The highest-paying associate degree jobs

Last updated: May 25, 2024
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The highest-paying associate degree jobs
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If you're prepared to complete a short associate degree, you can open up a range of job opportunities for yourself. There are roles available in different industries, including healthcare, business, technology, and education.

Unlike a four-year degree, an associate degree can be completed in approximately two years.

It's never too late to learn something new. If you're ready for a career change or want to upskill, an associate degree is a good place to start.

Not sure what path is right for you? We've put together the ultimate guide. In this article, you'll find a list of the top jobs you can get with an associate degree.

What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is a study option for those looking to gain new skills, without committing the time and money necessary for a four year degree.. In the last year, 986,000 Americans completed one of these programs.

This type of degree takes two years to complete if pursued full-time. There are also part-time and online options available.

Associate degrees are available from a range of educational institutions. For example, you can enroll at a community college or an online university.

Not only is an associate degree shorter than a four-year degree, but it’s also more affordable. Additionally, some people choose to use their course credits to continue studying for a bachelor’s degree.

The prerequisites for an associate (AA) degree program usually include a high school diploma or equivalent. There may also be a minimum GPA required, depending on your target coursework.

While some jobs may require an AA degree, others may require an additional certification or license. To help you discover the right role for your skills, check out our career quiz.

What are the top associate degree jobs?

Let's take a look at the top jobs you can get with a two-year degree.

1. Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists work closely with dentists to create treatment plans for patients. They also assist patients with regards to their oral care.

These professionals use a range of instruments to remove tartar and plaque. They also educate patients on how to maintain their dental hygiene at home.

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Dental hygienists may take x-rays and apply sealants. They may also take dental impressions for retainers, mouth guards, and bite plates. They help maintain detailed records and often book follow-up appointments for patients.

You can get a job as a dental hygienist by completing an associate degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor's degrees in this field are also available. You'll need excellent communication skills, attention to detail, and manual dexterity.

How much does a dental hygienist make?

The average dental hygienist salary is $77,810 per year or $37.41 per hour. The job growth rate over the next 10 years is expected to be 9%.

2. Respiratory therapist

Respiratory therapists work in hospitals and clinics. They work with people who have breathing conditions.

They talk to patients and perform a range of diagnostic tests such as checking a patients’ breathing. They may also order blood tests.

Respiratory therapists create treatment plans and keep track of any changes patients may experience. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, including nurses, doctors, and surgeons.

If this job appeals to you, you'll need an associate degree in respiratory therapy. And in most states, you'll also need a license.

Respiratory therapists need excellent communication skills, medical knowledge, patience, and problem-solving skills.

How much does a respiratory therapist make?

The average annual salary for a respiratory therapist is $61,830 or $29.73 per hour. Job growth over the next 10 years is expected to be 14%.

Legal assistants usually work for law firms. They help lawyers with their cases by researching and documenting relevant information.

These legal team members speak to clients and witnesses. They get affidavits and help clients prepare for court. Legal assistants also file documents, set up meetings, and type notes.

During a trial, a legal assistant may accompany the lawyer for administrative support.

To become a legal assistant or paralegal, you'll need to complete an associate degree in law, legal studies, or paralegal studies. Bachelor's degrees are also available.

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Legal assistants need to have strong computer, interpersonal, and research skills. If you pay close attention to details, this could be a good career choice for you.n

How much does a legal assistant make?

The average annual salary for a legal assistant is $56,230 or $27.03 per hour. Job growth is set to rise by 14% over the next 10 years.

4. Air traffic controller

Air traffic controllers work in the air travel industry. They make sure planes take off and land safely.

They oversee air space and runways and give instructions to ground traffic crews. When planes are flying, air traffic controllers monitor flight paths and ensure a clear runway for air traffic.

Air traffic controllers also communicate with pilots by clearing them for take off and landing, approving their flight plans, and giving them weather updates when needed. If there's an emergency, they make sure it's handled correctly.

To work in this role, you'll need an associate degree through an air traffic controller school. Plus, there's on-the-job training and certification.

To pursue this role, you should be organized with excellent problem-solving and time management abilities. Communication skills and math skills are also important.

How much does an air traffic controller make?

The national average for an air traffic controller in the US is $129,750 per year or $62.38 per hour. This is one of the highest-paying positions on this list. Job growth is set to rise by 1% over the next 10 years.

5. Medical sonographers and ultrasound technicians

Want to work in the healthcare industry? Consider a career as a medical sonographer or ultrasound technician.

These healthcare workers use different diagnostic tools to take scans and images. For example, they can use an ultrasound machine to look at different organs in the body.

Sonograms can flag anything unusual. These technicians look at the diagnostic images and record detailed reports. They share this information with other professionals, such as physicians or surgeons.

These workers provide care to patients and ensure their comfort during the imaging procedure.

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To get hired, you'll need to complete an associate degree in sonography. There are also bachelor's degrees available.

Technical skills, medical knowledge, analytical skills, and computer skills are all required.

How much does a medical sonographer or ultrasound technician make?

The average salary in the US is $75,380 per year or $36.24 per hour. The industry is currently growing at a rate of 10%.

6. Teacher assistant

Teacher assistants work closely with teachers to support students. They can help students understand coursework by reviewing lessons in small groups.

These professionals assist teachers with a range of administrative duties, such as marking attendance, typing documents, and gathering materials.

Teacher assistants supervise students and make sure they're following the school rules.

The minimum requirement for a teacher assistant is an associate degree. You'll also need experience in the classroom. Some teacher assistants continue their college education to become a teacher.

To work in this role, you'll need excellent communication skills, patience, and computer skills.

How much does a teacher assistant make?

The average annual salary for a teacher assistant in the US is $29,360 per year. This job has an expected growth rate of 10% between now and 2031.

7. Computer support specialist

Computer support specialists troubleshoot different computer problems.

There are two types of computer support specialists: network support specialists and help desk operators. Network support specialists help with network troubleshooting for organizations, and help desk operators give user support to individual customers.

For example, if someone is having a problem logging into a system or updating software, a computer support specialist will give them advice.

This role can involve updating and maintaining systems. Support can be given via the phone, online, or in person.

The most common pathway to this career is with an associate degree.

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Computer skills, technical skills, problem-solving skills, and analytical skills are all essential.

How much does a computer support specialist make?

The average annual salary for a computer support specialist is $57,910. The hourly median wage is $27.84. The growth rate for this job type is expected to be 6% over the next 10 years.

8. Electrical engineering technician

Electrical engineering technicians work with electrical engineers. They offer support and help plan and design new and improved electrical products. For example, they may be involved in creating computers, designing military equipment, or adapting medical devices.

During the planning stage, electrical engineering techs can use special equipment to test each component. They troubleshoot issues and repair damages.

They also make sure all electrical products are of a high standard and safe to use. Sometimes, these team members have to draw diagrams and write instructions.

The minimum requirement for this job is an associate degree. A bachelor's degree is also available. You should have technical skills, computer skills, and analytical skills.

How much does an electrical engineering technician make?

The average annual salary for an electrical engineering technician is $63,640. The hourly wage is $30.60. The predicted growth rate is stable at 0%.

9. Physical therapist assistant

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) get supervision from physical therapists. They help patients manage pain and recover from injuries.

Physical therapist assistants keep accurate notes and report back to the physical therapist. These professionals follow treatment plans and show patients how to do specific exercises.

Massage, stretching, and mobility aids are all treatments that may be used.

To get a job as a physical therapist assistant, you'll need to complete an associate degree with on-the-job training. A professional certification or license is also required.

You should have excellent communication skills, manual dexterity, and technical skills.

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With further education, this career path can lead to a physical therapist role.

How much does a physical therapist assistant make?

The average annual salary for a physical therapist assistant is $49,180 or $23.64 per hour. The expected job growth rate is high at 24% over the next 10 years.

10. Veterinary technician

Veterinary technicians work at vet clinics and animal hospitals. They care for animals by bathing, feeding, and grooming them.

Vet techs support veterinarians during procedures by passing instruments, restraining animals, and taking notes.

After surgery, pets need to be monitored. Vet technicians keep an eye on them and make sure their condition is stable. With training, these team members may also take x-rays and administer medications.

Vet techs answer phones, schedule appointments, and update files. To do this job, you'll need an associate degree. Associate degree holders also need a professional certification or license.

You should also have good manual dexterity, empathy, and communication skills.

How much does a veterinary technician make?

The average annual salary for a vet tech is $36,850 or $17.72 per hour. A high job growth rate is expected — 20% by 2031.

11. Fire inspector

The role of a fire inspector is to reduce the risk of fires. Fire inspectors look for hazards and inspect buildings to make sure they're safe.

Fire inspectors test smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems. They also help companies create evacuation plans and educate the public on fire safety.

Depending on their area of expertise, fire inspectors may issue burning permits. If someone has been asked to make improvements, these workers keep written records and make follow-up visits.

You can get this job after completing a two-year college degree. Experience as a firefighter will be an advantage.

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Fire inspectors need physical strength, critical thinking skills, and communication skills.

How much does a fire inspector make?

The average annual salary for a fire inspector is $63,080 or $30.33 per hour. The job growth rate over the next 10 years is predicted to be 6%.

12. Human resources assistant

Human resources (HR) assistants help companies and HR teams support employees. They have a wide range of duties, including updating files and managing time off.

HR assistants keep track of changes to payroll, bonuses, and terminations. If an employee needs additional training, the HR assistant may set it up for them.

HR assistants are part of the onboarding process by filing employment information. They also answer phone calls and emails.

You can get this job after completing an associate degree. This can be a rewarding career with opportunities for promotion.

You'll need excellent communication skills, computer skills, and organization to perform this job well.

How much does a human resources assistant make?

The average salary for an HR assistant is $44,840 per year or $21.56 per hour.

The best associate degree jobs

There are many associate degree job options. For example, you can pursue career opportunities in healthcare, business, engineering, or education.

What are some of the top jobs with an associate's degree? Our list includes dental hygienists, respiratory therapists, legal assistants, and air traffic controllers.

Or, you may want to pursue work as a medical sonographer, teacher assistant, or computer support specialist.

There are also associate degree jobs for electrical engineering technicians, physical therapy assistants, veterinary technicians, fire inspectors, and human resources assistants.

Ready to get hired? Head to our job board. Want more hints and tips? Visit our Getting Hired Resource Center.

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