Did you know that almost 30 percent of graduates with an associate’s degree earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree? This statistic, from a Georgetown University study, is supported with data from other studies.
For example, the American Institutes for Research, along with the Matrix Knowledge Group, examined the first year salaries of graduates with two-year and four-year degrees in the several states. In the state of Texas, graduates with technical associate’s degrees earned an average of $11,000 more than Texans with bachelor’s degrees. In Colorado, graduates with two-year degrees in Applied Sciences out-earned graduates with bachelor’s degrees by $7,000, and in Virginia, they earned at least $2,000 more.
This trend reflects the country’s employment needs. As of 2013, Georgetown U reported 29 million jobs in the U.S. that paid middle-class wages and only required an associate’s degree. On the other hand, millions of students are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in areas in which there is little demand for these skills. And since there are not enough students pursing in-demand degrees, this disparity helps to increase the salary of many careers that only require a two-year degree. In fact, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that only 10 percent of Americans have these mid-level skills.
And this raises another interesting point: the educational requirement for some jobs is either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. However, the salaries are the same regardless of which degree the employee has. Now, a bachelor’s degree may be the determining factor if the employee applies for a management position. But otherwise, it’s possible that some students may be spending unnecessary time and money, when they could be using this time to start making money.
Following are five jobs that require an associate’s degree and pay as much, if not more, than many occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Dental Hygienists – Annual Mean Wage: $70,700
As associate’s degree in dental hygiene offers a lucrative salary for those who want to help people live healthier lives. And it pays significantly more than the $56,170 earned annually by dieticians and nutritionists, professionals who need a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, clinical nutrition, or a related field.
Dental hygienists work with dentists, and perform some of the same general functions. For example, they examine patients’ teeth and gum for signs of oral disease. They also take and develop x-rays, clean teeth, and apply sealants and fluoride.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists – Annual Mean Wage: $70,840
For people who enjoy using computers to capture and manipulate images, an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine is one high-paying option. Especially when it’s compared to the $64,060 earned annually by film and video editors, or the yearly $49,010 salary of film and camera operators, both of whom usually need a bachelors’ degree in a film or broadcasting subject.
Nuclear medicine technologists use scanners, computers and other equipment to create images of various parts of a patient’s body to determine if there are any abnormalities.
Other high-paying, related career options that only require an associate’s degree include diagnostic medical sonographers, who earn $65,860 annually. They perform sonograms and ultrasounds, and may be breast sonographers, neurosonographers, obstetric and gynecologic sonographers, musculoskeletal sonographers, or abdominal sonographers. Cardiovascular technologists, who earn $52,070, focus on the heart, and take echocardiograms (ECGs) and electrocardiograms (EKGs).
Radiation Therapists – Annual Mean Wage: $80,410
As jobs for therapists go, radiation therapists receive the best return on investment for their educational dollars. In comparison, physical therapists, who need a bachelor’s degree . . . and then a three-year doctoral degree . . . and sometimes, a one-year residency, only make $81,110, which is roughly $700 more a year for 5 to 6 years of additional schooling.
And radiation therapists make significantly more than recreation therapists, who generally need a bachelor’s degree in recreation therapy, and only earn $44,280 annually. Radiation therapists treat patients with cancer and other types of diseases by administering doses of radiation to them. They shrink or reduce cancerous cells by using linear accelerator machines to aim high energy x-rays at diseased parts of the body.
Computer Programmers –Annual Mean Wage: $78,260
Computer and information graduates can find many jobs that accept both associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees for the same position. And these jobs pay much better than many other jobs that require a bachelor’s degree to create computer-related content.
For example, multimedia artists and animators need a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, art of a related field to earn a salary of $69,560, which is $8700 less per year than computer programmers, who may have either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree.
Computer programmers write code using such computer languages as Java and C++. They also debug computer programs by testing for and fixing error codes in the programs. Web developers, who only need an associate’s degree, earn $66,100 annually. They design websites and create the visual elements of the site, in addition to determining performance and capacity issues.
Registered Nurses – Annual Mean Wage: $67,930
For hands-on health care careers, registered nurses earn a lucrative salary with either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. They earn over $20,000 more than athletic trainers $44,010, and exercise physiologists, $47,610 who both need a bachelor’s degree in sports science or a related field.
They also earn more than genetic counselors, who only earn $55,820 with a bachelor’s degree. There are various types of registered nurses who may specialize in pediatrics, nephrology (kidney diseases), rehabilitation, addiction, and cardiovascular diseases. They record symptoms, perform diagnostic tests, consult with physicians, and provide medicine and other types of treatments.