Seven Top-Paying Jobs for Associate-Degree Grads
By Woodrow Aames
For students looking to maximize their college education, the associate degree often provides the quickest route to earnings. For students considering their first job -- or for those returning to online studies to launch a new career -- the associate degree often provides concentrated training without fluff.
While not all two-year degree programs translate to high-paying careers, many associate degree programs are designed to prepare grads for entry into careers where openings exceed qualified candidates. That can mean solid entry-level wages for those who are ready for the workplace. Would you like to earn at least $30-an-hour for your two-year degree?
Students looking for the best-possible earnings for the amount of time it takes to complete their career training should consider these seven sizzling-hot careers:
Average earnings in 2008: $32.19/hour, $66,570/year
If you're looking for exceptional earnings with your two-year degree, consider career training to work as a dental hygienist. Cited by the Labor Department as one of the fastest-growing professional groups in the country, dental hygienists will enjoy an estimated 30-percent increase in jobs during the 2006-2016 decade. Online training with in-person laboratory work prepares you for chair-side procedures as well as licensing examinations required by the state in which you plan to practice. Many hygienists have the privilege of working flexible hours.
Network and computer systems administrator
Average earnings in 2008: $33.45/hour, $59,480/year
During your associate degree program, you'll learn the fundamental skills necessary to provide support to IT departments within most every business and non-profit organization in the country. Courses prepare you to become the go-to professional when it comes to maintenance and system trouble-shooting. There should be ample opportunities for those who complete their associate degree. The Labor Department predicts that jobs for computer support specialists and systems administrators are expected to rise by 18 percent between 2006 and 2016.
Average earnings in 2008: $31.31/hour, $62,450/year
Registered nurses are among the fastest-growing group of professionals that can work in the profession with only an associate degree. There are currently more openings around the globe for registered nurses than there are qualified college graduates to take them. Most nurses work in hospitals, but many find jobs with private physicians' offices, outpatient clinics, extended care facilities, research laboratories, or with governmental organizations. Online and campus-based nursing schools offer two-year, associate degree programs to train nurses and prepare them for national licensing examinations. There are also RN-BSN programs for nurses who wish to enter administration or advanced nursing. You can also add a bachelor's or master's degree to move into administrative nursing or management.
Average earnings in 2008: $34.33/hour, $61,160/year
You can enter the profession with as little as an associate degree, with coursework in fashion design and trends, fashion color, pattern-making, computer-aided design (CAD), textiles, sewing, tailoring, and fashion history. You can apply your career training to work as a generalist, or specialize in fields like sportswear, men's apparel, maternity, women's wear, accessories, jewelry or footwear. Designers work for private design firms, major fashion retailers or small boutiques. Approximately 25 percent are self-employed. The highest concentration of fashion designers work in at the centers of the fashion trades in New York or California.
Diagnostic medical sonographer
Average earnings in 2008: $30.12/hour, $61,980/year
More and more patients are seeking non-invasive diagnoses, free from radiologic side effects, for their medical conditions. That's why hospitals, clinics, diagnostic laboratories and mobile imaging services are hiring a greater number of diagnostic medical sonographers than ever before. More than half of working sonographers take jobs with hospitals, creating scans for specialists in obstetrics, neurological, thoracic and abdominal conditions. Two-year associate degree programs are the most prevalent among sonography career training options. Course work includes classes in instrumentation, anatomy, basic physics, physiology, medical ethics and patient care. The Labor Department projects a 19 percent increase in jobs for diagnostic medical sonographers during the 2006-2016 decade.
Multi-media artist or animator
Average earnings in 2008: $29.99/hour, $56,330/year
Multi-media artists and animators are the bread and butter employees for film, cartoon, television and Web animation studios. Duties can vary by training, specialization or the specific needs of the employer. Following graduation of a two-year degree or career training program, animators and artists may be hired to create original sketches, map out entire story boards to match the script, or produce special effects. Job growth will be fuelled by an increase in demand for professionals who can produce 2D and 3D animation effects for films, Web sites and video games. New jobs will also open in education, science and research design. Consider courses in software animation programs and illustration. The Labor Department foresees a 26 percent increase in jobs for multi-media artists and animators between 2006 and 2016.
Personal financial advisor
Average earnings in 2008: $44.69/hour, $69,050/year
People just entering the job market, those in their middle years, and workers nearing retirement all need investment information. Learn about developing retirement plans and portfolios through an associate degree program in accounting, business, mathematics, finance or economics. Upon graduation you can seek work with an investment firm or pursue your bachelor's or graduate degree in finance while you work or maintain an internship. Jobs for personal financial advisors are predicted to increase by a scintillating 37 percent over the 2006-2016 decade.
Of course, you can increase your career-earnings potential by building on your associate degree. For example, adding a BSN to your RN degree, or pursuing a bachelor's degree or advanced certifications in information technology, can boost your career. These seven professional choices and the two-year degree programs that prepare you for the working world are a great way to start.