18 of the Highest-Paying Associate Degrees (With Salaries)

Updated April 19, 2023

Associate degrees provide students with the possibility of entering the workforce faster and with less debt. Since these academic titles help individuals study a specific field, they have the potential to help someone earn a higher salary. Learning about some associate degrees with high earning potential can help you consider which may be best for you. 

In this article, we explain what an associate degree is, provide a list of the highest-paying associate degrees that can lead to an income of at least $60k and share some of the benefits of earning this type of degree.

What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is an undergraduate degree a student can earn to either prepare them for a bachelor's degree or to enter the workforce. These typically take two years to complete and involve earning 60 credits. Courses in this program can be similar to the introductory courses students take in a bachelor's degree program or can focus on more specialized areas of study.

Related: What To Do After Getting Your Associate Degree

18 highest-paying associate degrees

Here are some high-paying associate degrees to consider, offering salaries of $60k or more. While some employers prefer candidates with bachelor's degrees for some positions, all these degrees can lead to high-paying roles with just an associate degree. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries:

1. Mortuary science

Mortuary science associate degree programs train students to work in the funeral industry. Courses typically cover topics like:

  • Anatomy

  • Embalming

  • Funeral service administration

  • Restorative art

  • Methods of disposition

  • Ethics

Different states have different education requirements for licensure, but many graduates work as funeral directors. A funeral director earns an average salary of $61,016 per year.

2. Interior design

Interior design associate programs help students develop basic design skills to help them create practical and aesthetically pleasing interior environments. Interior design students may learn skills like:

  • Space planning

  • Building codes

  • Material selection

  • Lighting design

  • Sustainability

Interior designers earn an average of $63,832 per year.

3. Drafting

A degree in drafting trains you in computer-aided drafting (CAD) software, which you can use to create detailed plans, schematics and blueprints. Drafters typically work in fields like architecture and engineering, in which they assist architects, engineers and product designers. Courses typically focus on:

  • CAD programs

  • Manufacturing processes

  • Design

  • Algebra

  • Architectural principles

  • Drawing

  • Cost estimation

Upon graduation, you may work as a drafter. The average salary for drafters is $64,138 per year.

Related: How To Become a Successful Architectural Drafter

4. Electrical engineering

An associate degree in electrical engineering teaches students how to wire, repair and maintain electrical systems. Courses may focus on:

  • Power systems

  • Troubleshooting

  • Circuits

  • Appliance repair

Graduates with this degree often work as electrical engineering or electronics technicians assisting electrical engineers. An electronics technician earns a national average salary of $69,987 per year.

Related: Associate Degree in Electrical Engineering: Steps and Skills

5. Network engineering

Network engineering associate degrees equip students to work in information technology (IT) and specialize in network support. These programs train you in setting up, securing, maintaining and troubleshooting network connections. Courses may cover:

  • Routers

  • Cybersecurity

  • Cloud computing

  • Mobile device connectivity

  • Local area network (LAN) connections

Networking engineering associate degree graduates may find work as network administrators, earning an average of $71,577 per year.

Related: Network Engineering vs. Software Engineering: Key Differences

6. Occupational therapy

An associate degree in occupational therapy educates individuals about ways to help patients recover from injuries or illnesses. Courses cover:

  • Ethics

  • Assistive technologies

  • Physiology

These programs often prepare students for the standard certification exam. Occupational therapy assistants, a typical career for those with this type of associate degree, make an average of $74,180 per year.

7. Physical therapy

Associate degrees in physical therapy provide students with classroom lectures and clinical experience for a career helping others improve their movement. These programs cover"

  • Human anatomy

  • Kinesiology

  • Clinical pathology

  • Biomechanics

Graduates with associate degrees in physical therapy often become physical therapist assistants, who make an average of $75,137 per year.

Related: How To Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

8. Web development

An associate degree in web development teaches students how to build websites. This program teaches students skills like:

  • Programming languages

  • Design elements

  • Troubleshooting

  • User experience (UX) design

  • Collaboration skills

Graduates with an associate degree often become web developers, a career that makes a national average of $76,125 per year.

Related: How To Become a Web Developer (Plus Key Benefits of Training)

9. Aviation maintenance

Associate programs in aviation maintenance teach students the basics of aircraft manufacturing and maintenance so they can diagnose mechanical issues and perform hands-on repairs. These programs often include courses in:

  • Physics

  • Powerplant systems

  • Propeller systems

  • Aircraft tools and materials

Graduates from these programs can find work with airlines, government groups and manufacturers. The average salary for an aircraft mechanic is  $77,773 per year.

10. Nursing

An Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) prepares someone for a career caring for patients in a hospital, physician's office or specialized health care clinic. This degree helps aspiring medical individuals develop clinical skills like communication and diagnostic reasoning. 

Students also learn a variety of types of nursing, ranging from medical-surgical nursing to maternal-newborn nursing. Typically graduates from this program take their exam to become licensed registered nurses (RN). They earn, on average, $92,607 per year.

Related: ADN vs. ASN vs. AAS Nursing Degrees: What're the Differences

11. Dental hygiene

An associate degree in dental hygiene consists of a combination of lectures and hands-on labs to prepare someone for a role in a dental office. Students learn about: 

  • Oral pathology

  • Anatomy

  • Patient management

  • Dental materials. 

In their labs they create molds, take X-rays and interact with patients. Dental hygienists working make an average salary of $96,298 a year.

Related: 26 Best Associate Degree Jobs to Know (With Salaries)

12. Respiratory therapy

Respiratory therapy is a health care field that enables safe breathing. An associate degree program in respiratory therapy might teach you how to:

  • Perform examinations and identify the cause of breathing issues

  • Develop effective treatments plans targeting respiratory function

  • Administrator diagnostic tests

While guidelines can vary depending on your state, an associate degree is typically enough to practice as a respiratory therapist. The average salary for a respiratory therapist is $98,681 per year.

Related: How To Become a Respiratory Therapy Technician (With Job Duties and Salary)

13. Robotics

During an associate degree robotics program, students learn how to program machine tools and modify controller networks. This may include covering different types of programming, such as C++ programming. Those graduating with an associate in robotics have the potential to work in a variety of industries, ranging from electronics to space industries.

Many employers are open to candidates with associate degrees for robotics engineering jobs. The average salary for a robotics engineer is $101,599 per year.

14. Diagnostic medical sonography

Diagnostic medical sonography is an area of health care focusing on ultrasound technology. In these programs, you learn how to:

  • Interact with patients

  • Use diagnostic equipment

  • Input data into patient records

After earning an associate degree in diagnostic medical sonography, you could work as a sonographer, earning an average salary of $105,465 per year.

Related: FAQ: What Degree Does an Ultrasound Tech Need?

15. Software engineering

An associate degree in software engineering trains students in software engineering industry standards and practices and techniques to build and test new programs. Classes cover: 

  • Database systems

  • Networking

  • Operating systems

  • Programming languages

Upon completion of an associate degree in software engineering, graduates can become software engineers and make $109,117 per year.

Related: How To Create a Software Engineer Portfolio in 6 Steps

16. Nuclear science

An associate degree in nuclear science gives participants an understanding of nuclear energy equipment and tools used in power plants. These types of programs instruct students on the fundamentals of nuclear technology processes, including their interactions, productions and radiation measurements.

Graduates with associate degrees can become nuclear technicians, who make an average of $83,954 per year, or nuclear medicine technologists, who make an average of $112,616 per year.

17. Radiation therapy

An associate degree in radiation therapy or radiography teaches individuals how to use technology to treat those with medical conditions, especially cancer patients. Core topics include: 

  • Radiation physics

  • Pathology

  • Oncology

  • Planning radiation treatments

Students also gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting to prepare them for a career in radiation therapy. The average salary for radiation therapists, a common career option, is $121,591 per year.

Related: FAQ: What Can You Do With a Radiation Therapy Degree?

18. Vascular technology

An applied science associate degree in vascular technology teaches students how to diagnose and treat patients with vascular diseases. Courses may include:

  • Sonographic identification

  • Abnormal and normal anatomy

  • Sonographic physics

During the program, students learn how to use diagnostic imaging and monitoring equipment. Those graduating with an associate degree in vascular technology can become vascular technologists and make an average of $124,028 per year.

Related: 15 Highest Paying Jobs in the Medical Field That Only Require an Associate Degree

Why choose an associate degree?

The benefits of choosing an associate degree might include:

  • Added credibility: Holding an associate degree in your field may impress hiring managers and help you qualify for entry-level jobs in the industry you target.

  • Further educational opportunities: Many associate degree courses may be prerequisites for a bachelor's degree, so they provide the potential to transfer into more advanced degree programs.

  • Quicker path to the workforce: Associate degree programs are shorter and more affordable than four-year degrees, so you can enter your chosen field sooner and with less debt.

  • Flexibility: It's often easy to balance school with personal obligations like family or part-time work.

  • Options for people re-entering the workforce: An associate degree program can be an accessible option for those re-entering the workforce, like parents returning to work after starting a family or veterans leveraging their skills gained during service.

  • Ability to specialize in a new field: If you want to transition to a new field without much work experience, an associate degree could help you grow your skills and begin your career.

Types of associate degrees to consider

The following are some associate degrees you might pursue:

Associate of Arts

An Associate of Arts prepares students for careers in liberal arts and social science. Courses cover more general education topics than the other associate types. This may include subjects such as writing, public speaking and mathematics.

Associate of Science

An Associate of Science builds foundational knowledge for students interested in completing a bachelor's degree in a math- or science-related field. These provide academic training on topics, such as engineering, chemistry and computer science. Like an Associate of Arts degree, an Associate of Science degree helps meet general education requirements for four-year programs.

Associate of Applied Arts

An Associate of Applied Arts is a more specialized degree that prepares someone for an entry-level position in a performing or visual arts career. These programs are more technical than Associate of Arts programs. While earning this degree, students pick an area of study, such as commercial music or fine arts, to provide a focus for the classes they take.

Related: List of Associate Degrees (Plus Popular Careers)

Associate of Applied Science

An Associate of Applied Science equips students to seek employment upon graduation in fields like health care and technology. Here, students learn practical skills to use in their workplace. Students pick elective courses based on their concentration areas, such as criminal justice and respiratory care.


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