Highest-paying jobs that only require a 2-year degree
The American economy is increasingly becoming one in which a high school education is simply not enough. According to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workplace, of the 55 million job openings expected from 2010 to 2020, only 36% will require a high school education or less, 30% will require some college or an associate degree, while 35% will require at least a bachelor's degree.
Attaining an associate degree or better for 25- to 29-year-olds increased from 38% to 46% between 2000 to 2017, while bachelors degree attainment or better increased from 29% to 36%, and attainment of master's degrees or higher grew grown from 5% to 9%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. While the largest percentage of U.S. workers only hold a high school diploma—with the second-highest percentage belonging to those with baccalaureate degrees—the number of holders of an associate or technical degree is rising.
Fortunately, the number of associate degree-friendly positions is growing. Stacker checked the most recent data (Sept. 4, 2019) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook to determine the jobs requiring a two-year degree that pay the highest salaries. We looked at the 2018 median annual wage, as well as the projected growth rate from 2018 to 2028 and the expected change in job numbers for the same period. Our listing is ranked by the 2018 annual wage.
For several entries—funeral service managers and morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors, diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, mechanical drafters and architectural and civil drafters and magnetic resonance imaging technologists and radiological technologists—the employment and growth data listed reflect both jobs and is noted below when appropriate.
With many believing that the cost of a four-year education too high, given the rising cost of tuition and stagnant wage growth, it's encouraging to know that there are obtainable, well-paying professions for those with a two-year degree. While a bachelor's degree holder can be expected to make about $500,000 more in lifetime earnings compared with an associate degree holder, the jobs we have listed show the exceptions.
Keep reading to learn about some well-paying gigs you can land with an associate degree.
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#42. Dietetic technicians
- 2018 median annual wage: $27,140
- Employment in 2018: 34,800
- Projected employment in 2028: 36,900
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: 2,000 (5.8%)
Dietetic technicians are food and nutrition technical practitioners who typically work with dietitian nutritionists to help determine the nutritional needs of their clients and prepare foods for those with special dietary needs. This can be as part of a medically prescribed treatment regime, in an educational setting teaching about the importance of proper nutrition, or as part of the food-service industry.
#41. Preschool teachers, except special education
- 2018 median annual wage: $29,780
- Employment in 2018: 523,600
- Projected employment in 2028: 560,500
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: 36,900 (7.1%)
Preschool teachers provide basic daycare services, rudimentary education, and social-interaction training for children too young for a traditional school setting. These services can be instrumental in childhood development, and preparation for more-formalized institutional learning.
#40. Veterinary technologists and technicians
- 2018 median annual wage: $34,420
- Employment in 2018: 109,400
- Projected employment in 2028: 130,500
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: 21,100 (19.3%)
Veterinarian technologists and technicians conduct medical and laboratory tests to help diagnose injuries and illnesses in animals. While a veterinarian technologist typically requires a bachelor degree, a technician only needs an associate degree. Both positions require a credentialling examination and state licensing or certification.
#39. Human resources assistants, except payroll and timekeeping
- 2018 median annual wage: $34,520
- Employment in 2018: 129,300
- Projected employment in 2028: 123,900
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: -5,300 (-4.1%)
Human resources assistants create and maintain employee records regarding hiring and termination, attendance records, addresses and personal information, and other workplace concerns such as uniform requests. Human resources assistants also may keep track of production, produce performance reports, and/or provide employment verification.
#38. Forest and conservation technicians
- 2018 median annual wage: $37,180
- Employment in 2018: 32,700
- Projected employment in 2028: 33,300
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: 600 (1.7%)
A forest and conservation technician manages forest natural resources. The technician may work with a forester to compile reports on various forest tracts or may work independently to train and supervise forest workers, to coordinate forest replanting and propagation, and to manage fire suppression.
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#37. Agricultural and food science technicians
- 2018 median annual wage: $40,860
- Employment in 2018: 29,200
- Projected employment in 2028: 31,000
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: 1,800 (6.1%)
Agricultural technicians work with agricultural scientists to manage livestock and plant stocks to improve yields. This may include performing tests to improve plant resistance to disease or assisting in animal breeding. Food science technicians work with food scientists to improve the packaging, processing, and production of processed foods.
#36. Desktop publishers
- 2018 median annual wage: $42,910
- Employment in 2018: 12,600
- Projected employment in 2028: 10,600
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: -2,000 (-15.9%)
Desktop publishers use computer software to manipulate and edit photos and videos, to transcode and compress media files, and to create web pages and print-ready publications. The job may demand an understanding of an array of programs—including font managers, word processing suites, and data converters—as well as knowledge of printers and scanners.
#35. Broadcast technicians
- 2018 median annual wage: $43,660
- Employment in 2018: 35,300
- Projected employment in 2028: 35,700
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: 400 (1.1%)
Producing programming for broadcast is complicated. Not only must audio feeds be combined in a proper balance, but cameras must be calibrated and coordinated, lighting must be at proper levels, all electrical signals must be properly monitored, and the processing hardware must be in working order. Broadcast technicians take care of all this, as well as ensure that the program is properly transmitted. Both radio and television use broadcast technicians.
- 2018 median annual wage: $44,250
- Employment in 2018: 4,200
- Projected employment in 2028: 4,100
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: -100 (-1.9%)
Embalmers preserve corpses for burial or interment. Embalming—while not technically necessary because of refrigeration—allows for better presentation of the body during a wake and funeral. Some municipalities mandate embalming, however. Embalming requires an understating of anatomy, surgical procedures, chemistry, and thanatology (the science of death and how death affects the body).
#33. Environmental science and protection technicians, including health
- 2018 median annual wage: $46,170
- Employment in 2018: 34,800
- Projected employment in 2028: 38,000
- Projected growth rate 2018-2028: 3,200 (9.2%)
An environmental science and pollution technician collects samples and performs experiments to determine the cause of environmental pollution. This may include taking air, water, and soil samples. Those in this job typically work under an environmental scientist, a pollution engineer, or an equivalent specialist.
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