An associate's degree requires fewer credits and time investment than bachelor's or master's degrees. According to the degree "usually takes two years to complete and may prepare students for a specific career and/or enable them to apply earned credits toward a four--year bachelor's degree program." If you are pursuing an associate's degree for the purpose of increasing your worth in the job market with the goal of earning higher income, remember to consider the different types of degrees and how one may help you in your geographic job market if you are unable to relocate.

Types of Degrees

There are two types of associate's degrees from which to choose: occupational and transfer degrees. Occupational degrees, although you may be able to transfer credits in a later pursuit of a bachelor or graduate degree, are geared towards preparing students for work in a particular field upon completion of studies. They include but are not limited to degrees in applied arts, science, technology and occupational studies, according to A transfer degree allows students to transfer their credits toward the pursuit of a higher degree.

Top Paying Degrees

BLR, a compliance information company, offers information regarding the top 25 paying associate's degrees. Basing its conclusions in a report by the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLR claims that computer specialists top the list "requiring post-secondary training or an associate degree, while technicians of various kinds dominate the list." It further states that "most of the occupations on the list require technical skills related to engineering, electronics, mathematics, mechanics or science." The remainder of the list includes health care and medical industries, fashion designers, funeral directors and court reporters.

Wages and Professions

Note that when considering the highest paid professions, many pay hourly. While you may have a relatively high hourly wage, perhaps your annual income may not reflect that if you are only able to find part-time work. BLR lists both hourly and annual wages on its list of occupations. The top five, as of 2007, before the economic crash, are as follows: computer specialists, with an hourly wage of $32.97, annual income of $68, 600; radiation therapist, with an hourly wage of $31.81, annual income of $66,200; nuclear technicians with an hourly wage of $31.49, annual income of $65,500; dental hygienists, with an hourly wage of $30.19, annual income of $62, 800; and fashion designers, with an hourly wage of $30.10, annual income of $62,600.

2018 Projections

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tenders information regarding the fastest growing occupations as of 2008 and projections for 2018. The compilation offers professions and projections of growth as well as projected income in terms of very low, low, high, or very high. Profession projections for associate degree holders with high median annual wage, as well as an increase in projected employment, are as follows: dental hygienists (very high median annual wage), physical therapists assistants (high), environmental engineering technicians (high) and occupational therapist assistants (high). It is important when considering your degree, if basing it on potential salary, to recognize the differences in 2007 and 2008 as well as taking into consideration the demand of service industries versus consumer-based industries reliant, at least in part, on disposable income. Research all options well and your final choice will hopefully lead you to a successful career.

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