If you could spend as much as $26,820 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?
Earning a bachelor’s degree seems like the all-American way to get a college education. But consider this: the College Board says that, for the 2019-2020 school year, in-state tuition and fees will set you back an average of $10,440 — or, $26,820 if you pay out-of-state tuition and fees.
In contrast, in 2019-2020, the average in-district tuition and fees at public two-year colleges range from $1,430 in California to $8,210 in Vermont. That makes two-year institutions, where tuition and fees average $3,750 a year, look like a great bargain, even at the high end.
Here is a list of jobs you can get with just two years’ training at most. They pay well above the U.S. median wage, according to the latest numbers.
1. Air traffic controller
Median annual pay: $124,540
If you want to earn some serious money, become an air traffic controller. These professionals help guide planes in flight, earning a six-digit income.
Some of these professionals may have a bachelor’s degree, but you can also land one of these jobs with an associate’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Given the importance of the job, air traffic controllers also have to undergo medical and background checks and take exams and courses at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy.
2. Radiation therapists
Median annual pay: $82,330
Advances in medical technology mean physicians use high-tech equipment to diagnose and treat disease. They need trained workers to run these specialized machines.
Radiation therapists are among these workers. After two years of education, they are capable of administering radiation treatments for cancer and other diseases and get paid a median wage of $39.58 per hour.
3. Nuclear medicine technologists
Median annual pay: $76,820
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 from an accredited program in nuclear medicine technology is the typical education for these specialists.
4. Diagnostic medical sonographers
Median annual pay: $72,510
Diagnostic medical sonographers are another type of worker who can be trained in two years to use specialized medical equipment.
They operate ultrasound machines that not only give expectant parents a peek at a developing baby but also produce images of other parts of the body. The images are used to help physicians detect and diagnose medical problems.
5. MRI technologists
Median annual pay: $71,670
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technologists are trained to use MRI scanners to obtain diagnostic images of patients. Top-paying employers for this specialty include outpatient care centers, hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories and doctors’ offices.
MRI technologists need a two-year associate degree. High school students who would like to follow this career path can prepare by taking classes in mathematics and sciences, especially anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology and physics.
6. Web developer
Median annual pay: $69,430
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 may need to learn the basic skills for a job that pays a median annual wage of $69,430, or about $33.38 an hour.
7. Avionics technician
Median annual pay: $64,140
Avionics technicians have another solid-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 examine planes for defects and interpret flight data.
8. Computer network support specialist
Median annual pay: $62,770
California employs by far the most people in this occupation, followed by Texas, New York, Illinois and Florida.
Industries paying the most for computer support positions include telecommunications, data processing and hosting, computer systems design, finance and insurance, and management of companies and enterprises.
A bachelor’s degree may help, but many companies will take applicants with an associate’s degree, says the BLS.
9. Fire inspectors and investigators
Median annual pay: $62,510
If you want a job that takes 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 inspectors may investigate the cause of a fire.
Most fire investigators and inspectors need to have worked previously as firefighters, the BLS says. You’ll need a high school diploma or the equivalent before getting on-the-job training. Depending on the employer, a two-year or four-year degree in fire science, engineering or chemistry may be required.
10. Respiratory therapists
Median annual pay: $60,280
From premature babies with underdeveloped lungs to adults with emphysema, a wide variety of patients 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 become employable. In every state but Alaska respiratory therapists must obtain a state license.
11. Occupational therapy assistants
Median annual pay: $60,220
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.
12. Radiologic technologists
Median annual pay: $59,520
Also known as radiographers, radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations, typically taking X-rays of patients in a medical setting such as a hospital or clinic. They also may become mammographers, using low-dose X-rays to make diagnostic images of breast tissue.
MRI technologists (see slide No. 5) often get started in their field by working as radiologic technologists, the BLS says.
To be a radiologic technologist you’ll need an associate degree and, in most states, also must become licensed or certified.
13. Physical therapist assistants
Median annual pay: $58,040
In some states, physical therapists need to have a doctoral degree. However, nationwide, their assistants only need an associate degree from an accredited program.
14. Funeral service workers
Median annual pay: $57,580
Not everyone may think this a glamorous job, but someone’s got to do it.
Funeral service workers provide services that always are in demand. They usually are reasonably well paid.
To work in this field, you’ll need an associate degree in mortuary science or funeral service. Every state except Colorado has licensing requirements for workers in the field. Colorado offers a voluntary certification program.
15. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians
Median annual pay: $56,850
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians use medical equipment to take images of the heart and lungs. You need only a two-year associate degree for this job that paid a median wage of $56,850 in 2018.
Outpatient care centers, physicians’ offices, hospitals and diagnostic laboratories are among the best-paying employers for this specialty.
Median annual pay: $55,550
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.
17. Geological and petroleum technicians
Median annual pay: $53,300
Either an associate’s degree or two years of postsecondary training in an applied science field or science-related technology is all you typically need to get started in this field, the BLS says.
Geological and petroleum technicians work with engineers and scientists collecting and analyzing information on natural resources that may help them explore an area for mining its natural resources.
18. Paralegals and legal assistants
Median annual pay: $50,940
Working as a lawyer is where the really big money can be found. But legal assistant pay isn’t too shabby.
Paralegals and legal assistants do a lot of the legwork for attorneys: researching laws, drafting and filing correspondence and court documents.
An associate degree in paralegal studies often is all that’s required.
19. Chemical technicians
Median annual pay: $48,160 per year
Science-minded career-seekers also may enjoy considering becoming chemical technicians. Two years of post-secondary education or an associate degree is often all you’ll need to get launched.
Working with chemists or chemical engineers, technicians often help companies with research and development. They assist with laboratory experiments and collect results that will then be used to create new products and processes. Or, in pharmaceutical or chemical plants, they may monitor the production process, the BLS says.
What jobs have you seen that pay well and only require two years or less of college or training? Tell us in a comment below or at Money Talks News on Facebook.