When making choices about which post-secondary education program is right for you, it’s important to consider whether the one you choose will provide a high financial return on investment (ROI). Many people assume that the only path to a good living is to pursue a bachelor’s degree (or higher), but this is not necessarily the case. You don’t have to invest in a four-year degree or go to graduate school to land a good-paying job. There are a number of associate degree jobs that pay well and give you a high ROI.
High ROI on Degree Programs Is Good for the Economy
When prospective students choose degree programs with a high return on investment (ROI), it’s good news for the economy as well. Here’s why:
- College graduates who choose programs with a better ROI increase their chances of finding better-paying jobs after graduation. They have more disposable income, which helps to fuel the local and regional economy as they pay for goods and services.
- The graduates also pay more in taxes, which supports infrastructure and government programs that benefit everyone.
- People who provide a better standard of living for themselves tend to take better care of their health. They are more likely to schedule doctor’s appointments for preventive care and see a dentist for checkups. Taking preventative care of your health leads to fewer claims on health insurance for major problems.
- Better income levels also translate to better nutrition, fewer visits to the emergency room, and a lower risk of being involved in an accident. Less time away from work means more productivity, which also benefits the economy.
Choosing the right educational program is more than a matter of finding one that interests you. Your degree of choice can provide a number of benefits that you may not see right away. If you are wondering why you should be concerned about benefits to the economy from choosing a degree. Remember this: If the economy is a healthy one, you will reap the benefits as well.
An Associate’s Degree Represents Good Value
Pursuing an associate’s degree represents a good value for students. Consider the following information:
- Associate’s degree holders achieve a median net gain during their 40-year work life of more than $259,000 compared to high school graduates.
- There is a wide range of net gain among associate’s degree holders, with some of them realizing net gains of $100,000 during their working life and others experiencing much higher gains of more than $400,000 during their careers.
- Graduates who hold an associate’s degree earn more than high school graduates, and they are less likely to be unemployed, even when the economy shrinks.
- According to data collected from Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, graduates from either occupation-based or technical associate’s degree programs earn more during their first year after graduation than a number of graduates holding bachelor’s degrees.
Associates’ Degrees With a High ROI
What types of jobs with associate’s degrees have a high ROI for graduates? Here are some examples of associate’s degree programs that will qualify you for a job with a median annual wage of $50,000 or more.
Funeral Service Education
To become a funeral service manager or director, an associate’s degree in funeral service education is required. Graduates then complete a one-to-two year apprenticeship. Funeral managers and directors must acquire a state or national license to provide services to clients.
Air Traffic Control
All prospective air traffic controllers attend the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s training academy in Oklahoma for its 12-week training program. It’s not required to hold a related degree to be admitted to the program, but graduates of the associate’s degree in air traffic control will find that they can relate to the material in the FAA training program much more readily. The median salary of air traffic controllers is $122,950, which is the highest for jobs available with this level of education.
Avionics Maintenance Technology
This two-year program will give you the training needed to work with avionics equipment, including installations, tests, and repairs. You will become familiar with radar, radio and navigation systems, as well as the missile control systems of space vehicles and other types of aircraft. The median annual salary for an avionics technician is $58,540.
Enrolling in an associate’s degree program in aerospace technology will prepare you for a career as an aerospace engineering and operations technician. This type of position involves working with and maintaining equipment used in the development, production and testing of new spacecraft and aircraft. The median salary is a respectable $66,180.
Video Game Design
Video games are big business, and people with the skills to design games earn average salaries of $81,000. An associate’s degree program in video game design gives students a good overview in music, marketing, programming and project management as well, which means they are ready to work as artists, musicians, coders and designers in this growing industry.
Graduates of an associate’s degree program in web development can look forward to a bright future. The median annual salary for workers in this field is $64,970.
Computer Support Specialist
If you hold a computer support specialist associate’s degree and have a year or two of practical experience working with networks, employers will demand your skills. You may need to complete some further training, both formal and informal, to become a network specialist, but the effort will be worthwhile. The job has a median annual salary of $62,250.
The two-year degree in AutoCAD drafting is an excellent choice if you are looking to break into one of the following well-paying fields:
- Architectural and civil drafter — annual average salary $50,710
- Electrical and electronics drafter — annual average salary $59,520
- Mechanical drafter — annual average salary $53,520
Depending on your area of specialization, an associate’s degree in engineering technology can lead to a number of career options that pay above a median annual salary of $50,000 per year:
- Aerospace engineering and operations technician — annual average salary $66,180
- Electrical and electronics engineering technician — annual average salary $61,130
- Electro-mechanical technician — annual average salary $53,340
- Mechanical engineering technician — annual average salary $53,910
- Engineering technician — annual average salary $61,260
Nuclear Power Technology
Graduates from an associate in applied science degree in nuclear power technology program are qualified for career opportunities as nuclear technicians. This type of work involves assisting engineers, physicists and other staff in nuclear production and research. The median annual pay for graduates is an impressive $80,260.
If a career in the oil and gas or mining industry interests you, consider earning an associate’s degree in petroleum technology. Your investment in your studies will pay off when you’re hired as a geological and petroleum technician, providing support to engineers and scientists in the work of exploration and extraction of natural resources such as oil, natural gas and minerals. The median annual salary for this position is $55,610. The future looks bright for new graduates by the year 2024 in this field, with the job market expected to grow by 11.8 percent.
The minimum requirement to work as a radiation therapist is an associate of science degree with a major in radiation therapy. Most employers require that radiation therapists pass a certification exam within three years of completing their degree, but the exact requirements differ depending on the state licensing exam requirements.
The median annual salary for this career choice is $80,220, and the job outlook is favorable to 2024, with demand expected to increase by 14 percent.
Graduates from an associate’s degree in a respiratory therapy program can look forward to a promising job outlook, as job growth is expected to increase at 12 percent, a faster rate than average. The median pay for this job is $57,790 per annum or $27.78 per hour.
An associate’s degree in applied science with a major in dental hygiene will prepare you for a career as a dental hygienist. After graduation, you must pass a licensing exam to work in the field. Your effort will be worthwhile — the median salary is $72,330 or $34.77 per hour. The career outlook is positive to the year 2024, with jobs expected to grow at a rate of 18.6 percent.
An associate degree in cardiovascular technology prepares students for careers specializing in performing either noninvasive echocardiograms or invasive cardiac catheterizations. The median annual wage for this career option is $54,880, with the top 10 percent of earners making $87,170. The demand for trained workers is expected to be strong as the population continues to age and rates of cardiovascular disease continue to rise. Projected demand is 22 percent.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Completing an associate’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography will bring you an excellent ROI. Demand for trained workers is expected to grow at a much faster rate than other jobs: 26.4 percent to the year 2024. Graduates from this program can expect to earn a median rate of pay of $68,970 per year, or $33.15 per hour.
Nuclear Medicine Technology
Enroll in a nuclear medicine technology program and obtain the training necessary to create images of a patient’s body at a doctor’s request. The program also teaches students how to prepare and administer radioactive drugs when a doctor has requests a contrast scan using dye. The median annual salary for this type of position is $70,180 or $33.74 per hour.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
An associate of science degree with a major in occupational therapy assistant opens the door to an in-demand career. Graduates must past a licensing exam before they can start working. A projected demand of 42.7 percent to the year 2024 is expected, and graduates of this program should have little difficulty finding employment once they meet the qualification standards. The median salary for this job is $57,870.
Physical Therapist Assistant
Studying for a physical therapist assistant associate degree will prepare you for a high-demand, well-paid career in the healthcare field. The combination of the aging population and the increased interest in physical fitness will serve to keep the demand high for trained physical therapist assistants. If you are interested in helping people improve their mobility and recover from injuries or disease, you can expect to earn a median salary of $55,170 per year with a career in physical therapy.
Choose an Associate’s Degree Program Wisely
Choosing an associate’s degree program that will give you a high ROI is important. You, your family and the community will reap the benefits of your decision. Whether you decide to further your education on campus or study online at your convenience, investing in yourself is one of the best decisions you can make to improve your future.
Take your time and consider the cost of your education and the time it will take to complete a degree program. Think about your potential future earnings, and if those earnings are projected to improve over the years. There is much to consider before you make your final decision.
Sign up for Vista College’s newsletter to stay informed about facts and insights about going to college.