With student loan debt reaching an all-time high, many students are considering less expensive associate’s degree options over pricey four-year bachelor’s programs. And the state of the job market may actually support this trend. There are a variety of associate degree jobs that pay as much or even more than those requiring a four-year degree. In this article, we highlight thirty such occupations.
To identify the 30 highest paying associate degree jobs currently available, our editors consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), limiting our search to those occupations with median annual wages of over $39,000.This initial search yielded 42 results. To narrow this pool, we eliminated any job title with declining job growth projections. Finally, we ranked these associate degree jobs by salary potential. In cases of a tie, we used the position’s median annual wage to break the tie.
Air Traffic Controllers
Median Annual Wage: $124,540
Salary Potential: $178,650
One of the highest paying associate degree jobs on our list is the occupation of an air traffic controller. These professionals work in the aviation industry and are responsible for ensuring safe flights by directing traffic in the sky. To do this, air traffic controllers must provide takeoff and landing instructions to pilots, direct ground traffic around runways, and keep pilots abreast of adverse weather conditions, for example.
To meet the associate’s degree requirement for entry into the field of air traffic control, Florida Tech offers a two-year Associate of Arts in Air Traffic Control approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The program’s curriculum features course titles like National Airspace System, Aerodynamics, and Aviation Physical Science.
Students who desire a leadership role in the field may consider Hampton University’s online Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management with a concentration in Air Traffic Control.
In addition to a degree, prospective air traffic controllers must also complete a certification program and work under the supervision of an experienced air traffic controller for at least three years.
Funeral Service Managers
Median Annual Wage: $79,180
Salary Potential: $151,680
Among the most surprising high-paying associate degree jobs in our ranking is that of funeral service managers. These professionals are responsible for managing funeral homes. This can include directing and supervising funeral home staff, planning funeral services, and conducting marketing and public relations campaigns.
San Antonio College offers one of the leading associate’s degree programs in mortuary science in the country for students who desire a career in death-care or funeral services. The program is accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) and features course titles such as Death and Dying, Mortuary Management, and Funeral Service Arts Board Preparation.
For students who want to continue their education beyond an associate’s degree, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale offers an online Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science and Funeral Science. This degree completion program can be completed entirely online and features courses in funeral service research, marketing, and management.
Additional requirements for employment as a funeral service manager include a state licensing exam and on-the-job training.
Median Annual Wage: $69,430
Salary Potential: $124,480
Among the most well-known lucrative associate degree jobs is that of a web developer. These information technology professionals create websites for individuals, businesses, and other organizations. Specific tasks may include authoring code for websites, designing graphics, meeting with clients to discuss the goals of their websites, and testing web applications, for instance.
Students interested in advancing their knowledge of web development can pursue an online BS in Information Technology with an emphasis in Web & Mobile Programming from Liberty University. This 3 ½ – year offering is available entirely online and features course titles such as Web and Mobile Programming, Server-Side Programming, and Business Common Professional Components, for example.
Median Annual Wage: $82,330
One of the most prominent associate degree jobs associated with high earnings is that of a radiation therapist. The primary role of these healthcare professionals is to administer radiation therapy to cancer patients. Their specific tasks may include explaining treatment plans to patients, ensuring protection from radiation exposure, operating specialized machinery, and monitoring patients’ reactions to treatments.
For individuals interested in pursuing the required credentials necessary to become a radiation therapist, Bellevue College offers an AA in Radiation Therapy accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). The program is designed to be completed within 24 months.
Students who desire to further their education beyond an associate’s degree may be interested in the University of Vermont’s BS in Medical Radiation Sciences featuring a concentration in Radiation Therapy. The curriculum for this program is comprised of course titles such as Essentials of Patient Care, Clinical Radiation Oncology, and Health Care Ethics. Clinical experience is also required prior to graduation.
In addition to an associate’s degree, most radiation therapists will also need to pass a certification exam.
Geological and Petroleum Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $53,300
Salary Potential: $108,110
One of the more obscure high-paying associate degree jobs in our ranking is that of a geological and petroleum technician. These professionals work alongside scientists and engineers in the field and in the laboratory, providing support services in the extraction and analysis of oil and natural gas as well as other natural resources.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for geological and petroleum technicians are currently growing faster than average, so now may be a good time to enter the field.
Most employers prefer that prospective geological and petroleum technicians hold an associate’s degree in applied science or science-related technology. Pierpoint Community & Technical College offers one such degree program. Its Associate of Applied Science in Petroleum Technology includes degree-specific coursework such as Introduction to Midstream Gas Operations, Rigging for Land-Based Oil and Gas Operations, and Drilling Technology, for instance.
Houston Community College offers a similar program. The school’s AAS in Petroleum Engineering Technology features classes like Introduction to the Petroleum Industry, Industrial Safety, Petroleum Data Management, and Petroleum Operations.
Computer Network Support Specialists
Median Annual Wage: $62,770
Salary Potential: $105,770
Another of the lucrative associate degree jobs in information technology is the occupation of a computer network support specialist. These IT professionals are responsible for maintaining networks such as wide area networks (WAN) and local area networks (LAN) as well as Internet systems, for example. Some of their specific tasks may include handling security breaches, backing up data, and diagnosing network problems.
Students interested in pursuing a career as a computer network support specialist can typically find a suitable degree program from a community college. For example, Maricopa Community Colleges offers several different associate’s degrees in the field of computer and information technology.
Central Texas College also offers an online program for aspiring computer network support specialists. Its Associate of Applied Science in Network Systems Administration features course titles such as Information Technology Security, Firewalls and Network Security, and Implementing Network Directory Services.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists
Median Annual Wage: $76,820
Salary Potential: $104,730
When you think of associate degree jobs, the occupation of a nuclear medicine technologist may not be the first to come to mind. Still, these positions require just a two-year degree and can set graduates up for a handsome salary.
Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs to patients for therapy and imaging. Daily tasks may include counseling patients, operating specialized medical equipment, consulting with doctors, and keeping records of procedures and dosage.
Many colleges across the country offer associate’s degree programs in nuclear medicine technology. For instance, Miami Dade College offers a two-year associate of science program that covers topics such as nuclear medicine pharmacology, radiation procedures, and nuclear medicine physics.
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences offers a similar online program. Its Associate in Applied Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology offering is comprised of course titles like Nuclear Medicine Theory, Methods of Patient Care, and Ethical and Legal Dimensions in the Health Sciences.
Jobs for nuclear medicine technologists are growing at a faster-than-average rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Professionals with a bachelor’s degree or those with a certification in one of the field’s specialty areas will have the best employment prospects.
Median Annual Wage: $74,820
Salary Potential: $101,820
Among the most well-known and lucrative associate degree jobs is that of a dental hygienist. These dental care professionals conduct dental examinations and clean patients’ teeth. They may also educate their patients on proper oral hygiene and dental care.
In addition to an associate’s degree, dental hygienists will also need to become licensed in the state where they plan to work.
There are over 300 accredited dental hygiene programs in the United States. One such program is Meridian Community College’s dental hygiene technology program. The curriculum for the program is comprised of course titles such as Theories of Patient Care, General and Oral Pathology, Dental Ethics/Law, and Pharmacology.
Georgia State University also offers a hybrid AS in Dental Hygiene. Students enrolled in the program may take their coursework online, but the professional component of the program is completed on campus.
Jobs for dental hygienists are growing much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job prospects will be best for individuals willing to work part-time, however.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Median Annual Salary: $72,510
Salary Potential: $100,480
One of the fastest-growing associate degree jobs in our ranking, the position of a diagnostic medical sonographer is also one with a six-figure earning potential. Diagnostic medical sonographers use special imaging equipment to help doctors diagnose diseases and other medical conditions. Their auxiliary duties may include preparing patients for diagnostic procedures, assessing the quality of images after the procedure, conducting diagnostic analyses to relay to doctors, and recording results of diagnostic tests, for example.
One of the leading associate’s degree programs for diagnostic medical sonography is the Associate of Applied Science option offered by Lamar Institute of Technology. This 65-credit hour program features course titles such as Techniques of Medical Sonography, Sonographic Pathophysiology, and Basic Ultrasound Physics. The program also requires 90 lab hours prior to graduation.
Students who desire to continue their studies in a bachelor’s degree program in diagnostic medical sonography can do so online through Allied Health University. This degree completion program requires major-specific courses like Advanced Sonographic Specialties, Medical Imaging in the Digital Environment, and Management Principles for Imaging Professionals.
Employment opportunities for diagnostic medical sonographers are growing much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those certified in a specialty area such as abdominal sonography, for example, will have the best job prospects.
Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $67,010
Salary Potential: $100,310
Some people may be surprised to find the occupation of an aerospace engineering and operation technician on our list of associate degree jobs. It’s true, though—this high-paying career requires only a two-year degree.
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians are responsible for maintaining the specialized equipment used in developing aircraft and spacecraft. Their specific duties may include meeting with aerospace engineers to discuss plans, testing equipment used in aircraft and spacecraft development, and recording data associated with the operation and performance of aerospace equipment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for aerospace engineering and operation technicians are growing about as fast as average, though increasing automation in the field could slow this growth in the future.
Seminole State College offers an Associate of Science in Engineering Technology for students interested in becoming an aerospace engineering and operations technician. The program features course titles such as Engineering Concepts and Methods, Mechanical Measurement and Instrumentation, and Safety for Engineering Technologists.
For students who prefer an online program, Embry Riddle Aeronautics University offers an Associate of Science in Engineering Fundamentals. This program is also offered on campus and is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologists
Median Annual Wage: $71,670
Salary Potential: $99,180
Another of the potentially lucrative associate degree jobs in health care is the occupation of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist. These professionals are responsible for operating the specialized equipment necessary to conduct MRIs, specifically magnetic resonance imaging scanners. They may also inject patients with dyes in order for images to develop on the scanners. Other tasks may include prepping the patient for the MRI scan, consulting with doctors regarding MRI results, and maintaining patient records.
Midwestern Career College offers an associate’s degree program that prepares students to enter the field of MRI technology. Its Associate of Applied Science in Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technology is approved by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In addition to coursework, an externship is also required for successful program completion.
CBD College offers a similar program that can be completed entirely online. The program is asynchronous in nature and can be completed in as few as 11 months.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for prospective magnetic resonance imaging technologists are currently growing faster than average. Graduates of accredited programs who also specialize in a specific subfield of MRI technology will fare best when applying for coveted positions.
Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $64,330
Salary Potential: $95,140
Another of the potentially lucrative associate degree jobs to consider is the occupation of an electrical and electronics engineering technician. These technical professionals provide support services to engineers as they design electrical and electronic equipment such as communications equipment, computers, medical devices, and navigation systems. Their specific tasks may include sketching ideas for new electrical/electronics equipment, testing prototypes, building and repairing electrical equipment, and developing solutions to design problems.
Those interested in pursuing a career as an electrical/electronics engineering technician will need a relevant associate’s degree. ECPI University offers both an Associate of Science and an Associate of Applied Science in Electronics Engineering Technology. Students enrolled in these programs may take classes such as Data Communications and Networking, Network Protocols and Services, and Wireless Security, for example.
For students who want to continue their education in the field, Eastern New Mexico University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering Technology. This robust offering includes job placement services.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of electrical and electronics engineering technicians is projected to remain steady for the next several years. Candidates will face competition for available jobs, however, and those with certification from agencies like the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies and ETA International, for example, will have the best chances for employment.
Median Annual Wage: $64,140
Salary Potential: $94,710
If you’re looking for associate degree jobs with near six-figure salaries, you may want to consider employment as an avionics technician. These technical professionals are tasked with maintaining an aircraft’s electronic systems, including radio communication, navigation, and radar systems. This can include using specialized equipment to install instrument panels and make necessary repairs, testing a plane’s electronic systems, and keeping records of scheduled maintenance, for instance.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for avionics technicians are growing, albeit slowly. To enter the field, you’ll need an associate’s degree along with professional certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
One of the nation’s leading avionics technology associate’s degree programs is the Associate of Applied Science offering from Texas State Technical College. This program features course titles such as Introduction to Aviation Electronic Systems, Operational Testing of Aviation Electronic Systems, and Foundations in Avionics Equipment Component Level Repairs, for instance.
Students who wish to continue their education in a bachelor’s degree program can do so via distance education through Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. This online Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technologies with a specialization in Aviation Electronics features specialty courses such as Aviation Radar Systems, Flight Management Systems, and Aviation Electronics Control Systems, for instance.
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $56,850
Salary Potential: $93,100
Among the highest paying associate degree jobs in the healthcare industry is that of cardiovascular technologists and technicians. These healthcare professionals are responsible for conducting tests and scans of a patient’s heart and lungs. There are different types of cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including cardiographic or electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians, cardiovascular invasive specialists, and pulmonary function technologists, for example. To perform their jobs successfully, cardiovascular technologists/technicians must operate specialized medical equipment, preparing patients for medical procedures, and analyzing cardiovascular test results.
Individuals interested in pursuing the required education necessary to become a cardiovascular technologist or technician have many options, including Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Associate in Science in Cardiovascular Technology. Professional coursework for the program includes classes such as Introduction to Cardiovascular Technology; Ultrasound Physics, Radiation, and Safety; and Cardiovascular Anatomy and Physiology.
Another option designed specifically for those students interested in invasive cardiology is available through Central Pennsylvania Community College. Featured courses include Invasive Hemodynamic Assessment, Congenital Heart Disease, and Cardiovascular Pharmacology.
The demand for cardiovascular technologists and technicians is currently high as jobs in the field are growing faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors
Median Annual Wage: $52,650
Salary Potential: $89,050
It’s not an occupation for everyone, but the job of a mortician, undertaker, or funeral director is indeed among one of the highest paying associate degree jobs currently available. These professionals are tasked with planning funerals and memorial services as well as handling the logistics of burials and cremations. Most morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors also embalm bodies in preparation for the funeral service.
To become a funeral service worker, you’ll need an associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science. There are over 50 such programs across the nation accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). One of these is the Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science from the Community College of Mortuary Science. Program requirements include Microbiology for Mortuary Science, Advanced Embalming Theory, and Funeral Service Principles.
For those interested in distance education options, Worsham College of Mortuary Science offers an online associate’s in mortuary science that can be completed in as few as 16 months. A one-week restorative art and embalming competency component is also required.
Median Annual Wage: $57,790
Salary Potential: $88,860
Still looking for high-paying associate degree jobs? You may want to consider the job of an electro-mechanical technician. These professionals operate and maintain electro-mechanical equipment such as factory machinery, computer-controlled mechanical systems, and robotic equipment, for instance. Their daily tasks may include reading blueprints, using specialized equipment to install electronic hardware, calibrating hydraulic and pneumatic assemblies, and keeping records of routine maintenance.
An associate’s degree is all that is needed to enter the field as an electro-mechanical technician, but professional certifications are also available from associations like The International Society of Automation and the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies.
Prospective electro-mechanical technicians have many options when it comes to career preparation. For instance, Northcentral Technical College offers an associate’s degree in electro-mechanical technology. The program can be completed on-campus or online and features course titles like Electrical Fabrication, Introduction to Machine Shop, and Electromechanical Troubleshooting, for example.
A similar two-year program is available through Wisconsin Technical Colleges. The hybrid nature of this offering enables students to combine online and traditional learning.
Industrial Engineering Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $55,460
Salary Potential: $88,340
Another of the high-paying associate degree jobs in the field of engineering is that of an industrial engineering technician. These employees provide assistance and support to industrial engineers as they work to improve the efficiency of the systems involved in developing products and services. Specific duties of industrial engineering technicians may include analyzing blueprints and drawings, making suggestions to improve processes, and preparing workflow diagrams, for example.
To become an industrial engineering technician, you’ll need an associate’s degree in industrial technology or industrial engineering technology. California University of Pennsylvania offers an Associate of Science in Industrial Technology accredited by the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE). Sample course titles comprising the curriculum for the program include Introduction to Automation, Interpreting and Sketching of Technical Drawings, and Computer-Aided Drafting.
Many colleges and universities offer online bachelor’s degree programs in industrial engineering technology designed for students who want to continue their studies via distance education. For example, the University of Texas at the Permian Basin offers a BS in Industrial Technology featuring course titles like Total Quality Management, Management Concepts and Organizational Theory, and Project Management.
Radio, Cellular, and Tower Equipment Installers and Repairers
Median Annual Wage: $56,340
Salary Potential: $86,350
One of the lesser-known associate degree jobs with a handsome salary is that of a radio, cellular and tower equipment installer/repairer. These technicians do their part to ensure ongoing means of communication by maintaining the equipment necessary to operate cell phones, two-way radios, broadcasting mechanisms, mobile broadband, and more. Their specific tasks may include reading blueprints, inspecting equipment and hardware, operating power tools, and running cables, for instance.
In addition to an associate’s degree in electronics technology, these types of technicians will also undergo a period of on-the-job training before they are able to perform their duties independently.
For students interested in this career path, Colorado Technical University offers an Associate of Science in Electronics Technology on its campus in Colorado Springs. Core courses required for the program include Embedded Microcontrollers, Computer Architecture, and Circuit Analysis, for instance.
The University of Massachusetts-Lowell also offers a unique hybrid AS in Electronics Engineering Technology that combines on-campus engineering courses with online electives.
Median Annual Wage: $59,250
Salary Potential: $86,350
Also called radiographers, radiologic technologists have some of the highest-paid associate degree jobs in the healthcare field. These professionals are trained to take x-rays for diagnostic purposes. Their duties may include preparing patients for the procedure, operating imaging equipment, analyzing the resulting images, and keeping patient records.
Radiologic technologists will need an associate degree in radiologic technology. Students interested in pursuing this credential may want to consider the Associate of Applied Science with a major in Radiologic Technology from Parker University. The program’s curriculum features course titles like Principles of Radiographic Imaging, Introduction to Radiologic Sciences and Patient Care, Advanced Medical Imaging, and Radiation Biology and Protection.
An online option is also available from The College of Health Care Professions. Students enrolled in this program will use distance education technology to take classes such as Radiographic Imaging and Physics, Patient Care and Pharmacology, and Advanced Positioning and Anatomy, for instance.
The BLS reports that jobs for radiologic technologists are growing faster than average, so employment prospects for graduates of accredited associate’s degree programs should be good.
Mechanical Engineering Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $56,250
Salary Potential: $85,430
The engineering field is full of high paying associate degree jobs, another of which is the occupation of a mechanical engineering technician. These professionals work alongside mechanical engineers, helping them design and manufacture mechanical components like engines and machines. Specific day-to-day duties may include measuring dimensions of parts and components, reading blueprints, conducting tests of prototypes, and estimating production costs, for example.
New England Institute of Technology offers an Associate of Mechanical Engineering Technology program that prepares individuals to enter this potentially lucrative profession. Students enrolled in this program will take classes such as Fundamentals of Electronics, Mechanics of Materials, Design Principles, and Manufacturing Processes, for instance.
Students who desire to continue their education beyond an associate’s degree can do so via distance education through Indiana State University. The school’s Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology is comprised of course titles such as Manufacturing Processes and Materials, Elements of Machine Design, Electronic Fundamentals, and Economic Analysis for Engineering and Technology.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of mechanical engineering technicians is growing, although that growth is currently slower than average. Candidates with knowledge and/or experience with advanced technology in the field such as 3-D design software, for example, will have the best job prospects.
Electrical and Electronics Drafters
Median Annual Wage: $55,550
Salary Potential: $85,140
Another of the associate degree jobs in drafting that has the potential to earn you a handsome wage is the position of an electrical or electronic drafter. These professionals create complex wiring diagrams used for the installation and repair of electrical equipment and electronic components.
In order to become employed as an electrical/electronics drafter, you’ll need an associate’s degree in drafting. For some positions, you may also need certification from the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA).
Students looking to pursue the educational requirements for a career as an electrical or electronics drafter should consider programs like Front Range Community College’s Computer-Aided Drafting & Design (CAD) degree option. The program includes transfer options for students who want to continue their studies in a bachelor’s program in drafting.
Another option can be found at the Lamar Institute of Technology. The school’s Associate of Applied Science in Computer Drafting Technology features classes like Electrical Drafting, Introduction to Industrial Maintenance, and Technical Drafting, for instance.
According to the BLS, jobs for electrical and electronic drafter are growing slower than average. Candidates will face strong competition for available positions.
Architectural and Civil Drafters
Median Annual Wage: $54,920
Salary Potential: $85,140
Architectural and civil drafters have the potential to make well over $80,000 per year, making their occupation one of the most lucrative among associate degree jobs. These types of drafters sketch plans and blueprints for buildings and other types of construction. Some architectural and civil drafters specialize in a certain type of building or material.
To become an architectural/civil drafter, you’ll most likely need an associate’s degree in architectural drafting technology. There are programs of this kind available from community colleges across the nation. For example, Central New Mexico Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Architectural/Engineering Drafting Technology from its School of Applied Technologies. The program is available part-time or full-time and includes courses such as Introduction to Building Information Modeling, Building Materials and Methods, and Structural Systems Analysis, for instance.
A similar program is available through South Texas College. Its Associate of Applied Science in Architectural and Engineering Design Technology features classes like Architectural Blueprint Reading and Sketching, Plane Surveying, Civil Drafting, and Architectural History.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports slow growth for the employment of architectural and civil drafters, so competition for jobs will be strong.
Median Annual Wage: $60,280
Salary Potential: $83,520
Another of the fast-growing associate degree jobs in the healthcare industry is that of a respiratory therapist. These medical professionals provide treatment to patients experiencing breathing difficulties. Their specific tasks may include examining patients, performing diagnostic tests, monitoring patients’ progress, and educating patients on treatment plans.
Students interested in becoming a respiratory therapist will need a minimum of an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy, preferably one accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. (CoARC).
One such program is available through Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. This Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy is CoARC-accredited and features courses such as Respiratory Care Theory, Methods of Patient Care, and Respiratory Care Procedures and Diagnostics.
St. Louis College of Health Careers offers a similar option. Students enrolled in this AAS program will take classes like Respiratory Care Pathology, Cardiopulmonary Testing, and Respiratory Care in Alternative Settings, for instance.
Job opportunities will be good for certified respiratory therapists, though they may be clustered in specific geographical areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those willing to commute or relocate will have the best prospects for employment.
Environmental Engineering Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $50,560
Salary Potential: $82,800
One of the fast-growing associate degree jobs in our ranking is that of an environmental engineering technician. These professionals follow instructions of environmental engineers, carrying out plans for reducing pollution and improving environmental health. Their specific duties may include testing new devices for environmental cleanup, conducting pollution surveys, and maintaining project files, for instance.
Environmental engineering hopefuls will need an associate’s degree in environmental engineering technology or a closely related field. Students should look for a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. One such program is Ohio University’s AAS in Environmental Engineering Technology. Part-time and full-time tracks are available, and the program features course titles like Environmental Engineering Instrumentation and Computation, Fluid Mechanics, Analysis of Environmental Pollutants, and Introduction to Air and Wastewater Pollution, for example.
A similar program is offered through Delaware Tech’s Stanton campus. The school’s Associate of Applied Science in Environmental Engineering Technology is comprised of course titles like Civil and Environmental Drafting and Design, Surveying Principles, Principles of Site Assessment, and Environmental Field Sampling.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Median Annual Wage: $50,940
Salary Potential: $82,050
Among the most popular high-paying associate degree jobs is that of paralegals and legal assistants. These legal professionals assist lawyers and attorneys with their caseloads. They may perform administrative duties as well as provide legal support services such as researching the facts of a case and writing legal briefs, for instance.
The clearest path to a career as a paralegal or legal assistant is an associate’s degree in paralegal studies. Some of these professionals may have a degree in another field combined with a certificate in paralegal studies. Some employers prefer candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree.
Students interested in pursuing the credentials necessary to become a paralegal or legal assistant have numerous choices. One of these options can be found at South College. The school offers an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies program as well as a certificate track. The degree program is accredited by the American Bar Association and requires a supervised internship.
For students interested in an online option, Liberty University offers an online Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies. Offered through the university’s School of Law, the program requires core courses such as Legal Writing, Criminal Practice and Procedures, Foundations of Law, and Legal Research.
Currently, employment opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants are growing much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Candidates with strong computer and database management skills will fare best in the job market.
Medical Equipment Repairers
Median Annual Wage: $49,210
Salary Potential: $82,050
Another of the more obscure associate degree jobs on our list is the position of a medical equipment repairer. These professionals work within the health care industry, making necessary repairs to the various equipment used in healthcare settings such as hospitals and doctor’s offices. Their day-to-day tasks may include installing new medical equipment, testing and repairing existing equipment, keeping records of routine maintenance, and demonstrating the proper operation of medical equipment.
To enter the field, candidates need only a two-year degree in biomedical technology or engineering. Students who desire to advance in the field must have a bachelor’s degree in order to do so.
St. Petersburg College offers an Associate of Science in Biomedical Engineering Technology with a certificate in Medical Equipment Repair. The program’s major core courses include Survey of Medical Technology, Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering, Electro-Mechanical Systems, and Managing Medical Technology, for instance.
Another option is the AS in Biomedical Engineering Technology from Florida State College at Jacksonville. Designed to be completed within 18 months, this accelerated program features classes such as Biomedical Instrumentation, Software Configuration, and Survey of Electronics.
Jobs for medical equipment repairers are currently growing about as fast as average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $46,170
Salary Potential: $80,130
Among some of the most impactful associate degree jobs on our list is the position of an environmental science and protection technician. These professionals are responsible for probing the major causes of pollution and keeping tabs on the overall health of the environment. To do this, they may conduct inspections, collect samples, analyze test results, and prepare reports, for instance. Environmental science and protection technicians often work under the direction of an environmental scientist or specialist.
Entry into the field as an environmental science and protection technician will require a two-year degree, preferably an associate’s degree in environmental science or environmental health. Depending on their specific duties, additional training may be required by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
One option for students who decide to pursue the necessary credentials to follow this career path is Queensborough Community College’s Associate of Science in Environmental Science. Major courses required for the degree include General Microbiology, Ecology, and Physical Geology, for instance. Students may also take elective classes like The Role of Energy in Society, Energy for a Green Society, and Global Warming.
For students who prefer an online program, Columbia College offers an AS in Environmental Studies that can be completed via distance learning technology. Major requirements for the program span classes like Introduction to Environmental Science, Resource Management, Environmental Ethics, and Literature and Ecological Balance, for example.
Now is a good time to consider the occupation of an environmental science and protection technician as jobs for these professionals are growing faster than average, according to the BLS.
Occupational Therapy Assistants
Median Annual Wage: $60,220
Salary Potential: $80,980
Another of the rapidly growing associate degree jobs in health services is that of an occupational therapy assistant. These healthcare professionals are responsible for helping patients develop and improve the skills they need for daily life. Typical tasks include providing assistance as patients learn to perform therapeutic exercises, helping patients operate special equipment, and monitoring patients’ progress, for example.
Occupational therapy assistants will need an associate’s degree in occupational therapy in order to enter the field. Students interested in this career path should look for a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). One example is the Associate in Occupational Therapy program from Penn State University- Berks. The school enrolls students on a part-time or full-time basis and provides adequate preparation for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.
Another option is the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program from Rutger’s School of Health Professions. This 74-credit hour offering features classes such as Occupational Therapy Foundations for the OTA, Occupational Performance and Participation: Therapeutic Applications, and Principles and Practices: Wellness and Mental Health.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for occupational therapy assistants are currently on a steep incline. The best positions will be reserved for those with prior experience in the field, however.
Physical Therapy Assistants
Median Annual Wage: $58,040
Salary Potential: $79,810
One of the fastest-growing associate degree jobs in our ranking, the occupation of a physical therapist requires providing support services to licensed physical therapists. This can include helping patients perform prescribed exercises, monitoring patient progress, and educating patients and their families regarding the treatment plan.
To become a physical therapy assistant, you’ll need an associate’s degree in physical therapy accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPE). You’ll also need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.
Miami Dade College offers a CAPE-accredited Physical Therapy Assistant Program. Courses required for the degree include Anatomy for the Physical Therapist Assistant, Disabilities and Therapeutic Procedures, and Applied Kinesiology, for example. Some of these classes may be offered online.
A similar program is offered through Penn State University- Hazelton. Its Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant is comprised of course titles such as Applied Kinesiology, Therapeutic Exercise, and Clinical Reasoning for the Physical Therapy Assistant.
Though job prospects are good for this occupation, prospective physical therapy assistants will still face strong competition during the hiring process, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Civil Engineering Technicians
Median Annual Wage: $52,580
Salary Potential: $79,600
Among the highest paying associate degree jobs in engineering is the occupation of a civil engineering technician. These support professionals assist civil engineers as they design civil infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and utilities. Daily tasks may include interpreting drawings and blueprints, estimating construction costs, testing soil samples, and using computer-aided design software, for instance.
An associate’s degree in civil engineering technology is usually required for these positions. Students have several options for earning this credential. For example, Pennsylvania College of Technology offers an Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Featured course titles include Computer Applications for Civil Engineering and Surveying, Topographic Surveys and Mapping, and Highway Engineering.
Hudson Valley Community College also offers an Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology. Offered through the school’s Civil, Industrial and Mechanical Engineering Technologies, the program is comprised of classes like Engineering Graphics, Highway Construction Planning and Methods, Reinforced Concrete Design, and Civil Engineering Applications, for instance.
The BLS reports that civil engineering technicians will face strong competition for available jobs, even though employment in the field is growing faster than average. Job candidates proficient in the latest civil engineering software will have the best prospects.