Take comfort — a bachelor's degree isn't essential to landing a job with a healthy salary.
In fact, there are dozens of occupations that offer salaries above the $60,000 mark and are looking to hire associate degree holders. CNBC Make It analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the 10 jobs that pay workers with an associate's degree the most per year.
Landing a job in one of these occupations means you can expect to earn at least $67,000 annually in fields as diverse as healthcare, aircraft manufacturing and tech. That's a healthy step up from the typical annual salary of someone with an associate's degree, which is $41,496 a year, according to the BLS.
If you want to earn well above that average with your degree, consider one of these 10 occupations:
Median annual wage: $67,010
Projected job growth through 2026: 7%
These technicians operate the equipment necessary for developing, testing and producing new aircraft and spacecraft. They may program and run computer simulation tools as well as advanced automation and robotics in order to test and prevent the failure of aircraft, spacecraft or missile parts.
Most employers prefer to hire candidates with an associate's degree in engineering technology or who have completed vocational-technical education in computer programming or robotics, and machining, according to the BLS. Companies that work on projects related to national defense may also require security clearances and U.S. citizenship.
Median annual wage: $69,430
Projected job growth through 2026: 15%
These tech workers design and create websites, ensuring a company or client gets the look they desire as well as the performance and traffic capacity needed. Their job can range from helping a client determine what information the site should contain, to writing code or testing applications.
While there is no technical degree requirement for this job, many in the field have at least an associate's degree in web design. Those who complement their design skills with programming languages also easily break into the industry as employers tend to favor developers with those skill sets, according to the BLS.
Median annual wage: $71,670
Projected job growth through 2026: 14%
As their title suggests, these technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images used for determining medical diagnoses and the staging of diseases.
Many MRI technologists start out as radiologic technologists. An associate's degree is a common education requirement for this post but a few states also require a license.
Median annual wage: $72,510
Projected job growth through 2026: 23%
These healthcare workers specialize in creating sonograms or ultrasounds of the body's organs and tissues using special imaging equipment. Their images help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions as sonograms are often the first imaging tests performed when disease is suspected. Sonographers can specialize in scanning certain parts of the body such as breast tissue, the heart or the female reproductive system to track a developing baby's health.
Becoming a diagnostic medial sonographer requires at least an associate's degree in sonography. As with cardiovascular technologists and technicians, employers prefer candidates that have a professional certification, have graduated from programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program, and have a basic life support certification.
Median annual wage: $74,820
Projected job growth through 2026: 20%
These healthcare workers remove tartar, stains and plaque from a patient's teeth, check for signs of oral diseases, apply sealants and fluorides, take dental X-rays and remind you how to brush and floss correctly.
To become one, you'll need at least an associate's degree in dental hygiene as well as a license to practice. College programs for dental hygiene typically last three years, and a passing grade on clinical examinations is required for licensure in most states.
Median annual wage: $76,820
Projected job growth through 2026: 10%
These healthcare workers prepare radioactive drugs for patients to assist with imaging or therapeutic purposes. They operate the imaging equipment used to diagnosis and treat patients. They may also help physicians in researching the uses of radioactive drugs.
Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate's degree from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Although, some technologists become qualified if they have a degree in a related health field and complete a 12-month certificate program. They commonly need a certification in the field and some states may require a license to practice.
Median annual wage: $79,140
Projected job growth through 2026: 1%
Monitoring radiation is an average day for these technicians who typically work in nuclear energy production or help physicists and engineers in nuclear research. They operate the equipment necessary for these nuclear experiments or power generation and track the levels and types of radiation that are produced by such activities. Testing air, water and soil samples for radioactive contamination can be another aspect of their job.
Nuclear technicians typically need an associate's degree in nuclear science or a nuclear-related technology. Some gain equivalent experience from military service. Extensive on-the-job training is also required.
Median annual wage: $79,180
Projected job growth through 2026: 7%
Overseeing the operations of a funeral home may seem a morbid job, but it can be a highly rewarding one. These managers need to not only be skilled in handling typical business tasks, like staffing, marketing and maintaining revenue, but also at offering counsel and support to grieving families, arranging for the removal of the deceased's body, preparing the deceased for the funeral, and filing death certificates and other legal documents with appropriate authorities.
Typically, an associate's degree in funeral service or mortuary science is all the education that's needed to become a funeral service worker. On the job training, however, is also important, as those studying to be funeral directors and morticians must one to three year-long internships and pass a state and/or national board exam.
Median annual wage: $82,330
Projected job growth through 2026: 13%
Part of the healthcare team called in to treat cancer, these therapists operate the machines that deliver concentrated radiation therapy to a patient's tumor. They are also responsible for explaining treatment plans to patients, determining the region of the body receiving treatment, and checking for unusual reactions.
Employers usually prefer to hire applicants with at least an associate's degree in radiation therapy, though some companies accept those who've completed a certificate program. In most states, radiation therapists must be licensed or certified. Requirements vary depending on the state but typically include passing a national certification exam.
Median annual wage: $124,540
Projected job growth through 2026: 3%
Coordinating the safe movement of aircraft pays top dollar, but it also requires lots of training. Air traffic controllers are responsible for directing aircraft in the ground and air, controlling all ground traffic on runways and taxiways and giving landing and takeoff instruction to pilots. Because their role impacts the safety of hundreds of passengers per flight and typically requires quick decision-making for multiple aircraft, they must be trained and licensed.
Many people become air traffic controllers by obtaining at least an associate's degree through an Federal Aviation Administration-approved Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program. All air traffic controllers must also hold an Air Traffic Control Tower Operator Certificate or be otherwise appropriately qualified. Controllers are then tested throughout the course of their career, needing to pass a physical exam each year and a job performance exam twice per year.
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