10 highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree

Last updated: May 29, 2024
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Heath Alva
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10 highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree
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In the US, over 10 million people have an associate’s degree. This type of degree can lead to a fulfilling career and takes less time to earn than a bachelor’s degree.

But what is an associate's degree, and what jobs will it qualify you for?

In this article, we'll tell you about the highest-paying jobs that you can get with an associate's degree.

We'll explain each position and how much you can expect to earn. We'll also show you where to find a job.

With this information, you’ll be able to plan your career path and choose a job that’s right for you.

What is an associate’s degree?

Unlike a four-year bachelor's degree, you can earn an associate's degree in two or three years.

When you’ve finished this degree, it’ll open doors to new job opportunities. You can expect your education to include both theory and practical subjects.

Most community colleges offer associate's degrees in a wide range of fields. For example, you can study technology, the arts, healthcare, business, or teaching.

Once you have an associate's degree, you can enroll in a bachelor's degree program. Depending on the types of classes you take, it can even make your bachelor’s degree program significantly shorter.

Alternatively, you can jump right into a career. Let’s take a look at some high-paying jobs that an associate’s degree will qualify you for.

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What are the top-paying jobs with an associate’s degree?

Want a career with good prospects? We've done the hard work for you.

Here are the top high-paying jobs that require an associate's degree:

1. Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists work with dentists to help maintain oral health. They specialize in dental hygiene and oral diseases.

Dental hygienists clean teeth, remove plaque, treat conditions such as gingivitis, and offer advice for at-home treatment plans.

These workers pride themselves on excellent dental care. They keep accurate patient records and share their findings with dentists. Dental hygienists can take x-rays to look for underlying issues.

If you want to work in this field, you'll need excellent customer service skills. Dental hygienists need manual dexterity and problem-solving skills. Critical thinking and great attention to detail are essential to this role.

How much does a dental hygienist make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a dental hygienist is $77,090 per year or $37.06 per hour.

The job is expected to grow faster than average at 11% by 2030.

Where can you find a dental hygienist job?

After you've completed your coursework and gained accreditation, you can apply for a job as a dental hygienist.

Search Jobcase for dental hygienist positions.

Legal assistants, or paralegals, help lawyers. They research, file documents, write reports, and file briefs.

Legal assistants work for law firms and government agencies. They may offer support during court appearances and meetings.

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Common tasks include drafting letters and legal documents, getting affidavits, and taking notes during trials. They may communicate directly with clients and witnesses.

Legal assistants support lawyers by scheduling appointments and gathering information.

If you want to work in this lucrative field, you'll need excellent computer skills. You'll need research skills, interpersonal skills, and great attention to detail.

How much does a legal assistant make?

The average salary for a legal assistant is $52,920 per year or $25.44 per hour.

Legal assistants are in high demand, and job growth is set to rise by 12% by 2030.

Where can you find a legal assistant job?

To work as a legal assistant, you’ll need to finish high school and earn a two-year degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. You can then apply to work as a legal assistant.

Search Jobcase for legal assistant positions.

3. Drafter

Drafters use engineering technology to create digital technical drawings.

They work closely with architects and engineers and transform their sketches into digital graphics. Drafters work in offices and on job sites. Some drafters work from home.

They use their technical knowledge to create designs with detailed instructions. For example, drafters include accurate dimensions and specify which construction materials should be used.

Drafters often use computer software called CAD (computer-aided design).

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To work in this job, you should be creative with strong computer skills. Drafters need to have math skills and pay close attention to details.

Drafters also work closely with architects, so you’ll need to have good teamwork and communication skills.

How much does a drafter make?

The average salary for a drafter is $57,960 per year or $27.87 per hour.

You can expect a slight decline in job prospects with -2% job growth by 2030.

Where can you find a drafter job?

To work as a drafter, you’ll need to complete an associate’s degree.

Search Jobcase for drafter positions.

4. Occupational therapy assistant

Occupational therapy assistants work in a range of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and private practices.

They work with occupational therapists and help patients perform daily tasks. For example, they assist patients with exercise programs and record their progress.

If you enjoy working in healthcare, you can continue your education and become a registered nurse by earning a four-year degree. Alternatively, you may like to work as a physical therapy assistant supporting a physical therapist.

As a healthcare professional, you'll need to have good communication skills. You'll need to be patient and detail-oriented. The role requires physical strength and manual dexterity.

How much does an occupational therapy assistant make?

The average salary for occupational therapy assistants is $62,940 per year. Those working in home healthcare services make slightly more, earning an average of $67,760 per year.

Career prospects are extremely positive, and by 2030, job growth is set to rise by 34%.

Where can you find an occupational therapy assistant job?

After earning an associate’s degree and getting some experience working with patients, you can apply to be an occupational therapy assistant.

Search Jobcase for occupational therapy assistant positions.

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5. Diagnostic medical sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers use imaging equipment to perform diagnostic tests. They check the results and create a summary for the physician.

These health support specialists usually specialize in a sonography field. They may work with cancer patients, or they may focus on a specific area of the body, such as the abdominal area or the musculoskeletal system.

They're trained to use different tools and special imaging equipment.

Diagnostic medical sonographers learn how to spot abnormalities. They need to make patients feel comfortable and explain what will happen during the tests.

To be successful, you’ll need good hand-eye coordination and great attention to detail. You’ll be providing care for patients, so you’ll need to be empathetic with good interpersonal skills.

How much does a diagnostic medical sonographer make?

The average annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers is $70,380 or $33.84 per hour.

Job growth is projected at a rate of 14% by 2030.

Where can you find a diagnostic medical sonographer job?

You’ll need to earn an associate’s degree and complete on-the-job training to work as a diagnostic medical sonographer.

Search Jobcase for diagnostic medical sonographer positions.

You may also want to consider working as a cardiovascular technologist, MRI technologist, radiologic technologist, or radiation therapist.

6. Web developers

Web developers create, update, repair, and maintain websites. They're experts in information technology and coding, and they work with clients to create an online presence.

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Some enterprises hire web developers to oversee their computer networks. Web developers may work in education, in government, or for a private business.

The job description can include graphic design, traffic monitoring, and customized website creation.

You’ll need to have excellent computer skills to work as a web developer. And, you should be creative with good communication and problem-solving skills. Web developers need to be flexible, organized, and have great attention to detail.

How much does a web developer make?

The average salary for a web developer is $77,200 per year or $37.12 per hour.

It’s a growing industry, with the job market set to grow by 13% by 2030.

Where can you find a web developer job?

To work as a web developer, you should consider associate degree programs in programming or computer science.

Search Jobcase for web developer positions.

7. Food service manager

Food service managers work in restaurants and other venues where food is served. They oversee daily operations, manage budgets, and supervise staff.

They help make hiring decisions and train new team members. Food service managers make sure customers are happy, and they handle complaints.

They check that food is prepared safely, and they keep the restaurant stocked with ingredients, drinks, and other supplies.

To be successful in this role, you'll need excellent communication skills. You should be business savvy, with strong leadership and organizational skills. Plus, managers need to be good at problem-solving.

Keep in mind, it’s a fast-paced role with long hours spent on your feet.

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How much does a food service manager make?

The average annual salary for a food service manager is $56,590 per year or $27.21 per hour. It's a popular industry that's set for a 15% growth rate by 2030.

Where can you find a food service manager job?

Some food service managers have experience working in a restaurant and get training on the job. But, most have an associate's degree in food service or management.

Search Jobcase for food service manager positions.

8. Electrician

​​Electricians install and repair electrical systems. They work in domestic, commercial, and industrial settings. The role can vary, and electricians can travel long distances to work on both new and existing projects.

They use their technical knowledge to read blueprints and test issues. They follow building regulations to make sure any electrical components are working safely. Electricians need to use specific electrical equipment such as cable cutters, electrical tape, voltage testers, and spanners.

Daily duties often include working at heights and in tight spaces. To do this job, you'll need to be physically fit with good manual dexterity.

You'll need problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, and customer service skills.

How much does an electrician make?

This top-paying position has a median wage of $27.36 per hour or $56,900 per year. By 2030, job growth is set to rise by 9%.

Where can you find an electrician job?

You can become an electrician by completing an associate’s degree in electrical technology. You can also complete an apprenticeship.

Search Jobcase for electrician positions.

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9. Mechanical engineering technologists

Mechanical engineering technologists support mechanical engineers. They help to design and test tools and devices.

These workers create plans using software, and sometimes they draw layouts by hand. They review the plans and make suggestions for improvements.

The goal is to create reliable, safe, affordable, and effective mechanical components. Mechanical engineering technologists need to keep detailed records, test components, and estimate the cost of each project.

To work in this role, you'll need to meet high industry standards. You should have excellent communication skills and good problem-solving skills. Mechanical engineering technologists need math skills, mechanical skills, and manual dexterity.

How much does an engineering technologist make?

The average median salary is $58,230 per year or $28.00 per hour. The employment rate is good, and the industry will grow by 6% by 2030.

Where can you find an engineering technologist job?

Education requirements include a high school diploma and an associate's degree.

Search Jobcase for engineering technologist positions. You may also be interested in working as an environmental engineering technologist.

10. Funeral service worker

Funeral service workers organize funerals. They work closely with families to create meaningful memorial services.

Typical duties include counseling loved ones and helping them make decisions about the funeral service. They arrange transport, care for the body, and fill out paperwork.

Depending on the size of the company, funeral service workers may have management responsibilities. Funeral service managers prepare budgets and hire staff.

If you want to work in this industry, you'll need to be a caring, compassionate person. You'll need to be business-savvy, organized, and have good time management skills.

You'll also need strong communication and good listening skills.

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How much does a funeral service worker make?

The best way to get a job is with an associate's degree in funeral service. The national average salary for a funeral service worker is $58,170 per year or $27.97 per hour. By 2030, job growth is set at 4%.

Where can you find a funeral services manager job?

Search Jobcase for funeral service worker positions. You can also look for funeral service manager jobs or funeral director jobs.

More jobs you can pursue with an associate’s degree

Here are some other popular jobs that require an associate’s degree:

  • Air traffic controller

  • Electrical engineering technician

  • Electrician

  • Respiratory therapist or respiratory therapy technician

  • Avionics technician

  • Electrical drafter or civil drafter

  • Equity trader

  • Mechanical engineering technician or electro-mechanical technician

  • Nuclear technician or nuclear medicine technologist

  • Social science technician

  • Petroleum technician

  • Electrical engineering assistant​

Getting a high paying job with an associate’s degree

In this article, we told you about ten of the highest-paying jobs that require an associate's degree. Our list includes dental hygienists, legal assistants, drafters, occupational therapy assistants, diagnostic medical sonographers, web developers, food service managers, electricians, mechanical engineering technologists, and funeral service workers.

An associate degree program normally runs for two to three years and is an alternative to the longer bachelor's degree. By enrolling in this type of formal education, you could end up with your dream career.

You can find these job types and more on Jobcase’s job search. You can search for jobs by location, job title, and experience level.

And don't forget to browse the Getting Hired Resource Center for interview and resume tips.



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