Five Associate Degrees to Receive for Higher Pay

David Sung | August 14, 2014

Earning your associate degree is a sure-fire way to increase your earning potential and open new doors for better career prospects. An associate degree program is usually a two-year commitment, although some programs can be completed in as little as a year, and sometimes can be taken online. There are many elements to consider when choosing an associate degree that’s right for you, which is why we’ve compiled the top five associate degrees that will help you begin carving your path toward entry into your chosen career.

Degree: Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI)

Career: Air Traffic Controller Median Annual Wage (2012): $122,530

An air traffic controller works in control towers to coordinate the movement of air traffic to ensure the safe navigation of aircraft by keeping them at a minimum distance apart. While neither a bachelor’s degree nor any previous work experience is required, this job does require high levels of concentration and working nights and weekends.

Other duties include issuing instructions to pilots, controlling ground traffic including baggage vehicles, giving weather updates, and minimizing aircraft delays. To become an air traffic controller, a person must meet certain requirements, including:

  • be a U.S. citizen;
  • pass medical and background checks;
  • pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pre-employment test; and
  • complete the FAA Academy.

There is no standardized curriculum. However, coursework can include studies in aviation weather, airspace, reading maps, and federal regulations. This job requires a lot of multi-tasking, but the payoff is well worth the work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the top-paying job in which no bachelor’s degree is required. Beware that this job is also rated among the most stressful jobs in America.

Degree: Radiation Therapy

Career: Radiation Therapist Median Annual Wage (2012): $77,560

A radiation therapist administers radiation treatments for patients with cancer and other diseases. A typical workplace is in a hospital, physician’s office, or an outpatient center. Many states require radiation therapists to get licensed by graduating from an accredited radiation therapy program and to be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

A job as a radiation therapist not only requires technical skills to work equipment, it also requires the physical stamina to remain standing for long periods of time and the ability to lift and assist patients into proper positions. Patients who are in this field should have interpersonal skills as well. Many times the patients are under stress both physically and emotionally and may need comfort.

Coursework will include human anatomy, physiology, physics, algebra, computer science, and research methodology. Programs can range from one to two years. A one-year program will generally only provide a certificate, while a two-year program will earn an associate degree. Both programs will provide hands-on clinical training. After completing a program, radiation therapists will pass the national exam, and then continue to renew the certification annually.

Degree: Dental Hygiene

Career: Dental Hygienists Medial Annual Wage (2012): $70,210

At a dentist’s office, a dental hygienist is the person who asks you how often you floss – and to whom you answer “every day!” Yes, they may know you’re not telling the truth because they’ve been trained in identifying oral diseases, X-rays, and dental treatment plans.

Typically, an associate’s degree is required in dental hygiene. All states will require proper licensing. However, licensing requirements vary by state. A degree plan will include courses in anatomy, biology, chemistry, nutrition, and periodontology. A career in dental hygiene is for you if you have meticulous attention to detail because there are very stringent rules and protocols that must be followed. Dental hygienists spend much of their time bending over patients and performing physical tasks. The rewards outweigh the cons by far – imagine the beautiful smiles your hard work will help to create!

Degree: Web Design or Related Field

Career: Web Developer Medial Annual Wage (2012): $62,500

Web developers are responsible for your obsession with the newest phone app and the perfect functionality of your company’s web site. A web developer has a knack for all things in computer technology. Web developers can find work anywhere development is required. They may work from home, in an agency, or in-house for a single company.

It’s possible to be a jack of all web development trades or to specialize in a certain niche. A specialization in web site architecture will be responsible for creating the overall construction of a website. They will decide how pages will be added, how users will navigate onsite, and determine specific requirements for different types of sites.

A web designer is another specialization that involves work with the more creative aspects of a site. Common questions a web designer addresses are how will the layout of the site integrate with images and graphics and how will the content appear on the site.

Finally, a webmaster maintains and updates a site for a client. They ensure that the site continues to function properly and any broken links are fixed. Some webmasters interact with users and respond to comments and emails.

No matter what direction in the web development field you choose, you will become well versed in HTML, JavaScript, and other coding languages. This field requires continuous learning, creativity, concentration, and attention to detail.

Degree: Applied Science or Science-Related Technology

Career: Geological and Petroleum Technician Medial Annual Wage (2012): $52,700

geological and petroleum technician provides an important supportive role to scientists and engineers by setting up machinery, and exploring and extracting resources from the earth. While job duties may overlap, generally geological and petroleum technicians will either specialize in the field and laboratories or work in an office where data is analyzed. Other job duties can include gathering material samples, analyzing collected data with Geographic Information Systems software to map data, and documenting findings for potential development.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost half of all technicians were employed in Texas because of the vast amount of resources to be extracted as of 2012. Work conditions can include spending many hours exposed to the elements for days at a time. Because of the nature of the work, having a regular schedule is not standard.

To become a geological or petroleum technician, an associate’s degree in geosciences, petroleum, mining or a related field is desired. Internships are available for students to gain knowledge and get a step up when applying for full-time positions.

Now that you have some basic information and the desire to get started with a new career, the next step is to visit a community college counselor to ensure you’re on the right track to achieve your dreams.

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