As university tuitions continue to rise, the number of available programs increase, and student loan debt continues to grow, high school graduates are pausing for a moment to see if the automatic bachelors degree pathway is the right one for them. Higher education is important, but young adults have many options these days to help insulate themselves from unemployment or underemployment. Pursing an associates degree is a relatively quick and practical way for students to gain employment in exciting and high paying careers.
While many associates degrees are trade and technical in nature, there are some schools that offer program in an online or hybrid format. Once online courses are finished some associates programs support students as they finish their hand-on technical training for their future career. Many of these degrees are birthed in the technical and medical sectors, which demand highly skilled professionals. While some associates degrees can be stepping stones to higher education degrees, these programs support careers in and of themselves.
In this ranking of the highest paying online associates degrees, career salaries range from $42,000 all the way up over $100,000. To find the highest paying online associates programs, we first researched the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find the highest paying careers recorded and their typical entry-level education. We then ranked each online associates degree upon the latest median salaries recorded by PayScale. These online associates degrees can be the first stop in a professionals pathway to exciting and high paying careers.
#1 – Online Associates Degree in Aeronautics
There are some high paying professions whose entry-level pool starts at the high school education level, but still require a high level of specialty and intense training. In response to this, some schools have created programs, from the associates level and up, giving prospective applicants a head start in the training they will undertake. Topping our list of highest paying online associates degrees is the Online Associates in Aeronautics. This high-paying degree gives students a running start in the exciting field of aviation. Students will cover important topics in meteorology, physics, safety, transportation, and maintenance, to just name a few. All of these topics will be important to master when students are considering FAA pilot certificates, which include written and flying tests all laid out by federal pilot regulations. But the training is not done in vain. PayScale reports that a career as a pilot brings in a high salary, with the median ranging from $70,000 to over $100,000.
Airline Pilot, Copilot, Or Flight Engineer – $100,722
Commercial Pilot – $70,718
#2 – Online Associates Degree in Aviation Management
An Online Associate Degree in Aviation Management stands as one of the highest paying online associates degrees today. With the amount of air travel that happens in this day and age, for business and for pleasure, the infrastructure and systems to keep that industry safe and sustainable keep advancing. An associate degree in Aviation Management is a great first step on the road to a career as an Air Traffic Controller. With a general foundational curriculum which moves into a core curriculum of aviation and the airspace system, this flexible program can be completed while also gaining important professional experience. According to PayScale, the national average salary for Air Traffic Controllers is over $84,000, and an associate’s degree is their typical entry level education. While there is training and certification required with the FAA before becoming a certified professional controller, this elite and high paying career can start with an accessible online associate’s degree.
Air traffic controllers – $84,396
#3 – Online Associates Degree in Logistics
One online associate program with a high salary potential is an Online Associates Degree in Logistics or Supply Chain Management. This type of program can give students the foundational knowledge and skills in business and logistics principles about managing the supply chain from the point of origin to the point of consumption. These professionals must be able to have attention to detail while overviewing the flow of an entire operation. While this degree is a great first stepping stone to further education to a bachelor’s degree or even an MBA, many graduates can start a highly lucrative career in logistics and supply chain management with this online associates. PayScale reports that these types of managers take in an average salary from $64,000 to over $80,000 per year. This associate degree can help aspiring logistics professionals who are interested in this big-business field and can even provide flexibility so students can start their on-the-job training at the same time.
Supply Chain Manager – $81,380
Transportation Manager – $64,486
Logistics Manager – $64,015
#4 – Online Associates Degree in Electrical Powerline Technology
The Electrical Lineman profession is one of the major infrastructure careers that happen behind the scenes in our communities. This career is important as it encompasses the task to safely and effectively install, test, and maintain the equipment for our power line grid throughout the country. Professionals in this work are integral in doing maintenance work, as well as sometimes working through hard or hazardous conditions. But not only is this an important career, but it is one that offers a high paying salary. A good starting point for this high paying career is an Online Associates degree in Electrical Powerline Technology. This degree, above the general education requirements, will cover topics like electrical theory, safety and regulations, and also include field training. An online program can offer the courses online while students can undergo field training through an internship with an electric company. Electric and Journeyman Lineman can make an average salary from $75,000- $80,000 per year, and the beginning of this exciting and rewarding career can start with this online associates degree.
Electric Lineman – $80,000
Journeyman Lineman – $75,000
#5 – Online Associates Degree in Process Technology
Professionals looking for an easily accessible associates degree for a high-paying career should take a serious look into an Online Associates degree in Process Technology. This associates degree covers the interpersonal and technical skills needed for operators in refineries and plants. Courses within this program will cover important topics like equipment, systems and operations, quality management, information systems, and health and safety. Not only can this degree give a wide range of information for the oil, natural gas, and chemical fields, but also gain expertise in information systems, logistics, management, and operations. Since this degree can be pursued in an online format, students can be gaining important job experience while gaining the tools they need to succeed in a career as a process technician. Graduates from this online program will be set up for careers that bring in an average annual salary from $54,000 to $75,000 per year.
Refinery Operator – $75,000
Power Plant Operator – $66,000
Chemical Plant Operator – $54,000
#6 – Online Associates Degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology
One of the most diverse and highest paying career sectors is healthcare. Those that want to fast track their way into a rewarding healthcare career and not spend eight-plus years in school, can pursue an online associates degree in nuclear medicine technology. A nuclear medicine technologist is a healthcare professional employed in hospitals, private doctor’s offices, or image centers that performs and analyzes nuclear medicine procedures. These professionals must understand and stay up to date on the medicine, as well as the ever advancing technologies related to this field. According to PayScale,the current average salary for Nuclear Medicine Technologist rests between $66,000 and $75,000. This online associates program is a great first step in this high-paying career. It covers important topics in radiation safety and procedures, as well as nuclear medicine physics, pharmacology, and instrumentation. Upon graduation, students can pursue certification and applicable state licensing.
Lead Nuclear Medicine Technologist – $75,000
Nuclear Medicine Technologist – $66,000
#7 – Online Associates Degree in Nuclear Power Technology
Another online associate degree offering the potential for a very high salary is the Online Associates in Nuclear Power Technology. This flexible degree sets students up for a future career as a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator with an average salary, reported by PayScale, over $72,000 a year. Finishing an associate degree in nuclear power technology can start graduates in a non-licensed operator position. This coursework will have a basis in STEM and safety topics, while also providing course options in technical and instrumental training. Professionals who want to pursue a career as a fully licensed operator must undergo the official testing process by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This process will ensure applicants are physically and mentally fit for an operator position and starts with a written exam about nuclear power plant fundamentals. This online associate degree offers highly specialized nuclear power curriculum in a flexible format. An efficient degree like this can set professionals up for success in this high-paying career.
Nuclear Power Reactor Operator – $72,384
#8 – Online Associates Degree in Radiation Therapy
Many high paying online associate degrees require hands-on training in addition to the degree program, but an online Associate Degree in Radiation Therapy includes the clinical training within the program. Radiation technology and therapy deals with radiation treatment for cancer patients. This career combines the technical aspects of radiation technology and ongoing interpersonal patient care, and it is in high demand. PayScale lists the national average salary for radiation therapists at $68,000 per year, showing a high return on investment for an associate degree. Like most degrees in the medical field, this program requires hands-on training, but there are programs that offer the curriculum courses in a flexible online format. Curriculum within this high paying associates degree includes topics on anatomy, ethics, computer & information processing, and then students move on to the clinical component of the degree. Graduates can then sit for the ARRT certification exam and be on their way for a rewarding career as a radiation therapist or technologist.
Radiation Therapist – $68,000
#9 – Online Associates Degree in Police Studies or Criminal Justice
Another best paying online associates degree includes programs in topics of police studies or criminal justice. While these degrees do not take the place of police and peace officer academy training that prepares officers for state licensing, these online associates degrees help officers gain the knowledge and big-picture outlook for supervisory roles. This particular degree will cover important topics in ethics and the criminal justice system. Some police and criminal justice programs even allow police academy training to count for credits within the associates degree, allowing for quicker graduation times. This type of education is beneficial because while the average income for police officers rests around $50,000, investigators and police sergeants bring in an average annual income over $60,000 every year. This online associates degree can allow police professionals to continue their important work as a peace officer, while at the same time advance their career and salary between shifts.
Police Sergeant – $67,184
Detective – $63,616
Police Officer – $50,660
#10 – Online Associates Degree in Magnetic Resonance Imaging
With the advancement of medicine and technology, the healthcare industry keeps growing by leaps and bounds. This rewarding and high paying career sector offers professionals an opportunity for a fast-paced career, as well as the ability to positively affect their community with exceptional healthcare. One of the best online associates degrees in this high paying sector is an Online Associates Degree in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which prepares students to become a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist. These technologists play an integral role in the investigating and diagnosing of injuries and ailments in hospitals, private offices, or MRI imaging facilities. They will need to not only handle patients with care but also work together with a team of healthcare providers. This career has reported a high average annual salary of $64,000. Students will complete important courses in anatomy, physiology, imaging, and safety, and then undergo in-person clinical courses in order to prepare for the MRI certification exam.
MRI Technologist – $64,000
#11 – Online Associates Degree in Sonography
Another available high paying and rewarding career in healthcare is in the field of Sonography. Sonographers and Ultrasound Technicians spend their time in clinics and hospitals operating ultrasound equipment to provide patient ultrasound pictures and data to medical providers. This sound wave technology is used to monitor unborn fetuses, internal abnormalities, help treat diseases, and more. These technicians must possess good bedside manner while working with patients, critical medical and technological expertise, as well as the ability to work seamlessly with a greater healthcare team. Sonographers have a high average annual income at $63,000, and this exciting career starts with an associates degree. An Online Associates Degree in Sonography will offer flexible courses to students in the areas of biology, diagnostic imaging, sonographic instrumentation, and medical terminology. Once online courses are completed, students can then start their 1,350 supervised clinical hours and sit for all the needed certifications and exams.
Sonographer – $63,000
#12 – Online Associates Degree in Computerized Drafting and Design
One important question for prospective associates degree students to keep in mind when researching programs, is which degree will set them up for a rewarding career immediately upon graduation and which degree will set them up for additional education or career opportunities in the future? A high paying Online Associates Degree in Computerized Drafting and Design can do both. This degree trains students to use a computerized drafting and design (or CADD) program to prepare drawings for the manufacturing or building of products and projects. Drafting technicians can pursue careers in engineering, construction, architecture, and more. They must have extremely high attention to detail to make safe and effective drawings and diagrams. Graduates can pursue a career as an Electrical Designer, which is responsible for creating electrical plans for systems and buildings. This profession has an average annual salary of over $60,000. Graduates are also in a great position to pursue a future bachelors degree in engineering or another field.
Electrical Designer – $61,000
Computer Aided Design And Drafting (CADD) Technician – $44,000
#13 – Online Associates Degree in Funeral Service
Professionals looking for a high paying associates degree that will never run out of demand can pursue an online associates degree in funeral service. This program is one of the longer associate degrees, encompassing over 100 credit hours. While many programs are offered in a face-to-face seeing, students can also pursue this degree in a hybrid format comprised of online study and in-person labs. This funeral service associates degree covers the critical topics of safety, ethics, and pathology, as well as accounting, business law, and operations. Accreditation is always important, but prospective funeral service students need to not look for national or regional accreditation for this type of degree, but a specialized accreditation from by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. At the end of the program, students will be ready to pursue a professional funeral service license. Once in this important profession, Funeral Home Managers can take in an average annual income over $56,000. This online associate degree is the first step to this high paying career.
Manager Funeral Home – $56,557
Funeral Director – $46,498
#14 – Online Associates Degree in Business Administration
An associates degree is the step after high school graduation to advance your career at the quickest pace. This important step helps insulate graduates from unemployment rates and the ever-increasing need for highly skilled and trained professionals. One great high paying online associates degree to pursue is in the area of business administration. This program gives students a solid foundation in business principles like ethical decision making, change management, and the context of business in society. This accessible degree is much faster than a bachelors degree, although it sets up graduates for pursuing a higher degree down the road. Graduates will be competitive in entry-level business positions like an administrative or executive assistant. These positions can give students integral business experience, as well as allow them to start bringing in an annual salary of over $50,000. This online program offers a critical foundation for the future while also providing great opportunities upon graduation as well.
Administrative Manager – $56,010
Executive Secretary or Administrative Assistant – $43,615
Administrative Assistant – $35,000
#15 – Online Associates Degree in Engineering Technology
High paying online associate degrees are a great choice for students who know they do not want to attend college full-time, but still want to get ahead in an interesting and high paying career. One such degree that offers a wide variety of possible careers is an Online Associates Degree in Engineering Technology. This is a general engineering technology degree that covers topics in mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineering. Students can gain knowledge in technical CADD drawing, mechanical testing, and developing technical equipment. This degree can provide a path for graduates to pursue a career as an Electronics Engineering Technician or a Mechanical Engineering Technician, which reports an average take-home salary of $50,000 to $55,000 per year. By finding this degree in an online format, students can proactively find internships or jobs that allow them to start gaining professional experience and exponential develop their resume. Students have the opportunity to immediately pursue these careers or even go on to obtain a higher degree in engineering.
Electronics Engineering Technician – $55,000
Mechanical Engineering Technician – $51,000
#16 – Online Associates Degree in Hospitality and Casino Management
Being a manager in a hotel or casino can be a fun, exciting, and lucrative profession. To be a competitive applicant starting in this field, students can pursue an Online Associates Degree in Hospitality and Casino Management. Students in this high paying online associates degree will cover important business topics in accounting, leadership, and marketing, and also explore hospitality specific courses. These courses will explore the hospitality industry, from food and beverage management to risk management, and from law and ethics, to casino operations. This online program will allow students to start working in the hospitality industry and gain important experience. This experience and education training can have a real payoff. PayScale reports that shift managers in casinos can rise over $50,000 per year, and hotel managers can make over $54,000. This degree is a great choice for students who want a flexible and accessible program offering hospitality industry training.
General Manager, Hotel – $54,654
Casino Shift Manager – $50,523
#17 – Online Associates Degree in Web Design & Development
With our global business economy becoming more virtual and more expansive every day, the professions that have continued sustainability are those that are able to manipulate the medium we all work in. Web designers have the flexibility to work in any sector, decide to work a flexible freelance job, or even develop a new website as an entrepreneur. These professionals have an average annual income of over $50,000, but the sky is the limit in this profession. To gain a foot in the door into this high paying career, students can pursue an Online Associates Degree in Web Design & Development. This curriculum covers integral topics in script languages, editing software, and creative design, all in an online format that itself informs students of the nature of virtual environments. Students will develop their problem-solving skills, communications skills, and programming skills. Some professions have a short life span, but a career in web designing is one that has a bright future.
Web Designer & Developer – $54,277
Web Designer – $49,125
#18 – Online Associates Degree in Construction Management
Our virtual world isn’t the only thing that is changing; our physical structures are advancing and changing at a rapid pace as well. As technologies improve, buildings can be constructed safer, more sound, and more efficient. The driving forces in this advancing field not only work in the boardroom but also on the construction site. A Construction Foreman or Manager is the hands-on, real-time, decision maker for a construction site. These positions report an average salary of over $50,000 per year. A great accessible degree to start professionals down this high paying career path is an Online Associates Degree in Construction Management. This flexible degree is perfect for the construction worker that already has started working in this fast-paced industry. The curriculum covers topics in safety, construction materials, surveying, and management. Graduates from this program are sure to be set in a career with a great pay off.
Construction Foreman – $53,000
#19 – Online Associates Degree in Respiratory Therapy
Associates degrees are consistently deliveries programs that offer specific technical training at a quick pace. One great industry to pursue for a lucrative career in healthcare. This sector is so vast, with a wide array of opportunities, that there is no need to spend the exorbitant amount of time and money needed to go to medical school to find a rewarding career. An Online Associates Degree in Respiratory Therapy is a program that gives training and education for students to become Respiratory Therapists. This high paying degree reports an average salary of $53,000. Students in this flexible respiratory therapist program will learn pulmonary physiology and pharmacology, as well as airway management and lung expansion therapy. Upon completion of this online associates, graduates are able to undergo the National Board for Respiratory Care exams. This career can literally mean the difference in life and death, and it all starts with this degree.
Respiratory Therapist – $53,000
#20 – Online Associates Degree in Occupational Therapy
One great thing about most associates degrees is that they are generally made up of hands-on, practical, all in a two year or less degree. These programs are available in a wide range of topics that also offer a wide range of potential career salaries. High paying online associate degrees combine the technical training, short time frame, and flexible online format, making it a home run for students. One exciting degree that allows for a high potential return on investment as well as a career focused on helping others, is an Online Associates Degree in Occupational Therapy. It contains online curriculum covering important topics on therapy practices, physiology, technical equipment, and the healthcare industry. After students finish the curriculum, they head into supervised fieldwork and get prepared for exams and certifications. Occupational Therapy Assistants provide specialized attention to each patient, giving them the support and tools on their road to health. This rewarding career records an annual salary of $53,000.
Occupational Therapy Assistant – $53,000
#21 – Online Associates Degree in Real Estate Studies
While there is no specific degree requirement for a real estate agent, there are courses and hours to log before being awarded a state’s real estate license. Going the extra mile and finishing an Online Associates Degree in Real Estate Studies offers many benefits. The curriculum covered in this degree offers students important training and information in accounting, property management, law, and the basics of business. It also gets students ready to sit for their incense exams and shows potential employers a commitment to this field of work. Graduates can move onto careers as real estate agents or property managers and bring in an average annual salary from $46,000 to $50,000. This high paying career offers an exciting schedule that can vary from day to day and an income that can really keep reaching higher and higher. This online associates degree is the best choice for someone wanting to jump-start their career in the field of real estate management.
Property, Real Estate, Or Community Association Manager – $50,975
Real Estate Agent – $46,308
#22 – Online Associates Degree in Agribusiness Management
While our collective future might seem like it is in the hands of the technology industry, our world will never run out of demand for highly trained Agriculture Specialists. Agriculture Specialists manage in all that is agriculture, whether they manage their own ranch or farming operations or consult outside companies. The national average for this career hits right at the $50,000 mark with a demand that will never die. To start in this high paying career, students can pursue a flexible Online Associate Degree in Agribusiness Management. While the curriculum for this degree can cover typical foundational business topics like human resources and marketing, students then get to dive deep into the world of ag management. These unique topics include Animal Nutrition and Management, Agronomy, and Agribusiness Equipment Technicians, to name a few. Graduates from this program are sure to find themselves in a high paying career that never ceases to grow.
Agriculture Specialist – $50,061
#23 – Online Associates Degree in Radiologic Technology
Students pursuing an Online Associates Degree in Radiologic Technology can be assured that they will gain the background to start in a variety of exciting healthcare professions. This career-focused, flexible degree program can take students with a limited radiology certification and help them gain the degree needed to start as a medical imaging specialist in X-rays, PET scans, or MRIs. These specialists must equally understand human anatomy and physiology, as well as the technical imaging tools used to gather data for patients. The annual average salary of Radiologic Technologists comes in at $48,000, with a chance for growth depending on speciality. Courses within this program include Patient Care and Pharmacology, Radiology Pathology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Fluoroscopy. These medical imaging specialists can find positions within private offices or hospitals, working with large teams or small. This high paying online associates degree is one that aspiring healthcare imaging technicians should look into.
Radiologic Technologist – $48,000
#24 – Online Associates Degree in Legal Support Services
While many associates degrees train students for specific roles in specific sectors, some programs offer the flexibility within the training to pursue a future career in a variety of ways. Students looking for the latter can find a high paying online associates degree in the area of Legal Support Services. This degree prepares graduates for paralegal certification and a complex and competitive profession as a Paralegal. Students will study topics in foundational law and legal skills, communications, legal proceedings, and the court system. This online format allows prospective paralegals the ability to pursue their legal studies in a flexible format while juggling work and personal commitments. Graduates are not stuck in a specific field but can offer legal services in a variety of organizations and sectors. Paralegals report an annual average salary of $46,000. With this high paying online associates degree, graduates can happily stay within legal support services or go on to pursue further legal studies.
Paralegal – $46,846
#25 – Online Associates Degree in Computer Network Administration
A list of the highest paying online associates degrees is appropriately full of programs in the technology sector. As our business world continues to grow and technologies advance, computer technology does not stop at the personal computer but extends to complex systems within organizations. The technology sector is in high demand and companies are always looking for reliable and effective professionals to take care of the systems that take care of the organizations. One such high paying online associates degree is that in computer network administration. Students in this degree develop the understanding and skills for operating systems management, computer network setup, and computer programming. Upon graduation, these technicians can help develop and maintain computer networking operations. Technicians must be able to think critically and creatively with an acute sense of detail. The average annual salary for computer/network support technicians rings in at $42,000.
Computer / Network Support Technician – $42,000