outcomes associated with the environment around them, such as flooding and volcanoes
  • Protecting the environment from negative outcomes associated with human habitation, such as pollution

Environmental engineering encompasses several areas. Environmental engineering technicians may be involved in relocating endangered species. Some environmental engineering technicians focus on fortifying dams or flood zones. Others are working to reverse carbon emissions from large manufacturing operations. Environmental engineering technicians’ possible job duties may include facilitating environmental cleanup, collecting specimens and samples for research and recording data. 

The best compensation packages in environmental engineering technology careers tend to accompany the jobs that require the most travel or are associated with greater risks. 

Career Requirements

To get started as an environmental engineering technician, you should complete an associate’s degree program in environmental engineering technology. The more you are able to specialize your knowledge and technical skills, both during your environmental engineering technology education and on the job, the better your earning potential. 


Required Degree – Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies

Median Salary – $50,000

Career Description

The legal system in America has created some of the most lucrative careers available in the job market: attorney. While attorneys make the big bucks, many of the daily responsibilities of handling legal matters now fall upon legal professionals known as paralegals.

Paralegals are also called legal assistants. Legal assistants and paralegals assist lawyers with duties like the following: 

  • Conducting research
  • Organizing filings
  • Drafting legal documents

Legal assistants work closely with lawyers, judges and legal analysts. Although many legal assistants work in law firms, paralegals can also work for government agencies, insurance companies and nonprofit organizations. 

The median annual salary for legal assistants doesn’t tell the full story of how much these legal professionals can earn. Veteran paralegals who take on managerial duties can bring in six-figure salaries. Who knew you could earn so much just to assist lawyers? 

Career Requirements

Most paralegals today have a college degree, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. An Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies is among the best paths for career preparation. This specialized degree program provides aspiring legal assistants with basic knowledge of the legal process, effective research methods and the writing of legal documents. An associate degree is a quicker and more affordable option for aspiring legal assistants than a bachelor’s degree. It also sets the stage for further study if desired. Industry experience and further education qualify legal assistants for the most lucrative paralegal roles. 

Learn more about what degree you need to be a paralegal.

Web Designer 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Web Development, Graphic Design or Computer Science 

Median Salary – $50,000

Career Description

Designing a website requires both technical skill and artistic flair. The demand for sleek and effective website design has prompted strong job growth. This means the job market for web design professionals looks promising for years to come.

Successful web designers may move to larger marketing or design agencies with strong compensation potential or open their own web design firms.

Even entry-level web designers can bring home a great starting salary of around $50,000. A-list web designers with experience and proven results can bring home jaw-dropping salaries. 


Career Requirements

Whether you’re dabbling in web design as a side hustle or looking to lock in a full-time career, an associate’s degree is a great place to start. Web design is a profession where success depends on skills and outcome rather than your level of education. Earning an associate’s degree allows you do develop skills in web development, programming and design fast, with minimal cost. 

Possible majors for an aspiring web designer include: 

  • Web development
  • Web programming
  • Graphic design
  • UX/UI design
  • Computer science 

Bachelor’s degrees are common in this field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. However, they aren’t required. In fact, some industry pundits have suggested that web designers are better off building specialized skills on their own. Options for developing these skills include attending professional boot camps and pursuing increasingly specialized contract work.

Biomedical Engineering Technician

Required Degree – Professional Certification or Associate’s in Biomedicine or Biomedical Engineering 

Median Salary – $49,000

Career Description

Medical technology continues to evolve. Examples of biomedical technology include lab-grown organs, microscopic laser surgery and nanomedicine technology. As biomedical engineers invent more mind-blowing and futuristic medical equipment, they create a need for specialists to operate this equipment.

Biomedical technicians install, operate, and repair highly technical biomedical equipment. These technicians and medical equipment repairers need to be highly qualified. Biomedical engineering technicians use cutting-edge medical equipment to run medical tests and perform medical procedures ordered by a physician. 

Entry-level salaries for biomedical engineering technicians represent a decent starting wage for operating medical equipment. However, the real appeal is in the long-term value of this career path. With a strong work history, experienced biomedical engineering technicians and medical equipment repairers enjoy much higher salaries. Some of the highest-paying jobs for biomedical technology professionals are in managerial positions. 

Career Requirements

One of the quickest and most affordable paths to the biomedical engineering technician career is an associate degree. An associate degree in biomedical technology equips you with both the professional certification required for this role and a well-rounded base of college-level knowledge, all in just two years.

Choose an associate degree program that aligns with your interests. For example, some programs prioritize certification in computer diagnostic equipment. Other programs focus on certification in the operation of electronic medical equipment.

Plumbing Technician 

Required Degree – High School Diploma and Apprenticeship or Associate Degree in Plumbing Technology

Median Salary – $49,000

Career Description

If you’ve never considered the plumbing profession before, now’s the perfect time to think it over. Plumbing as an industry is notoriously understaffed yet easy to get into. Between the demand for new plumbers and a growing need for highly specialized plumbers, the median salary for this field has increased. Established plumbers, too, have benefited from this increase in earning potential. 

Plumbers handle residential calls to fix the occasional drippy sink or leaking pipe at people’s homes, but that’s not all they do. The real money is in industrial plumbing contracts. Experienced plumbing technicians earn high salaries for traveling around the country to perform installations and maintenance on large industrial farms, water processing plants and construction job sites. 

Career Requirements

Another selling point of the plumbing technician career is the minimal job preparation required. Many plumbing technicians develop their skills exclusively through on-site job training. Trade apprenticeships are common ways of gaining technical skills, including specialized skills. You might also opt to pursue an associate degree in plumbing technology. 

Plumbing technology and best practices keep evolving. To be qualified to land the highest compensation packages, plumbing technicians must keep developing their skills and knowledge throughout their careers.

Licensed Practical Nurse 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Nursing (LPN)

Median Salary – $48,000

Career Description

The medical industry in America is in dire need of more nursing professionals. There’s never been a better time to become a nurse. The easiest type of nurse to become is licensed practical nurse (LPN). 

Nursing professionals work in a variety of medical settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehab facilities

Nurses do a little bit of everything. They provide hands-on patient care. They prepare patients for medical tests and treatments and educate patients on what to expect. They administer medications, injections and treatments. Nurses keep detailed records of patient progress and status. They may also teach patients to manage their medical conditions. 

The median annual salary for licensed practical nurses is, admittedly, well below the registered nurse salary. Still, the median salary for LPNs can mislead prospective nurses about the value of this career. Licensed practical nurses often take home much more than their stated annual salary by working overtime and holidays. On-call and night-shift positions tend to offer higher salaries, too. Acquiring more work experience can also raise your earning potential as an LPN. 

Career Requirements

You must complete a state-approved LPN training program to start your career as a licensed practical nurse. Although an LPN diploma or professional certification program can satisfy this requirement, we recommend looking into an associate’s degree program. Pursuing an Associate of Licensed Practical Nursing degree provides a more well-rounded education while also preparing you to pass the certification exam. 

RELATED: How Advanced Does My Degree in Nursing Need to Be to Get a Good Job?

Environmental Analyst

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Environmental Studies

Median Salary – $46,000

Career Description

The impact of humans on the environment is a subject of heated debate. Environmental analysts are right at its center. 

Environmental analysts apply a wide range of skills to the investigation of humans’ relationship with the natural world. Jobs in environmental analysis can take many forms. Environmental analysts may work for private environmental consultancy firms, where they gather data on greenhouse gases or climate change. 

Some of the best-paying environmental analyst jobs are for federal government agencies. In positions like fish and game warden or park ranger, an environmental analyst may educate the public and enforce environmental protection laws. 

Career Requirements

The field of environmental studies is broad. It makes sense, then, that there are many paths that can lead to this career. 

If you want to work for a federal agency, consider earning an associate’s of environmental studies with a specialization in policy and regulation. Students who would rather work as environmental researchers or consultants might pursue an associate degree that emphasizes environmental research and the biological sciences. 

RELATED: Highest Paying Jobs With a Biology Degree – Degrees in Biology – Majors & Careers

HVAC Technician 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in HVAC Technology or Electrical Engineering; Apprenticeship

Median Salary – $46,000

Career Description

If you’ve ever had to pay to fix your heater or air conditioning unit, you know there’s plenty of money in this industry. HVAC technology has continually progressed over the years. Skilled professionals are needed to install, maintain, repair and replace these more technically advanced HVAC units.

HVAC technicians are the boots-on-the-ground professionals who keep customers’ HVAC units working as intended. These professionals undergo specific training to work with certain types of units. One relatively simple way HVAC technicians can increase their earning potential is through training in additional types of units. Whether obtained through informal on-the-job training, an apprenticeship or degree, this training qualifies HVAC technicians to take on more demanding (and lucrative) jobs. 

Career Requirements

An apprenticeship can prepare you to jump right into work as an HVAC technician as fast as possible. For the technical skills needed to earn a higher salary, though, consider enrolling in an associate of HVAC technology program. 

Building Technician 

Required Degree – Associate Degree in Carpentry or Associate Degree in Construction Science

Median Salary – $45,000

Career Description

As the name suggests, a building technician specializes in building things. Most building technicians develop skills in carpentry and construction. In residential homes and on construction job sites, building technicians perform repairs, renovations and additions. They also perform related work, such as painting, roofing, and laying tile. 

Building technicians often work for themselves. They charge for their services according to their skill level and professional record. As such, starting to gain work experience as soon as possible is crucial to building up your earning potential. So is developing the skills, including specialized skills, through which you earn your living. 

Career Requirements

Many building technicians start work in this field directly after high school. The most future-minded teenagers start building their skill set by doing odd jobs throughout high school. If you want to target the high compensation available through more demanding projects or by working for larger construction companies, you may need formal career preparation. 

An associate degree in either construction science or carpentry is an ideal choice for aspiring building technicians. Majoring in construction science exposes you to a versatile, general curriculum that will open plenty of doors. An education in carpentry puts you on the path to developing specialized skills, which can be more lucrative. 

Related Resources: 

Top 10 Paying Jobs With an Associate’s Degree

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree?

For Further Reading: 

20 Non-Law Firm Jobs with a Law Degree

Top 10 Highest Paying Engineering Careers

Top 10 Paying Jobs That Involve Math

What Are the 5 Best Careers in Environmental Science?

How Much Can I Make With a Degree in Digital Marketing?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Policy Analyst?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Crime Analyst?

What Is the Benefit of a Degree in Cybersecurity vs. Network Security?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Genetic Engineer?

What Degree Do I Need to Be an Information Technology Specialist?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Private Investigator?

What Are My Degree Choices in Fraud Analysis?