If you’ve thought about earning your bachelor’s degree but haven’t done so yet because you think it’ll take too long or cost too much, you might want to consider getting an associate’s degree. Earning an associate’s degree generally takes only half the time of earning a bachelor’s degree, but having one can help you break into professions that offer excellent employment prospects and comfortable salaries.
An associate’s degree usually requires you to earn 60 college credits, which is about two years’ worth of full-time coursework. This is in contrast to a bachelor’s degree, which requires 120 credits and takes about four years. Though it’s possible to earn an associate’s degree in some of the same fields as a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degrees generally tend to be more career-focused. For example, many associate’s degrees are designed to prepare students specifically for specialized jobs in the healthcare, construction, engineering, and information technology fields. (That said, even if you’re not sure what career path you want to pursue, earning your associate’s degree in general studies can help you increase your employability in a wide range of careers and can save you money if you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree later.)
What are the highest paying associate degrees?
If you’re looking for an associate’s degree that offers both a generous early and mid-career salary, here are are top ten recommendations based on Payscale’s College Salary Report:
- Physician’s Assistant (54K-100K)
- Radiation Therapy (64K-93K)
- Software Engineering (50K-90K)
- Instrumentation and Control (57K-81K)
- Electrical Engineering (45K-78K)
- Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound (53K-77K)
- Construction Management
- Aviation (48K-76K)
- Dental Hygiene (66K-75K)
- Nursing Science (58K-74K)
Keep in mind that these numbers are averages--the salary you can expect may vary widely based on factors like the company you work for and the area you live in. Remember, too, that if you select a degree program based only on your salary prospects, you may find it difficult to finish your program if you don’t enjoy the field. Be sure to balance your salary goals with your personal interests so that you can stay motivated to finish your degree.
Where can I earn a high paying associate degree?
Thousands of accredited schools across the U.S., both online and on the ground, offer high-paying associate’s degrees. If you’re thinking about earning a two-year degree, your local community college is a great place to start. Community colleges are an excellent choice, because many schools
- Offer classes both face-to-face and online
- Partner with local employers to help students find jobs after graduation
- Maintain connections with local 4-year institutions to help interested students complete a Bachelor’s degree
If you’re in need of a schedule that’s more flexible than the one your local community college offers, you might want to consider finding an online school that offers the associate’s degree you’re hoping to earn. Online schools might be right for you if
- You want to take as many classes online as possible (Note that if you’re in a program that requires clinical practice, you will probably not be able to complete those credits online)
- You’re hoping to find classes that meet on a 4- or 8-week schedule
- Your local community college doesn’t offer the associate’s degree program you’re interested in
Regardless of which option you choose, remember that most programs will allow you to transfer in credits. If you’re looking to save money or earn your degree as quickly as possible, consider taking some self-paced, fully online general education courses with StraighterLine. Once you’ve completed a course, you can transfer your credits to accredited associate’s degree programs at StraighterLine partner schools like the Community College of Denver, Baker College, or American Public University.
Your Path to Professional Success
Though earning a bachelor’s degree can open up your career options and increase your salary, it’s not the only path to professional success. The right associate’s degree can help you switch careers or land a promotion in less than half the time of a 4-year degree, so if you haven’t considered earning one before, now’s a good time to start!
Anissa Sorokin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Stevenson University near Baltimore, Maryland. Anissa’s interdisciplinary background and extensive experience teaching research, writing, and study skills help her demystify college expectations for students online and in her classroom.
Thinking about going back to school but don’t know where to begin? No matter what stage of life you’re in, we’ve got tips to help you finish your degree. Read our GUIDE TO GOING BACK TO SCHOOL AT ANY AGE.