Make money without a four-year degree? It’s definitely possible. Check out these careers for people with associate degrees.
Think you need a bachelor’s degree to land a high-paying job that you can turn into a rewarding career? Think again. An associate degree can be just as valuable.
In just a few years (the typical associate degree is two), you can find yourself well equipped to make a higher-than-average salary doing something you love.
eJobXchange found nine of the highest-paying jobs for people with associate degrees, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Aerospace engineering and operations technician
What you’d do: Aerospace engineers and operations technicians are responsible for controlling and preserving the equipment used to maintain planes and other aircraft. They collect data and perform tests on aircrafts to make sure they are safe to fly.
What you’d need: Associate degrees in engineering tech and robotics are common.
What you’d make: $68,020 per year
Air traffic controllers
What you’d do: Air traffic controllers (ATCs) survey the sky—from airport control towers and routing centers—ensuring that planes are able to take off and land safely. As an ATC, you’ll be responsible for communicating with pilots about things like weather conditions and runway statuses. All clear!
What you’d need: Along with an associate degree and mandated training from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy, air traffic controllers need to pass medical and background checks.
What you’d make: $122,410 per year
What you’d do: If you’ve ever been to the dentist, you probably have a good idea what dental hygienists do: Working alongside dentists, they help patients maintain healthy mouths. This includes things like cleaning teeth and administering preventative procedures like X-rays and fluoride treatments.
What you’d need: Dental hygienists must obtain an associate degree in dental hygiene.
What you’d make: $72,910 per year
Diagnostic medical sonographer
What you’d do: Diagnostic medical sonographers operate imaging technology on patients in order to produce images (sonograms or ultrasounds) to help physicians diagnose diseases.
What you’d need: An associate degree in cardiovascular or vascular technology is required. Employers typically prefer to hire applicants who are certified in sonography (accreditation can be obtained through organizations like the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, or American Registry of Radiologic Technologists).
What you’d make: $64,280 per year
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technologist
What you’d do: An MRI technologist is a specialized position within the broader radiologic technologist field. Mostly working in hospitals, they operate the MRI machine, creating images to help doctors diagnose patients.
What you’d need: In addition to an associate degree, certification from the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists is required in most states.
What you’d make: $58,960 per year
Nuclear medicine technologists
What you’d do: Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radiopharmaceuticals (drugs that give off radiation) to help physicians diagnose patients. They care for patients by explaining what the drugs are doing, operating imaging technology, and always following strict safety procedures.
What you’d need: An associate degree in nuclear medicine from one of the programs the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology accredits is required.
What you’d make: $74,350 per year
What you’d do: Nuclear technicians keep power plants safe by educating their co-workers (such as nuclear physicists) and overseeing equipment maintenance (such as nuclear cooling towers). They also perform tests to monitor radiation and make sure site workers are following standard safety procedures.
What you’d need: An associate degree in a related field like nuclear science is required.
What you’d make: $79,140 per year
What you’d do: Often part of an oncology team, radiation therapists administer radiation treatments to cancer patients. Depending on their specialty, they might also perform X-rays, MRIs, sonograms, and other imaging techniques.
What you’d need: Radiation therapists can obtain an associate degree and license from one of the programs in the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
What you’d make: $80,160 per year
What you’d do: Also known as telecom installers, these technicians work in businesses or private homes to set up, maintain, and repair devices that rely on telephone lines or Internet routers to function.
What you’d need: A postsecondary education in electronics, telecommunications, or computer technology is typically required to get started.
What you’d make: $53,640 per year