In recent years, a growing number of students are pursuing an associate degree. In addition to being shorter and often less expensive than a four-year degree, associate degrees can pave the way for many high-paying career opportunities. Read on to learn more about some of the top-paying jobs that require an associate degree.
High Paying Jobs with an Associate’s Degree
Here’s a list of top paying jobs that you can qualify for after completing an associate’s degree program at a trade school or technical college.
Type of Degree Needed to Become a HVAC Tech: You do not need an associate’s degree to become an HVAC technician since there are apprenticeships, certification classes, and diploma programs available. Though, completing an associate’s degree in HVAC technology program will probably earn you a higher starting salary. Find an HVAC school near you.
HVAC Tech Job Description: Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems.
HVAC Tech Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Average Pay: $51,420
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: +4%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 376,800
Paralegals & Legal Assistants
Type of Degree Needed to Become a Paralegal: You can get an entry level job as a legal assistant by attending a legal assisting diploma program, but by completing a paralegal associate’s degree you’ll open up more opportunities for employment and probably make a little more when you start working. Find a paralegal program near you.
Paralegal Job Description: Paralegals and legal assistants perform a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.
Paralegal Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Average Pay: $55,020
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: +10%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 329,870
Chef & Head Chef
Type of Degree Needed to Become a Chef: This is another job where completing an associate’s degree program may not be a requirement for some positions. But, without a degree, 3-5 years of experience is a common job requirement. An associate’s degree in culinary art will normally prepare the student for a job as a sous chef. Some restaurants will want their head chef to have a bachelor’s degree but many head chefs started out as sous chefs and earned their job through on-the-job training. Find a culinary school near you.
Chef Job Description: Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants and other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.
Chef Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Average Pay: $56,310
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: +6%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 148,700
Type of Degree Needed to Become a Cardiovascular Technician: Cardiovascular technicians or technologists may be trained on the job but an associate’s degree or possibly even a bachelor’s degree may be preferred by some employers.
Cardiovascular Technician Job Description: Conduct tests on pulmonary or cardiovascular systems of patients for diagnostic, therapeutic, or research purposes. May conduct or assist in electrocardiograms, cardiac catheterizations, pulmonary functions, lung capacity, and similar tests.
Cardiovascular Technician Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Median Pay: $57,720
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 56,110
Type of Degree Needed to Become an Electrician: You don’t “need” a degree to become an electrician since you can become an electrician through an apprenticeship. But, associate degree programs in electrical technology are a popular option for students who choose the school route. Find an electrical tech program near you.
Electrician Job Description: Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.
Electrician Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Average Pay: $60,370
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: +8%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 739,200
Aerospace Engineering Technician
Type of Degree Needed to Become an Aerospace Engineering Tech: The typical education for an aerospace engineering tech is an associate’s degree in engineering technology.
Aerospace Engineering Tech Job Description: Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing, producing, and sustaining new aircraft and spacecraft.
Aerospace Engineering Tech Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Median Pay: $66,020
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: +7%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 11,900
Type of Degree Needed to Become a Dental Hygienist: To become a dental hygienist students generally earn an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Find a dental hygiene program near you.
Dental Hygienist Job Description: Dental hygienists examine patients for signs of oral diseases, such as gingivitis, and provide preventive care, including oral hygiene. They also educate patients about oral health.
Dental Hygienist Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Average Pay: $77,230
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: +6%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 226,400
Type of Degree Needed to Become a RN: RN’s need to have at least an associate’s degree in nursing but earning a bachelor’s degree will open up many more employment opportunities, usually with a higher rate of pay. Find an RN program near you.
RN Job Description: Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families.
RN Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Average Pay: $77,460
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: +7%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 3,096,700
Type of Degree Needed to Become a Nuclear Technician: Nuclear tech’s need at least an associate’s degree in nuclear science or nuclear technology.
Nuclear Technician Job Description: Nuclear technicians typically work in nuclear energy production or assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research. They operate special equipment used in these activities and monitor the levels of radiation that are produced.
Nuclear Technician Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Median Pay: $82,080
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: -19%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 6,700
Type of Degree Needed to Become a Radiation Therapist: There are associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in radiation therapy available at medical trade schools and colleges.
Radiation Therapist Job Description: Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments. They typically explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment, protect the patients and themselves from improper exposure to radiation, and determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment.
Radiation Therapist Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Median Pay: $85,560
- Job Outlook 2019-2029: +7%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 18,500
Detectives & Criminal Investigators
Type of Degree Needed to Become a Detective: To become a detective it’s normal for the student to complete an associate’s degree in criminal justice program. Bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice are also available for students who are seeking a job with more responsibility and higher pay. Find a criminal justice program now.
Detective Job Description: Conduct investigations related to suspected violations of federal, state, or local laws to prevent or solve crimes.
Detective Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Average Pay: $86,030
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 105,620
Air Traffic Controller
Type of Degree Needed to Become an Air Traffic Controller: AT-CTI schools (Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative) have 2 and 4-year aviation degrees that include basic courses in air traffic control and aviation administration. The AT-CTI program is designed to prepare students for air traffic control specialist positions.
Air Traffic Controller Job Description: Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft to maintain safe distances between them. Typically, they monitor and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air, control all ground traffic at airport runways and taxiways, issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots, and transfer control of departing flights to other traffic control centers and accept control of arriving flights.
Air Traffic Controller Salary & Job Outlook
- 2019 Median Pay: $122,990
- Job Outlook, 2019-2029: +1%
- Total Jobs Projected to be Added: 24,300