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30 Highest Paying Jobs with an Associate’s Degree in 2021

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In this article we will take a look at the 30 highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021. You can skip our detailed analysis of the job industry, and go directly to the 5 Highest Paying Jobs with an Associate's Degree in 2021.

The education sector is going through consequential changes. As the world moves towards a skill-based economy, companies are doing away with degree requirements and preferring candidates who are digitally savvy, with an attitude to learn and grow. Similarly, instead of opting for a 4-year bachelor’s degree, many people move towards an associate’s degree program because it comes with a lower cost, less time, higher earnings, and possibly more career opportunities. For example, radiation therapy, nuclear technology, dental hygiene and aerospace engineering are some of the many roles that may offer an average salary of over $55,000 per year, based on data from PayScale. Around 1.04 million students were awarded their Associate’s degree in the academic year of 2019 in the U.S. The number is expected to increase in the coming decade.

Moreover, some of the major companies like Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), Whole Foods Market Inc., Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) are removing degree requirements for their jobs and instead preferring skills. Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) stated they wouldn’t require applicants to be degree holders and has recently launched a Google Career Certificates program to prepare applicants for in-demand and highest paying jobs. Similarly, Whole Foods Market Inc. simplifies its hiring process by considering work ethics and skills over a degree.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) also believes that the degree is not important for the creative minds to work. Musk was one of the very first people to speak about the hiring preferences at his company. Earlier this year, Musk used Twitter, Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) to recruit an artificial intelligence team at Tesla Inc.

In 2019, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) offered new programs to encourage tech skills that are not taught formally in schools. This was done to offer more positions to candidates with no degree. According to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, half of the candidates hired at Apple Inc. in 2018, didn’t have a four-year degree.

On the other hand, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) states that a degree is not required for entry-level jobs, but the candidate should be a college graduate for an executive position. Similarly, Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM) also requires a candidate to have a bachelor’s degree.

This shows that the future of the job industry is changing. With the rise of technology and digital transformation, the idea of startups and the gig economy gained momentum. The pandemic has accelerated this process when millions of people ended up losing their jobs. In 2020, 255 million full-time jobs were lost in the pandemic. This forced millions to upskill themselves and turn to online jobs platforms. In the U.S. only, 36% of the workforce turned to freelance jobs, contributing over $1.2 trillion to the economy. The unconventional roles are growing, which gives way to the trend of an associate’s degree where a candidate can choose the courses according to their interests. Also, an associate’s degree is the best alternative to the undergraduate programs as they now offer some of the highest-paying jobs to the candidates. With companies like Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Twitter, Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) preferring skills over degrees, candidates will flock to online courses to update their skillsets.

Keeping this context in mind, let’s start our list of the 30 highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree in 2021. For each role, we mentioned the expected growth (decline, in some cases) in related jobs based on the data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Highest Paying Jobs with an Associate's Degree in 2021
Highest Paying Jobs with an Associate's Degree in 2021

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Highest Paying Jobs with an Associate's Degree in 2021

30. Environmental Technicians

Average Annual Salary: $43,171

Environmental technicians work with engineers to eliminate the threats of climate change. Their job revolves around taking practical measures to curb the effects of climate change, for example, monitoring soil samples, reducing water contamination, cleaning up hazardous wastes, and investigating sources of pollution and contamination. With the rising menace of global environmental change, the employment for this role is projected to grow 8% by 2029. Companies that offer vacancies for this role include TETRA Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: TTI) and Stericycle, Inc. (NASDAQ: SRCL).

29. Food Service Manager

Average Annual Salary: $46,716

Food service managers carry out the daily operations of restaurants and other organizations by planning their services. They are the supervisors of the restaurant staff and are responsible for planning nutritious meals, training staff, uphold health regulations, and responding to customer complaints. Employers prefer candidates with a one-year relevant certificate or an associate’s degree in culinary arts. They are mainly hired by restaurants or companies managing the operations like Aramark (NYSE: ARMK) or The Geo Group, Inc. (NYSE: GEO). Though employment is expected to grow by 1% in the future, the job still seems to be in demand because of the rising trend of dining out.

The job ranks 29th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

28. Computer Network Support Specialist

Annual Average Salary: $47,632

Computer network support specialists work to resolve computer-related problems and offer technical support to companies and individuals. They are responsible for checking the networks, backing up files, and maintaining security breaches. They also maintain network areas such as LAN and WAN. Employers generally hire specialists with an associate’s degree in IT, computer science, and customer services. Candidates can apply for a suitable role at organizations like Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). With almost all the companies moving towards ecommerce, the employment of computer network support specialists is projected to grow 8% by 2029.

27. Occupational Therapy Assistant

Average Annual Salary: $47,649

Occupational therapy assistants are next on our list of the highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree. They work with occupational therapists and perform therapeutic treatments for patients suffering from chronic diseases like Parkinson’s, arthritis, brain injury, autism, etc. Mainly their job is administrative which includes transporting patients, carrying out treatment plans, setting up appointments, and maintaining records. They mainly work in rehabilitation centers such as Reliant Rehabilitations. The role exhibits a promising future with a growth rate of 32% by 2029.

The job ranks 27th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

26. Paralegal and Legal Assistants

Average Annual Salary: $48,766

Paralegal and legal assistants work closely in the legal firms with the lawyers. Their main job is to assist the lawyers and attorneys with their cases and may perform administrative duties as well. Their daily tasks include filing documents, interviewing clients, gathering evidence, writing trial statements, and filing appeals. To work with reputable legal firms, the candidate must have an associate’s degree in legal studies with a certification approved by American Bar Association. Fragomen, Del Rey& Bernsen offers positions as paralegal and legal assistants. As the law firms are expanding their legal services, the employment rate for this role is expected to grow by 10% in the coming years.

25. Mortician

Average Annual Salary: $49,961

A mortician, also known as the funeral director, is one of the most unusual but highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree. The morticians are responsible for embalming bodies for burial. Their main duties are to plan funerals and burial services honoring a deceased person. They are mainly employed at funeral homes and crematories, which offer full-time positions as well. The morticians should have an associate’s degree along with their state’s license to work. The hiring of morticians is expected to decline by 4% because of the rising preference for cremation.

The job ranks 25th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

24. Physical Therapist Assistant

Average Annual Salary: $50,918

Physical therapy assistant is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the coming years with a projected growth of 29%. They work with the therapists to help patients regain their movement after injuries and illness. They use weights and traction machines to carry out the tasks and also observe the movement of the muscles. To work as therapist assistants, a candidate should have an associate’s degree and a license. They normally work in hospitals but are also hired by private companies like ATI Physical Therapy. Due to the aging population and patients with chronic illness, the employment of this role is much faster than the average of all occupations.

The job ranks 24th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

23. Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers

Average Annual Salary: $50,948

As the name suggests, telecommunication equipment installers/repairers work to maintain the flow of communication. They set up and install the equipment necessary to carry the signals for communication, like internet routers and telephone lines. Their main duties are to inspect the equipment, repair the faults, test the new devices, maintain records, etc. This lesser-known job demands an associate’s degree in electronics technology and training before working independently. With the rise in the use of wireless devices, the employment rate for this role is expected to decline by 3% in the coming years.

The job ranks 23rd in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

22. Avionics Technician

Average Annual Salary: $51,364

Avionics technicians play a role in maintaining the electronic system of an aircraft. Along with this, they diagnose the electrical problems, repair and replace the defective components, inspect the performance standards, and maintain the records. To work as an avionics technician, a candidate must have an associate’s degree with professional certification by FAA and usually work in the army or navy. With the gradual increase in air traffic over the years, the hiring for this role is expected to grow 5% by 2029.

The job ranks 22nd in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

21. Wind Turbine Technician

Average Annual Salary: $51,938

Wind turbine technician is one of the highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree and the hiring for this role will increase 61% by 2029. Their main job is to maintain, install, and repair wind turbines. They are responsible for inspecting the turbine towers, maintaining the routine performance of wind turbines, testing the different components, and replace or repair the malfunctioning devices. They work in companies like General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) and NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE). Although turbine technicians can get a degree from community colleges, an associate’s degree with 12 months of training is also preferred by employers.

The job ranks 21 in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

20. Civil Engineering Technician

Average Annual Salary: $52,205

Ranking 20th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021 is civil engineering technician. Civil engineering technicians work with civil engineers to carry out the planning, designing, and building of infrastructure projects. They interpret the blueprints, use computer-aided designs (CAD), estimate costs for the construction process, examine the site conditions, prepare reports, etc. Candidates with an associate’s degree in math, geometry, and physics can apply for the role of civil engineering technicians. They normally work privately in companies like Ace Asphalt. As the need for developing infrastructure will increase, the hiring for this role will also grow by 3% in the coming years.

19. Radiologic Technologists

Average Annual Salary: $53,923

A radiologic technologist is one of the highest-paid jobs with an associate's degree. These technicians perform X-RAY scans and other diagnostic examinations on patients. They work with the physicians and maintain the imaging equipment, prepare patients for the procedure, evaluate the images with the physicians, and keep the records. These professionals will require an associate’s degree in radiologic technology. The employment prospects for this role will increase by 7% in the future. Companies like RadNet, Inc. (NASDAQ: RDNT) offer vacancies for this role.

The job ranks 19th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

18. Aircraft Service Technician

Average Annual Salary: $54,032

An aircraft service technician is another job with better opportunities and projected growth of 5% by 2029. Their main duties involve the maintenance of aircraft structures and systems. They repair the planes before takeoff and inspect parts from the cockpit to ensure passenger safety. They are mainly responsible for identifying errors, filing records, and replacing defective parts. To land a job as an aircraft service technician, the candidate must have an associate’s degree approved by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Along with the army and navy, companies like Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) also hire for this role.

The job ranks 18th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

17. Industrial Engineering Technician

Average Annual Salary: $54,848

The industrial engineering technician is one of the best jobs to consider with an associate’s degree. Their main job is to manage the factory production levels. They work closely with the industrial engineers and help them in planning layouts, managing work schedules, and cutting cost estimates. An individual seeking this role must have a diploma or an associate’s degree in industrial engineering to get a suitable position in any engineering firm. The employment rate will grow by 1% in the future.

The job ranks 17th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

16. Electro-Mechanical Technicians

Average Annual Salary: $57,247

Electro-mechanical technicians work with products that have electric or magnetic components. They are responsible for operating robots, submarines, industrial machines, and temperature systems. Their daily duties include reading blueprints, using equipment for the installation of electronic hardware, and maintaining records of routine activities. An associate’s degree along with professional certification is required to get a job in this field. Candidates can find a suitable job in companies like Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE: PBI) and Baker Hughes Company (NYSE: BKR). The employment rate of this job is expected to grow 3% by 2029.

The job ranks 16th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

15. Respiratory Therapists

Average Annual Salary: $57,314

As the name suggests, respiratory therapists work for patients with breathing disorders and maintain oxygen levels in the lungs. They work in collaboration with the physicians and help treat patients with asthma, cystic fibrosis, cancer, emphysema, etc. Daily tasks include connecting patients to respirators, demonstrating the use of nebulizers and inhalers, removing mucus from the lungs, and giving CPR. The organizations often seek candidates with an associate’s degree in the discipline along with the certification from the National Board of Respiratory Care. The vacancies are always available in hospitals and healthcare companies like HCA Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: HCA). With the onset of Covid-19 and other chronic respiratory conditions, the employment rate for this role is expected to grow 19% in the coming years.

The job ranks 15th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

14. Nuclear Technician

Average Annual Salary: $60,000

Nuclear technicians are generally associated with the production of appropriate levels of nuclear power. The major part of their duty involves monitoring nuclear reactors, measuring appropriate radiation levels, and conforming to safety guidelines and procedures. They also assist engineers and physicists in carrying out nuclear research. The job demands an associate’s degree in nuclear science and nuclear-related technology with vacancies in the navy. In the next decade, employment is projected to decline by 19% due to the rising trend of renewable energies for power generation.

The job ranks 14th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

13. Web Developers

Annual Average Salary: $60, 023

As the name suggests, web developers are responsible for creating websites for businesses, individuals, and other organizations. Web developers are IT professionals who use computer coding like HTML and XML to create a website that meets the client’s needs. The process of creating a website includes brainstorming designs, sketching the particular layout, designing graphics, running updates, and testing site performance. The job requires a candidate to have an associate’s degree in computer-related courses. Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Accenture plc (NYSE: ACN) are the best companies for this position. Due to the increased demand for ecommerce and startups, employment is projected to grow 8% by 2029.

The job ranks 13th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

12. Dental Hygienists

Average Annual Salary: $60,808

Dental hygienists are responsible for providing oral care to patients. Their duties include taking dental X-RAYs, cleaning teeth, consulting with dentists, providing dental consultation, and managing all the records. They work closely with the dentists and assist them in the overall treatment. There are over 300 associate’s courses accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Due to the wide range of courses, the dental hygienist is one of the highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree. The positions are usually open in companies like Dillard’s Inc. (NYSE: DDS) and American Dental Partners. Prospects for the job will grow by 6% by the year 2029.

11. Fire Investigator

Average Annual Salary: $60,920

Fire investigators detect fire hazards and investigate the causes of such situations. Fire accidents are sometimes linked to the pattern of criminal behavior and the fire investigators are responsible for carrying out the meticulous inquiry. They determine the origin of the incident, interview the victims, capture evidence through pictures, test DNA, and maintain records. With an associate’s degree, the employers sometimes demand a firefighting experience from the candidate. They also ensure the use of updated fire codes in buildings, a job that will remain in demand in the future also. Due to this, the employment rate is projected to grow 8% by 2029. Fire investigators usually find a suitable position in organizations like Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE: COF) and The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC).

10. Geological and Petroleum Technician

Average Annual Salary: $61,033

Geological and petroleum technicians work with engineers and scientists to extract the natural resources from Earth’s crust. In carrying out the task, they assist the engineers to look for the best drilling spots. They also monitor the rock formations and test soil samples while maintaining the record of the availability of natural resources. They work in offices or laboratories but sometimes they also work in fields. To work as a geological and petroleum technician, the candidate must have a two-year associate’s degree in geoscience, physics, or mining. With the rise in demand for natural resources, the employment for this role is projected to grow 5% by 2029.

The job ranks 10th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

9. Cardiovascular Technologist

Average Annual Pay: $62,038

Cardiovascular technologists treat patients with ailments related to the heart and lungs. Their diagnosis mainly revolves around the circulatory and respiratory systems broadly. The main tasks include monitoring heart rates, recording breath sounds, attaching electrodes, and assisting with catheterization. Cardiovascular technologists require an associate’s degree along with the certification from the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). They mainly get a job at medical centers like HCA Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: HCA). The employment is expected to grow by 12% in coming years.

The job ranks 9th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

8. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Annual Average Salary: $63,131

The diagnostic medical sonographer is another medicine-related field that made it to our list of the highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree and is expected to grow by 17% in the coming years. They assist doctors in carrying out a diagnosis by using special imaging equipment. They are also responsible for operating sonography, preparing patients for diagnostic procedures, reviewing images, and recording results. To apply for the job, the candidate must have a two-year associate’s degree and certification. Diagnostic medical sonographers are mainly hired by companies like MEDNAX, Inc. (NYSE: MD) and RadNet, Inc. (NASDAQ: RDNT). The numbers show an increased demand for the role because of the significant rise in underlying conditions in this fast-paced life, like heart diseases and blood clots.

The job ranks 8th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

7. Auto Damage Appraiser

Average Annual Salary: $63,483

Auto damage appraisers typically work for vehicle insurance companies. Their main task is to determine the cost of vehicle repair after the accidents. They do so by examining the photos and evaluating the damaged vehicle. They also carry out in-depth investigations to assess the damages and filing claim settlements. Their hiring is mainly in insurance companies like The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV). Though the job offers a very competitive salary, the increased reliance on computer software will cause a decline of 6% to the employment rate in the future.

The job ranks 7th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

6. Registered Nurse

Annual Average Salary: $66, 015

Next on our list of the highest-paying jobs with an associate’s degree are the registered nurses who work mainly for medical clinics or hospitals. Their main duty is to provide round-the-clock bedside medical treatment. Along with this, they also assess patients' conditions, manage records, administer patients' medicine, help perform diagnostic tests, and assist doctors. Registered Nurse RNs are required to have an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) and a license from their state’s board of nursing. They are mainly hired by organizations like HCA Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: HCA), DaVita Inc. (NYSE: DVA), etc. Due to the aging population, demand for healthcare services will increase, and the employment of RNs is expected to grow 7% by 2029.

The job ranks 6th in our list of highest paying jobs with an associate's degree in 2021.

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Disclosure: None. 30 Highest Paying Jobs with an Associate's Degree in 2021 is originally published on Insider Monkey.