5 Top Jobs for Associate's Degrees

If you're looking to jump start your work life with a new career, you just might want to boost your professional credential with a two-year associate's degree.

And here's a surprise: people with specialized professional degrees from two-year associate programs often earn better pay than people with a bachelor's degree.

But before you head back to school, do the research. There are plenty of two-year programs out there, and you'll want to find one that fits with your interests and lifestyle as well as the salary you hope to earn.

A good place to start can be found at the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The latest BLS statistics show that the five top moneymaking jobs for associate's degrees are:

1. Computer programmer ($69,620 median annual wages).

The Internet keeps growing at an astonishing rate, companies are investing in technology, and people can't stop talking about social media and cloud computing. So if you're an early adopter of the latest gadgets and can't wait for the newest release of your laptop's operating system, becoming a computer programmer could be a great fit for you.

-- Find computer programmer jobs

2. Nuclear medicine technician ($66,660 median annual wages).

Sounds impressive, doesn't it? If you become a nuclear medicine technician, you'll likely be working alongside doctors in a hospital setting as you operate diagnostic imaging equipment. Technologists with training in many diagnostic methods have the best prospects, and nuclear medicine technology programs range in length from one to four years and lead to a certificate, an associate degree or a bachelor's degree.

-- Find nuclear medicine technician jobs

3. Dental hygienist ($66,570 median annual wages).

Don't laugh. OK, dental hygienists may spend their work hours with their fingers in other people's mouths. But a dental hygienist earns an excellent salary and the hours can be quite flexible if you're an independent contractor working in several dentists' offices. Plus, you'll be up on all the newest dental techniques and can amaze your friends and family with your dazzling smile.

-- Find dental hygenist jobs

4. Registered nurse ($62,450 median annual wages).

For someone with a passion for working in a helping profession that includes close contact with people, becoming a registered nurse is a great route to career happiness. And because the U.S. population is aging and the pool of nurses is shrinking, registered nurses are more in demand than ever.

-- Find registered nurse jobs

5. Aerospace engineering technician ($55,040 median annual wages).

Opportunities abound if you're an engineering technician with an associate's degree. Do you have a knack for the principles and theories of science, engineering and mathematics to solve technical problems? This could be the field for you. Engineering technicians often assist engineers and scientists, especially in research and development, often using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) equipment. Others work in quality control, product design and inspection products or data collection.

-- Find aerospace engineering technician jobs

Next:Seven Jobs You Can Get With an Associate Degree

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