Did you know that there will be over 19 million job openings this year alone?! With baby boomers retiring in droves, that means a wide-open job market for millennials and Gen Z’ers who want to forge a career for themselves. It’s also great news for people who aren’t super into the idea of a four-year degree, since nearly a third of these new jobs will require only some college or an associate’s degree.
There are over 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 per year that don’t require a bachelor’s degree (source).
But where, exactly, are these jobs? They’re right where you’d expect! STEM, healthcare, the arts, and community services are the fastest-growing occupational sectors, with as much as a 31 percent rise in employment in those fields. Here are some of the specific job titles that can provide good paying jobs with an associate’s degree.
The Fastest-Growing Associate Degree Jobs and Their Salaries
- Web Developers: $69,430 — If a fast-growing, high-paying associate’s degree job is what you’re after, then you’re going to want to consider becoming a web developer. Unsurprisingly, the demand for developers is much higher than average (a 13 percent projected increase by 2028), and the pay is solid. Most workers are able to land entry-level web development jobs with an associate’s degree.
- Respiratory Therapists: $60,280 — With a median pay of over $60,000 per year, a 21 percent projected growth, and most jobs requiring only an associate’s degree, the respiratory therapy field is definitely a good one to consider if pay and reliability are your two non-negotiables when picking a career. It’s quite the rewarding track, too, since respiratory therapists spend their days diagnosing and aiding patients with respiratory problems, helping them breathe easier each day.
- Occupational Therapy Assistants: $57,620 — Occupational therapy assistants work in therapy offices, hospitals, and nursing homes helping people maintain the skills they need to live and work each day. Occupational therapists are very much in-demand, with a job outlook of 31 percent growth by 2028. The pay is promising, too, with a median annual pay of $57,620 per year. To become one, you must obtain an associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program.
- Paralegals: $50,940 — Paralegals are the professionals who work in courtrooms, law offices, corporate legal offices, and government agencies to provide essential legal support. Some common tasks they might perform on a daily basis include gathering facts on a case (sounds fun, right?) and scheduling interviews with witnesses and clients. The most common path to becoming a paralegal is to achieve an associate’s in paralegal studies from an accredited university. Major bonus: Paralegal and legal assistant jobs are expected to grow much faster than average (12 percent) in the next eight years.
- Physical Therapy Assistants: $48,090 — These skilled professionals work under the direction of physical therapists in offices and hospitals. They help set up equipment, care for patients, and perform clerical duties. With a projected growth of 26 percent by 2028, there will be no shortage of work for those who want to enter this field. Physical therapy assistants earn a median pay of $48,090 per year and must complete an associate’s degree from an accredited program.
- Solar Photovoltaic Installers: $42,680 — According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), solar photovoltaic installer is the fastest-growing occupation in the United States, with a projected growth rate of 63 percent by 2028. You’re probably thinking, “wtf is a solar photovoltaic installer?” and that’s totally fair. These are the guys and gals who assemble, install, and maintain solar panels. Their median pay is $42,680 per year and the role usually requires a high school diploma or equivalent, but you can take courses and get an associate’s degree to earn even more.
- Medical Assistants: $33,610 — Medical assistants provide specialized medical clerical tasks in healthcare environments, including doctor’s offices, hospitals, and clinics. The BLS reports that job prospects for medical assistants will explode by 23 percent in the next few years, so it’s a safe bet for those seeking job security. While you don’t need an associate’s degree to land a medical assistant job, it’s definitely not a bad idea overall, as it can lead to higher-paying and more specialized roles in this field.
As you can see, earning an associate’s degree is a super worthwhile endeavor for a wide range of careers, especially those in medicine, tech, and the sciences. Setting your sights on one of these professional paths is a great way to ensure that you spend your life working in a field that will remain stable throughout your entire career.