20 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a Two-Year Degree

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Physical therepist
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Living on a campus and earning a bachelor’s degree seems like the all-American way to get a college education. But maybe you’d like to save yourself some time, avoid a lot of debt and jump into the workforce sooner.

What if we said you could earn a six-digit income with a two-year degree, at a deep discount on school?

According to College Board statistics, a public university cost an average of $20,770 for the 2017-2018 school year, including tuition and room and board, and a private nonprofit school average cost a whopping $46,950 per year. But attending a local community college (assuming you live at home) costs an average of $3,570.

And, with a two-year degree or technical education, you could land one of these high-paying jobs.

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

1. Air traffic controller

Air traffic controller
Stoyan Yotov / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $124,540
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 can 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.

The other thing to know is that growth is slower than average in this field. BLS advises:

Competition for air traffic controller jobs is expected to be very strong, with many people applying for a relatively small number of jobs.

2. Radiation therapist

Radiation therapy
Mark_Kostich / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $80,570
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.

3. Nuclear technician

Nuclear power plant tech
Vladimir Mulder / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $80,370
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 1 percent

Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear energy production. They operate special equipment and monitor the levels of radiation that are produced.

This profession isn’t disappearing, but be aware that growth is likely to be slow going forward. BLS says:

Although technicians will be needed to help maintain and upgrade existing nuclear power plants, traditional forms of power generation will likely come under increasing pressure from alternative forms of energy.

4. Funeral service worker

funeral procession
Kzenon / Shutterstock.com

Median income for funeral service workers (2017): $56,850
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 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.

Note that there is an income range for different types of funeral workers. BLS says the median income for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors was $51,850, while the funeral service manager median income was significantly higher, at $78,040.

5. Nuclear medicine technologist

Device in medical setting
Bork / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $75,660
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.

6. Dental hygienist

dental hygienist
Catalin Petolea / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $74,070
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 20 percent

If you don’t mind the idea of peering into people’s mouths all day, you could earn more than $74,000 a year as a dental hygienist. These professionals need an associate degree to learn the tricks of the trade, and then they’re ready to treat, clean and polish teeth until they gleam.

Opportunities in this area are expanding rapidly — with job growth of about 20 percent in the coming decade, according to BLS.

7. Diagnostic medical sonographer and related imaging technologists

Sonographer examining patient's knee
Romaset / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $65,620
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 17 percent

The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains:

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, also called diagnostic imaging workers, operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions.

Among these specialties, the highest paid are diagnostic medical sonographers, with a median income of $71,410 in May 2017, the BLS says. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned a median income of $55,270.

8. Radiologic or MRI technologist

s4svisuals / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $60,070
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 14 percent

Workers who operate magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRIs) 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 be trained to use the imaging equipment.

MRI techs earn the most in the field with a median income of $69,930. Other professionals in this BLS category were radiologic technologists, with a median income of $58,440.

9. Web developer

Web developer
REDPIXEL.PL / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $67,990
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 $67,990.

At 15 percent projected growth, this occupation is expanding considerably faster than average.

10. Aerospace engineering or operations technician

FotograFFF / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $67,240
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 7 percent

These professions “operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing, producing, and sustaining new aircraft and spacecraft,” as described by BLS. That means an increasing use of computer-based modeling and simulation tools.

11. Electrical or electronics engineering technician

Electrical engineer
Stock-Asso / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $63,660

Expected job growth (2016-2026): 2 percent

Here’s how BLS describes the job:

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment.

12. Avionics technician

Worker near airplane
Corepics VOF / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2016): $61,260
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.

BLS describes the path to this profession:

Most aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians learn their trade at an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved aviation maintenance technician school or on the job. Some learn through training received in the military.

13. Computer network support specialist

Computer support
Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $52,810
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 11 percent

While some computer support positions required a more extensive education, BLS 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. The job may involve helping individual computer users or supporting computer networks.

In our 24-7 connected world, this job may mean working odd hours or weekends, BLS notes. There are many paths to these occupations, BLS says, because of the wide range of skills needed in different jobs:

A bachelor’s degree is required for some computer support specialist positions, but an associate degree or postsecondary classes may be enough for others.

While the median income for computer network support specialists is $62,340, BLS says the median salary for computer user support is somewhat lower at $50,210.

14. Respiratory therapist

Woman in hospital
DmytroZinkevych / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $59,710
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.

Growth in these jobs is projected at a robust 23 percent in the 2016-2026 time period.

15. Drafter

Computer work
FutroZen / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $54,170
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.

16. Occupational therapy assistant or aide

Occupational therapy
ALPA PROD / Shutterstock.com

Average income (2017): $56,690
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 28 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.

Note: There’s a large spread in incomes for occupational therapy assistants (median income $59,310) and occupational therapy aides ($29,200), but according to BLS, the job of assistant is attainable with a two-year degree.

17. Physical therapist assistant or aide

Physical therepist
GagliardiImages / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $46,920
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 30 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 aging baby boomers’ need for physical therapy increases.

Note that the median income for an assistant is $57,430 per year, but the median for aides ($25,730 per year) brings down the average for the whole category.

18. Electro-mechanical technician

Engineers looking at drone
goodluz / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $56,740
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 4 percent

The BLS describes these jobs this way:

Electro-mechanical technicians combine knowledge of mechanical technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits. They operate, test and maintain unmanned, automated, robotic or electromechanical equipment.

They work closely with electrical and mechanical engineers in many industries, from plastics to aerospace.

19. Paralegals and legal assistants

Legal work.
Kzenon / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $50,410
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.

20. Radio, cellular and tower equipment technician

Cell tower maintenance
By SOMRERK WITTHAYANANT / Shutterstock.com

Median income (2017): $56,000
Expected job growth (2016-2026): 5 percent

BLS elaborates on the duties involved in this occupation:

Repair, install or maintain mobile or stationary radio transmitting, broadcasting, and receiving equipment, and two-way radio communications systems used in cellular telecommunications, mobile broadband, ship-to-shore, aircraft-to-ground communications, and radio equipment in service and emergency vehicles. May test and analyze network coverage.

If your goal is to get into the workforce with decent pay, there is no reason you must 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.

Do you know of other high-paying jobs you can get with a two-year degree? Share your suggestions with other readers in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Maryalene LaPonsie and Kari Huus contributed to this post.

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