For those who don't have the time or money to get a bachelor's degree, several two-year associate's degrees have a high return on investment and may actually be the better option.

According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following are the 23 highest-paying jobs that require only an associate's degree. Each has a median annual salary of at least $51,000.

Many of the jobs on this list are in the fields of health care, technology, or skilled labor.

The median annual wages listed are calculated to include hourly, weekly, and annual pay, as well as sales commissions and production bonuses. Overtime wages are not included in the data. We also provided the expected job openings through 2022 and the work experience or on-the-job training needed for a particular job.

23. Mechanical engineering technicians

Median annual wage (2012): $51,980

Projected job openings (through 2022): 12,100

Work experience: None

Description: Design, develop, test, and manufacture industrial machinery, consumer products, and other equipment.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



22. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians

Median annual wage (2012): $52,070

Projected job openings (through 2022): 23,000

Work experience: None

Description: Use imaging technology to help physicians diagnose cardiac (heart) and peripheral vascular (blood vessel) ailments in patients. 

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



21. Physical therapist assistants

Median annual wage (2012): $52,160

Projected job openings (through 2022): 45,100

Work experience: None

Description: Help patients who are recovering from injuries, illnesses, and surgeries regain movement and manage pain.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



20. Geological and petroleum technicians

Median annual wage (2012): $52,700

Projected job openings (through 2022): 8,100

Work experience: None

Description: Provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as minerals, oil, and natural gas.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



19. Occupational therapy assistants

Median annual wage (2012): $53,240

Projected job openings (through 2022): 20,500

Work experience: None

Description: Aides work under the direction of occupational therapists in treating patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



18. Radiologic technologists

Median annual wage (2012): $54,620

Projected job openings (through 2022): 69,600

Work experience: None

Description: Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



17. Avionics technicians

Median annual wage (2012): $55,350

Projected job openings (through 2022): 4,000

Work experience: None

Description: Install, inspect, test, adjust, or repair avionics equipment, such as radar, radio, navigation, and missile control systems in aircraft or space vehicles.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



16. Electrical and electronics drafters

Median annual wage (2012): $55,700

Projected job openings (through 2022): 6,800

Work experience: None

Description: Prepare wiring diagrams, circuit board assembly diagrams, and layout drawings used for the manufacture, installation, or repair of electrical equipment.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



15. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians

Median annual wage (2012): $57,850

Projected job openings (through 2022): 30,400

Work experience: None

Description: Help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



14. Computer network support specialists

Median annual wage (2012): $59,090

Projected job openings (through 2022): 39,600

Work experience: None

Description: Analyze, test, troubleshoot, and evaluate existing network systems, such as local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), and Internet systems or a segment of a network system.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



13. Engineering technicians

Median annual wage (2012): $59,440

Projected job openings (through 2022): 14,600

Work experience: None

Description: Solve technical problems. Some help engineers and scientists do research and development.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



12. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians

Median annual wage (2012): $61,530

Projected job openings (through 2022): 2,100

Work experience: None

Description: Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing, and producing new aircraft and spacecraft

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



11. Web developer

Median annual wage (2012): $62,500

Projected job openings (through 2022): 50,700

Work experience: None

Description: Design, create, and modify websites.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



10. Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

Median annual wage (2012): $65,360

Projected job openings (through 2022): 11,300

Work experience: Less than five years

Description: Monitor patient safety and comfort, and view images of area being scanned to ensure quality of pictures.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



9. Registered nurse

Median annual wage (2012): $65,470

Projected job openings (through 2022): 1,052,600

Work experience: None

Description: Provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



8. Diagnostic medical sonographers

Median annual wage (2012): $65,860

Projected job openings (through 2022): 35,300

Work experience: None

Description: Use special imaging equipment that directs sound waves into a patient’s body to assess and diagnose various medical conditions.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



7. Funeral service directors

Median annual wage (2012): $66,720

Degree required: Associate's degree

Projected job openings (through 2022): 3,200

Work experience: Less than five years

Description: Plan, direct, or coordinate the services or resources of funeral homes. 

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



6. Nuclear technicians

Median annual wage (2012): $69,069

Projected job openings (through 2022): 4,100

Work experience: None

Description: Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear production.

On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



5. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers

Median annual wage (2012): $70,060

Projected job openings (through 2022): 50,300

Work experience: Less than five years

Description: Coordinate activities of sales workers other than retail sales workers.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



4. Nuclear medicine technologists

Median annual wage (2012): $70,180

Projected job openings (through 2022): 7,200

Work experience: None

Description: Use a scanner to create images of various areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients undergoing the scans.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



3. Dental hygienists

Median annual wage (2012): $70,210

Projected job openings (through 2022): 113,500

Work experience: None

Description: Clean teeth, examine patients for oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventative dental care.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



2. Radiation therapists

Median annual wage (2012): $77,560

Projected job openings (through 2022): 8,400

Work experience: None

Description: Check equipment, observe patients’ reactions to treatment, and document the session.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



1. Air traffic controller

Median annual wage (2012): $122,530

Projected job openings (through 2022): 11,400

Work experience: None

Description: Monitor and direct the movement of aircraft. Median annual wages of air traffic controllers are the highest of any occupation in which workers typically do not need a bachelor’s degree.

On-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job training

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics



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