Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how much you can make with an associate’s degree, let’s look at some of the financial and other advantages of attending community college. The biggest factor here has to be the financial advantage of lower tuition costs. Community colleges typically cost a fraction of what students pay at traditional four-year colleges and universities. Attending community college can give students an opportunity to prepare for a four-year college or to begin working in their field within two-years.
Many community college students also appreciate the flexible scheduling available at two-year universities. Although both online and on-campus degree programs are available at the bachelor’s and associate’s degree levels, community colleges often have flexibility built-in to assignment schedules and starting dates, due to the needs of the diverse student body. If students have jobs or family obligations, community colleges are often the better option to start their education. These schools offer night classes and are more likely to have flexible scheduling available online. Also, the workload is often later than going to a four-year school.
Sneak Peek: What are the Highest-Paying Community College Degrees?
- 1. Radiation Therapy ($62,300-$92,600)
- 2. Physician Assistant Studies ($53,800-$99,400)
- 3. Software Engineering ($50,600-$89,600)
- 4. Nuclear Medicine ($62,600-$77,300)
- 5. Project Management ($49,200-$84,700)
- 6. Network Engineering ($50,000-$81,300)
- 7. Occupational Health and Safety ($50,200-$77,800)
- 8. Computer Science (CS) & Mathematics ($41,300-$85,900)
- 9. Biomedical Engineering (BME) ($44,900-$81,800)
- 10. Advertising & Marketing Communications ($36,400-$90,000)
Students who don’t yet know what their career path should be often appreciate the fact that community colleges offer a chance to explore different majors at a cheaper rate than four-year colleges. Since classes cost less, students have more freedom to explore their interests. Community colleges have much smaller class sizes than traditional universities. This means that whether taking online or offline courses students often enjoy more attention from there professors. They also might feel less lost in smaller classrooms.
Although some professors at community colleges might be new to the profession, others are well seasoned academics who have led impressive careers. In fact, many instructors teach part-time as they pursue their own careers. This gives community college students a pulse on the current job market and access to high-quality education.
Numerous college freshmen transfer after their first year. Some dropout and some go to other universities. Attending community college gives students the opportunities to earn credit while selecting a four-year college to finish their education. There are also many degrees, as we will see below, that pay new community college graduates well.
Average Salaries for Associate’s vs Bachelor’s Degrees
The average salary for graduates with an associate degree is $46,000 per year or $887 per week. The average unemployment rate for those with an AA or AS degree is less than 3%.
Learners who complete an associate’s degree earn about $7,300 more on average than those who just finish high school. This translates to more than $293,000 in a 40-year career. By continuing their education to the baccalaureate level, the average annual pay raise is about $19,000.
It’s common for graduates with an associate’s degree to immediately continue their education or to work for a year or two prior to going back to get a bachelor’s degree. Having any degree gives students an instant boost over other job applicants. Obviously, the higher the degree, the more likely a student’s resume is to stand out.
With a bachelor’s degree, the typical wage earner takes home $65,000 per year, which equals about $1,250 per week. The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is slightly lower than someone with an associate’s degree and stands at 2.2%.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the highest paying community college degrees on the market today.
1. Radiation Therapy
With an associate’s in radiation therapy, students can achieve the highest paying community college degrees. Students should ensure that the school they attend meets the certification requirements in their state. Topics include radiation physics, treatment planning and other coursework. Students may gain access to hands-on experience in a clinical setting, depending on the program they attend. It takes 2 years to finish this degree as a full-time student and many programs require students to complete prerequisite courses if they haven’t already taken them. Entry-level jobs in this field are among the top high paying jobs with community college degree. Entry-level jobs pay $62,300, and students with more experience can earn up to $92,600. Students can take online classes but may have to fulfill clinical hours are they local facility.
As well as being one of the high paying community college degrees, an AA or AS in radiation therapy has many personal rewards. Radiation therapists help cancer patients by administering radiation treatments. They follow physician prescriptions regarding each patient’s treatment plan. These professionals use numerous treatments too help cancer patients, including, radioactive isotopes and high-energy linear accelerators. Graduates will also help plan simulations, dosimetry, and maintain accurate records.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $62,300-$92,600
2. Physician Assistant Studies
A physician assistant studies associate’s degree is among the highest paying community college degrees that students can pursue. These programs are quite competitive and limited an availability. Students who want high paying jobs with community college degrees often turned to physician assistant programs that have rigorous medical sciences courses. Course loads in these programs include human anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, physical diagnosis, pathophysiology and pharmacology.
With a physician assistant studies associate’s degree, students can obtain high paying community college degrees and become clinical advisors, infection control specialist, emergency room physician assistance and clinical services managers. Some graduates work in a private clinic or doctor’s office. These professionals need excellent computer and great communication skills. Clinical advisors, physician assistants, and surgical physician assistants with an aa or as require little supervision. A clinical advisor evaluates the effectiveness of healthcare and proposes provisions to make operations run more smoothly. With a salary range of $53,800-$99,400, this is a lucrative degree that clearly gives new graduates room to grow and increase their annual salary.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $53,800-$99,400
3. Software Engineering
An associate’s degree in software engineering also fits the profile for one of the highest paying community college degrees. Those who aspire to work in the technical field should consider getting there two year degree in software engineering. These programs provide foundational knowledge for programming, operating systems, web design and networking. Graduates with a software engineering associate’s degree cultivate skills needed to succeed in the competitive it and computer science fields. Students can get an associate’s in software engineering completely online from many schools. Some students may also opt for attending hybrid programs with both online and in person classes. Technical colleges is offering this degree prepare students for entry-level it and cs jobs.
High paying jobs with community college degree in software engineering pay between $50,600-$89,600. These jobs include data entry clerks, network support specialist, electronics technicians and similar job titles. Earning a two year degree in this field prepare students for the rigors of four-year university technology programs. Students can get entry-level jobs and save money for their baccalaureate degrees in software engineering and development. High paying community college degrees give students the confidence and knowledge they need to begin working in the field or to continue their studies. Beyond basic computer concepts, there are many areas of specialization within this topic. In addition, most community colleges include general education courses and business courses that help students advance their careers. These topics may include project management, teamwork and conflict management. Jobs that students can get with an associate’s degree in software engineering include web design, database management, network administration, cybersecurity specialists, and programmers. Graduates may also obtain management positions after a few years of experience. These graduates also qualified for jobs in testing, design, installation and maintenance. Software engineering jobs exist in a variety of settings including government agencies, small companies and large corporations.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $50,600-$89,600
4. Nuclear Medicine
An associate’s degree in nuclear medicine is one of the highest paying community college degrees. The curriculum in these programs covers therapeutic and imaging procedures. Students learn to prepare and administer a range of radiopharmaceuticals. Students also learn how to explain the procedures to patients and help them understand the risk and benefits of the treatment. Nuclear medicine graduates may also help analyze the results of various tests. For students looking for high paying jobs with community college degree who also have an interest in science and technology, this may be the ideal degree. The radio detection systems students gain access to includes positron emission tomography and gamma cameras. Courses include the practice and principles of computer tomography. This technology is often used with nuclear medicine. Graduates will work directly with patients and help them feel less anxious about the treatment. Many individuals in this field find it very rewarding. Although coursework may be available online, students may have to attend clinical studies outside of their homes in order to complete the degree requirements.
As one of the high paying community college degrees, nuclear medicine typically yields a starting salary of over $62,000. Top earners in his field make more than $77,000. Nuclear medicine technologists administer radioactive drugs too patients with cancer. They sometimes provide technical support to other nuclear medicine professionals or physicians. Many professionals in his field enjoy the technology they have access to and some may act as emergency responders in case of a nuclear disaster. Nuclear medicine technologists have many pressing duties including keeping up with safety procedures to protect patients and themselves from excessive radiation exposure. They also must answer patient’s questions and be knowledgeable in the technology they administer. These professionals prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to the patient. Additionally, nuclear technologist follow procedures for safe disposal of radiation.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $62,600-$77,300
5. Project Management
With an associate’s in project management, graduates can work within a number of different industries. This is one of the highest paying community college degrees that learners can pursue. Most programs for project management focus on organizational skills, leadership skills and technology needed to track and analyze the status of multiple projects. Students need a GED or high school diploma to enter project management associate’s degree programs. Since many jobs in project management require leadership capability, it’s highly recommended that students go on to pursue their four year degree and perhaps their master’s degree or get a project management certificate from a respected organization within their industry. Courses in project management programs help students receive training needed to manage employees across multiple departments. Classes may include finance and accounting, budget planning, cost estimation, business principles and operations, organizational behavior, project management and small business management.
Although project management degrees often result in high paying jobs with community college degree, the available salary range often depends on location, experience and education. At the low end of the scale, entry-level project management positions pay over $49,000 on average. High paying jobs with community college degree in project management cap out on an average of $84,700, these high paying community college degrees prepare graduates for management and leadership positions. Typical industries that require project management include construction, banking, manufacturing and high tech. Examples of project manager job titles include business project leader, quality assurance specialist, construction project manager, supply chain manager and wholesale project manager. There’s a great deal of room for advancement with higher levels of education including baccalaureate and master’s degrees. However, the specialized degree offers in depth study into a wide variety of subjects such as law, risk management, budgeting and business management. Many of the skills learned in project management are highly transferable to other roles and responsibilities.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $49,200-$84,700
6. Network Engineering
With an associate’s in network engineering, students can attain high paying community college degrees. AA or AS network engineering professionals work on entry-level network system administration and PC support tasks. These programs often focus on knowledge of network infrastructure, and students learn to implement, manage, troubleshoot and design equipment currently used in the industry.
Attending a two year program for network engineering helps graduates secure high paying jobs with community college degree. At the low end of the spectrum, entry-level jobs in network engineering start at $50,000 on average. However, this is one of the highest paying Community college degrees because experienced network engineers can make over $81,000 with a two-year degree.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $50,000-$81,300
7. Occupational Health and Safety
Among high-paying community college degrees, some students choose occupational health and safety associate’s degrees. Occupational safety and health degrees give students exposure to safety protocols in the healthcare industry. Students get hands-on training in hygiene and environmental concerns as well as occupational safety standards. With this degree, students can pursue entry-level jobs in construction, manufacturing and fire science. Many students either pursue high-paying jobs with community college degrees or go on to apply for baccalaureate programs. Many programs offer online classes for working professionals and those already working in the field who want to deepen their knowledge in occupational health and safety.
Occupational health and safety graduates with an associate’s degree often make at least $50,000 at entry-level positions. Among the highest paying community college degrees, OHS graduates typically make about $77,000 with a few years of experience under their belt. Students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field or experience as healthcare workers can typically make more money than those with no prior experience in the field.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $50,200-$77,800
8. Computer Science & Mathematics
With associate’s degrees in computer science and mathematics, graduates obtain high-paying community college degrees. Computer science is a more technical field then computer information systems. Students often concentrate on taking programming classes in various languages. Computer science and mathematics programs gives students a solid grounding in chemistry, biology, mathematics and physics. As computer scientists in training, learners research and create new applications. They also develop operating systems and write programs in a variety of languages. Courses include calculus I and II, physics I and II and technology courses. There are many computer science and mathematics courses available folding online. This is very helpful for students who have family obligations or who work full-time but want to complete their education in computer science.
Computer science and mathematics graduates may find entry-level positions starting at $41,000. Among the highest paying community college degrees, CS majors can look forward to average salaries exceeding $86,000, making this one of the highest paying community college degrees. An AA or AS program prepares students for four year degrees or entry-level positions in computer science and technology department’s at government and corporate organizations. There is a high chance of obtaining high paying jobs with community college degree programs in computer science and mathematics. High paying jobs with community college degree programs include system software developer, computer programmer, computer system analyst, computer and information research scientist, and data analyst.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $41,300-$85,900
9. Biomedical Engineering (BME)
A Biomedical Engineering (BME) associate’s degree is among the top high paying community college degrees. Applicants must have a GED or high school diploma. Students must show that they’re high school records include courses in algebra through trigonometry and chemistry and biology. However, students can also take courses at the school of their choice to meet these prerequisites. This is one of the highest paying Community college degrees and the typical course load is rigorous. Students learn the importance of biomedical equipment and master computer applications needed for Technical Support. BME students receive an overview of the medical equipment used in healthcare and learn to operate electronic devices used in healthcare. High paying jobs with community college degree in BME require knowledge of biomaterials and biomechanics. Students also learn about rehabilitation engineering an orthopedic bio engineering. Although there are online programs available, some schools require clinical studies at local clinics or hospitals.
As one of the highest paying Community college degrees, biomedical engineering starts at salaries of $45,000 and includes salary potential for up to $82,000 with some experience. This is a hot field right now and starting salaries can be very competitive, depending on the area students live in. These jobs demand an understanding of both engineering and healthcare and these professionals use engineering principles to solve problems with health care equipment. Many people in this field find it very rewarding because biomedical equipment saves lives every day.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $44,900-$81,800
10. Advertising & Marketing Communications
An associate’s degree in advertising and marketing communication is among the highest paying community college degrees. Students learn the fundamentals of two high-demand careers, advertising and marketing. Students take courses in multi-departmental studies. They must learn to think strategically and creatively to design effective marketing and advertising campaigns for online and traditional print media. Solid programs provide a foundation in business concepts that open doors to graduates at private corporations or help them opeon their own freelance business. It’s recommended that students seek schools with accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Graduates learn to use data to position products for various target markets. These courses often are available fully online and help students develop strategies four different marketing channels. Students living in remote locations will love the flexibility of online programs that explain the ethical and legal principles surrounding marketing and advertising activities. Successful graduates master effective oral and written communication skills and understand the effect of economics on marketing products.
As well as being high paying community college degrees, marketing and advertising majors at twoyear colleges prepare students for entry-level jobs with competitive salaries. The lowest 10% of professionals in this field make an average of over $36,000. On the upper end of the salary scale, marketers and advertisers can make an average of $90,000 with the appropriate levels of experience. Marketing professionals tend to thrive in dynamic work situations, and employers look for enthusiastic and passionate candidates for entry level jobs.
High paying jobs with community college degree include roles in advertising, digital marketing, sales, social media marketing, and marketing analytics. In a digital world, marketing includes highly technical and creative roles such as making TV commercials and YouTube videos, managing social media platforms, and creating reports on the efforts of corporations to draw in customers through various digital channels. Despite the creative bent to these jobs, marketing is also very data driven and students must master necessary skills to measure performance as well as create powerful marketing campaigns. However, it also provide a unique opportunity to work independently and constantly challenges professionals who choose this field.
Degree Level: Associates
Salary Range: $36,400-$90,000