Two-year degrees, also known as associate degrees, are gaining popularity as they provide specialized knowledge and skills in a shorter timeframe. Not only do these degrees offer a solid foundation for entry-level positions, but they can also lead to well-paying careers in various industries.
Community colleges, junior colleges, online universities, and certain four-year institutions offer associate degrees. Positioned between a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree, an associate degree is an intermediate level of education.
Let’s explore some of the best-paying two-year degrees in 2023, highlighting the fields and professions that offer lucrative opportunities for individuals seeking a shorter educational path to success.
Here are some of the most well-paid degrees in 2023:
- Radiation Therapist
- Nuclear Technicians
- Aerospace Engineering
- Dental Hygienist
- Computer network support specialist
- Web Design and Development
- Fire Inspector
- Respiratory Therapist
- Drafting and Design Technology
Annual Salary: ~$80,000 and over.
Finishing an associate degree in radiation therapy usually takes two years, while earning a bachelor's degree in the same field takes four years. Both degree programs cover similar topics, like imaging in radiation therapy, therapeutic radiobiology, and oncology treatment procedures.
You can get a job in radiation therapy with only an associate degree. Radiation therapists have various options for advancing their careers through further education. Some choose to earn bachelor's or master's degrees in medical dosimetry to become dosimetrists.
Others pursue master's degrees in medical physics to work as medical physicists. Some even decide to attend medical school, earn doctorates, and become radiation oncologists. These radiation oncologists are fully qualified doctors who specialize in creating treatment plans involving radiation for cancer patients.
Annual Salary: ~$78,750 to $99,300.
Nuclear Engineering Technology is a major that offers high-paying jobs. To pursue this major, students must complete around 60 credit hours and effectively understand math, physics, engineering, and computer science.
Some important subjects they will study include:
- General Chemistry
- Radioactive Safety
Students are also expected to take elective humanities and social sciences courses during their first year.
To become a nuclear technician, having at least an associate degree is typically necessary as a starting qualification. However, certain positions in the US Navy, military, or larger nuclear facilities may require prior experience.
Once individuals have completed their associate degree, they can start looking for job opportunities at nuclear power facilities.
Annual Salary: ~$73,500.
Aerospace Engineering is a specialized field of Engineering that revolves around the operations of aircraft and spacecraft. It focuses on the design, development, and manufacturing processes unique to these vehicles.
Unlike other transportation industries, the creation of aircraft and spacecraft requires a significant amount of time due to the meticulous construction involved. They must be built with extreme precision and adhere to rigorous safety standards to ensure their reliable operation.
In order to pursue a career in aerospace engineering, which is known for its high earning potential, students are typically required to complete 60 to 80 credit hours of coursework.
Proficiency in mathematics* is essential for success in this program, as it includes focused studies in subjects such as:
- Engineering Mechanics
*These mathematical skills play a crucial role in understanding and applying the principles of aerospace engineering.
Annual Salary: ~$73,000.
Getting an associate degree in paralegal studies is a great way to start if you're interested in a legal career. Many community colleges, private colleges, and universities offer programs specifically for paralegals.
Typically, it takes around two years to complete the program unless you choose a faster online option. This degree provides the necessary education and knowledge to pursue a career as a paralegal.
A paralegal job is a high-paying option for those who want to work in the legal field but don't want to attend law school. Law school can be expensive and time-consuming, so becoming a paralegal is a more affordable alternative. By earning an associate degree in paralegal studies, students can find well-paying jobs in the legal industry without the long-term commitment of law school.
Annual Salary: ~$60,000 – $80,000.
Becoming a dental hygienist requires obtaining a license, which typically involves completing an associate degree program. Many aspiring dental hygienists choose to pursue an associate degree in dental hygiene, which typically takes about 2-3 years to complete.
These programs focus on teaching dental science and equipping students with the technical skills needed for a career in dental hygiene.
To become a professional dental hygienist, you must have the following skills:
- Effective communication, empathy, and compassion.
- Management and organizational skills.
- Familiarity with dental science and oral healthcare practices.
- Critical thinking skills.
Dental hygienists must have a license and have great interpersonal and technical skills.
Computer Network Support Specialist
Annual Salary: ~$60,000 – $80,000.
To pursue a career as a computer network support specialist, students typically need to complete approximately 60 to 100 credits in a related degree program. They will learn the fundamentals of computer and information technology and more advanced subjects like information security, network server administration, and hardware technology.
Some of the skills to obtain as a computer network support specialist include:
- Problem-solving skills.
- Organizational and multitasking skills.
- Be a good team player.
- Stay up to date with the latest technology trends.
Web Design and Development
Annual Salary: ~$60,000 – $80,000.
Web design and development is a sought-after associate degree that allows students to unleash their creativity while maintaining high-quality standards. This degree typically requires around 60 to 80 credits, covering core courses in digital design, scripting, networking, and other essential web skills. Students are also expected to complete general education courses in subjects like math, academic writing, or algebra.
Web developers and digital designers primarily focus on designing, creating, and maintaining websites and their interfaces. They conduct thorough testing to ensure optimal website performance.
Additionally, they collaborate with other teams to incorporate engaging visual, audio, and video elements into websites. Web developers and digital designers may specialize as back-end or front-end developers or webmasters.
Annual Salary: ~$64,010.
Fire inspectors play a vital role in fire prevention and life-saving efforts. As an inspector, your primary responsibility will be to assess plans for new buildings and ensure that residential, commercial, educational, healthcare, and industrial structures comply with national, state, and local regulations.
In addition, you will conduct inspections of existing structures to verify compliance with codes and regulations, ensuring the safety of occupants and adherence to fire suppression and escape provisions mandated by the law. In essence, fire inspectors are essential in the collective endeavor to proactively prevent devastating fires from occurring.
Skills that are needed to become a fire inspector include:
- Communication skills to convey accurate information.
- Knowledge of CPR techniques.
- Have an understanding of fire safety standards.
- Familiarity with fire alarms and sprinklers.
Annual Salary: ~$61,830.
Respiratory therapists work closely with nurses and doctors to provide optimal care for patients facing breathing difficulties. They form an integral part of the healthcare team. They are responsible for conducting diagnostic tests and closely monitoring patient progress are key responsibilities of respiratory therapists. They play a vital role in assessing and monitoring respiratory health.
An associate degree in respiratory therapy equips students with the knowledge and skills to work alongside healthcare professionals in providing comprehensive respiratory care.
Respiratory therapists perform the following tasks:
- Diagnostic tests.
- Closely monitor patients.
- Carry out important procedures to maintain optimal respiratory health.
Drafting and Design Technology
Annual Salary: ~$60,290.
In a drafting and design technology degree program, students learn technical drawing, computer-aided drafting, and geometric design. Along with creativity, students must have strong math skills as the coursework includes calculus and engineering. Additionally, proficiency in drafting software is essential throughout the program.
Drafters collaborate with architects and engineers, transforming their sketches into detailed technical drawings. By utilizing design software, drafters provide additional information, such as dimensions and procedures, to bring projects to life.
They work in various fields, including:
- Civil Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering