When it comes to education, more is not necessarily better – Explore Associate Degree
There are plenty of jobs – including in-demand, high-paying positions – available to individuals who hold only an associate’s degree. Radiation therapists, nuclear technicians and aircraft mechanics are among the careers with salaries of $60,000 or higher that require only an associate’s degree.
What is an Associate’s Degree?
An associate’s degree is officially classified as an undergraduate academic degree that is awarded by colleges and universities following completion of a two-year program of study. The number of credits required to earn an associate degree is dependent on the program of study.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, associate degree programs must include a minimum of 60 credits, but no more than 120. Students enrolled in associate degree programs that adhere to the minimum credits can expect to take 18 to 20 courses.
The U.S. Department of Education dictates a structure that must be followed for associate degree programs. According to those guidelines, associate’s degrees earned for academic programs are either Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees. If the degree earned is for a professional, technical or terminal program, it is considered an Associate of Applied Science degree.
The department lists the following as the most frequently-encountered associate degree titles:
Associate of Applied Business (A.A.B.)
This degree is helpful for those who wish to pursue careers in the fields of accounting, hospitality and tourism and even some engineering and information technology careers.
Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)
Among the careers that can be pursued with this associate degree include certain nursing positions, computer engineering, construction technology and manufacturing engineering.
Associate of Applied Technology (A.A.T.)
This degree program focuses on business principles, communication and technology and can be applied to a number of careers in these fields.
Associate of Arts (A.A.)
This degree is typically associated with careers such as graphic arts and photography.
Associate of Arts in Teaching (A.A.T.)
A Board-approved collegiate degree program, an A.A.T. consists of lower division coursework that can be transferred to a bachelor degree program.
Associate of Business Administration (A.B.A.)
Critical thinking, accounting, business law and human resource management are among the skills learned in an A.B.A. program. The foundation of business principles and practices learned in this program opens the door to many entry-level business careers.
Associate of Electrical Engineering Technology (A.E.E.T.)
This degree program prepares students for careers in electronics, computers and microprocessors, instrumentation and electrical equipment. Students can transfer credits to continue their education toward a bachelor degree, or they can use their A.E.E.T. degree to pursue entry-level careers in the field.
Associate of Electronics (A.E.)
In a world where seemingly everything is electronic, individuals who possess an A.E. degree will be eligible for positions which require an expert to keep electronics running smoothly.
Associate of Engineering Technology (A.E.T./A. Eng.T.)
An A.E.T. degree allows individuals to work as technicians in a number of engineering disciplines, including mechanical, civil, industrial and electrical. Credits from an associate degree program also can be transferred to many four-year programs.
Associate of Forestry (A.F.)
This degree qualifies individuals to work in a variety of entry-level jobs within the forestry profession.
Associate of General Studies (A.G.S.)
Individuals who are unsure which career path they wish to take – or who are interested in jobs that require slightly more than a high school education – will benefit from this degree program. They will take courses in biology, computer science, economics, English composition, sociology, philosophy/critical thinking, physics, public speaking and statistics.
Associate of Industrial Technology (A.I.T.)
Individuals who pursue an A.I.T. degree will be qualified to work in entry-level careers in construction technology, drafting and occupational safety/health/environment.
Associate of Nursing (A.N.)/Associate Degree Nurse/Nursing (A.D.N.)
Individuals who earn an A.N/A.D.N. are qualified to work in a number of nursing positions. This degree program is among the most popular for those wishing to be a Registered Nurse (R.N.). Students who earn this associate degree also are required to pass the NCLEX, a national licensing examination.
Associate of Occupational Studies (A.O.S.)
Students who pursue an associate degree of this nature will be required to choose a specialization. The most common specializations associated with the degree program are culinary arts, facilities management technology and medical assistant.
Associate of Science (A.S.)
This degree program emphasizes courses such as biology, chemistry, engineering, geology, math and physics and opens doors to many entry-level careers in these fields.
Associate of Science in Computer Assisted Design (A.S.-C.A.D.)
Students in a C.A.D. program will learn how to use specialized computer software to draft ideas in technically-precise drawings. There are a variety of jobs where these skills can be useful, including in the architecture, design and building construction fields.
Return on Investment
There is no arguing with the fact that associate’s degree is more affordable than their four-year counterparts.
According to the Trends in Higher Education Series from the College Board, community colleges offer lower published prices, less demanding admission requirements and geographical proximity to more students than any other institutions of higher education. The report places the average cost of tuition and fees for a full-time student enrolled in a two-year program at $2,713 per year, compared with an average cost of $7,605 per year at four-year institutions.
In addition to the up-front savings in tuition and other student fees, associate degree programs for in-demand fields also offer a great return on investment. One of the most in-demand jobs that requires only an associate degree is that of computer specialist. Most businesses employ on-staff computer specialists, who are capable of keeping things running smoothly. The average annual salary for computer specialists is $50,380, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest wage earners in this field made as much as $77,600.
Another in-demand job that requires only an associate degree is radiation therapist. With an average annual salary of $80,090, radiation therapists are among the highest-paid associate degree holders.
Other top-paying, in-demand jobs that require an associate degree include:
Dental Hygienists – $71,520 per year;
Nuclear Medicine Technologists – $72,100 per year;
Nuclear Technicians – $74,690 per year;
Registered Nurses – $66,640 per year; and
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers – $62,540 per year.
In order to get the most value out of an associate degree program, be sure to choose an institution which has been accredited. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accrediting agencies within the U.S.
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