They say that education is the great equalizer, but given the incredible spike in college costs, it can be hard to justify the investment. But you don’t need a master’s degree to get a good job — often, an associate’s degree, or a two-year degree of some kind, can be well worth the asking price.
Amazingly enough, you can get a pretty solid job with nothing more than a high school diploma, or GED. But if you’re willing to put in the work and monetary investment required to earn a college degree — and in this case, an associate’s degree — your earnings potential is that much higher. There are a slew of college degrees, associate’s degrees among them, that are incredibly useful, and that can launch your career to the next level. It’s really just a matter of stepping up, finding funding solutions if needed, and hitting the books.
To figure out which associate’s degree offered the most opportunities for career advancement and increasing earnings, we dug through PayScale’s annual College Salary Report. By looking at a couple of different markers — including early-career pay, and mid-career pay — PayScale calculated the ultimate earnings potential of each associate’s degree.
Let’s take a closer look at the seven best jobs you can get with an associate’s degree.
7. Occupational health and safety
For those in the occupational therapy field, early career earnings can start at right above the $50,000 mark. By mid-career? They improve to more than $68,000. In case you’re curious, the job of occupational therapists typically involves assessing and rehabilitation, particularly with those who have trouble performing the functions of their job.
6. Dental hygiene
If it seems like half of the people you went to high school with ended up becoming dental hygienists, it’s for good reason. The world needs dental hygienists, and the market is apparently willing to reward those who go down this path with good wages. Hygienists, per PayScale’s report, can make more than $60,000 early in their career, and have lots of room to grow.
5. Mechanical engineering technology
Mechanical engineering is definitely a growing field, and there are numerous career paths within it. Though you can certainly pull in some huge wages with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering, an associate’s degree will land you a steady, solid paycheck as well. PayScale says those in the mechanical engineering technology field can earn more than $40,000 to start out, and that can go all the way up to around $70,000 per year by mid-career.
4. Electronics and communications engineer
Engineering pays, if you haven’t noticed. Like mechanical engineering, communications and electronics engineering is a growing field with lots of demand for talented, skilled workers. Starting out, you can earn around $45,000 as a communications or electronics engineer, and make near $70,000 by mid-career.
They call it “the dismal science” for a reason — and a lot of people aren’t cut out for a career in the field of economics. You can get in with an associate’s degree, though many people would suggest you get a more advanced degree if you want to really go far as an economist. All kinds of companies hire economists, too — so, it’s not just think tanks in and around Washington D.C. You can start out at around $36,000, and by mid-career, more than $70,000.
2. Construction management
If you feel that you can manage a herd of unruly construction workers, manage budgets, and complete projects on time, a career in construction management may be for you. An associate’s degree in construction management can fetch you just south of $44,000 to start out, and by mid-career, earn you $71,000 or so.
1. Management information systems
If you want the absolute most bang for your buck, when it comes to associate’s degrees, management information systems is the way to go. You can start out at the $45,000 mark, and within a few years, earn upwards of $72,000. Careers in the field include web and software development, as well as IT and analyst jobs.
If you’re looking for more information, be sure to check out the PayScale College Salary Report for yourself.