Overview

The cost of a college education varies considerably depending on whether it is a public college, not-for-profit college, or for-profit college, and even within these categories, the tuition differs immensely. For example, there is New Mexico Highlands University at roughly $11,000 for four years or Carleton College in Minnesota at $159,000 for a four year degree program. Higher education can be an expensive undertaking that produces debt for the majority of graduates. However, there is an alternative. You may enroll in a campus or online Associate degree program and graduate in a few as two years. Plus, you will be on your way to earning a respectable salary with the option to continue your education in a Bachelor degree or Master degree program at a later time.

We present ten top paying jobs whose annual salaries were calculated by PayScale, which is the world’s largest database of 54 million individual salary profiles. Recently, Warburg-Pincus invested $100 million in PayScale to bring its combination of real-time data and on-demand enterprise to the challenges of attracting the best talent and getting the most from them. Of course, earnings will vary from one industry to another, whether it is a private or public company. Other incentives and bonuses have not been taken into account. In addition to salary, another significant consideration is the job growth rate. These figures are computed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

1. Management Information Systems

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Management information system, or MIS, broadly refers to a computer-based system that provides managers with the tools to organize, evaluate and efficiently manage departments within an organization. In order to provide past, present and prediction information, a management information system can include software that helps in decision making, data resources such as databases, the hardware resources of a system, decision support systems, people management and project management applications, and any computerized processes that enable the department to run efficiently. The main purpose of the MIS is to give managers feedback about their own performance, allowing top management to monitor the company as a whole. Information displayed by the MIS typically shows “actual” data as compared to “planned” results and results from a year before; thus it measures progress against goals. Hence, MIS emphasizes the “organization,” whereas Computer Science (CS) focuses primarily on software. The former determines business requirements for information systems, the latter (CS) delivers information systems to meet defined requirements.

The curriculum for an associate’s degree program in management information systems incorporates introductory business, finance and technology coursework. Other topics may include: accounting, word processing, database design, and internet applications. In this field of study, there are many choices available online, with several schools offering an Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology (AAS). Major coursework teaches students to evaluate, design, and implement computer systems, understand information technology’s impact on business, and understand technology trends. Graduates become MIS professionals who are the “communication bridge” between business needs and technology. Here’s a sample of MIS jobs:

  • Business Analyst
  • Business Application Developer
  • IT Consultant
  • Systems Analyst
  • Database Administrator
  • Web Developer

Median Salary: $72,100
Job Growth: 15%

2. Construction Management

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Construction Management or Construction Project Management (CPM) is the overall planning, coordination, and control of a project from beginning to completion. CPM is aimed at meeting a client’s requirement in order to produce a functionally and financially viable project. The project could be any of the five construction sectors: residential, commercial, heavy civil, industrial, and environmental. A construction manager holds the same responsibilities and completes the same processes in each sector. All that separates a construction manager in one sector from one in another is the knowledge of the construction site. As the name implies, construction management is ideal for someone who has a general interest in building and design, without the science of structural or civil engineering. Working as a construction manager affords the chance to oversee a construction project from concept to completion– from the planning stage with architects and engineers, to the budgeting stage with cost estimators, to the production stage with laborers.

A typical Associate of Science in Construction Management program is designed to provide students with a well-rounded education by combining a core set of general education courses with specialized courses in construction management. Courses within the program involve topics, such as Cost Estimating, Project Scheduling, and Drawings and Specifications, Building Codes and Inspection, and Green Building Trends. A degree in this discipline may be earned online at schools such as Westwood College that offers a Construction Management Associate Degree. Another consideration is Ferris State University‘s online degree: Associate in Building Construction.  Their course content consists of a balanced curriculum of technical course work in a variety of construction topics including surveying, plan reading,  mechanical and electrical plans and specifications, wood framing, concrete work, estimating and construction administration.

Median Salary: $71,200
Job Growth: 16%

3. Electronics & Communications Engineering

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Electronic communications underpin everyday technologies, from text messaging and air travel to TV and radio. This field of study entails analogue and digital communications, sensors, imaging, control instruments, electronic design, signal processing, telecommunications, and computer networks. Other examples include advanced wavelength-division multiplexing schemes, promising vast reductions in the cost of long-distance data transmission. All these developments have been fueled by advances in communications technology. Plus there the constantly emerging new protocols and coding schemes, new ways to represent video, images and speech as data, new means of delivering this information to users via cable, fiber, and increasingly via radio. These developments are, in turn, based on electronics and communications engineering principles.

Students in an Electronic & Communications Engineering Technology Associate’s degree program learn about the fundamentals of circuit design, voltage, semiconductor devices, theory vs. simulation, transistors, microprocessors and more. The program offered by ITT Technical Institute, for example, exposes students to the theory of various electronics and electrical circuitry. The program balances classroom theory with practical application in a laboratory environment. Though, there are online programs available, this associate’s degree usually involves classroom or online learning coupled with hands-on laboratory experience. Associate degree programs also prepare graduates for entry-level jobs in industries that utilize or produce electronic devices. After graduating, students may be eligible to apply credit toward a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Earning a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering/technology might increase job opportunities and earnings.

Median Salary: $69,600 
Job Growth: 0% 

4. Mechanical Engineering Technology

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Mechanical Engineering Technology is the application of engineering principles and technological developments to the creation of useful machinery or products. 3D models can be made to represent parts and assemblies with Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. Through the application of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), the models may also be used directly by software to create “instructions” for the manufacture of objects represented by the models, or through computer numerically controlled (CNC) machining or other automated processes. Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) coursework is less theoretical, and more application based than a mechanical engineering degree. Since this is more of a hands-on profession. Mechanical engineering technologists are expected to apply current technologies and principals from machine and product design, production and material and manufacturing processes. These processes are applied in various industries from automotive design to refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

Students in an Associate’s Degree program for Mechanical Engineering Technology concentrate on product design. They study the design of products by learning design principles, sketching, and problem solving. They learn how both the engineering materials and manufacturing processes and machines are selected and scheduled in Mechanical Design Technology. Students are exposed to a background of knowledge in such areas as electricity and electronics, metrology (science of measurement) and the measurements of products, manufacturing processes, and tool design. Design is emphasized utilizing the latest in computer drafting technology (CADD). Though this degree seems more suited to classroom instruction, there are online courses offered. For example, Penn Foster College has an online Engineering Technology degree program. Their  curriculum is designed to provide students with the in-depth training to help design, build, troubleshoot, and repair an endless variety of production systems and products.

Median Salary: $69,600
Job Growth: 5%

5. Dental Hygiene

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Most people know what this profession entails: teeth cleaning. However, it is more complex than merely picking and scraping teeth. A dental hygienist is a licensed dental professional who is registered with a dental association or regulatory body within their country of practice. They are a primary healthcare professional who works independent of, or alongside dentists and other dental professionals in a team to provide full oral health care. They have the training and education that focus and specialize in the prevention and treatment of oral disease. They can choose to work in a range of dental settings from independent practice, private practice, specialist practices to public sector; and can also work in residential aged care facilities. The major role of a dental hygienist is to perform periodontal therapy which includes things such periodontal charting, periodontal debridement (scaling and root planing), prophylaxis (preventing disease) for patients with periodontal disease. In addition dental hygienists are able to perform examinations, make diagnosis, take intra-oral radiographs, dental sealants, administer fluoride, and provide patient specific oral hygiene instruction.

An Associate’s degree is adequate to launch yourself into this profession, which can be obtained at numerous schools, such as Pima Medical Institute. Pima has several locations within the United States. This accelerated program does not require prerequisites, so students can earn their degree and start their career quickly. Their curriculum consists of communications; anatomy and physiology; radiography; oral pathology; patient management; special needs patients; dental materials; and periodontics. Students will also take part in labs and have hands-on educational experience creating molds, taking X-rays and interacting with patients. In some states, dental hygienists can administer anesthetics, place and carve filling materials and periodontal dressings, and remove sutures. Whether you are a student or a working professional, you may join the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA). Becoming an ADHA member means you can take advantage of the up-to-date information they share about emerging technologies, as well as insights published on professional and educational opportunities.

Median Salary: $68,700
Job Growth: 33%

6. Occupational Health and Safety

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Occupational health and safety specialists analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. They also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers and damage to the environment. Therefore, the goals of occupational safety and health programs include to foster a safe and healthy work environment. As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) “occupational health deals with all aspects of health and safety in the workplace and has a strong focus on primary prevention of hazards.” Health has been defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Hence, occupational health is a multidisciplinary field of healthcare concerned with enabling an individual to undertake their occupation, in the way that causes the least harm to their health. This quality of safety is not limited to the confines of a factory or plant, but also applies to work conditions in the field or remote work site.

Columbia Southern University (CSU) offers an Associate of Science in Occupational Safety and Health degree.  CSU’s occupational safety and health degree programs meet the educational requirements mandated by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals for the Associate Safety Professional designation (ASP) and the Certified Safety Professional designation (CSP). To earn this degree, the curriculum covers General Education requirements from Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics to the Major Requirements: hazardous materials management, fire prevention, legal aspects, and industrial ergonomics (partial list). To graduate from this particular program, students must complete 60 semester hours. Upon graduation, students will be able to explain basic workplace hazard analysis and control technologies, identify laws and regulations, apply safety and health related theory and technology, and examine the role of the safety and health technician within the organization and industry.

Median Salary: $68,200 
Job Growth: 11%

7. Computer Science

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Computer science is the scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications. Its fields can be divided into a variety of theoretical and practical disciplines. Some fields, such as computational complexity theory (which explores the fundamental properties of computational and intractable problems), are highly abstract, while fields such as computer graphics emphasize real-world visual applications. The practical side of computing can be seen everywhere. Nowadays, practically everyone is a computer user, thereby creating the necessity for computer programmers. Getting computers to do what you want them to do requires intensive hands-on experience. But computer science can be seen on a higher level, as a science of problem solving. Computer scientists must be adept at modeling and analyzing problems. Many problems in science, engineering, health care, business, and other areas can be solved effectively with computers, but finding a solution requires both computer science expertise and knowledge of the particular application domain. Thus, computer scientists often become proficient in other subjects.

In this discipline, there are many online programs from which to chose. One example, is the online Associate degree offered by Franklin University in Computer Science. Their Curriculum begins with 24 hours of General Education: English Composition, Mathematics, Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities. This is followed by 16 hours of additional General Education Requirements, covering primarily communication. Next is the major area, comprising 24 hours of courses related to computer science, such as database management systems and algorithms. Graduates from an associate degree program may wish to continue their studies in a bachelor’s program-these are typically 128 semester hours. One difference between earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in computer science is the types of positions and median salary graduates can expect. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree are usually more likely to find higher-level and higher-paying positions.

Median Salary: $67,400
Job Growth: 17%

8. Diagnostic Medical Sonography

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These professionals include musculoskeletal sonographers, who specialize in creating images of muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints; neurosonographers, who focus on the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord; abdominal sonographers, who capture images of the abdominal cavity as well as nearby organs like the kidney, liver and pancreas; and breast sonographers, who capture images of breast tissue that could confirm the presence of cysts and tumors. Of course, there is the most well-known use and that is for viewing a fetus in utero. Advances in imaging technology will lead medical facilities to use it more in place of costly, invasive procedures and less-expensive equipment, which means more procedures will be conducted outside hospitals. Although hospitals are the biggest employers of diagnostic medical sonographers, employment should grow rapidly in physicians’ offices, as well as medical and diagnostic laboratories. In addition to the technical skills required, compassion plays a vital role since the medical sonographer may be the first person to inform a patient about their condition.

A Diagnostic Medical Sonography Associate degree program teaches students about:

  • Ultrasound principles, operation of equipment and quality control
  • Sonographic principles of the abdomen, obstetrics and gynecology, breast and other superficial structures, invasive sonographic procedures, neonatal, trauma, and an introduction to vascular sonography
  • Cross-sectional anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology
  • Production of diagnostic images and appropriate examination adjustment according to  patient condition
  • Recording, analyzing and processing diagnostic data and other pertinent observations for presentation to the interpreting physician
  • Patient care and education, including ethical and legal aspects, interpersonal communication, infection control, physical assistance and transfer, and medical emergencies

The ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) is one of the most recognized ultrasound license organizations across the United States and the world. It is something that most graduates will pursue after they finish their degree, though this is not mandatory in most states.

Median Salary: $66,800
Job Growth: 39%

9. Computer Programming

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Computer programming (often shortened to programming) is a process that leads from an original formulation of a computing problem to executable computer programs. Programming involves activities such as analysis, developing understanding, generating algorithms, verification of requirements of algorithms including their correctness and resources consumption, and implementation or algorithms in a target programming language. Computer programming involves developing lists of instructions – the source code representation of software. The stuff that these instructions manipulate are different types of objects, e.g., numbers, words, images, and sounds. Almost all of the computer programming these days is done with high-level programming languages, for example, Java that first appeared in 1995. Therefore, the primary duty of a computer programmer is to develop computer programs. Computer programs can relate to business concepts, games or personal use by individual computer users. The computer programmer may also be the individual who is responsible for providing technical support to those who use the computer programs developed by the individual or his/her company.

Most Associate degrees in computer programming are two years and many are available online. In addition to coursework, students may spend extensive lab time gaining hands-on training with computers. Here is an overview of courses to be expected at this level:

  • Java programming
  • Computer networking and data structure
  • Programming and logic
  • Systems analysis and design
  • Computer security and servicing
  • Linux operating system

Regardless of your degree level, professionals about to enter this field or currently employed will benefit from being certified by the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP).  ICCP credentials can be used to qualify for jobs in most countries and are accepted by the major government bodies as a professional status equivalent to Engineers, Doctors and Accountants, according to their website.

Median Salary: $65,300
Job Growth: 8%

10. Electrical Engineering Technology

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Electrical/Electronics Engineering Technology (EET) is an engineering technology field that implements and applies the principles of electrical engineering. Like electrical engineering, EET deals with the design, application, installation, manufacturing, operation, and/or maintenance of electronic systems. Electrical/Electronic engineering technology is the largest branch of engineering technology and includes a diverse range of sub-disciplines, such as applied design, electronics, embedded systems, control systems, instrumentation, telecommunications, and power systems. It demands the curiosity of the person who has always wondered how a certain electrical appliance or device works. And when it doesn’t work-it is the role of the electrical engineer to determine why. In this endeavor, the electrical technician may assist a professionally designated electrical engineer. The electrical engineering principles learned can be applied in a wide range of careers, including biomedical, green energy, transportation, communications, entertainment and manufacturing.  Electronics technology is a part of most everything society relies on, from air conditioning to airplanes, and from trains to televisions.

Students preparing for this field, should begin in high school by loading up on the sciences of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. The Associate degree in EET provides a broad foundation of theoretical and practical knowledge in the areas of electrical and electronic circuits, digital circuits, computers, electrical machinery, and programmable logic controls. One such degree is offered by Penn State. Their EET program prepares graduates who, during the first few years of professional practice, will:

  • Demonstrate broad knowledge of electrical and electronics engineering technology practices to support design, application, installation, manufacturing, operation, and maintenance of electrical, electronic, computer, and instrumentation systems
  • Apply basic mathematical and scientific principles for technical problem solving in areas that may include circuit analysis of both analog and digital electronics, microprocessors, programmable logic controls, and electrical machines
  • Use computers and software in a technical environment
  • Matriculate into a baccalaureate degree and/or continue their professional training

Median Salary: $65,100
Job Growth: 0%