Associate’s degrees are usually offered by community colleges and take two years to complete. Students looking to get onto the workforce and a quick start to their careers should consider an associate degree and its many benefits. Associate degree students study fields like business, political science, communications, or biology, among others. All these fields prepare students to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Most colleges and universities have generous credit transfer policies for students with an associate degree and allow them to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in two years. Some students may even take less time to complete or, depending on the flexibility offered by the college, take a little more time if they are juggling other responsibilities.
An associate degree prepares graduates for jobs in multiple industries. The two-year degree provides training for a wide range of careers with competitive salaries. Jobs like air traffic controllers, office assistants, nuclear medicine technologists, social media specialists, and occupational therapy assistants are just a few examples of associate degrees that pay well. They do not require advanced degrees for entry-level roles, making it easy for many students to get into the workforce early and start earning. As an alternative to the four-year approach, associate degrees represent a popular, lucrative path.
College debt and expenses have run into a considerable debate in recent years. While no one can deny that a college degree has immense value, 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’s degree worth it. Since public community colleges mostly offer them, students can pay much lower tuition rates than public or private four-year colleges.
What’s more, 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. The benefit of that is they can get a prestigious bachelor’s degree with just two additional years of study and at much less cost.
In general, students 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, there may be other costs like room and board involved, but they are also quite affordable in community colleges. Associate degree programs offer fast and often more affordable routes for education, making 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’s 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 who hold an associate’s degree are good. As hiring swelled again after the pandemic, the U.S. economy added 531,000 jobs in October. This is excellent news since 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’s degree will have a much better chance at securing a job than just a GED. Students with an associate’s 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, associate degree graduates may earn over $800 per week on an average, while high school graduates with no college degree may earn close to $700 per week. 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 financial loan burden to carry. The low cost of an associate’s degree program usually means that students can pay off their loans in less than 16 months. It is especially helpful for working professionals who have continued to work as they completed their associate’s degree. They can continue to earn a full-time salary instead of just working on a four-year degree. But down the line, students can expand their education and earn a bachelor’s degree, that too with less debt.
What are the different kinds of associate degrees?
There are three types of associate’s degrees to consider:
- Associate in Arts (A.A.) – In this degree, students can take wide-ranging courses that can include history, literature, art, music, writing, business, and communication. The curricula for these are quite 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.
- Associate in Science (AS) – The AS degree is more specific to STEM and related fields but still covers a broad range of topics. They are great fit students who wish to pursue further science, engineering, or technology education and are looking for foundational knowledge.
- Associate in Applied Science (AAS) – An AAS degree is a great choice for students who want to earn a degree and jump immediately into a specific career path. Typically, these are focused on a highly-specific education path. More often, they are technical or vocational degrees that focus on a single career field. These could include applied science programs like Web development & design, Accounting, Nursing, Teaching assistant, Paralegal, and Respiratory care, among others.
What will you learn in an associate’s degree?
There are many interesting courses to take in associate degree programs. Some are:
- Business Administration
- Computer Science and Information Technology
- Engineering Studies
- Economic Studies
- Performing Arts
- Early Childhood Education
- Management Studies
- Graphic Design
What are the associate degrees that pay well?
Associate’s degrees provide the skills you need to get started in a good career. If you are looking for the best associate degrees, here are some ideas to explore. Remember, there are certain jobs that pay well, but you will only do well and grow in a career that best aligns with your interests, personal career, and educational aspirations. Those who aspire for careers like lawyers, doctors, engineers, or therapists should plan on earning an advanced degree.
Some of the associate degrees that pay well lie in the area of skilled trades. Demand is extremely high for people with specialized knowledge and skills and have experience working with their hands. This includes many careers in manufacturing like welding, mechanics, automation, machining, industrial maintenance, and construction. Other associate’s degree jobs in the skilled trades area include installing and maintaining home heating, maintaining electrical and natural gas lines, cooling and ventilation systems. They provide a lifetime of opportunities for experienced professionals and pay quite well.
Some of the best associate degrees lie in the healthcare field and offer immense opportunities for students. Jobs like radiology technicians, occupational and physical therapy assistants, dental hygienists, respiratory therapists, medical assistants, and surgical technologists require only an associate degree. Students interested in becoming registered nurses can earn an associate degree to become an R.N., start practicing, and then move on to a bachelor’s degree and advanced studies.
Associate degrees that pay well also lie in the field of information technology. Computer repairs, maintaining computer hardware and networks are careers that can begin with an associate degree. There are many opportunities available for students who wish to be software developers, computer programmers, and troubleshooters. However, they may have to get an advanced degree to grow in these fields.
Opportunities abound in the agriculture-related field and agri-businesses. Students can find jobs in farms, implement dealers, cooperatives, greenhouses, agriculture consulting firms, and horticulture services. There are many opportunities available in regular business areas like accounting, management, marketing, and other entry-level roles. In fact, the demand is high in these areas.
The education field also offers some of the best associate degrees. Teacher assistants, librarians or assistants, school support staff, or daycare workers are some of the jobs students can easily get into. They can even start as classroom teachers in K-12 school systems or in early childhood education, but eventually, they will have to get a bachelor’s degree.
What are associate degree jobs that pay well?
Some associate degree graduates allow students to earn well even in entry-level roles. Here are some of the highest-paying jobs that you can pursue with an associate’s degree. We have created a 2-year degree careers list for reference. The list includes jobs as well as median salaries attached to them.
- 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 degrees
There are many associate’s degree jobs out there that offer excellent options for students. Many of the high-paying jobs with associate’s degrees are in the fields of technology, health care, electronics, or skilled labor. Along with affordability, they also offer flexibility in studies, which is a major motivation for working or having family obligations that prevent them from studying full-time. For non-traditional students with busy schedules, an associate degree is a great option.
An associate degree is a less expensive step toward a bachelor’s or an advanced degree. It can be earned in two years or less and, as mentioned above, paves a pathway to many well-paying jobs and lucrative careers.
Tuition costs are lower at two-year colleges that offer associate degrees. At times, an associate degree accepts high school credits allowing students to complete their degrees and to start earning money sooner. On the other hand, the degree itself allows generous credit transfers for bachelor’s degree programs, saving further time and money. Employers are more likely to hire applicants with an associate degree than applicants with only a high school diploma.
An associate’s degree in business is even more beneficial. With less financial and time investment, it provides students with the skills for today’s businesses. Many employers prefer hiring associate’s degree holders for business because they are equipped with the core knowledge in 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, 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’s degree can be beneficial in many ways. It prepares students to start working and gaining hands-on industry experience right after high school. It allows students to work and support themselves, and in the process, become independent sooner. It prepares them for varied jobs and higher education. In short, an associate’s degree is definitely worth considering.
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