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20 high-paying jobs you can get with a 2-year degree

Money Talks News logo Money Talks News 4/8/2018 Maryalene LaPonsie


Don't have a 4-year degree? Not to worry. There are plenty of great jobs that don't require one.   

If you could spend $20,000 a year at a public university or $3,750 a year at a community college, which would you choose? What if we said you could earn a six-digit income by going to the cheaper school?

Living on a campus and earning a bachelor’s degree seems like the all-American way to get a college education. But consider this: the College Board says that will set you back an average of $20,770 for the 2017-2018 school year if you attend a public university. Meanwhile, you could live at home, attend a local community college and spend an average of $3,750.

Then, with your two-year degree or technical education, you could land one of these high-paying jobs. Click through to see them all.

1. Dental hygienist

© Catalin Petolea /

Median income (2016): $72,910

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 20 percent

(All income and job growth data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

If you don’t mind the idea of peering into people’s mouths all day, you could earn more than $72,000 a year as a dental hygienist. These professionals need an associate degree to learn the tricks of the trade, and then they’ll be ready to clean, polish and treat teeth until they gleam.

2. Air traffic controller

a man sitting in front of a laptop computer © Stoyan Yotov /

Median income (2016): $122,410

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 3 percent

If you want to earn some serious money, become an air traffic controller. These folks help guide the planes in the sky and earn six-digit incomes doing so. Some may have a bachelor’s degree, but you can also land a job with an associate degree from an approved school. Given the importance of their job, air traffic controllers also have to pass medical and background checks, a skills assessment and a special training course from the Federal Aviation Administration.

3. Avionics technician

© Tom Pennington/Getty Images    Median income (2016): $60,760

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 5 percent

Avionics technicians have another high-paying occupation in the field of flying. These workers are in charge of testing, repairing and maintaining electronic equipment on planes and other aircraft. They may also be called in to review flight data and diagnose problems.

4. Web developer

a woman using a computer © nd3000 /

Median income (2016): $66,130

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 15 percent

If computers are your thing, how about a career as a web developer? These are the folks who design the websites you visit (like this one!) and make sure everything looks and runs exactly as it should. An associate degree is all you need to learn the necessary skills for a job that pays a median wage of $66,130.

5. Computer network support specialist

a woman standing in front of a laptop © Gorodenkoff /

Median income (2016): $62,670

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 8 percent

While some computer support positions required a more extensive education, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to become a computer network support specialist. Also known as technical support specialists, these professionals typically earn a healthy income for their ability to troubleshoot computer network problems.

6. Geological and petroleum technicians

a group of people that are standing in the dirt © serato /

Median income (2016): $56,470

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 16 percent

With an associate degree in geosciences or a similar field, you could find work as a geological and petroleum technician. People in this occupation work alongside scientists and engineers to collect and analyze data related to natural resources that may be accessible to mining.

7. Chemical technicians

a woman holding a toothbrush © Matej Kastelic /

Median income (2016): $44,480

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 4 percent

Another career option for the science-minded is to become a chemical technician. Working with chemists or chemical engineers, technicians often help companies with their research and development. They assist with laboratory experiments and collect results that will then be used to create new products and processes.

8. Funeral service workers

a man wearing a suit and tie © Kzenon /

Median income (2016): $54,830

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 5 percent

Although not a glamorous job, someone’s got to do it. Morticians, undertakers and funeral service managers all provide services that are always in demand and are usually pay well. To work in the field, you’ll need a specialized associate degree in mortuary science or funeral service. Every state except Colorado has licensing requirements for workers in the field.

9. Fire inspectors and investigators

a man wearing a yellow hat © Scott Leman /

Median income (2016): $56,130

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 10 percent

If you want a job that will take you out of the office, you could become a fire inspector or investigator. As the name suggests, these workers inspect properties for compliance with government regulations and investigate how specific fires started. You don’t necessarily need an associate degree in fire science for the job — although they are available — but you do need to complete a training program.

10. Paralegals and legal assistants

a person sitting on a table © create jobs 51 /   

Median income (2016): $49,500

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 15 percent

Working as a lawyer is where the really big money can be found, but legal assistant pay isn’t too shabby either. Paralegals and legal assistants do a lot of the legwork for attorneys – researching laws, drafting correspondence and filing court documents. Unlike their bosses, they don’t need an advanced professional degree. Instead, an associate degree in paralegal studies is the standard education in the field.

11. Drafters

a person sitting at a desk in front of a computer © FutroZen /

Median income (2016): $53,480

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 7 percent

Drafters work with software to convert design plans into technical drawings. They may specialize in architectural, mechanical or electrical drafting, and their services are employed across a variety of industries. To get started, get an associate degree from a community college or technical school.

12. Radiation therapists

a man in a white shirt © adriaticfoto /

Median income (2016): $80,160

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 13 percent

Advances in medical technology mean physicians use high-tech equipment to diagnosis and treat disease, and they need trained workers to run these specialized machines. Radiation therapists are one such group of workers. After two years of education, they are capable of administering radiation treatments for cancer and other diseases and get paid handsomely for it.

13. Diagnostic medical sonographers

a man and a woman in a white shirt © Dmitry Naumov /

Median income (2016): $69,650

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 23 percent

Diagnostic medical sonographers are another set of workers who can be trained in two years to use specialized medical equipment. They operate ultrasound machines to not only give expectant parents a peek at their developing baby but also provide images of other parts of the body to help physicians detect and diagnose medical problems.

14. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians

a person holding a donut in front of a computer © Alexander Raths /

Median income (2016): $55,570

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 10 percent

As a career related to diagnostic medical sonographers, cardiovascular technologists and technicians use medical equipment to take images of the heart and lungs. You only need a two-year associate degree for this job that had a median wage of $55,570 in 2016.

15. Radiologic technologists

a person standing in front of a refrigerator © Tyler Olson /

Median income (2016): $57,450

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 12 percent

Also known as radiographers, radiologic technologists are the folks who take X-rays. They need to have an associate degree and, in most states, also be licensed or certified. For their services, radiologic technologists earn a median income of $57,450 per year.

16. MRI technologists

© Hayden Bird/E+/Getty Images    Median income (2016): $68,420

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 14 percent

Workers who take MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) earn as much as some workers with a bachelor’s degree. However, MRI technologists don’t need to stay in school for four years. A two-year associate degree is sufficient to train them to use the imaging equipment.

17. Nuclear medicine technologists

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Median income (2016): $74,350

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 10 percent

Working primarily in hospitals, nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs used to monitor, diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer. An associate degree in nuclear medicine technology is the typical education for those employed as technologists.

18. Respiratory therapists

a person sitting on a bed © DmytroZinkevych /

Median income (2016): $58,670

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 23 percent

From premature babies with underdeveloped lungs to adults with emphysema, a variety of people benefit from the work of respiratory therapists. These professionals measure lung capacity and consult with physicians to create and implement a treatment plan. They get paid well and only have to go to school for two years to get the job.

19. Physical therapist assistants

a couple of people that are talking to each other © Africa Studio /

Median income (2016): $56,610

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 31 percent

In some states, physical therapists need to have a doctoral degree. However, nationwide, their assistants only need an associate degree from an accredited program. Physical therapist assistants are expected to see explosive job growth in the coming years as baby boomers age and their need for therapy increases.

20. Occupational therapy assistants

© kali9/Getty Images    Average income (2016): $59,010

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 29 percent

An aging population is also expected to spur job growth for occupational therapy assistants. These workers help occupational therapists with exercises and therapies intended to improve a person’s ability to perform daily tasks.

If your goal is to get a high-paying job, there is no reason to spend four years in college earning a bachelor’s degree. You can save time and money by pursuing one of these 20 jobs that require only an associate degree to get your foot in the door.

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