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

Updated March 3, 2023

The health care industry is a stable, often lucrative field for job seekers. Medical professionals can specialize in areas that interest them, find jobs for almost any schedule and find satisfaction in helping others. For many medical field positions, you can begin a career by earning an associate degree.

In this article, we discuss what an associate degree is, the benefits of earning your associate degree and some of the highest-paying medical jobs with an associate degree.

What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is a post-secondary degree. You can earn an associate degree at certain vocational schools and community colleges. Some universities also offer associate degree programs. Typically, associate degree programs are two years, but this can vary based on how many courses you take each semester. Associate degree programs teach the fundamentals of particular subject areas and prepare you for working in that area or for transitioning to a four-year degree program. You can generally earn an associate degree through on-campus or online classes.

Common associate degrees include:

  • Associate in Arts

  • Associate in Science

  • Associate in Applied Science

What are the benefits of earning an associate degree?

Earning an associate degree can provide the following professional benefits:

  • Increased pay: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs typically requiring an associate degree had a median income of $55,870 per year in 2020. This is higher than the median wage for jobs requiring a high school diploma, which was $36,100 per year in 2017.

  • Improved chances for admission into a four-year program: Completing an associate program can help you improve your grades and enhance your resume with experience before applying to a four-year university.

  • Decreased costs: In general, it costs students less money to earn an associate degree than a bachelor's degree.

  • Faster entry into the workforce: Completing an associate degree can allow you to start your career sooner than if you pursue a bachelor's degree.

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15 highest-paying jobs in the medical field with an associate degree

Here are some of the highest-paying medical field jobs you can do with an associate degree:

1. MRI technologist

National average salary: $26,827 per year

Primary duties: MRI technologists are medical professionals that perform magnetic resonance imaging scans. They make work in radiology clinics, hospitals or specialty offices, such as cancer clinics. MRI technologists explain procedures to patients, position patients, inject patients with contrast agents when necessary, ensure all safety precautions are taken and operate MRI scanners.

2. Veterinary technician

National average salary: $30,928 per year

Primary duties: Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians in the care and treatment of animals. They take vitals, including weight and heart rate, and prepare for and assist with exams, procedures and surgeries. Veterinary technicians communicate with patients and explain procedures, treatment plans and follow-up recommendations. Most states require veterinary technicians to complete an associate program accredited by the American Veterinary Medicine Association.

Read more: Learn About Being a Veterinary Technician

3. Pharmacy technician

National average salary: $31,532 per year

Primary duties: Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in the preparation and delivery of medications. They can work in a range of pharmacy locations, including hospitals, retail and independent pharmacies. Pharmacy technicians communicate with patients about their prescriptions, clarify information with prescribers, submit billing information to insurance carriers and collect payments from customers.

Read more: Learn About Being a Pharmacy Technician

4. Home health aide

National average salary: $31,864 per year

Primary duties: Home health aides care for patients in their home. They assist with activities of daily living, such as dressing, ambulation and medication administration. Home health aides also transport patients to doctor appointments, take vital signs and monitor patients' health status for changes. They generally work for home health companies or health care organizations.

Read more: Learn About Being a Home Health Aide

5. Veterinary assistant

National average salary: $33,616 per year

Primary duties: Veterinary assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians care for animals in a vet practice. Their duties can include checking animals in and out, transporting animals to exam rooms, scheduling appointments, feeding animals, preparing animals for surgeries and helping restrain animals during procedures.

Read more: Learn About Being a Veterinary Assistant

6. Medical equipment technician

National average salary: $37,911 per year

Primary duties: Medical equipment technicians install, maintain and repair medical equipment. They may work for facilities, like hospitals, or for medical equipment manufacturers. Medical equipment technicians educate consumers on the proper handling and use of medical equipment, keep records of deliveries and maintenance and respond to service requests.

7. Medical records specialist

National average salary: $38,908 per year

Primary duties: Medical records specialists maintain patient health information, including demographics, insurance information and medical histories. They update paper and electronic systems, ensuring records are accurate. Medical records specialists work closely with medical billing and coding specialists, health care providers and patients and must adhere to regulations concerning the storage and sharing of protected health information.

8. Funeral services assistant

National average salary: $45,352 per year

Primary duties: Funeral services assistants work with funeral directors to organize funeral services. They coordinate vendors, create schedules, decorate venues and assist with billing. Funeral services assistants must have excellent communication, interpersonal and organization skills.

9. Medical registrar

National average salary: $46,083 per year

Primary duties: Medical registrars perform administrative duties in health care facilities, including hospitals, urgent care clinics, long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers. They check patients in and out, assist patients in filling out admission forms, input patient information into computer systems and make copies of necessary documentation, like driver licenses and insurance cards.

10. Cardiovascular technician

National average salary: $47,073 per year

Primary duties: Cardiovascular technicians specialize in performing cardiovascular tests and procedures, including EKGs, stress tests and Holter monitor tests. They may work in cardiac care offices, hospitals and other health care facilities. While some employers may require only a high school diploma or equivalent, others require cardiovascular technicians to earn an associate degree accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

11. Medical secretary

National average salary: $53,970 per year

Primary duties: Medical secretaries work in the offices of medical facilities, such as hospitals and private clinics. They perform tasks to help the facility run smoothly, including checking patients in and out, scheduling appointments and making appointment reminders, billing patients, updating patient records and communicating with other staff members. Medical secretaries should understand medical terminology, billing procedures and regulations regarding protected health information.

Read more: Learn About Being a Medical Secretary

12. Safety coordinator

National average salary: $60,795 per year

Primary duties: Safety coordinators ensure workplaces are safe for employees, visitors and customers. They implement safety standards and procedures, train employees on safety protocols and conduct safety assessments. Safety coordinators monitor an organization's compliance with all occupational safety regulations.

13. Respiratory therapist

National median salary: $62,810 per year 

Primary duties: Respiratory therapists are health care practitioners who treat patients with breathing disorders and diseases. They examine patients, perform diagnostic tests, work with physicians and other providers to develop treatment plans, educate patients on the use of breathing equipment like ventilators and monitor patients' progress. Respiratory therapists can also intervene in critical situations, such as heart attacks and drownings. In most states, respiratory therapists must be licensed by the National Board for Respiratory Care.

14. Anesthesia technician

National average salary: $63,743 per year

Primary duties: Anesthesia technicians assist anesthesiologists in ensuring the delivery of anesthesia goes smoothly. They clean, maintain, organize and prepare tools and equipment for procedures that require anesthesia. Anesthesia technicians typically earn an anesthesia technician degree through a program accredited by the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT).

15. Mental health technician

National average salary: $84,584 per year

Primary duties: Mental health technicians, also called psychiatric technicians, are part of a patient's mental health team. They work with patients who have disabilities, illnesses or addictions to implement treatment plans, administer medication, take vital signs, lead support groups and comforting patients and families. Mental health technicians communicate with physicians, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors about the best course of treatment for patients.

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