Community colleges usually offer associate degrees, which take two years to complete. Students looking to enter the workforce with a minimal time commitment should consider an associate degree and its many benefits, including cost-effectiveness. Associate degree students study various fields. These may include business, political science, communications, or biology. Each field represents a potential stepping stone to prepare students to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Most colleges and universities have generous credit transfer policies for students with an associate degree. These policies may allow them to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in two years. Some students may even take less time to complete their academic program. They could take a little more time depending on the college’s flexibility. This can be helpful if they are juggling other responsibilities.
An associate degree prepares graduates for jobs in multiple industries. The two-year degree provides training for various careers with competitive salaries. A few examples of associate degree jobs with a comparatively higher earning potential include:
- air traffic controllers
- office assistants
- nuclear medicine technologists
- social media specialists
- occupational therapy assistants
These associate degree jobs do not require advanced degrees for entry-level roles. This makes it easy for many students to enter the workforce right after receiving their high school diploma and start earning. As an alternative to the four-year college approach, associate degree programs represent a popular, lucrative path.
College debt and expenses have run into considerable debate in recent years. No one can deny that a college degree has immense value. But these expenses can be hard to bear for many students. Completing an associate degree takes less time and money than a bachelor’s degree. This is what makes getting an associate degree worth it. Plus, associate degree programs are typically offered by public community colleges. Students can pay much lower tuition than public or private four-year colleges.
And it doesn’t have to end there. Students who wish to grow in their careers and learn more can apply to four-year undergraduate programs after earning their associate degrees. They can get a prestigious bachelor’s degree with just two more years of study and at much less cost.
Generally, students with an associate degree can immediately step from school to the workforce and make a sizable income. According to The College Board, the annual cost of attending a public two-year in-district school is $3,660. Of course, other costs like room and board may be involved, but they are also quite affordable in community colleges. Associate degree programs offer fast and often more affordable routes to education. This makes them a popular choice, especially among non-traditional students.
What is the career outlook for associate’s degree jobs? Are associate degree jobs in demand?
Yes, they are in demand. Many job opportunities in the market today only ask for an associate degree. While they are entry-level roles, they come with a great deal of growth potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career prospects for students with associate degrees are good. As hiring swelled again after the pandemic, the U.S. economy added 531,000 jobs in October. The Labor Department report initially reported weaker progress in the earlier months. Companies are short-staffed and looking for talent and better resources. Someone with an associate degree will have a much better chance of securing a job than just a GED. Students with an associate degree should also look at the employment growth in their areas to see what jobs they can get.
The median salary for associate degree holders is $47,078 per year. According to the BLS, average associate degree graduates may earn over $800 per week. Conversely, high school graduates with no college degree may earn close to $700 weekly. This shows a distinct difference in the value of the associate degree and earning potential that comes with it.
Students will have a less severe debt burden than those who complete bachelor’s degree programs. The low cost of an associate degree program usually means that students can pay off their loans in less than 16 months. This is especially helpful for working professionals who have continued to work as they completed their associate degrees. They can continue to earn a full-time salary instead of just working on a four-year degree. Down the line, students can expand their education and earn a bachelor’s degree with less debt.
What are the different kinds of associate degrees?
There are three types of associate degrees to consider. All of these can be completed on campus or via online programs. Consider these when looking for the best degree for you:
- Associate in Arts Degree (A.A.) – In this degree, students can take wide-ranging courses to pursue an associate degree. Examples include history, literature, art, music, writing, business, and communication. These curricula are pretty broad and touch upon many subjects, thus preparing students for a wide range of bachelor’s degrees. The great advantage of an A.A. degree is that it offers unlimited potential for graduates with access to several types of A.A. degree jobs, not just an art-related career.
- Associate in Science Degree (AS) – The AS degree is more specific to STEM and related fields but still covers many topics. Associate in Science degrees could be an excellent fit for students whose desired career is in science, engineering, or technology education.
- Associate in Applied Science Degree (AAS) – An AAS degree is a great choice for students who want to pursue an associate degree and jump immediately into a specific career path. Typically, these are focused on a highly-specific education path. They are often technical or vocational degrees that focus on a single career field. These could include applied science programs. Examples include web development & design, accounting, nursing, teaching assistant, paralegal, and respiratory care among others.
What will you learn in an associate degree program?
There are many interesting courses to take in an associate program. Some of the best degree programs include the following classes:
- Business Administration
- Computer Science and Information Technology
- Engineering Studies
- Economic Studies
- Social Sciences
- Performing Arts
- Early Childhood Education
- Management Studies
- Graphic Design
Your academic advisor or school leadership team can recommend the best classes for your academic and career goals.
What are the associate degree jobs that pay well?
Associate degree programs provide the skills and post-secondary credentials you need to get started in a promising career making more money. If you want the best associate degrees, here are some ideas to explore. Remember, there are certain jobs that pay well. But your chances of succeeding in growing in a career are best in an occupation that aligns with your interests, personal career, and educational aspirations. Those who aspire to careers like lawyers, doctors, engineers, or therapists should plan on earning an advanced degree like a master’s degree or even a doctoral degree.
Some of the associate degree jobs that pay well lie in the area of skilled trades. Demand is high for people with specialized knowledge and vocational skills. This is particularly true for those with experience working with their hands. This includes many careers in manufacturing. Examples include welding, mechanics, automation, machining, industrial maintenance, and construction. There are other associate degree jobs in the skilled trades. Some of these involve installing and maintaining home heating, maintaining electrical and natural gas lines, and cooling and ventilation systems. These trades provide a lifetime of opportunities for experienced professionals. They also pay pretty well.
Some of the best associate degree positions lie in the healthcare field and offer immense job opportunities for students. Jobs that require only an associate degree include:
- radiology technicians
- occupational and physical therapy assistants
- dental hygienists
- respiratory therapists
- medical assistants
- surgical technologists
Students interested in becoming registered nurses can earn an associate degree to become an R.N. They can then start practicing and move on to a bachelor’s degree program and advanced studies.
Associate degree jobs that pay well also lie in the field of information technology as well as computer science-related fields. Jobs in computer repairs and maintaining computer hardware and networks are careers that can begin with an associate degree. Many opportunities are also available for students who wish to be software developers, computer programmers, and troubleshooters. However, they may have to get an advanced degree, such as a bachelor’s degree, to grow in these fields.
Opportunities abound in agriculture and agri-businesses, even without completing a bachelor’s program. Students with specific skills in these areas can find jobs in:
- implement dealers
- agriculture consulting firms
- horticulture services
There are many opportunities available in common business areas. These may include accounting, management, marketing, and other entry-level jobs. In fact, the demand is high in these areas for students who finish a bachelor’s program or even an associate degree program.
The education field also offers some of the best associate degree roles. Some of the jobs students can quickly get into include:
- teacher assistants
- librarians or assistants
- school support staff
- daycare workers
They can even start as classroom teachers in K-12 school systems or in early childhood education after graduating from a community college. Eventually, they will have to get a bachelor’s degree from a four-year university or other bachelor’s program.
What are associate degree jobs that pay well?
Like many prospective students, you may wonder: “What is an associate degree worth?” It depends on the particular field of study and the specific job you get. Many jobs allow students to earn high wages, even in entry-level roles. Here are some of the highest-paying jobs and career opportunities that you can pursue with an associate degree. We have created a 2-year degree careers list for reference. The list includes a selection of suitable jobs and median salaries attached to them.
Associate Degree Compared By Career Opportunities and Salary:
- Telemarketing Manager – $78,560
- Health and Long-term Care Insurance Agent – $68,940
- Funeral Home Manager – $74,200
- Claims Adjuster, Examiner, and Investigator – $68,270
- Real Estate Broker – $60,370
- Assembly Supervisor – $62,850
- Office Services Supervisor – $58,450
- Human Resources Assistant – $43,250
- Real Estate Sales Agent – $49,040
- Assistant Store Manager – $41,580
- Air Traffic Controller – $130,420
- Nuclear Technician – $84,190
- Radiation Therapist – $86,850
- Nuclear Medical Technologist – $79,590
- Dental Hygienist – $77,090
- Web Developer – $77,200
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographer – $75,920
- Flight Data Technician – $68,570
- MRI Technologist – $74,690
- Computer Network Support Specialist – $65,450
Benefits of associate degree programs
You might be wondering, “Does an associate degree matter?” The answer is yes. There are many associate degree programs out there that offer excellent career opportunities for students. Many of the high-paying jobs with associate degrees are in the fields of technology, health care, electronics, or skilled labor. Along with affordability, they also offer flexibility in studies. This is a significant motivation for working or having family obligations that prevent them from studying as full-time students. For non-traditional students with busy schedules, an associate degree is a great option.
These programs are also cost-effective. An associate’s degree from a community college is a less expensive stepping stone toward a bachelor’s degree or another advanced degree. It can be earned in two years or less. Some schools even offer the opportunity to earn an associate degree online. This credential can also pave a pathway to many well-paying jobs and a lucrative career path.
Tuition costs are lower at two-year colleges that offer associate credentials. Sometimes, these associate degree programs accept high school credits. This may allow students to complete their degrees and earn a salary earlier. The degree itself also enables great credit transfers to a four-year university for bachelor’s degree programs. This can save additional time and money. Employers are likelier to hire applicants with an associate degree than applicants with only a high school diploma. For more information about how many credits will transfer to a specific program, speak to an admissions officer.
An associate degree in business is even more beneficial. With less financial and time investment, it gives students the skills for today’s businesses. Many employers prefer hiring associate degree holders for business. This is because they are equipped with the core knowledge of business and a company’s day-to-day operations.
Here’s a look at some of the popular associate degrees that pay well and the schools that offer them.
- UMassOnline – Associate of Science in Information Technology – Prepares students for further studies in fields like Systems Analysts, Environmental Engineers, and Medical Scientists
- Penn State Online – Associate in Science in Business Administration – Helps students develop communication strategies, critical thinking skills, and broad business knowledge
- Keiser University – Applied Engineering, AS – Prepares students to work as entry-level technicians with an understanding of basic engineering principles
- Liberty University– Accounting (A.A.) – Teaches students to solve complex problems through problem-solving skills and critical thinking. They learn to use technical skills and communication to evaluate basic accounting problems
- University of Arkansas Grantham – Paralegal Studies (Associate of Arts) – Students gain fundamental skills, knowledge, and strategies to become a significant part of a legal team
- Lone Star Community College – Associate of Arts – Students can pursue a general Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree or choose an area of specialization like business or criminal justice
- Ashford University– Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education – Prepares students for long-term academic success as early childhood education professionals. They help develop a child’s emotional, social, and educational needs in daycares and preschools
- Eastern Kentucky University – Associate of Science in Paramedicine – It is designed to help students become licensed paramedics with prehospital emergency management, practical skills in patient assessment, and advanced training in emergency medical techniques
- Tarrant County College – Associate of Arts in Music – Provides comprehensive knowledge in the field, including Music Theory, Sight Singing & Ear Training, and Piano with options of individual instruction
- Southern New Hampshire University – AS in Business Administration – Meant for students who want to start or advance their careers in business fields. They develop knowledge and skills in business law, accounting, human resource management, and marketing
As we can see, an associate degree (or even associate degree credits) can be beneficial in many ways. This higher education credential prepares students to start working and gaining hands-on industry experience right after high school. It allows students to work and support themselves while achieving their career goals. With a short-term commitment to school, they can become independent sooner. It prepares them for varied jobs and further education in a bachelor’s degree program or a master’s degree option. In short, an associate degree is definitely worth considering for your college education and future career paths. For more information, speak to an academic advisor at the school you’re interested in attending.
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