Did you know that with just a two-year degree under your belt, you could earn big money? It’s true. Several associate degree jobs pay employees very well. So well in fact that you could make more than many of your bachelor-degree-holding friends.
The Top 15 Highest Paying Jobs With an Associate’s Degree
1. Air Traffic Controllers
- $124,540 annually
If you’re a fan of aviation and can handle stress, working as an air traffic controller could work out well for you. These professionals inform pilots of poor weather conditions, control arrivals and departures, and inform the right people if an emergency occurs. To enter the field, you just need an associate degree from an approved Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) school and long-term on-the-job training.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that air traffic controllers earn a median salary of $124,540. As you complete more levels of training, you’ll become eligible to earn higher wages.
2. Radiation Therapist
- $82,330 annually
Radiation therapists work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities. These professionals assist patients undergoing radiation treatment. A radiation therapist will explain treatment plans, monitor a patient’s health and safety during treatment, and operate radiation machinery. To enter the field, you just need a two-year degree in radiation therapy.
The BLS reports that radiation therapists earn a median salary of $80,570. The middle 80% of radiation therapists earn between $56,360 and $124,320.
3. Funeral Service Manager
- $79,180 annually
Funeral service managers run funeral homes, taking care of general operations like finances, staff management, and marketing. Along with completing an accredited two-year program in funeral service or mortuary science, you must also be at least 21 years of age, complete a 1- to 3-year-long internship, and pass a state or national board exam before you can start working as a funeral service manager.
The BLS reports that funeral service managers earn a median annual salary of $79,180. However, the pay varies quite significantly. The lowest 10% earned less than $41,410 in 2018. The highest 10% earned more than $151,680.
4. Nuclear Technician
- $79,140 annually
Earn a two-year degree in nuclear science or a related field and you could become a nuclear technician. Nuclear technicians monitor the radiation levels produced by power generation or experiments, collect and test samples for radioactive contamination, teach others about radiation safety, and do other tasks involving nuclear waste or radiation.
The BLS reports that nuclear technicians earn a median salary of $79,140. Those who work in the electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry earn the most with a median salary of $87,690.
5. Nuclear Medicine Technologist
- $76,820 annually
A nuclear medicine technologist prepares radioactive drugs and administers them to patients who need treatment or imaging. They also answer questions, keep patients safe, and monitor patient wellbeing during treatment. To become a nuclear medicine technologist, you’ll need to complete an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Part of your coursework will include clinical work. Most states also require a license.
The BLS reports that nuclear medicine technologists earn a median salary of $76,820. Nuclear medicine technologists who work for outpatient care centers earn significantly more—the median salary for this industry is $106,020.
6. Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists clean teeth, work alongside dentists during dental surgery, and sometimes fill cavities. The BLS reports that dental hygienists earn a median salary of $74,820. Depending on your experience or where you live, you could make significantly more or less. The lowest 10% earned less than $51,930 while the highest 10% earned more than $101,820 in 2018. Learn more about dental hygienist salaries here.
Not only is dental hygienist one of the highest paying jobs with associate degree, but it also offers a lot of flexibility. Many dental offices hire both full-time and part-time hygienists. Plus, depending on where you choose to work, you might be eligible to have some (or all) of your dental hygienist student loans forgiven through a State Loan Repayment Program.
7. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- $72,510 annually
If you want to work with patients in a hospital setting, consider becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer. Also called diagnostic imaging workers, these health professionals perform ultrasounds and then check the image quality, look for abnormalities, and write up a summary for the doctor. Look for a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
The BLS reports that diagnostic medial sonographers earn a median annual salary of $72,510. Those who earned the most money in 2018 worked in an outpatient center.
8. Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists
- $71,670 annually
If MRIs are more your speed, study to become a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist. These health professionals maintain the MRI equipment, perform MRIs, look for abnormalities, and write up a report for the doctor. Depending on where you live, you might need an associate degree, a certification from the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT), and a license to practice.
The BLS reports that MRI technologists earn a median annual salary of $71,670. Those who work in an outpatient care center earn the most.
9. Web Developer
- $69,430 annually
Web developers design, build and test websites. They usually work directly with clients, graphic designers, and content writers to build a website from scratch or revamp an existing site. Entry-level education requirements range from high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree.
The BLS reports that web developers earn a median annual salary of $69,430. The middle eighty percent earn between $37,930 and $124,480. Those who earn the most work in the publishing industry.
10. Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician
- $67,010 annually
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain the machinery and equipment used to test and develop new aircraft and spacecraft. These professionals also calibrate testing equipment and perform quality assurance. To enter this field, you’ll need an associate degree in engineering technology or a vocational-technical education in robotics and machining or computer programming.
The BLS reports that aerospace engineering and operations technicians earn a median annual salary of $67,010. If you’re experienced and/or work in a high-paying industry, you could earn well over $100,000.
11. Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technician
- $64,330 annually
An electrical and electronics engineering technician assists engineers with designing and creating electronic equipment used for communications, medical monitoring, navigating, etc. This includes drawing diagrams, writing up reports, and evaluating, testing, adjusting, and repairing equipment.
The BLS reports that electrical and electronics engineering technicians earn a median annual salary of $64,330. Those who work for the federal government have slightly higher median earnings of $69,870.
12. Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
- $63,060 annually
Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians diagnose and repair airplanes, other aircraft, and avionics equipment. Technicians interpret flight test data to diagnose performance problems, install software, install instrument panels with power tools and soldering irons, and repair malfunctioning electronic components. Mechanics fix aircraft parts like wings and brakes, use tools to replace defective parts, check new parts for defects, and inspect repaired planes.
The BLS reports that aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians earn a median annual salary of $62,920. Within this field, avionics technicians earn a median annual salary of $64,140 while aircraft mechanics and service technicians earn a median annual salary of $62,920.
13. Computer Network Support Specialist
- $62,770 annually
Computer network support specialists keep an organization’s computer network up and running. This includes performing file backups and routine maintenance, troubleshooting LANs and WANs, and assisting computer users directly. These professionals typically work under a network and computer systems administrator.
The BLS reports that computer network support specialists earn a median annual salary of $62,770. Top earners in this profession earned more than $105,770 in 2018.
14. Respiratory Therapists
- $60,280 annually
Respiratory therapists work with patients who have trouble breathing. They meet with patients and consult with doctors to put together a patient treatment plan. These health professionals also perform diagnostic tests, treat patients directly, and monitor patient progress. Some do home visits to teach patients and caregivers how to use ventilators and other life-support equipment. To enter the field, you’ll need to complete an accredited associate degree program.
The BLS reports that respiratory therapists earn a median annual wage of $60,280. High-paying industries for this occupation include hospitals, doctor’s offices, and nursing care facilities.
15. Occupational Therapy Assistants
- $60,220 annually
Occupational therapy assistants work directly with patients in a hospital or other in-patient or out-patient setting. Some duties include assisting patients with therapy activities, encouraging patients, demonstrating the use of special equipment, and recording patient progress. Before you can work in this field, you will need to complete an occupational therapy assistant program at an accredited community college. This includes two years of full-time study and 16 weeks of fieldwork.
The BLS reports that occupational therapy assistants earn a median annual salary of $60,220. For comparison, occupational therapists, who must complete five to six years of schooling, earned a median salary of $84,270 in May 2018.
Final Thoughts on The 15 Highest Paying Jobs with an Associate’s Degree
An associate degree takes less time to complete and typically costs significantly less than a bachelor’s degree. Best of all, it can prepare you for and qualify you for a number of stable jobs with high earnings.
And, if you’re pursuing one of the highest paying two-year degree jobs, be assured that going to college will pay off.
The careers described above all have at least a $60,000 median annual wage. This is significantly higher than the total median annual wage for all occupations, which is just $38,640 as of May 2018.
Visit this interactive chart if you’re interested in learning salary information for other jobs that only require an associate’s degree.
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College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (2)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (3)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 1/27/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Ascent: Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 12/1/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.
*The minimum amount is $2,001 except for the state of Massachusetts. Minimum loan amount for borrowers with a Massachusetts permanent address is $6,001.