The cost of a four-year college continues to skyrocket, leaving many graduates saddled with debt well into their careers. College isn’t the only way to prepare for the job market. Associate degree jobs are worth considering. This degree is a two-year program that usually costs much less than a four-year college. It can get you into the workforce quickly without the debt associated with university degrees.
Before pursuing an associate degree, look at the types of jobs you can get.
☝️ All salary ranges are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These may vary widely depending on your location and how long you’ve been employed. Check listings in your area for a sense of what people are earning in these jobs.
Associate degree jobs by field:
Associate Degree Jobs in the Medical/Dental Field
Many jobs in healthcare require only an associate degree. It’s a growing field with continuing demand.
1. Dental Hygienist
💰 Median Salary: $77,810 per year
An associate degree in dental hygiene can get you started in a career as an dentist’s assistant. Dental hygienists screen patients, take patient histories, clean teeth, and help to educate patients.
This position requires an associate degree in dental hygiene. Check with Commission on Dental Accreditation for accredited programs in your area. You will also need a license in your state.
2. Pharmacy Technician
💰 Median Salary: $36,740 per year
A Pharmacy Technician works under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Duties include retrieving and bottling medicines for patients, as well as providing information about dosages, warnings, and interactions with other drugs.
Here are some other opportunities in medicine that you can pursue with an associate degree.
- Clinical Laboratory Technician – Median Salary: $57,800
- Cardiovascular Technician – Median Salary: $60,570
- Medical Office Assistant – Median Salary: $37,190
- Certified Nursing Assistant – Median Salary: $30,290
- Pharmacy Technician – Median Salary: $36,740
- Medical Assistant – Median Salary: $37,190
- Veterinary Technician – Median Salary: $36,850
- Phlebotomist – Median Salary: $37,380
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) – Median Salary: $36,930
- Paramedic – Median Salary: $36,930
- Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse – Median Salary: $48,070
- Radiology Technician – Median Salary: $61,980
- Surgical Technician – Median Salary: $48,530
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist – Median Salary: $78,760
- MRI Technologist – Median Salary: $61,980
- Ultrasound Technician – Median Salary: $75,380
- Respiratory Therapist – Median Salary: $61,830
Most of these jobs require a specific associate degree. It may be difficult to change jobs without retraining, so consider your options carefully.
Associate Degree Jobs in the Legal Field
You don’t have to be a lawyer to work in the legal field. Many jobs in law require only an associate degree.
20. Paralegal or Legal Assistant
💰 Median Salary: $56,230 per year
A paralegal or lawyer’s assistant works directly under a lawyer’s supervision. An attorney may ask you to prepare legal documents, do research, and organize records. You may even interview prospective clients and go to trials and hearings with an attorney.
Get started with an associate degree in paralegal studies. Check with the school that offers the degree program to make sure it is approved by the bar association in your area.
21. Court Reporter
💰 Median Salary: $60,380 per year
You can get right in the thick of courtroom action as a court reporter. Expect to create transcriptions of legal proceedings and answer questions about what was said by a witness. You may also provide dialogue for television monitors as the testimony happens.
You will need an associate degree in court reporting from a school accredited in the region where you plan to work. It is possible you will need to take a test showing you can type at above 225 words per minute.
Other jobs for associate degrees in legal studies include:
- Law Clerk – Median Salary: $50,750
- Legal Receptionist – Median Salary: $47,710
- Research Assistant – Median Salary: $56,230
- Court Messenger – Median Salary: $60,380
Check with your state’s bar association to see which schools are accredited.
Associate Degree Jobs in the Business Field
Your associate degree will help you compete for business-related jobs. Employers often favor candidates who have at least some college, and completing an associate degree is even better. Here are some positions you can pursue with your degree in hand.
26. Executive Administrative Assistant
💰 Median Salary: $62,060 per year
This position puts you in the heart of the business world. You will be working for business executives handling administrative and clerical duties. These can range from answering phone calls to scheduling meetings and appointments. You could also be maintaining files, answering emails, and preparing invoices.
27. Relationship Banker
💰 Median Salary: $36,310 per year
This is the person that helps customers with issues and tasks that can’t be handled at a teller’s window. You will assist customers in applying for loans and opening personal accounts, as well as establishing trust funds and putting money into investment opportunities. A relationship banker also promotes special offers or bank products and services.
Your associate degree can also help you with a variety of other business opportunities. Here are a few:
- Customer Service Associate – Median Salary: $36,920
- Assistant Store Manager – Median Salary: $39,230
- Sales Support Specialist – Median Salary: $57,910
- Store Manager – Median Salary: $59,440
- Sales Consultant – Median Salary: $62,890
- Sales Supervisor – Median Salary: $ 39,230
Many of these degrees involve general skills and may be more conducive to changing jobs or gaining access to a wider variety of jobs.
Associate Degree Jobs in Trades
Many trade schools and community colleges offer two-year degrees to prepare you for specific trade jobs. Choose the degree that is targeted toward positions you are interested in.
34. HVAC Technician
💰 Median Salary: $48,630 per year
HVAC technician duties include repairing and installing heating and cooling systems. HVA technicians tend to focus on either residential or commercial jobs.
The job requires an associate degree in HVAC technology, where you will get hands-on training in maintenance, inspection, repair, and installation.
💰 Median Salary: $60,040 per year
A licensed electrician wires homes and businesses for electrical power. The electrician may also install machinery and lighting. You will read blueprints to learn where to install circuits and breakers.
Here are a few other trades to consider when deciding which degree or certification to pursue.
- Mechanic – Median Salary: $46,880
- Plumber – Median Salary: $59,880
- Wind Turbine Technician – Median Salary:$56,260
- IT Technician – Median Salary: $57,910
- Ironworker – Median Salary: $57,160
⚠️ Warning: In many trades, you will need to join a union and serve a paid apprenticeship. An apprenticeship can last as much as two to five years.
Associate Degree Jobs if You Have a Liberal Arts Degree
If you choose to get an associate degree in liberal arts, there are still many jobs you can consider. Let’s look at a few.
41. Administrative Assistant
💰 Median Salary: $39,680 per year
An administrative assistant does not work for an executive like an executive assistant does, but may work for managers. You will schedule appointments, answer phones, enter data, answer emails, and keep files organized. You need basic computer skills, communication ability, and a knack for organizing.
42. Police Officer
💰 Median Salary: $66,020 per year
In addition to an associate degree, you will receive training at a police academy. You will also need to pass physical fitness tests and learn lifesaving skills. Training in firearms will familiarize you with the weapons you will be using.
There are many other opportunities you can pursue with your liberal arts associate degree. Here is a sampling.
- Receptionist – Median Salary: $29,950
- Customer Service Representative – Median Salary: $36,920
- Installation Technician – Median Salary: $61,760
- Human Resources Assistant – Median Salary: $45,630
- Office Manager – Median Salary: $99,290
- Sales Manager – Median Salary: $126,640
💡 Tip: Even if you want to work in areas a liberal arts degree does not prepare you for, the fact that you have a degree will give you an advantage over those who only have a high school diploma.
Many people who get an associate degree apply their credits to a university so they can pursue a four-year degree. In this way, the associate degree becomes not only a launching point for a job, but also for further education.