Finding the right career path, and the degree needed to get you started, can be a daunting task. To help, we’ve created a list of the top careers you can find after earning an associate’s degree. Many of the high paying jobs with associate’s degrees are in the fields of health care, technology, electronics, or skilled labor, so if you find yourself gravitating to one of these fields, you’re in luck. There are millions of jobs available today for people with associate’s degrees. The most financially beneficial field is health care, a field that will continue to grow for at least the next decade.
Many of the best associate’s degrees take two years or less to complete, depending on your course of study. Taking summer classes or adding an extra class to your semester workload can shorten your time in school, but it’s important to make sure that you are working at a pace that’s right for you.
Likewise, if you are juggling a full- or part-time job and are completing your degree through night and weekend classes, it might take longer. Don’t be discouraged if your two-year degree extends to three. The extra time and effort will make it worthwhile in the end. If you’re asking yourself, “What can I do with an associate’s degree?” the answer is “almost anything.”
While none of the jobs on our list require a bachelor’s degree, many people in the highest-paying associate’s degree fields, like nursing and respiratory therapy, go on to earn a four-year degree. It’s important to understand the competitiveness of these jobs in your area, so you’ll be prepared if you want to continue your education.
The Growth of Associate’s Degrees
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for someone with an associate’s degree is $792, which is $124 more a week than someone with only a high school diploma. This translates to $6,400 more a year.
If you look at the employment growth in your area, you can discover what jobs you can achieve with an associate’s degree. Choose an associate’s degree that will give you freedom to grow within the field. Likewise, be realistic about the job market. If you live in an area without a large airport, you should avoid getting a degree as an air traffic controller, unless you plan to move to a larger city to find work.
Many of the best job opportunities in the market today only require an associate’s degree, and they come with a great deal of growth potential. This is important for two reasons:
1. An associate’s degree typically takes two — or fewer — years to complete. This means you can earn a full-time salary while some of your counterparts are still working on a four-year degree.
2. You will face a less severe financial loan burden. Students who pursue bachelor’s degrees experience more of a burden. Although you may decide to expand your education and earn a bachelor’s degree down the road, if you begin with an associate’s degrees you can start your career sooner and with less debt.
Best Jobs You Can Get With an Associate’s Degree
Here’s our list of the best 26 jobs you can get with an associate’s degree, along with their average yearly salary.
1. HVAC mechanic — $42,000. There’s never a shortage in new business construction, both corporate and retail, and there’s also never a shortage in the need for highly trained heating, ventilation, air-condition (HVAC) mechanics. An associate’s degree in this field will allow you to calibrate large thermostats, build and repair commercial HVAC systems, and oversee contractors. You’ll also learn valuable construction skills like soldering and basic electricity.
2. Paralegal — $44,000. An associate’s degree in paralegal studies is a great way to make a difference to clients in a legal setting without the additional years of law school. As a paralegal, you’ll perform detailed research on case law, prepare briefs, interview clients and legal experts, and assist attorneys with case preparation. An associate’s degree in paralegal studies can be earned from Vista College in just 70 weeks.
3. Mechanical drafter — $50,000. Professionals in this field work with engineers and architects to create highly technical diagrams of machines and mechanics. They often perform most of their work on computer aided design (CAD) software.
4. Industrial engineering technician — $51,000. These employees work closely with engineers and scientists to create blueprints for machines, tools, and products. An interest in and understanding of science, especially physics, is a must.
5. Mechanical engineering technician — $52,000. Technicians working in the field of mechanical engineering usually develop and test specialized equipment. The career is best suited for employees who are comfortable working with computer programs and engineering techniques.
6. Electro-mechanical technician — $52,000. Theses specialists often perform mechanical repairs and provide updates and repairs on motorized and robotic machines.
7. Physical therapy assistant — $52,000. Also referred to as physical therapist aides or PTAs, these assistants usually work in hospitals, assisted living facilities, and private physical therapy offices under the direction of a licensed physical therapist or physician. PTAs are needed to help patients recover from injuries and illnesses, and they often perform hands-on exercises to assist clients.
8. Cardiovascular technician — $52,000. Using medical equipment like sonograms and Holter monitors, cardiovascular technicians help monitor and diagnosis problems related to the heart and blood vessels. This growing field has an excellent outlook for job openings. Some cardiovascular technicians take extra course work to become certified as an EKG technician, so there is room to grow within the field.
9. Geological and petroleum technician — $53,000. Working with scientists and engineers, geological and petroleum technicians study soil, rocks, and other naturally occurring resources. Work is usually performed in a lab or in the field, gathering samples. Technicians use mapping software and other sophisticated tools to study the quality of these resources.
10. Occupational therapy assistant — $53,000. While this job is similar to that of a physical therapy assistant, OTAs work with patients who have trouble completing everyday activities, like getting dressed and writing a letter. In many cases, these patients suffer from an illness or disability, like cerebral palsy. OTAs help patients learn these tools through practice and by finding ways to make the tasks easier.
11. Radiologic technician — $55,000. In this rewarding field, radiologic technicians perform imaging scans, such as mammography, CT scans, and X-rays. Technicians also work with oncologists to administer radiation treatment to cancer patients.
12. Aviation technician — $55,000. After earning an associate’s degree in aviation maintenance technology and earning a license from the Federal Aviation Administration, technicians work to repair and maintain aviation equipment. These positions are best for people who live near major airports, but all airports have a need for qualified technicians.
13. Electrical drafter — $56,000. Drafters work in a highly technical and scientific field developing installation plans for electrical line, transformers, and cables. A strong background in computer programs and a working knowledge of electricity, and how it operates, is imperative. In addition to an associate’s degree in electrical drafting, an apprenticeship is sometimes required before working independently.
14. Respiratory therapist — $56,000. Patients who have trouble breathing, from premature infants to older people with asthma, rely on help from respiratory therapists. Usually based in hospitals or home health care agencies, therapists use ventilation tubes and other machines to help patients breathe easier. Because patients who can’t breathe are often panicky, a calming bedside manner is a must in a respiratory therapist. This occupation is in high demand and is expected to see a growth of close to 23,000 new positions by 2022.
15. Computer programmer — $58,000. If you’re a whiz at computers, an associate’s degree in network administration should be easy to achieve. With this degree, you can find jobs as a computer programmer, where you will be responsible for both network and systems administration. Adapting to new programs or specializing in already popular software packages will enable computer programmers to define their own career path.
16. Electrical engineering technician — $58,000. Qualified technicians who work in the field of electrical engineering are highly sought. With an associate’s degree from a school like Vista College, you can assist in the development of new computing systems, medical devices, and electronic equipment. An educational background in wiring, electrical circuits, and computer science are among the important skills you’ll need to succeed.
17. Computer network support specialist — $59,000. This job title encompasses many different options, from information technology assistants and network engineers to systems specialists and IT consultants. The aspects of the job will range widely based on the needs of the company or organization you work for. Typically, specialists are expected to develop security systems, diagnose networking problems, and monitor for security breaches.
18. Aerospace engineering technician — $62,000. Technicians spend a lot of their time searching for and diagnosing problems in both aircraft and spacecraft. Safety is vital to this industry, so there’s never a shortage of jobs for skilled technicians. Other responsibilities include repairing problem components and helping to create blueprints for new aircraft.
19. Web developer — $63,000. For a job that barely existed 15 years ago, the opportunities for web developers has exploded. Knowledge of coding and security programs is a must. The ability to work with diverse groups of people is also important because you’ll likely collaborate with designers, writers, and clients.
20. MRI technologist — $65,000. Technologists help patients get an MRI reading of their organs, bones, or other area. An MRI is a long, often noisy tube that the patient enters, and there can be some fear and anxiety related to the procedure. MRI technologists must have a comforting bedside manner while they monitor the patient’s comfort level through the process. The trained radiologist will read the results and make diagnoses or recommendations, but the technologist is responsible for obtaining the correct, high-quality images needed.
21. Registered nurse — $65,000. While it’s true that you can begin a career with an associate’s degree, most health care providers want to hire someone with a bachelor’s degree. This is a reason why earning an associate’s degree in accredited vocational/practical nursing serves as a great springboard to further education. An associate’s degree in nursing provides a solid background to care for patients in a doctor’s office, hospital, or assisted care facility where you’ll help coordinate patient care and work directly with patients needing medical treatment.
22. Diagnostic medical sonographer — $66,000. Using specialized ultrasound equipment, sonographers direct sound waves through a patient’s body, which creates an image of internal structures. Many sonographers perform ultrasounds on pregnant women and are the first person to provide a moving image of the unborn baby to expectant couples. You might also help diagnose medical conditions and problems in patients.
23. Funeral service director — $67,000. It takes a strong personality to work in a funeral home, where emotions run high. If you can run a business while providing services in an emotionally charged environment, an associate’s degree in funeral services is all you need to get started.
24. Dental hygienist — $71,000. With an associate’s degree in dental hygiene and related fields, you’ll work chair-side with a licensed dentist to perform cleanings, fluoride applications, and basic oral care. You’ll also learn important business skills, like scheduling and basic bookkeeping. With the dental assistant program from Vista College, you can earn your associate’s degree in just 80 weeks and will be on your way to a rewarding career working directly with dental patients.
25. Nuclear medicine technician — $72,000. This health care position works directly with patients and physicians to diagnose and screen for diseases, like cancer and heart disease. As the current United States population ages, demand for nuclear technicians will rise through 2022.
26. Air traffic controller — $122,000. If you do well in a high-stress and fast-paced atmosphere where split-second decisions count, you might be a perfect candidate for an air traffic controller position. These jobs come with long hours, but they also have the highest salary for positions that require an associate’s degree.
Consider Vista College
Vista College has a long list of associate’s degree programs. Whether you are interested in expanding your education in health care, technology, or business fields, we have something for you. Please contact our admissions office to find out how your background and interests can match with one of our programs. Get started on your career path today!