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8 of the Highest Paying 2-Year Degree Jobs

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Cheaper tuition during your first 2 years of school is a main selling point for most community colleges, but some students have no plans on transferring to a 4-year institution after earning an associate’s degree. Why? They have specific occupations in mind. Many people assume that a bachelor’s degree is the key to a decent living, but these (and several other) good-paying careers only require a 2-year degree:

1. Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists work with dentists and dental assistants in dental offices. They clean patients’ teeth, examine teeth for gingivitis and other oral diseases, and advise patients about good oral care. Dental hygienists must be licensed in the state where they work and an associate’s degree in dental hygiene is generally required.

Median annual wage, May 2010: $68,250

2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers use imaging equipment commonly known as ultrasound or sonogram to review and diagnose medical conditions. Most diagnostic sonographers work in hospitals but some work in imaging facilities or doctors’ offices. Employers generally require professional certification and formal education requirements are an associate’s degree or other postsecondary certificate.

Median annual wage, May 2010: $64,380

3. Funeral Director

Funeral directors, also known as morticians or undertakers, manage funeral homes and arrange funerals. They complete various tasks required for funerals and burials, including arranging the transportation of bodies for embalming or cremation, speaking with family members to arrange funeral details, and coordinating officials for religious rites. Most funeral directors work in family-owned funeral homes. Funeral directors must be licensed by the state where they work. An associate’s degree in mortuary science is the minimum educational requirement.

Median annual wage, May 2010: $54,140

4. Paralegal

Paralegals, or legal assistants, perform a variety of tasks for lawyers including organizing and maintaining files, drafting documents and doing legal research. Most paralegals work in law offices, legal departments of large corporations, or government agencies. Overtime is often required when important deadlines must be met. In some cases employers hire college graduates who have bachelor’s degrees and provide on-the-job training, but most paralegals have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies.

Median annual wage, May 2010: $46,680

5. Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants work under the direction of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries, surgeries and illnesses regain movement and manage their pain. Physical therapists’ offices and hospitals are both common workplaces. The job involves setting up equipment in addition to working directly with patients. In most states, physical therapist assistants are required to have an associate’s degree from an accredited physical therapist program.

Median annual wage, May 2010: $49,690

6. Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists administer radiation treatments to cancer patients. They work under the direction of radiation oncologists, doctors who specialist in the treatment of cancer patients with radiation therapy. Most radiation therapists work in hospitals or cancer treatment facilities. A formal training program is required and most programs lead to an associate or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists must be licensed to work in most states, but requirements vary.

Median annual wage, May 2010: $74,980

7. Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) provide patient care and offer advice and emotional support to patients and their family members. They can work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, schools, jails and more. Some RNs work for home healthcare services and attend to patients in the patients’ homes. A diploma from an approved nursing program or an associate’s degree in nursing is the entry-level requirement for RNs (some have bachelor’s degrees in nursing) and a national licensing examination is also required.

Median annual wage, May 2010: $64,690

8. Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists help patients who have trouble breathing due to chronic respiratory diseases such as emphysema or asthma. Emergency care for patients suffering heart attacks, stroke or drowning is another aspect of the job. The minimum educational requirement for respiratory therapists is an associate’s degree. Licensing is required in all states except Alaska and requirements vary by state.

Median annual wage, May 2010: $54,280

Salary information from the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Learn more about these and other careers at careers.StateUniversity.com.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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