8 Highest-Paying Jobs with an Associate’s Degree

by admin on May 07, 2013

CareersDespite the eloquence of the Notorious B.I.G., these days few people would agree with his timeless adage “Mo money, mo problems.” In fact, it behooves the savvy American worker to maximize his or her earning potential. An education is a fantastic way to increase your income and employability; in fact, full-time workers with an associate degree earn an average of $133 a week—almost $7,000 a year—more than workers with just a high school diploma. Here are the eight highest median wage jobs for which the typical educational experience is an associate degree.

All numbers referenced are based on data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010.

Job #1: Air Traffic Controller

Do you dream of controlling the skies? Air traffic controllers do just that—control air traffic on and within the vicinity of airports. If you also want to put dinner on the table, you’re in luck—with a median annual wage of $108,040, air traffic controllers earn the most of all occupations for which the typical entry-level education is an associate degree. Employment in this area is expected to drop 2.9 percent overall between 2010 and 2020, but job openings due to growth and replacement needs will still account to around 102,000 jobs in that time period. Visit the Federal Aviation Administration website for more information on how to become an air traffic controller.

Job #2: General or Operations Manager

General and operations managers are usually the top dog in a given business or organization. They are responsible for overseeing all areas of operations, including daily tasks, high-level planning, and the direction of the entire company. With that much responsibility on their shoulders, it’s no wonder that these managers earn an annual median wage of $94,400. With expected growth of 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2020, those interested in the top management field can look for one of the 410,100 jobs opening up over the next few years. Generally these managers must have at least a year of experience in the field before advancing to management.

Job #3: Construction Manager

ConstructionAgain, the manager title comes in handy with the third-place finisher. Construction managers earn around $83,860 after gaining at least five years of experience in the construction field. This experience allows them to plan and direct construction of structures, facilities, and systems, from the conceptual design through organization, scheduling, budgeting, and implementation. This is a great option for the entrepreneurially minded, as more than 60 percent of construction managers are self-employed. This field is also expected to see healthy growth, with 16.6 percent more jobs overall and 1,204,000 jobs opening up due to growth and replacement needs between 2010 and 2020.

Job #4: Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists provide—you guessed it—radiation therapy to patients, as prescribed by a radiologist. As highly conscientious workers in the health care field, they review the patients’ diagnosis, liaison between the physician and supportive care personnel, prepare equipment, and maintain important health records. This is a relatively small field overall, with just 169,000 radiation therapists in the country, but they earn an admirable median wage of $74,980 per year. The field is expected to grow 20.3 percent between 2010 and 2020, creating 34,000 new jobs in addition to the 33,000 jobs that will open due to replacement needs.

Job #5: Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Haven’t you always wanted to wear a lab coat and brag about how you work in nuclear medicine? These technologists are often colleagues with radiation therapists, as they are responsible for the preparation, administration, and measurement of radioactive isotopes in therapeutic, diagnostic, and tracer studies. They’re the people who actually subject the patients to the radiation treatments and then study the results, and for this they earn a median wage of $68,560 per year. The field is expected to grow 18.9 percent between 2010 and 2020, and job openings due to growth and replacement needs in this period will reach 75,000.

Job #6: Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists claim the second-largest field on this list, with 1,818,000 dental hygienists in the United States currently earning a median wage of $68,250. Chances are you’ve come face-to-teeth with one yourself, as they’re found in every dentist office and are responsible for cleaning teeth and examining the mouth for signs of oral disease. They may also educate patients on oral hygiene (we’ve all gotten the flossing lecture), take and develop x-rays, or apply fluoride or sealants. The dental hygiene field is expected to grow a whopping 37.7 percent between 2010 and 2020, meaning there will be more than a million job openings between 2010 and 2020. What a great reason to start flossing.

Job #7: Nuclear Technician

Nuclear technicians are the assistants to nuclear physicists, nuclear engineers, or other scientists in laboratory or production activities. Since this career is dependent on the performance of nuclear work, usually at nuclear power plants, it is the smallest field on this list, with just 71,000 operating in the country. In fact, the job only exists in 14 states, with the highest concentration in California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. But with a median wage of $68,090 and expected growth of 13.5 percent between 2010 and 2020, those interested in channeling their inner Homer Simpson (in a much, much safer way) may consider it a viable career option.

Job #8: Registered Nurse

With more than 27 million registered nurses (RNs) in the United States, this field blows all the others on this list out of the water in terms of sheer numbers. Every hospital, physician’s office, home health care service company, nursing care facility, and outpatient care center employs RNs, and their medical expertise is valued in a number of different kinds of jobs. Generally, RNs care for the ill, injured, convalescent, and disabled of the world. They assess their patients’ health problems and needs, develop and implement nursing care plans, and maintain medical records. The field is expected to grow 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, meaning approximately 12 million job openings in that time period. It can be a demanding profession, with long hours and odd shifts, but if the median annual wage of $64,690 makes a night shift look appealing, perhaps this is the field for you. RNs need to pursue at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN), and be sure to check out the specific licensing and registration requirements of your state.

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