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2-year degrees that can earn you the most money

  • 2-year degrees that can earn you the most money

    It's no secret that the cost of college in America is skyrocketing. In 2018, Forbes released a mini-study examining just how much costs had actually changed over the last 30 years. They reported that in 1989, the average cost for all four-year institutions was $26,902 for the entire program (or $52,892 when adjusted for inflation). In 2016, that same average cost was $26,120 per year or $104,480 for the full four years. Essentially, the cost of higher education had doubled.

    This price jump becomes even more of a shock when compared to the wage increase over the same period of time. According to the same Forbes mini-study, median wages only jumped 0.3% between 1989 and 2016, from $54,042 to $59,039. That means the cost of attending a four-year college or university has increased 8 times faster than wages.

    Considering all this, it's easy to see why a four-year college degree is simply out of the question for many Americans. High school graduates are unwilling to take on the lifetime of debt the degree would bring, or lack the resources to attend public or private universities without taking out loans, even though a bachelor's degree would significantly increase their job prospects.

    Luckily, a four-year degree isn't the only higher education option out there. Plenty of colleges offer two-year programs at a much more affordable rate. While associate's degrees don't improve earning prospects as much as bachelor's degrees, they still provide more job stability and increased wages.

    In the following slides, Stacker has compiled a list of the associate's degrees that earn the most money, using data from PayScale. Degrees are ranked by mid-career pay (as of 2019), with ties broken by early career pay. There are programs for every skill set and strength from engineering to fashion design and physician assistant studies. So before you commit to a four-year program, read on to discover your other, cheaper, options.

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  • #100. Financial accounting

    - Mid-career pay: $66,000
    - Early career pay: $33,200

    Financial accounting is a specialized branch of accounting that keeps track of a company's monetary transactions as they pertain to regular business operations. Individuals with a two-year degree in this field can work in either the public or private sector, where they'll be tasked with things like creating a balance sheet and compiling cash flow statements.

  • #99. Physics

    - Mid-career pay: $66,000
    - Early career pay: $36,100

    Physics is a fundamental scientific discipline that studies matter, energy, time, and their relation to each other. Graduates who hold an associate's degree in this hard science can find jobs as research assistants, computer programmers, and nuclear technicians, or they can employ their skills as members of design teams helping to create new medical and technological equipment.

  • #98. Construction technology

    - Mid-career pay: $66,000
    - Early career pay: $42,400

    Two-year construction technology programs train students in construction management as well as the technical aspects of the process. Classes cover topics like building codes, team management, understanding blueprints, and becoming familiar with various building materials. With an associate's degree and a few years of work experience, many graduates can work their way up to construction manager positions or establish their own construction companies.

  • #97. Architecture

    - Mid-career pay: $66,100
    - Early career pay: $39,200

    An architect focuses on the art and technical science of designing buildings, both public and private. Those with an associate's degree in architecture can work as architectural assistants and may be able to find entry-level work in landscape design firms or drafting. However, in America, taking the lead in designing a building requires a bachelor's degree or higher in the field.

  • #96. Radiology

    - Mid-career pay: $66,300
    - Early career pay: $46,600

    One aspect of health care, radiology, allows medical professionals to take images of the inside of the body to diagnose injury or disease. Radiologists (not to be confused with radiographers) are primarily concerned with the patient side of this process—preparing them for the imaging, interpreting the results, and working closely with other members of the patient's care team. With an associate's degree in radiology, you can assist the licensed medical professional in providing this type of care.

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  • #95. Supervision and management

    - Mid-career pay: $66,500
    - Early career pay: $32,100

    Because of the variety of jobs it affords its graduates, a business management degree is an excellent choice for professionals who don't have a clear idea of what they'd like to do professionally. After completing courses on subjects like the principles of finance and customer service, graduates have found employment as everything from administrative assistants to assistant store managers, sales consultants, and relationship bankers.

  • #94. Civil engineering technology

    - Mid-career pay: $66,500
    - Early career pay: $40,800

    Civil engineering technology focuses on the construction of public works like bridges, highways, and sewer systems. The work requires strong math skills, and many programs require a placement exam before admitting students. Careers for those who hold a civil engineering associate's degree include cartography, land surveying, and CAD operator.

  • #93. Information technology

    - Mid-career pay: $66,500
    - Early career pay: $41,600

    A field with a wide scope, information technology often sounds more complicated than it is. Essentially, it's the study of the design and implementation of technologies (like computers) for storing, retrieving, and sending information. Careers that fall under this umbrella include things like web development, computer programming, and cybersecurity.

  • #92. Design

    - Mid-career pay: $66,700
    - Early career pay: $36,400

    Those with an artistic sensibility would do well to consider earning a degree in design. There's a nearly unlimited number of career paths one could take with an associate's degree in the field, including interior design, fashion design, art direction, and advertising management. These careers often require a handle on a variety of digital programs like Adobe Creative Suite and proficiency in computers, particularly in tools like UX wireframes.

  • #91. Information technology and systems

    - Mid-career pay: $66,700
    - Early career pay: $43,300

    Closely tied to information technology, the field of information systems bridges the fields of business and tech. It connects these individual pieces of technology, like computers, into a web that can create, store, and distribute data. Careers in the field include computer systems analyst and business analyst.

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