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For the last four decades or so, a four-year college degree has been held up as the standard for anyone who wants a “good” job. But public sentiment is starting to turn toward community college, with proposals to make community college free, renewed emphasis on trades and skilled professions, and backlash against excessive student loan debt. The truth is, there are all kinds of high-paying community college degrees, and they’ve been overlooked for too long.
So what are the Top 10 Highest-Paying Community College Degrees?
- Radiation Therapy
- Physician Assistant Studies
- Software Engineering
- Nuclear Medicine
- Project Management
- Network Engineering
- Occupational Health and Safety
- Computer Science (CS) & Mathematics
- Biomedical Engineering (BME)
- Advertising & Marketing Communications
Read on for full profiles!
Can You Get High-Paying Jobs with a Community College Degree?
With so much growth in healthcare and technology, there are jobs where you can realistically make six figures with just a community college degree. From radiation therapy and nuclear medicine to project management and digital marketing, there are all kinds of serious, professional jobs on the rise and in demand. For all of these careers, you need only a certificate or associate’s degree to get started.
That’s why students are starting to take community college seriously again, at long last. The jobs that keep the modern economy going don’t necessarily take a bachelor’s or master’s degree – they take some basic education, experience, and dedication. That’s why Value Colleges is highlighting the highest-paying community college jobs.
The jobs listed below are presented according to their average annual salary using current Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
1. Radiation Therapy
Graduates with an AA or AS in Radiation Therapy can complete their degrees in two years attending full-time or four years attending part-time. It’s a hands-on degree, so it’s difficult to find online options. Students should ensure that online options are fully accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. To find a job with a radiation therapist degree, students must complete their associates or baccalaureate degree prior to taking the relevant exams in their state. An associate’s degree is the lowest level of education required to work as a radiation therapist. However, employers often look for candidates who have a four-year degree. After obtaining their education, students must become certified or licensed in the state they want to work in. Licensure requirements vary in different states. However, the vast majority of states require radiation therapists to pass a national certification exam before getting a job in the field.
Radiation therapists work in the medical profession and deliver radiation to cancer patients. These professionals have a high paying jobs with community college degree, and they belong to an interdisciplinary team that includes physicist, oncologist and oncology nurses. This elite team of professionals works to monitor and treat each patient as appropriate. Radiation therapists work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and outpatient centers. These medical professionals learn to deliver the proper dosage of radiation therapy using the necessary medication and technology. This could be a great field for students who love technology and want to help people. They operate advanced machines such as linear accelerators. LINAC machines help medical professionals deliver comprehensive x-rays or electrons to cancer cells and tumors. This treatment often eliminates tumors or reduces their size. Radiation therapists also review treatment plans that medical physicist and radiation oncologist create. As one of the highest paying community college degrees, radiation therapy nets a salary range of $62,300-$92,600.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $62,300-$92,600
2. Physician Assistant Studies
Physician assistant studies also result in one of the highest paying community college degrees. Individuals who decide to become certified physician assistants usually need a master of science. However, there are a few programs that prepare you for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam after completing an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. The PANCE and PANRE (Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam) qualify graduates to become position assistants or PAs. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants is in charge of giving both exams. Although there are limited programs that can result in preparation for the national exams, they are very rare. Employers and graduate schools prefer that students complete their baccalaureate degree prior to sitting for the exam or applying for graduate school. Some of the courses that students may take in position assistant studies include biochemistry, microbiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology and physical diagnostics. Many classes are available online. However, students have to fulfill their clinical hours in person.
High paying community college degrees such as becoming a physician assistant can help students quickly recoup the cost of their education. Physician assistants perform physical examinations, take down patient histories and come up with treatment strategies for each patient. They also order labs and read lab results, and they can perform many medical procedures. Some physician assistants assist surgeons and they can write prescriptions, depending on the state in which they practice. Physician assistants have a diverse job description and work under supervising physicians. The function of the job depends on the type of health care delivered. Some PAs work in general internal medicine or primary care settings. Others may take less conventional jobs as researchers, academics or administrators. This is one of the high paying jobs with community college degree, and a physician assistant makes $53,800-$99,400.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $53,800-$99,400
3. Software Engineering
Getting a software engineering degree at the associate’s level takes two years when students attend full-time. This degree can be earned fully online and it’s one of the highest paying community college degrees. Students who want to attain high paying community college degrees often become software engineers. Associates degrees for software engineering are rarer than baccalaureate or doctoral degrees. Some degrees in technical schools go by different names such as software engineering technology. This degree takes two years to complete and can be taken 100% online at many schools. Students can obtain high paying jobs with degree programs like software engineering. This program teaches students the fundamentals of computer science in both theory and practice. Students study related topics and take classes on computer architecture, systems analysis, interface design and networking. Students learn C++, Java and C as well as other programming languages. Many software engineering programs have internships so that students can graduate with some real-world experience to put on their resumes.
This degree helps students obtain high paying jobs with community college degree programs. This field combines business and programming concepts in a cross disciplinary major. Software engineers work with mobile devices, common desktop computers and other devices. Students who like both engineering and business may find software engineering a stimulating major. Students typically learn software development, project management and other computing skills in an associate’s degree for software engineering. Students gain knowledge of the entire development lifecycle and the business needs that drives it. Different components of software engineering include development, implementation, product release and quality assurance. Developers examine specifications prior to writing code. Programs may be accessed through proprietary software or on mobile apps and other tools. Software engineers can make $50,600 at the entry level and an average of $89,600 at the mid-career range, making this one of the best high paying community college degrees.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $50,600-$89,600
4. Nuclear Medicine
An associate’s degree in nuclear medicine is one of the high paying community college degrees. Online programs for this degree are uncommon and students may prefer a hybrid program, so they get hands-on training for particular classes. It takes two years to complete an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine full-time and four years to complete the degree part-time. Many students who obtain their associates degree in nuclear medicine go on to complete a bachelor’s degree. Students learn about various nuclear medicine scans such as the single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan. They may have an opportunity to use the equipment needed for medical scans such as the positron emission topography (PET) scan. This field requires a deep understanding of various sciences and nuclear medicine technologists have strong backgrounds in physics, chemistry, math and medicine. They also have to understand computer technology such as that used in various imaging machines.
One of the high paying jobs with community college degree, an NMT operates imaging equipment and communicates test results to patients. A nuclear medicine technologist (NMT) creates radiopharmaceuticals that are administered to patients. This product makes it easier to detect radioactivity. The imagery used is different than x-rays because it works from the inside out. X-ray technology relies on external sources. These professionals provide support to patients and physicians. Nuclear medicine techs work in diagnostic laboratories, hospitals, offices and clinics. You can find them anywhere nuclear medical imagery takes place. Nuclear medicine requires an ability to explain medical procedures to patients and answer their questions in layman’s terms. More importantly, nuclear medicine technicians know how to put patients at ease. These professionals prepare and administer radioactive drugs and are experts when it comes to safety protocols needed to avoid excessive radiation exposure. NMTs utilize various imaging equipment and look for unusual reactions to the drugs. This equipment allows for early detection of different conditions in the body. Nuclear medicine involves evaluating images and maintaining records as part of the testing. These professionals always put safety first and learn to dispose of radioactive material appropriately. They are bound to maintain the confidentiality of their patients and can transfer patients between different machines. These professionals make between 62,600-$77,300, making this one of the highest paying community college degrees.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $62,600-$77,300
5. Project Management
An associate’s degree in project management is one of the highest paying community college degrees. There are many online programs that allow students to obtain their associate’s degree in project management fully online. It may take between two to four years to complete this degree depending on if a student attends full-time or part-time. It’s difficult to find a PM associate’s degree online because most employers require project managers to have degrees in fields related to their industry. PMs typically have a background in business administration, engineering, information technology and construction. Students often don’t choose to get a bachelor’s degree in project management. That’s because of the stringent requirements for these specialized positions. Additional degrees can improve their outlook for employability and salary expectations. High paying jobs with community college degree include project managers. Students who want to be project managers may start with an associate’s degree then obtain a few years of work experience prior to going on to complete their bachelor’s degree and master’s in the industry they wish to specialize in. Common courses include management, math and business, and students can go on to pursue a baccalaureate or master’s degree in project management or their specific niche. The most common certification for project managers is overseen by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
As one of the high paying community college degrees, an associate’s degree in project management can open doors for students who wish to pursue entry-level positions in their field. Project managers often work in business settings such as offices. However, some project managers, including construction project managers, spend a lot of time on the job site. Many employers want PMs to have a specialized certification to verify their knowledge of various software packages that track projects. Project managers also typically get involved in scheduling task, creating budgets and coordinating multiple projects for various teams they work with. The. salary range for this field averages $49,200-$84,700
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $49,200-$84,700
6. Network Engineering
An associate’s degree in network engineering can result in one of the highest paying community college degrees. Students can earn their network engineering degrees fully online. Associates degrees in this field aim to teach students the skills needed to troubleshoot, install and maintain hardware and software products. Some network engineering professionals work on technical support and help desks. Therefore, students need to learn strong customer service skills and how to explain technical issues in simple terms. Topics of study may include how to configure local area networks (LAN) or wide area networks (WAN). These professionals interact with all levels of employees up to and including executives in the company. Therefore, they must be comfortable communicating technical jargon to nontechnical coworkers. Most students complete the degree full-time in two years. Many graduates go on to complete certifications the verify their mastery of the material. Also, hiring managers look for certifications when sifting through resumes for job positions.
Graduates with an associate’s degree in computer network engineering go on to find high-paying jobs with a community college degree. CNEs use their knowledge to manage and improve computer security and network infrastructures. These professionals benefit from the hands-on training they’ve had in their educational programs. Computer network engineers, sometimes called network architects, manage networks and keep them functioning optimally. As a CNE, graduates may work in telecommunications, computer architecture, data structures, or as programmers for operating systems. Job titles for positions in this field include computer network engineer, system administrator, support technician, software developer, and software engineer. It’s an example of high-paying community college degrees, beginning to midrange salary hitting $50,000-$81,300.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $50,000-$81,300
7. Occupational Health and Safety
As one of the highest paying community college degrees, associates degrees in occupational health and safety are very popular. Students can obtain their degrees fully online at many schools but may go on to complete internships in person. These high-paying jobs with community college degree opportunities give students access to occupational health and safety (OSHA) laws and regulations. Students become familiar with the different laws and regulations impacting safety concerns in the workplace. Graduates may go on to jobs in offices, schools, factories and other settings. Online options make this a convenient degree for those with existing jobs or other obligations that prevent them from attending classes in person.
OSHA professionals work for private corporations or public entities and everything in between. They have an important role when it comes to ensuring safety without impacting productivity. Health and safety job sites include construction sites, offices, factories and mines. Jobs titles vary greatly and may include health and safety manager or director and health and safety engineers. Most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree. However, students with a strong background in their fields may have an easier time getting health and safety positions with an associate’s degree. There are two common career options, including specialists who received a baccalaureate degree and technicians who they only have their associates degree. OSHA professionals can help keep employees safe and reduce the liability of the companies that they work for. This can be a very rewarding aspect of the job. At $50,200-$77,800 per year, this is one of the high paying community college degrees.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $50,200-$77,800
8. Computer Science (CS) & Mathematics
Mathematics/computer science degrees are among the highest paying community college degrees. Online or in-person courses can be completed within two years while attending full-time. It may take longer for part-time students to complete their degrees in a timely manner. However, most can complete their associate’s degree within four years. Many graduates go on to obtain degrees in statistics, mathematics, operational research or computer science. Students who enter this field enjoy being challenged and know how to use logic to complete tasks more efficiently. These students typically want to study complex mathematics and apply critical thinking to mathematical questions. Students with an associate’s degree in computer science and mathematics have earned high paying community college degrees.
With an associate’s degree in computer science and mathematics, graduates can find entry-level work as web developers, computer support specialists and programmers. Other common job titles include information security analyst, computer hardware engineer, and database administrator. Keep in mind that employers prefer candidates with a four-year degree. Common job titles for this degree include computer information researcher, database administrator, data scientist and health information technician. At $41,300-$85,900 per year, these high paying jobs with community college degree are quite lucrative.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $41,300-$85,900
9. Biomedical Engineering (BME)
Biomedical engineering is one of the highest paying community college degrees. This field focuses on developing equipment and instruments for the medical field. These graduates may go on to create scanners, artificial devices and software to improve patient lives. Many programs for biomedical engineering include the technology used to create new instruments and equipment. Students will probably have to obtain their four-year degree in order to find employment in the field. Courses may cover medical devices, career opportunities, and hardware and software for medical devices. Some jobs involve working within manufacturing while others involve patient evaluation in a clinical setting. Other graduates make a living testing field equipment.
Among the high paying jobs with community college degree, biomedical engineering is one of the most practical and fascinating fields that students can enter. These professionals design numerical machines and have an excellent job outlook. For students who love to invent solutions for mechanical devices, this could be a great career choice. Those starting out in the field can expect to earn around $44,900 per year while career veterans can make an average of maybe $81,800, putting this among high paying community college degrees.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $44,900-$81,800
10. Advertising & Marketing Communications
An associate’s in advertising and marketing communications is one of the highest paying community college degrees. Many schools offer class is 100% online, so students can complete their degree going full-time within two years or going part-time within four years. Students who major in advertising and marketing communications pick up the skills they need to find work in direct marketing, advertising, and public relations. With an associate’s degree in advertising and marketing communications, students can find entry-level jobs or go on to complete their four-year degree. These high paying community college degrees may include courses such as multimedia computing for advertising and marketing or integrated marketing communications. Students must also develop a strong background in accounting and pick up writing skills for business writing and copywriting. In order to measure the success of campaigns, advertising and marketing communications specialist need a strong background in statistical analysis. Courses taken in these programs may include mass communications and journalism as well as publicity and research methodology. Many programs can be taken completely online, which gives students the opportunity to continue working or caring for their other responsibilities. Students who love to write and promote brands and who have an aptitude for statistics can do very well in this field.
Marketers are responsible for managing brands and products. They create advertising campaigns and monitor current marketing trends that aim to give their company the leg up on the competition. As a marketer, graduates work for small, medium and large businesses and focus on digital and traditional channels that allowed them to reach their target customers. Marketing and advertising professionals in the digital world typically need a wide skill set that includes digital marketing, public relations, web design and search engine optimization. There is also a great deal of analysis and tracking in order to identify efforts that are the most successful. As technology advances, so does the role of digital marketers and advertisers, who now must be familiar with statistical analysis and be comfortable learning new software tools that make their jobs easier. It’s hard to predict the salary range for advertising and marketing communication specialists because this actually describes many different roles. The salary range in this field is $36,400-$90,000, with entry-level jobs paying much lower than those marketed to established professionals. Nonetheless, it’s among the most lucrative high paying jobs with community college degree. Typically, smaller companies pay less than larger companies and these professionals can make more money in urban areas than more remote ones.
Degree Level: Associates
Average Salary: $36,400-$90,000
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