10 High-Paying Careers That Only Require an Associate Degree
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2017.
Face it, college can be a real drag.
We know. That’s why we want to cut your time in academia in half.
Getting your associate’s degree allows you to jet off into the workforce quicker and can provide ample opportunities for high-paying and fulfilling careers. So The Penny Hoarder did an analysis to show you 10 jobs you can land with just a two-year degree.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that healthcare jobs dominate the list, because with an aging population, we’ll need plenty of these jobs in the coming years.
10 High-Paying Jobs With an Associate’s Degree
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are 10 high-paying jobs that are also seeing a lot of growth.
We also included the states with the highest concentration of each job.
1. Radiation Therapist
Median pay: $80,160
Job growth through 2024: 14%
As the child of a breast cancer survivor, I have major respect for anyone involved in the treatment of the disease — especially the unsung heroes.
Radiation therapists are the behind-the-scenes operators of the machines that blast x-rays at cancer cells in a patient’s body. With an associate’s degree and certification, this career can flourish in a variety of health care settings, from hospitals, to medical offices and to outpatient centers.
With an aging population, health care jobs like these are some of the fastest growing over the next decade. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, an organization that certifies radiation therapists, has plenty of resources on where to start if you’re interested in this career.
It’s important to note that some radiation therapists can pursue a bachelor’s degree which pays more, bumping up the median wage for the occupation as a whole.
Where the jobs are: New York, Texas, Florida, California, Illinois
2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Median pay: $69,650
Job growth through 2024: 26.4%
It’s a mouthful, but basically, diagnostic medical sonographers are responsible for the first glimpse expectant mothers get of their babies.
They also operate imaging equipment used to investigate muscle and tendon tears, the presence of breast cancer or pretty much any other internal problem in your body.
There are nearly 390 viable programs for you to pick if you’re entering this field, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
Where the jobs are: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania
3. Occupational Therapy Assistant
Median pay: $59,010
Job growth through 2024: 42.7%
Picture occupational therapy assistants like Dorothy oiling up the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. They help you move it, move it. (Yeah, that was two movie references in one paragraph. Sue me.)
They help you get back to work.
These careers are based out of hospitals, retirement homes, home health care agencies and can be provided by local governments. There’s a lot of flexibility when you’re looking for a job.
As for where to start, check out the Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapy Assistant Centralized Application Service for leads on where to find a school near you.
Where the jobs are: Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York
4. Dental Hygienist
Median pay: $72,910
Job growth through 2024: 18.6%
- So this isn’t a job for everyone, but dental hygienists are the real workhorses of any dental practice. They clean teeth, take x-rays and chat you up while you drool through massive balls of cotton in your mouth.
Like the previous jobs mentioned, this job requires a certification after graduation, and some students elect to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree as well. The American Dental Hygienists Association has resources on where to start if you’re interested.
Who knows, one day you might have R.H.D. after your name.
Where the jobs are: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Michigan
5. Web Developer
Median pay: $66,130
Job growth through 2024: 26.6%
The first non-health care job on the list is also the one that has the lowest barrier to entry and most flexibility: web developer.
Web developers design and create websites just like the one you’re browsing right now (and please, stay for a while). While you can learn to code on the cheap, picking a community college for your associate’s degree can provide you with internships and help with building a portfolio.
Because there are so many resources out there to learn the basics of web development on your own, you might want to take a few classes to see what you think before committing to a two-year degree.
Where the jobs are: California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois
6. Physical Therapist Assistant
Median pay: $56,610
Job growth through 2024: 40.6%
Similar to No. 3 on the list, physical therapist assistants are support staff helping people get their groove back.
This job involves ensuring patient safety while implementing physical therapy treatments and collecting data on patient progress.
The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education has approved 372 schools in the U.S.
Where the jobs are: Texas, Ohio, Florida, California, Illinois
7. Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician
Median pay: $55,570
Job growth through 2024: 22.2%
These combined fields both represent health care workers focusing on diagnosing and treating heart and blood vessel issues.
Cardiovascular technologists are lifesavers — literally. They are involved in teams treating heart attacks, but also help install stents and pacemakers. Technicians run stress tests and electrocardiograms.
Like most health care jobs, they require certification upon graduation.
Where the jobs are: Texas, Florida, California, New York, Pennsylvania
8. Respiratory Therapists
Median pay: $58,670
Job growth through 2024: 12.3%
Respiratory therapists help patients with the essential life function: breathing.
They care for everyone from infants to the elderly, and they also assist doctors during emergency situations, such as drownings, patients in shock or heart attacks.
The demand for these jobs is the highest it’s ever been, and they offer stable careers, according to the American Association for Respiratory Care.
Check out this nifty map that compares each school with respiratory therapy programs.
Where the jobs are: California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, New York
9. Geological and Petroleum Technician
Median pay: $56,470
Job growth through 2024: 11.8%
These workers pretty much do it all. They gather samples for scientists to test, record data, install lab and field equipment, monitor oil wells and even do scientific tests of their own.
Once you find a school, you’ll probably take mostly science and math classes.
Where the jobs are: Texas, California, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Pennsylvania
10. Radiologic Technologist
Median pay: $57,470
Job growth through 2024: 8.7%
Radiologic technologists maintain x-ray equipment, run x-rays on patients and record results.
But don’t just think of them as some machine jockeys — they have to know all about the anatomy of the human body, radiation safety and patient care.
Click here to find an accredited program for this career. Like the other health care jobs above, it requires certification after you graduate.
Where the jobs are: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania
Using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Department’s employment projection database, we pulled out the jobs that require an associate’s degree.
Next, we looked at the median wage and projected job growth through 2024, and used a nerdy mathematical method developed by these two guys to throw out bad data and rank the jobs based on those two metrics. And voila!
Alex Mahadevan is a former data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.