If you're looking for a lucrative career that only requires a degree from a two-year school, you may be surprised at the number of options.
Many careers that can net you over $60,000 annually only require an associate degree. The best associate degree jobs are highly specialized and require strong skills in critical thinking and technical know-how.
Read on for the 10 best associate degree jobs that offer plentiful job opportunities, high salaries, and strong professional satisfaction.
10 in-demand careers you can start with an associate degree
In curating this associate degree job list, we looked for three desirable qualities:
- Higher-than-average salary
- Optimistic projected employment growth
- Appealing to those with strong technical/computer and critical thinking skills
We also selected jobs based on whether or not you can land them with the most popular two-year degrees, such as an associate degree in business administration.
Read on for our list of the top 10 careers you can get with an associate degree. Keep in mind, several of the careers included here generally require a bachelor's but may allow for an associate plus professional certifications.
1. Computer support specialist
Computer support specialists help maintain computer networks and offer technical support to different organizations and computer users. They may specialize in computer network or user support and need strong technical and communication skills to succeed.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 9% growth in computer network specialist roles from 2020-30.
You can typically find entry-level to advanced work as a computer support specialist with an associate degree in computer science or other computer/IT-related major.
Earning professional certifications may help you get a job. Consider the Electronics Technicians Association's Certified Network Technician credential or one of Microsoft's various certifications for computer support.
2. Dental hygienist
Dental hygienists provide preventative oral care to patients, such as brushing patients' teeth, and monitor the progression of oral diseases. They are also responsible for assessing patients' oral health and sharing their notes with dentists.
The BLS predicts that dental hygienists will see an employment growth rate of 11% from 2020-30.
Working as a dental hygienist requires earning an associate in dental hygiene, which typically takes three years and combines classroom learning with clinical and lab elements. Many colleges and trade schools offer online programs.
Dental hygiene programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
3. Information security analyst
Information security analysts protect organizations' computer networks and systems using software tools such as firewalls and data encryption programs.
The BLS projects a 33% employment growth rate for this role from 2020-30. The high demand for professionals to counter cybercrime has created high cybersecurity salary and job security expectations.
You can get an entry-level job as an information security analyst with an associate in cybersecurity and professional certifications. The International Information System Security Certification Consortium's Entry Level Cybersecurity Certification is popular.
Sometimes it helps to earn your degree or certification in a specialization such as penetration testing.
4. Occupational therapy assistant
Occupational therapy assistants help patients recover from or live with serious illnesses and health issues, such as chronic pain. Success in this profession requires strong empathy, written and verbal communication, and critical thinking skills.
The BLS projects a 34% growth in occupational therapy assistant positions from 2020-2030. This overwhelming demand can be attributed to the population growth of middle-aged and elderly patients.
You can become an occupational therapy assistant by earning an associate degree in occupational therapy from a community college or trade school. Programs in occupational therapy are typically accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.
5. Administrative services or facilities manager
Administrative services and facilities managers plan, coordinate, and oversee the daily functioning of different organizations. They may supervise entire offices or individual departments of facilities.
Typically, these managers need strong leadership, critical thinking, and written and verbal communication skills.
The BLS predicts that from 2020-30, administrative services and facilities managers will see a 9% employment growth rate.
Though many employers expect these managers to hold at least a bachelor's, some entry-level jobs may accept candidates with only an associate degree in management. Typically, you need fewer than five years' experience to qualify for a job as an administrative services or facilities manager.
6. Paralegal or legal assistant
Paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers with tasks such as case research, file organization, and documentation. These skilled workers need strong writing, critical thinking, and organizational skills.
The BLS projects a 12% employment growth rate for paralegals and legal assistants 2020-30.
Most paralegals and legal assistants hold at least an associate degree in criminal justice, legal studies, or other related major.
Paralegal and legal assistant programs typically need accreditation from the American Bar Association, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, or National Association of Legal Assistants.
7. Radiologic or MRI technologist
Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging tests on patients, while MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging machinery to produce medical imaging of patients. Physicians use the medical imaging these professionals help produce to help diagnose and monitor different health conditions.
The BLS anticipates that employment for radiologic and MRI technologists will grow by 9% from 2020-30.
Radiologic and MRI technologists need an associate degree to practice. Many states have licensure requirements for radiologic technologists. Radiologic technologists typically need to complete a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.
MRI technologists generally do not need licensure.
8. Real estate broker or sales agent
Real estate brokers and sales agents represent clients looking to buy, sell, and rent properties. These professionals need strong soft skills, including written and verbal communication, leadership, and self-advocacy. Generally, they are self-employed, though some work in real estate agencies.
The BLS projects 4% growth in positions for real estate brokers and agents from 2020-30.
To become a real estate broker or sales agent, you usually need an associate degree in finance or a business administration associate degree featuring real estate and finance coursework.
In every state, these professionals need to pass a licensing exam in order to practice.
9. Respiratory therapist
Respiratory therapists provide care for patients with breathing issues such as asthma or chronic pulmonary disease. These therapists need strong written and verbal communication, empathy, and critical thinking skills.
The BLS projects that from 2020-2030, the number of respiratory therapists will grow by 23%. This overwhelming demand has to do with an increase in the population of middle-aged and elderly patients.
To work as a licensed respiratory therapist, you typically need at least an associate degree in respiratory therapy. Many community colleges, universities, and trade schools offer online associate degrees in respiratory therapy.
10. Web developer
Web developers create and maintain websites and web-based applications. These tech professionals usually work from home and know multiple programming languages.
The need for web developers has exploded as more services and products reach consumers online. It will likely continue to grow.
The BLS reports that web developers can anticipate a 13% employment growth rate from 2020-2030.
Educational expectations for web developers can vary, but you can typically secure entry-level web development work with a computer programming associate degree and a strong portfolio.
Attending a full-stack web development bootcamp or earning a web development certificate can also help.
Unless otherwise noted, salary and job growth data is drawn from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of Aug. 1, 2022.
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