10 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get with an Associate Degree

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These 10 jobs offer the opportunity to make more than the median salary in the United States with a degree that typically takes less time and money than a bachelor’s.

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While it’s true that many jobs require a bachelor’s or master’s degree, the reality is that associate degrees can open many job opportunities, too. 

In fact, earning an associate degree could be a good investment, particularly for individuals who would like some of the benefits of getting a college degree without the time and money it typically requires. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for occupations requiring either an associate degree or a Professional Certificate was projected to grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026 [1]. Furthermore,  associate degree holders have been found to make an average of $141 more a week than those with only a high school diploma, for a weekly median wage of $887 [2]. 

In this article, you will find 10 jobs that pay higher than the median individual income in the United States that also have significant job growth.

Read: What is an Associate Degree? Requirement, Costs, and More

What jobs can you get with an associate degree? 

There are many well-paying jobs you can get with an associate degree. 

The list below was composed using data from the BLS and features a range of jobs that not only offer higher annual incomes than the national average but also are projected to grow over the next decade.  

While many of these jobs fall within the medical field, due to the aging baby boomer population, there are also several careers in tech, real estate, and law. In effect, whether you like working with people, technology, or out of the office, there is likely something for you on this list. 

At a glance, the jobs included on this list are as follows:

Job titleMedian annual Ssalary
Web developer$77,200
Dental hygienist$77,090
Registered nurse$75,330
Diagnostic imaging worker$70,380
Radiographers and MRI technologist$63,710
Respiratory therapist$62,810
Occupational therapy assistant$60,950
Computer network support specialist$55,510
Paralegal and legal assistant$52,920
Real estate agent$51,220

*All data sourced from the BLS (January 2022) unless otherwise stated 

1. Web developer

Web developers create and manage websites for organizations, businesses, and individuals. Typical duties for a web developer include coding websites with HTML or XML, designing graphics, and creating mockups of websites or applications. 

In order to become a web developer, you don’t always need a degree if you have the right skills, but employers may prefer to hire those with either an associate or bachelor's degree. If you are taking the associate degree route, consider getting an Associate of Science (AS) in computer science, information science, or a related field. Regardless of what path you take, taking additional web development courses could be a wise way to refine your skill set.

  • Median annual wage: $77,200

  • Projected growth rate: 13 percent (faster than average)

  • Common qualifications: HS diploma, associate degree, bachelor’s degree

2. Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists examine patients for oral diseases and provide preventative care to ensure their teeth, gums, and mouth stay clean and healthy. Their combination of technical knowledge and people-facing skills make dental hygienists invaluable to a dentist’s office, where most are employed and many work part-time. 

To become a dental hygienist, you will need to get an associate degree in dental hygiene, available at many community colleges, technical schools, and universities. If you are looking for a program, the Commission on Dental Accreditation accredits hundreds of dental hygiene programs in the United States, and most take about three years to complete. Dental hygienists must also obtain a license in their state. 

  • Median annual wage: $77,090

  • Projected growth rate: 11 percent (faster than average)

  • Common qualifications: Associate degree in dental hygiene

3. Registered nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) provide care to patients and educate them and the public about health care. Typically, RNs work with teams of physicians and specialists to ensure that patients get the best possible care. Their exact title and duties are often dependent on their position and the patients with which they work, such as the elderly or children.

Generally, there are three ways to become a registered nurse: via a bachelor’s degree program in nursing, an associate degree program in nursing, or a diploma from an accredited nursing program. RNs must also obtain a nursing license in their state.  

Read more: Your Guide to Nursing Degrees and Certifications

  • Median annual wage: $75,330

  • Projected growth rate: 9 percent (as fast as average)

  • Common qualifications: Associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or a diploma from an approved nursing program

4. Diagnostic imaging worker

Diagnostic imaging workers use imaging equipment to conduct tests and create images that help physicians assess and diagnose health conditions. In particular, medical sonographers create images of organs and tissue (called sonograms), while cardiovascular technologists and technicians test and create images of a patient’s lungs and heart.  

In order to become a diagnostic imaging worker, you will need to get either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in sonography or cardiovascular technology. Common areas of study include health care, biology, and science technologies. Many employers will also prefer that diagnostic imaging workers are certified through an accredited program, such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers or Cardiovascular Credentialing International

  • Median annual wage: $70,380

  • Projected growth rate: 14 percent (faster than average)

  • Common qualifications: Associate degree or postsecondary certificate and accredited certification

5.  Radiographer or MRI technologist

Radiographers use x-rays, mammography, or computed tomography equipment to examine patients, while MRI technologists use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment to create diagnostic images of patients. To do their jobs, both radiographers and MRI technologists must typically properly prepare patients for exams, keep detailed patient records, and work with physicians to evaluate images. 

In order to become a radiographer or an MRI technologist, you typically need at least an associate degree in a related area of study and gain a state license. Often you must have prior experience working as a radiographer before you will be hired as an MRI technologist. 

  • Median annual wage: $63,710

  • Projected growth rate: 9 percent (as fast as average)

  • Common qualifications: Associate degree and certification

6. Respiratory therapist 

Respiratory therapists use their medical knowledge to help those suffering from breathing conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Patients can include everyone from premature babies to elderly individuals with chronic conditions. 

To become a respiratory therapist, you’ll likely need at least an associate degree, but some employers may prefer those with a bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, you will likely need to gain a state license and receive certification through the National Board for Respiratory Care. 

  • Median annual wage: $62,810

  • Projected growth rate: 23 percent (much faster than average)

  • Common qualifications: Associate degree and state licensure

7. Occupational therapy assistant

Occupational therapy assistants work under the direction of occupational therapists to help patients develop, improve, and maintain the skills they need to live and work. Typical duties of an occupational therapist assistant include helping patients conduct therapeutic exercises like stretches, teaching patients how to use special equipment, and recording patient progress. 

To become an occupational therapy assistant, you will need an associate degree from an accredited program, typically offered at community colleges and technical schools. Often, occupational therapy assistants will need certification for CPR and basic life support. 

  • Median annual wage: $60,950

  • Projected growth rate: 34 percent (much faster than average)

  • Common qualifications: Associate degree and certification

8. Computer support specialist

Computer support specialists use their understanding of computers to help users and organizations troubleshoot computer problems. Typical duties include evaluating existing system networks and performing regular network maintenance. 

In order to become a computer network support specialist (or a technical support specialist), you’ll typically need to have at least an associate degree, but some employers might prefer applicants with a bachelor’s degree. 

  • Median annual wage: $55,510

  • Projected growth rate: 9 percent (as fast as average)

  • Common qualifications: Associate degree

Get started in IT support

Start building the skills needed for an in-demand role in computer support with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. Learn how to provide end-to-end customer support as you prepare for an entry-level job, no degree or experience required.

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9. Paralegal or legal assistant

Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers in their day-to-day duties by organizing important documents, conducting research, and drafting legal documents. Some of the typical duties performed by paralegals include conducting fact-finding investigations to help with legal briefs, helping lawyers during trials, and coordinating interviews and depositions. 

Most paralegals have an associate degree in paralegal studies, though some employers may require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. Those with a bachelor’s degree should seek a certificate in paralegal studies from a program approved by the American Bar Association.

  • Median annual wage: $52,920

  • Projected growth rate: 12 percent (faster than average)

  • Common qualification: Associate degree or certificate in paralegal studies 

10. Real estate agent 

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Typical duties include taking clients to see properties, devising lists of available properties for clients, and mediating negotiations between buyers and sellers. 

It’s possible to become a real estate agent with only a high school diploma, but you must become licensed by your state. Some community colleges offer associate degrees in real estate management or real estate studies, a credential that could enhance your resume.

  • Median annual wage: $51,220

  • Projected growth rate: 4 percent (slower than average)

  • Common qualifications: High school diploma or equivalent, associate degree, or  bachelor's degree, plus state licensure

Get job-ready 

Whatever career you decide is right for your future, consider a Professional Certificate as a way to get job-ready with the skills companies are hiring for. Curious how a degree could further expand your career opportunities? Explore the range of bachelor’s degrees from top universities available on Coursera. 

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment outlook for occupations requiring an associate’s degree, certificate, or some college, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/postsecondary-outlook.htm.” Accessed December 30, 2021. 

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Learn More, earn more: Education leads to higher wages, lower unemployment, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2020/data-on-display/education-pays.htm.” Accessed Dec. 27, 2021.   

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/.” Accessed December 27, 2021.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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