High-paying jobs that typically require an associate degree tend to be in technical, specialized fields. Most associate degree programs train students for specific careers and prioritize hands-on instruction such as demonstrations and practical exercises over lectures.
Associate degree programs often prepare students for a direct transition from school to the workplace. This may be one reason why so just 4.3% of jobs that require an associate degree also require previous work experience. By comparison, 25.3% of jobs that typically require a bachelor’s degree also typically require related work experience.
Many high-paying jobs that typically require an associate degree also require that practitioners have some sort of outside licensing or certification. Air traffic controllers, for example, must hold an Air Traffic Control Tower Operator Certificate or be otherwise qualified under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Most states require radiation therapists — the second highest paying job on this list and No. 16 on the list of the best jobs in America — to be certified through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Jobs requiring associate degrees also tend to be in fast-growing, in-demand fields. While the number of jobs in the United States is projected to grow by 7.4% from 2016 to 2026, the number of jobs that typically require an associate degree is projected to grow by 10.8%. Some jobs on this list — mostly in medical practice, one of America’s fastest-growing industries — are projected to grow by more than 20% over the period.
To identify the highest paying jobs you can get with an associate degree, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed annual median wage estimates for over 800 occupations with data from the May 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data on the typical educational requirement for each occupation came from the Employment Projections program of the BLS and are for 2016. The educational attainment of workers 25 and older in each occupation and the projected employment change also came from the Employment Projections program. The Employment Projections report includes self-employed workers, while the OES excludes such workers. All data are for the most recent period available.