Succeed with Associates Degree – Degree Options, Careers and Salaries
When it comes to a college education, more is not necessarily better. There are plenty of jobs – including in-demand, high-paying positions – available to individuals who hold only an associate’s degree. Some top careers with associates degree include Radiation therapists, Nuclear technicians and Aircraft mechanics, with an average salary of $60,000 or higher.
What is Associates Degree?
An associate 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 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 Degree in 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.)/Associates 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.
Associates Degree in 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 degree programs are more affordable than their four-year counterparts. The average cost of tuition and fees for a full-time student enrolled in a two-year program is $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. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, nearly 30 percent of individuals with associate’s degrees are making more than their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees.
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) found in a national study in 2013 that not only was the return on investment for associates degrees higher for graduates but it also benefited taxpayers. The study examined data collected from 579 institutions representing more than 80 percent of the collective enrollment in the nation’s community colleges. California and Texas were the states with the most associate degree holders in the top tier of wage earners, according to the report. The benefit to taxpayers, according to AIR, is that as graduates earn more, they pay more in taxes, which helps to support the local economy and infrastructure.
Top Careers with Associates Degree
One of the most in-demand jobs that require only associates 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.
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
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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