5 High-Paying Jobs with an Associate Degree

high paying jobs with an associate degree

  • Nuclear Technician
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • Radiation Therapist
  • Air Traffic Controller
  • Dental Hygienist

Despite the associate degree being the quickest degree to complete, there are various high-paying jobs that can be obtained with an associate’s degree. Students pursuing an associate degree can choose from an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.); Associate of Arts (A.A.); Associate of Science (A.S.), or Associate of Applied Business (Associate of Applied Business (A.A.B.). The type of associate degree chosen depends on the program and career aspirations. Here are 5 high-paying jobs with an associate’s degree.

Nuclear Technician

Nuclear technicians assist doctors, engineers and similar professional working with nuclear energy production or with nuclear research. Nuclear technicians also operate the equipment used to monitor the amount of radiation that’s being produced. They generally work in nuclear power plants and must have good computer and monitoring skills. Upon earning an associate degree, the aspiring nuclear technician must complete extensive on-the-job training to learn all the procedures required for this job. The median annual wage earned by nuclear technicians in 2018 was $80,260. The five states with the highest number of nuclear technicians hired are South Carolina, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and North Carolina.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and give them to patients for therapeutic or imaging purposes. They also provide technical support to other nuclear medical personnel or physicians and operate the equipment used to take x-rays and similar tests. It is also their duty to monitor the patient for possible reactions to the drug. They must also follow the correct procedure for disposal of radiation materials. Nuclear medicine technologists earn a median annual wage of $73,360. The states with the highest number of nuclear medicine technologists employed are South Dakota, West Virginian, Louisiana, Wyoming and Oklahoma.

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists are trained medical professionals who provide radiation treatment to patients with cancer and similar diseases. They may work in clinics, physicians’ offices, hospitals and outpatient centers. In addition to completing a formal training program, the therapist must also obtain certification and licensure by passing an exam through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. The median annual wage for radiation therapists is $80,220. The states with the highest number of radiation therapists employed are Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic to ensure they are a safe distance from each other during a flight. They work in control towers, route centers and approach control facilities. Candidates pursuing this control are required to earn their degree through the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Additionally, they must prove they are a good fit for air traffic education by passing a biographical assessment and personality exam. Although, many air traffic controllers have bachelor’s degrees, this position is possible with an associate’s degree. The mean annual wage for air traffic controllers is $122,950. The states with the highest number of air traffic controllers employed are Alaska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Hawaii and Kansas.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists assist dentists in treating patients in dental offices. They clean the patients’ teeth, provide them with preventative dental care, educate them on improving and maintaining good oral health and work alongside dentists in their treatment of patients. Although a person can become a dental hygienist with an associate degree, which is typically a two-year program, the dental hygiene program usually takes three years to complete because of the amount of clinical education required according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual wage for dental hygienists nationwide is $73,330. The states that employ the largest number of dental hygienists are Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut, Idaho and Rhode Island.


Earning an associate degree can be a great way to start a promising and lucrative career according to PayScale. Despite the highest paying jobs available with an associate degree being in the technology, engineering and healthcare, there are various other high-paying jobs available with an associate’s degree.

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