Highest Salaries for Associates Degree Holders

In 2007, a study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that the median earnings for young adults with an associates degree was $35,000, compared with $29,000 for those with high school equivalency and $23,000 for those who hadn’t earned a high school diploma or equivalent degree. It’s clear that pursuing an associates degree makes financial sense in the long run, since your earnings and job potential will more than offset the tuition requirements. Still, spending money on an education, though a wise investment, means making smart choices about what to study and what degree program to choose. There are some associates degrees that provide a higher return on your tuition and prove to be the most valuable.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2006 ranked the following occupations by median income as the highest earning jobs for people holding associates degrees:

  • Computer specialist: Working with computer systems can earn you $68,570 a year.
  • Radiation therapist: You’ll be operating machines used in cancer treatments, with potential to earn $66,170 annually.
  • Nuclear technician: Nuclear technicians do many jobs, including performing maintenance and security checks on nuclear reactors or monitor radiation in the enviroment. With an associates degree in the field, you could earn $65,500 each year.
  • Dental hygienist: Earning an associates degree to work in a dentist’s office can lead to $62,800 per year.
  • Fashion designer: Working as a fashion designer can bring in an annual $62,610.
  • Nuclear medicine technologist: Nuclear medicine techs administer special drugs to hospital patients to observe their effects and track disorders, and can earn an annual $62,300.
  • Registered nurse: Being a registered nurse with an associates degree can get you $57,280 a year.
  • Diagnostic medical sonographer: As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you’ll use use sound wave equipment to diagnose patients to create images used in determining treatment. Technicians with associates degrees can earn an annual $57,160.
  • Engineering technician (not drafter): This position involves using engineering, science, and mathematics in fields as varied as construction, manufacturing, sales, and maintenance. Employees with an associates degree can see $54,250 a year.
  • Aerospace engineer: Aerospace engineers are responsible for the designing and testing of aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles, as well as the testing of these devices. The position pays people with associates degrees about $53,300 per year.

These obviously aren’t the only areas to study if you decide to obtain an associates degree, but they are the most valuable associates degrees for your tuition dollar.