The education industry is undergoing significant changes. Companies are eschewing degree requirements in favor of applicants who are digitally aware and eager to learn and improve as the globe moves toward a skill-based economy.
Similarly, instead of pursuing a four-year bachelor’s degree, many people opt for an associate’s degree program since it is less expensive, takes less time, pays more money, and may lead to additional professional prospects.
Radiation treatment, nuclear technology, dental hygiene, and aerospace engineering are just a few of the many jobs that may pay over $55,000 per year, according to PayScale data.
In the academic year of 2019, around 1.04 million students in the United States received their Associate’s degree. In the future decade, the number is likely to rise.
Unconventional positions are becoming more common, giving rise to the trend of earning an associate’s degree in which students can choose their own courses based on their interests.
In addition, an associate’s degree is the ideal alternative to undergraduate programs because it now provides candidates with some of the highest-paying employment.
Candidates will flock to online courses to upgrade their skill sets, with firms such as Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Twitter, Inc. (NYSE: TWTR), and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) favoring skills over degrees.
Whilst we keep this context in mind, let’s first understand: What is Associates Degree?
Thereafter, we do a review of the 30 highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree in 2021.
For every role, we listed the expected growth (decline, sometimes) in related jobs because of data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What Is Associates Degree?
An associate degree is an undergraduate degree earned after two to three years of post-secondary study.
It is a qualification that is higher than a high school diploma, GED, or matriculation but lower than a bachelor’s degree.
Review on the Highest-Paying Jobs with an Associates Degree
1. Environmental Technicians
$43,171 is the average annual salary.
Engineers and environmental technicians collaborate to eliminate the hazards posed by climate change.
Their job entails taking practical steps to mitigate climate change’s effects, such as monitoring soil samples, lowering water contamination, cleaning up hazardous wastes, and identifying pollution and contamination sources.
With the growing threat of global environmental change, they expect employment for this position to increase by 8% by 2029.
TETRA Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: TTI) and Stericycle, Inc. both have openings for this position (NASDAQ: SRCL).
2. Food Service Manager
$46,716 is the average annual salary.
Food service managers plan the services provided by restaurants and other businesses daily.
They supervise the restaurant personnel and are to prepare nutritional meals, educating employees, adhering to health standards, and dealing with client complaints.
Employers prefer candidates having a one-year appropriate certificate or an associate’s degree in culinary arts.
Restaurants or organizations in charge of operations, such as Aramark (NYSE: ARMK) or The Geo Group, Inc., recruit them (NYSE: GEO).
Although they predicted employment to expand by 1% in the future, the position appears to be in high demand because of the growing trend of dining out.
In 2021, the job ranks 29th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
3. Computer Network Support Specialist
Average Annual Salary: $47,632
Computer network support specialists help businesses and individuals handle computer problems and provide technical help. They are to maintain security breaches, verifying networks, and backing up files.
They also look after network regions like LAN and WAN. Employers frequently hire IT, computer science, and customer service specialists with an associate’s degree.
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Verizon Communications Inc. are two companies where candidates can apply for relevant positions (NYSE: VZ).
They expect computer network support professionals’ employment to expand by 8% by 2029, as practically all businesses move toward ecommerce.
4. Occupational Therapy Assistant
$47,649 is the average annual salary.
Occupational therapy assistants are the second best-paying careers with an associate’s degree on our list. They collaborate with occupational therapists to provide therapeutic treatments to patients with chronic disorders such as Parkinson’s, arthritis, brain injury, autism, and other conditions.
Their primary responsibility is administrative, which involves transporting patients, implementing treatment regimens, scheduling appointments, and keeping records.
They mostly work in rehab facilities like Reliant Rehabilitations. The role has a bright future ahead of it, with a projected growth rate of 32% by 2029.
They rank the job 27th on our list of the best earning associate’s degree jobs in 2021.
5. Paralegal and Legal Assistants
Annual Average Salary: $48,766
In law firms, paralegals and legal assistants work closely with lawyers. Their primary responsibility is to help lawyers and attorneys with their cases, although they may also conduct administrative chores.
Submitting documents, interviewing clients, gathering evidence, writing trial statements, and filing appeals are among their daily responsibilities.
To work for respected law firms, an applicant must have an associate’s degree in legal studies and an American Bar Association-approved certification.
Paralegal and legal assistant roles are available at Fragomen, Del Rey& Bernsen. As law firms extend their legal services, they predicted employment for this position to increase by 10% in the next several years.
$49,961 is the average annual salary.
A mortician, often known as a funeral director, is one of the more uncommon yet well-paid associate’s degree vocation. Embalming bodies for burial is the responsibility of morticians.
Their principal responsibilities include planning funerals and burial services for the deceased. They work primarily in funeral homes and crematories, both of which offer full-time careers.
Morticians need to have an associate’s degree and a state-issued license to practice. Because of the growing demand for cremation, they predict mortician employment to fall by 4%.
In 2021, the job ranks 25th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
7. Physical Therapist Assistant
$50,918 is the average annual salary.
With a projected growth rate of 29 percent in the future years, physical therapy assistant is one of the fastest-growing jobs.
They collaborate with therapists to help patients regain mobility following accidents or illness. They do the activities with weights and traction equipment while also observing muscle movement.
An applicant for the position of therapist assistant should have an associate’s degree and a license. They usually work in hospitals, although commercial companies like ATI Physical Therapy also hire them.
The employment of this function is growing far faster than the average of all vocations, owing to the aging population and patients with chronic illnesses.
In 2021, the job ranks 24th on our list of highest paying jobs with an associate’s degree.
8. Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers
$50,948 is the average annual salary.
Telecommunication equipment installers/repairers, as the name implies, labor to keep communication flowing. They set up and install the equipment needed to convey communication signals, such as internet routers and phone lines.
Their major responsibilities include inspecting equipment, repairing defects, testing new gadgets, keeping records, and so forth.
Before working independently, this lesser-known position requires an associate’s degree in electronic technology and training. They predict the employment rate for this position to decrease by 3% in the next years because of the increased use of cellular devices.
In 2021, the job ranks 23rd in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate’s degree.
9. Avionics Technician
$51,364 is the average annual salary.
Avionics technicians service an aircraft’s avionics system. They also diagnose electrical faults, fix and replace broken components, inspect performance requirements, and keep track of records.
To work as an avionics technician, you’ll need an associate’s degree and FAA professional certification, and you’ll most likely be in the army or navy.
Because of the gradual growth in air traffic over time, they predict recruiting for this position to increase by 5% by 2029.
In 2021, the job ranks 22nd on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
10. Wind Turbine Technician
$51,938 is the average annual salary.
Wind turbine technician is one of the highest-paying associate’s degree careers, with employment expected to grow by 61 percent by 2029.
Their primary responsibilities include maintaining, installing, and repairing wind turbines. They are to examine turbine towers, maintaining wind turbine regular performance, testing various components, and replacing or repairing defective devices.
Companies like General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) and NextEra Energy, Inc. employ them (NYSE: NEE). Although community institutions offer degrees in turbine technology, businesses prefer an associate’s degree with 12 months of training.
In 2021, the job ranks 21st on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
11. Civil Engineering Technician
$52,205 is the average annual salary.
They rank civil engineering technician 20th on our list of the greatest paying careers, with an associate’s degree in 2021.
Civil engineering technicians collaborate with civil engineers to plan, design, and construct infrastructure projects. They analyze blueprints, use computer-aided designs (CAD), estimate building costs, inspect site conditions, and write reports.
Civil engineering technicians require an associate’s degree in arithmetic, geometry, or physics to be considered. They usually work for private enterprises, such as Ace Asphalt.
As the demand for infrastructure development grows, hiring for this position will increase by 3% in the next years.
12. Radiologic Technologists
$53,923 is the average annual salary.
One of the highest-paying associate’s degree positions is that of a radiologic technologist. These technicians subject patients to X-RAY scans and other diagnostic examinations.
They collaborate with doctors and maintain imaging equipment, as well as prepare patients for procedures, assess images with doctors, and keep records. They require an associate’s degree in radiologic technology will be for these professionals.
This position’s employment prospects will improve by 7% in the future. This position is available at companies like RadNet, Inc. (NASDAQ: RDNT).
In 2021, the job ranks 19th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
13. Aircraft Service Technician
$54,032 is the average annual salary.
Another employment with brighter prospects is that of an aviation service technician, which is expected to rise by 5% by 2029. Their primary responsibilities include the upkeep of aircraft structures and systems.
They inspect sections of the cockpit and fix the planes before takeoff to ensure passenger safety. They are primarily in charge of locating mistakes, maintaining records, and replacing broken items.
Besides that, they also require an associate’s degree the Federal Aviation Administration allowed to work as an aviation service technician (FAA).
Companies like Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) hire for this position besides the army and navy.
In 2021, the job ranks 18th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
14. Industrial Engineering Technician
Annual Average Salary: $54,848
With an associate’s degree, one of the greatest careers to pursue is industrial engineering technician. Their major responsibility is to keep track of the factory’s production levels.
They collaborate closely with industrial engineers to create layouts, manage work schedules, and reduce cost projections.
To gain a suitable position in any engineering firm, an individual pursuing this position must have a diploma or an associate’s degree in industrial engineering. In the future, the employment rate will increase by 1%.
In 2021, the job ranks 17th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
15. Electro-Mechanical Technicians
$57,247 is the average annual salary.
Electro-mechanical technicians work with electric components in products. They’re in charge of robotics, submarines, industrial machines, and temperature control systems.
Their everyday responsibilities include interpreting blueprints, installing electronic devices with equipment, and keeping track of normal activities.
To work in this area, you’ll need an associate’s degree and professional certification.
Companies like Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE: PBI) and Baker Hughes Company are good places to look for a career (NYSE: BKR).
By 2029, they predict the employment rate for this job to increase by 3%.
In 2021, the job ranks 16th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
16. Respiratory Therapists
$57,314 is the average annual salary.
Respiratory therapists help patients with breathing problems maintain oxygen levels in their lungs, as the term implies.
They collaborate with physicians to treat patients with asthma, cystic fibrosis, cancer, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases. Connecting patients to respirators, demonstrating the use of nebulizers and inhalers, cleaning mucus from the lungs, and performing CPR are just a few of the daily tasks.
These organizations frequently sought candidates with an associate’s degree in the discipline and certification from the National Board of Respiratory Care. Hospitals and healthcare companies such as HCA Healthcare Inc. always have openings (NYSE: HCA).
With the emergence of Covid-19 and other chronic respiratory illnesses, they predict employment for this position to increase 19% in the next few years.
In 2021, the job ranks 15th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
17. Nuclear Technician
$60,000 is the average annual salary.
They typically link nuclear technicians to the generation of safe levels of nuclear energy.
Monitoring nuclear reactors, measuring suitable radiation levels, and adhering to safety norms and protocols are all part of their job. They also aid nuclear researchers, such as engineers and physicists.
With vacancies in the navy, they require an associate’s degree in nuclear physics and nuclear-related technology.
Because of the rising trend of renewable energies for electricity generation, they expect employment to fall by 19% over the next decade.
In 2021, the job ranks 14th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
18. Web Developers
Average Annual Salary: $60, 023
Web developers, as the name implies, are to design websites for corporations, people, and other organizations.
Web developers are IT experts who employ computer coding languages such as HTML and XML to construct websites that match the needs of their clients. Brainstorming designs, sketching the specific layout, developing visuals, running updates, and testing site performance are all part of the website’s development process.
They require an associate’s degree in computer-related courses for this position. The finest firms for this position are Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Accenture plc (NYSE: ACN).
Expect employment to grow 8% by 2029 because of the growing demand for eCommerce and startups.
In 2021, the job ranked 13th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
19. Dental Hygienists
$60,808 is the average annual salary.
Patients’ oral health is the responsibility of dental hygienists. Taking dental X-rays, cleaning teeth, consulting with dentists, offering dental consultation, and managing all records are among their responsibilities.
They collaborate closely with dentists and support them throughout the treatment process. The Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved approximately 300 associate degree programs (CODA).
The dental hygienist is one of the highest-paying associate’s degree careers because of the large number of courses available.
Companies like Dillard’s Inc. (NYSE: DDS) and American Dental Partners frequently have openings. By 2029, the job’s prospects will have improved by 6%.
20. Fire Investigator
$60,920 is the average annual salary.
Fire investigators look for fire hazards and look into the causes of fires. They occasionally relate fires to a history of criminal behavior, and fire investigators are to investigate.
They investigate the incident’s cause, interview the victims, photograph the evidence, test DNA, and keep records. Employers sometimes require candidates with an associate’s degree to have firefighting experience.
They also guarantee that buildings comply with current fire rules, a position that will continue to be in demand in the future.
As a result, by 2029, they expect the employment rate to increase by 8%. Companies like Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE: COF) and The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. are good places to look for a job as a fire investigator (NYSE: PNC).
21. Geological and Petroleum Technician
61,033 dollars per year is the average annual salary.
Engineers and scientists collaborate with geologists and petroleum technicians to extract natural resources from the Earth’s crust. They aid the engineers in locating the optimum drilling locations while carrying out the task.
Besides that, they also keep track of the availability of natural resources by monitoring rock formations and testing soil samples.
They work in offices and laboratories, although they also operate in the field occasionally. They require a two-year associate’s degree in geoscience, physics, or mining to work as a geological and petroleum technician.
By 2029, they expect employment for this position to expand 5% due to increased demand for natural resources.
In 2021, the job ranked 10th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
22. Cardiovascular Technologist
$62,038 is the average annual salary.
Cardiovascular technologists work with individuals who have problems with their hearts and lungs. They mostly focus their diagnosis on the circulatory and respiratory systems.
Monitoring heart rates, recording breath sounds, applying electrodes, and assisting with catheterization are the key responsibilities.
Cardiovascular technologists must have an associate’s degree and the Competency and Credentialing Institute’s accreditation (CCI).
Medical centers mostly employ them such as HCA Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: HCA). In the following years, they predicted employment to increase by 12%.
In 2021, the job ranked 9th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
23. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Average Annual Salary: $63,131
Another medicine-related sector that made our list of the highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree is diagnostic medical sonographer, which is expected to expand by 17% in the next few years.
They use specialized imaging equipment to aid doctors in making diagnoses. They’re also in charge of running sonography, prepping patients for diagnostic procedures, examining images, and keeping track of results.
At the same time, they require a two-year associate’s degree and certification to apply for the position.
MEDNAX, Inc. (NYSE: MD) and RadNet, Inc. are two companies that hire diagnostic medical sonographers (NASDAQ: RDNT). Because of the huge rise in underlying ailments in this fast-paced existence, such as heart disease and blood clots, the figures reflect an increased demand for the function.
In 2021, the job ranked 8th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
24. Auto Damage Appraiser
$63,483 is the average annual salary.
Typically, auto damage appraisers work for insurance firms. Their major job is to figure out how much it will cost to repair a car after an accident.
They do it by looking over the images and assessing the damage to the vehicle. They also conduct in-depth investigations to determine the extent of the harm and file claim settlements.
Their primary employers are insurance firms such as The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV). Though the work pays well, the greater reliance on computer software will cause a 6% drop in employment in the future.
In 2021, the job ranked 7th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
25. Registered Nurse
Average Annual Salary: $66, 015
Registered nurses, who work primarily in medical clinics or hospitals, are next on our list of the highest-paying careers with an associate’s degree.
Their primary responsibility is to give round-the-clock medical care at the bedside. They also examine patients’ ailments, keep records, dispense patients’ medications, support doctors, and assist with diagnostic procedures.
Registered nurses must get an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) and a license from their state’s nursing board.
Companies like HCA Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: HCA), DaVita Inc. (NYSE: DVA), and others hire them. Demand for healthcare services will rise as the population ages, and they predict employment of registered nurses to climb by 7% by 2029.
In 2021, the job ranked 6th on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
26. Aerospace Engineers and Operations Technician
Average Annual Salary: $68,570
Aerospace engineers and operations professionals collaborate closely with engineers to ensure that flying systems are safe and functional.
They operate, install, and maintain surveillance systems, mostly for air and space vehicles. They’re also in charge of meeting safety standards by checking and reporting any aircraft defects to the authorities.
Companies like Northrop Grumman Corporation hire candidates with an associate’s degree in the relevant field (NYSE: NOC).
Because of the increased development of communication devices such as CubeSats, employment of aerospace engineers and operations they expect technicians to climb 7% by 2029.
In 2021, the job ranks third on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
27. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist
Average Annual Salary: $69,702
MRI technicians serve as scanners, taking diagnostic images of the inside organs and soft tissues of patients. They accomplish this by operating specialized equipment used in MRIs as well as injecting contrast dyes into patients to produce images.
Apart from that, they have other responsibilities like as preparing patients for MRIs, conferring with doctors about the results, and preserving records.
Many job openings for this position are available at RadNet, Inc. (NASDAQ: RDNT) and HCA Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: HCA).
The position is in high demand, with employment anticipated to increase by 7% by 2029. In 2021, the job ranks fourth on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
28. Nuclear Medicine Technologists
$70,111 is the average annual salary.
Nuclear medicine technologists are to prepare and administer radioactive medicines to patients for imaging or treatment. They carry out nuclear medicine operations based on the doctors’ diagnoses.
Explaining medical treatments, operating imaging equipment, keeping thorough records, and following radiation disposal regulations are the key responsibilities.
A nuclear medical technology associate’s degree might improve your chances of finding a job in this sector. Hospitals and corporations like HCA Healthcare Inc. frequently have openings (NYSE: HCA).
They expect the hiring rate to increase by 5% in the future, making it one of the highest-paying associate’s degree positions.
29. Radiation Therapist
$73,554 is the average annual salary.
Radiation therapists operate in close coordination with nurses, physicians, and other medical professionals to give radiation treatments. The employment of protective gear to manage radiation without overexposure is an important component of the job.
They’re also in charge of addressing procedure-related inquiries, assessing patients’ reactions to the treatment, and keeping meticulous records.
Companies such as HCA Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: HCA) and Ascension Healthcare higher radiation therapy graduates. Radiation therapists will have a 7% increase in employment over the next ten years.
30. Air Traffic Controllers
$91,000 is the average annual salary.
Air Traffic Controllers’ duty entails directing traffic and interacting with pilots, other aviation employees, and ground staff, as the name implies.
They serve as tower watchdogs, monitoring airplane activity and relaying critical information like as flight patterns, weather, runaway closures, and landing instructions.
Air traffic controllers must have a Federal Aviation Administration FAA-approved associate degree, which teaches skills such as control procedures, aviation regulation, and airport management.
The army and navy are the most common employers. From 2019 to 2029, they predicted the job’s employment rate to increase by 1%. In 2021, the job ranks first on our list of the highest-paying associate’s degree jobs.
You cannot overemphasize the benefits of Associate’s degree. For instance, students who complete associate programs may be qualified for entry-level positions in industries such as healthcare, teaching, and public service.
Also, preschool teachers simply only an associate’s degree. Even if the work does not require a degree, an associate’s degree can mean better salary and career options in other sectors.