Top Associate's Degrees for Future Career Potential
Associate's degrees remain an attractive option for many students, since they require less time to complete than a bachelor's degree and can lead to a variety of diverse and growing careers. Some associate's degrees are particularly good options because they lead to careers that are expected to experience higher than average growth over the next ten years. We will look at several of the best associate degree programs that will allow students to enter these growing fields in greater detail below by discussing admissions requirements, course content, program details and career options.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences
- Communications and Journalism
- Computer Sciences
- Culinary Arts and Personal Services
- Liberal Arts and Humanities
- Mechanic and Repair Technologies
- Medical and Health Professions
- Physical Sciences
- Transportation and Distribution
- Visual and Performing Arts
Most associate's degree programs require applicants to have completed a high school diploma or GED, and some programs may request submission of standardized test scores, such as ACT scores. Programs in science and healthcare may also require candidates to complete certain prerequisite coursework, like anatomy and physiology, biology or organic chemistry, prior to admission. Health-related programs may also require applicants to undergo a background check and/or attend an interview. Especially in programs with competitive admission, applicants may be asked to job-shadow a professional in the field prior to applying.
Associate's Degree in Dental Hygiene
An associate's degree program in dental hygiene prepares students for a career as a dental hygienist. These programs typically can be completed in three years, with the first year often spent taking prerequisite courses to gain admission into the program. These courses include human anatomy and physiology, biology, and chemistry, among others. Once enrolled in the program, students can expect to take classes like dental and oral anatomy, community dental health, dental hygiene theory, and dental radiography techniques. These programs also generally require students to complete a dental hygiene clinic to gain hands-on experience.
An associate's degree in this field sets students up for success in the future, since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the field of dental hygiene will grow by 20% between 2016 and 2026. The median salary for a dental hygienist in 2017 was $74,070, which is significantly higher than the national median for all jobs of $37,690.
Associate's Degree in Radiation Therapy
Another good associate's degree for the future is a degree in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists typically work with individuals who have cancer, and as a large percentage of the population ages, the chances of getting cancer increase. Students who enroll in an associate's degree program in radiation therapy can generally complete the program in around six semesters. These programs may require students to have completed some science and math courses before beginning the radiation therapy curriculum, and some of these programs require job-shadowing as a prerequisite for admission. Some courses common to these programs include theoretical radiation therapy and principles, radiation oncology, and radiobiology. There is also a clinical component to this degree in which students will gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities in the field of radiation therapy are expected to grow by 13% between 2016 and 2026, faster than the national average growth of 7%. In addition, radiation therapists in 2017 earned a median salary of $80,570 per year, which is more than double the national median for all jobs.
Associate's Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
An associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography leads to a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer, which involves using special equipment to take ultrasound images of different parts of the human body. These programs can be completed in three semesters and require students to complete a clinical practicum before receiving their degree. Some courses that are common to associate's degrees in diagnostic medical sonography include obstetrics and gynecologic sonography, ultrasound physics and instrumentation, and abdominal sonography.
In 2017, diagnostic medical sonographers made a median salary of $71,410, and the BLS projected that this field would grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026, so earning a degree in this field may be a wise choice for the future.
Associate's Degree in Respiratory Therapy
With an associate's degree in respiratory therapy, students can pursue jobs as respiratory therapists. This career involves working with individuals who have problems breathing and providing care and treatment for them. Students who enroll in an associate's degree program in respiratory therapy can expect to take courses like pharmacology, mechanical ventilation, and pulmonary rehabilitation and diagnostics, in addition to completing a practicum. Students will generally need to complete general education and prerequisite courses, such as anatomy and physiology and medical terminology, before beginning the respiratory therapy core curriculum courses.
As the baby boomer population continues to age, it is likely that more members of the population will require the respiratory therapy treatment. In fact, the BLS predicts that this field will grow by 23% from 2016 to 2026, a good sign for those hoping to secure a job. The median way for respiratory therapists is also higher than the national median for all jobs at $59,710, according to the BLS.
Associate's Degree in Web Design
With an associate's degree in web design, students could pursue a career as a web developer, a career field that is expected to experience 15% growth between 2016 and 2026 according to the BLS. Web developers in 2017 made a median salary of $67,990 annually, higher than the national median for all jobs.