What Are Some High-Paying Jobs with an Associate Degree?

Many high-paying jobs don't require anything more than an associate's degree. The most lucrative ones are found in the technology and medical sectors. For example, a 2-year degree in dental hygiene, medical sonography or respiratory therapy can lead to a career paying over $50,000 per year. Learn more about these careers below.

Overview of Career Options

There are quite a few well-paying jobs that you can obtain with an associate's degree. Many of these positions are in healthcare or a related field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which reported in 2015 that an associate's degree was sufficient for many positions. Below is a look at some of the jobs you could obtain with the right type of associate's degree.

Important Facts About High-Paying Jobs with an Associate's degree

Dental Hygienist Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Respiratory Therapist
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 19% growth 24% growth 12% growth
Licensure Mandatory in every state; requirements vary by state Required by few states; professional certification is mandatory for licensure Mandatory in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state
Key Skills Manual dexterity; critical thinking; attention to detail; social nuance Attention to detail; hand-eye coordination; physical stamina; technically savvy Strong science and math foundation; empathy; attention to detail; patience
Similar Occupations Dental assistants; dentists; medical assistants Radiation therapists; radiologic and MRI technologists; nuclear medicine technologists Athletic trainers; exercise physiologists; occupational therapists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Dental Hygienist

An associate's degree in dental hygiene qualifies you to work as a dental hygienist in a dentist's office. Dental hygienists examine and clean patients' teeth using a variety of tools and X-ray equipment. They also talk with patients about proper teeth cleaning practices. You'll need to obtain a state license before finding work in this field.

The BLS reported in May 2014 that dental hygienists earned a mean annual income of $71,970. The highest-paid 10% earned upwards of $97,390. Top-paying industries for this career included dentist offices, employment services, physicians offices and outpatient care centers. The top-paying state was the District of Columbia, which had a yearly mean wage of $95,570 for this profession.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers use special high frequency sound wave equipment to photograph, transmit and tape images in the human body. The images are then interpreted by a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you'll be qualified to use a variety of types of equipment, such as X-ray machines, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound. Some of your work involves explaining procedures to patients and answering any questions that arise. You'll also physically prepare them for the procedure and ensure their safety and comfort throughout.

In May of 2014, the BLS reported that the mean annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $68,390, with the top 10% earning upwards of $93,850 per year. The top-paying state for this career was California, which had a mean annual wage of $89,870 for this occupation.

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists help patients with breathing disorders, such as those caused by shock, strokes, heart attacks, drowning, asthma or emphysema. Some of your job duties will be to conduct tests on patients' breathing, explain treatment procedures to them, provide emergency care and operate equipment such as mechanical ventilators. You'll also maintain patient records and monitor patients' progress. Although you are under the supervision of a physician, much of the time you will assume primary care for patients.

The mean annual income for this career, according to the BLS, was $58,490 in May 2014. The top-paying state for respiratory therapists was California, which had an annual mean wage of $77,280. If you were in the top 10% of wage earners for this career, then you earned $78,230 or more per year.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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