Top 9 Highest-Paying Jobs that Require an Associate Degree

Here are the top nine according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2016.

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If your teen is considering pursuing higher education, an associate degree can be a great option. Students can find good, high-paying jobs with a two-year degree. Here are the top nine according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2016.

  1. Air Traffic Controllers

    Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic to make sure all aircrafts are safe distances apart during flight. They work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers, often on night, weekend, and rotating shifts.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs in this occupation are Alaska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Kansas.

    • Important qualities needed to do the job: Air traffic controllers have communication skills, concentration skills, decision-making skills, math skills, organizational skills, and problem-solving skills.

    • Median annual wage: $122,950

    • How to become an air traffic controller: Air traffic controllers complete a 2-year or 4-year degree program through the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy sets guidelines for. They must take a biodata test, which is a biographical assessment and personality exam to determine if the person is a good fit for additional air traffic education.

  2. Nuclear Technicians

    Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear energy production and nuclear research. They also operate equipment used to monitor the levels of radiation that are produced. They work in nuclear power plants, usually in offices and control rooms where they use computers and other equipment.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs in this occupation are South Carolina, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

    • Important qualities: Nuclear technicians have communication skills, computer skills, critical-thinking skills, interpersonal skills, math skills, and mechanical skills. They must have monitoring skills, meaning they have to assess data from sensors, gauges, and other instruments to make sure equipment and experiments are functioning properly and radiation levels are controlled.

    • Median annual wage: $80,260

    • How to become a nuclear technician: Nuclear technicians typically need an associate’s degree in nuclear science or a nuclear-related technology. Nuclear technicians go through extensive on-the-job training as they must learn proper ways to operate and monitor equipment, safety procedures, regulations, and plant policies.

  3. Radiation Therapists

    Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients and provide radiation treatments. They work in hospitals, offices of physicians, and outpatient centers.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs in this occupation are Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee.

    • Important qualities: Radiation therapists are detail-oriented, have interpersonal skills, physical stamina, and technical skills, including working with computers and large pieces of technological equipment.

    • Median annual wage: $80,220

    • How to become a radiation therapist: Radiation therapists must earn an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Some candidates may qualify for positions by completing a yearlong certificate program. In most states, they must be licensed or certified in radiation therapy, which means complete an accredited radiation therapy program and pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists certification exam.

  4. Nuclear Medicine Technologists

    Nuclear medicine technologists operate equipment that takes x-ray images of a patient’s body. They also prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients, which will cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images. Most nuclear medicine technologists work in hospitals, although some work in other medical offices or laboratories.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs in this occupation are South Dakota, West Virginia, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Oklahoma.

    • Important qualities: Nuclear medicine technologists have the ability to use technology, analytical skills, interpersonal skills, and compassion. They are also detail oriented and have physical stamina.

    • Median annual wage: $73,360

    • How to become a nuclear medicine technologist: Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate degree from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Requirements vary by state, but about half of the states require technologists to be licensed.

  5. Dental Hygienists

    Dental hygienists clean teeth and provide preventive dental care for patients. They also educate patients on improving and sustaining oral health. Nearly all dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs in this occupation are Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut, Idaho, and Rhode Island.

    • Important qualities: Dental hygienists are detail-oriented and have good critical thinking skills, compassion, and interpersonal skills. They also have dexterity, meaning they must be good at working with their hands and working in tight quarters (in the mouth).

    • Median annual wage: $73,330

    • How to become a dental hygienist: Dental hygienists need an associate degree in dental hygiene. Dental hygiene programs are mostly found in community colleges, technical schools and universities. Programs typically take 3 years to complete and offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instructions.

  6. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

    Diagnostic medical sonographers operate special imaging equipment to conduct tests on patients and create images that help assess and diagnose medical conditions. Most diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs in this occupation are South Dakota, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Florida.

    • Important qualities: Diagnostic medical sonographers are detail-oriented and have hand-eye coordination, interpersonal skills, physical stamina, and technical skills, as well as an understanding of how to operate complex machinery and computerized instruments.

    • Median annual wage: $68,970

    • How to become a diagnostic medical sonographer: Diagnostic medical sonographers need an associate or bachelor’s degree in sonography accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Most employers hire diagnostic sonographers with professional certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

  7. Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists

    Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists, or MRI technologists, operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images. They work in healthcare facilities, mostly hospitals.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs are Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, and Louisiana.

    • Important qualities: MRI technologists are detail-oriented and they have interpersonal skills, math skills, physical stamina, and technical skills, as well as an understanding of how to operate complex machinery.

    • Median annual wage: $67,720

    • How to become a MRI Technologist: MRI technologists typically need an associate degree. Most employers want these employees to be certified even if the state does not require it. To become certified, MRI technologist must pass a certification exam from the state or another certifying program like the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists.

  8. Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

    Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing and producing new aircrafts and spacecrafts. They work to prevent the failure of key parts of new aircraft, spacecraft, or missiles. They typically work in manufacturing or industrial plants, laboratories, and offices.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs are Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Georgia, and Maryland.

    • Important qualities: Aerospace engineering and operations technicians have communication skills, critical-thinking skills, interpersonal skills, math skills, and mechanical skills. They are also detail-oriented.

    • Median annual wage: $66,180

    • How to become an aerospace engineering and operations technician: Aerospace engineering and operations technicians attend either a community college and earn their associate degree or enroll in a technical program and earn a certification. After completing their education, they will be able to enter the field. Many community colleges and technical schools offer programs with work experience built into the curriculum.

  9. Web Developers

    Web developers design and create websites, and they are responsible for the overall look and technical aspects of the site. They need knowledge of both programming and graphic design. Many web developers are self-employed. Others work primarily in offices in the computer systems design industry.

    • Location: The states with the highest concentration of jobs in this occupation are the Washington D.C., Vermont, Oregon, Maryland, and Washington.

    • Important qualities: Web developers have good concentration and they are creative. They have customer-service skills and are detail-oriented.

    • Median annual wage: $64,970

    • How to become a web developer: Web developers typically need an associate degree in web design. Throughout their career, web developers must keep up with new programming and computer languages.

      

    To search more jobs, students can visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data used in this piece are from the Occupational Employment Statistics program, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.