Good money without a degree

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“Get an education so you can get a decent job,” said your parents, and they’re right — but lucrative careers aren’t limited to people with four-year degrees or post-graduate education. Many high paying careers only require an associate’s degree. Please note: Median earnings listed below come from 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Medical (money) miracles – If you thought you had to spend years in med school to enjoy a good career in the field, think again. Several opportunities exist in the medical world for interested parties armed only with an associate’s degree. Interested in helping patients recover from injuries or illness and regain the use of their bodies? Then consider a career as a physical therapy assistant, which commands a median salary of $52,160. Or maybe you’d like to earn approximately the same wage as a cardiovascular tech. Occupational therapists earn even more, with a median of $53,240, while radiology techs bring home an impressive $69,600. Or if you prefer to follow a broader path, become a registered nurse and earn a median $65,470 annually.

Careers in construction – If you love putting things together, why not turn that passion into a paycheck, and a reasonably handsome one at that? It’s true that with an associate’s degree you might have to start at the bottom, many construction firms promote from within, which means your hard work and real-world experience can be rewarded with a management position. Construction managers earn a median wage of $90,960, with managers in specialized areas such as oil and gas topping the six-figure mark.

High earnings in high tech – Technology fields offer plenty of ways you can put your associate’s degree to profitable use. Electrical and electronics technicians earn a median wage of $57,850 for building and maintaining the essential systems we take for granted every day. Computer network support personnel and engineering techs make close to $60,000 a year to help keep data centers, businesses and research facilities functioning. Aerospace technology jobs offer a median pay of $61,530 to engineers and techs with associate’s degrees. Web developers will always be in serious demand and can easily command $62,500 per year. And if Homer Simpson could make it as a nuclear tech, then so can you; technicians in this field generally get all the training they need on the job, pulling down some $69,000 a year in the process.

Stratospheric salaries in air traffic control – Frankly, this one deserves a paragraph all to itself. The top-earning career for associate’s degree holders according to the BLS, air traffic controllers’ median salaries are sky-high at $122,530 per year. Mind you, you’ll really earn that money due to the stressful nature of the job — but on the other hand, you may be able to retire a little early if you sock some of it away into a substantial nest egg.

That’s a quick look at some of the highest paying careers that only require an associate’s degree. As you can see, a variety of doors can open for you even if your formal education ended with a two-year degree. As for the informal education known as the School of Hard Knocks, you’ll have plenty of chances to build your knowledge, training, experience and skills as you practice the career you love. Much success to you!

William Reynolds has worked as a freelance copywriter since 1997. William specializes in website content, ghost-blogging, print marketing content and audio/video scripts.


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