With annual tuition for many two-year programs costing as little as $5,000, an associate degree is just about the best bang for the education buck you can find. According to the Census Bureau, associate degree holders earn an average of $400,000 more over a lifetime than high-school graduates.
These seven areas in particular have the hottest job prospects:
With an associate degree in accounting under your belt, you’ll be prepared for a number of entry-level accounting jobs.
One such occupation is an accounts receivable/payable clerk. According to CBSalary.com, earnings start at between $21,000 and $27,000 — though you could rack up overtime pay, too and reach nearly $50,000 with experience. A bachelor’s degree can bring a significant salary bump, and company size, industry and geographic location will also affect your income. With additional education, experience and certification, you could become a controller or certified public accountant, with a salary that could top $100,000.
An associate degree in nursing can land you a staff position in a hospital or other inpatient facility. Job growth in the field should remain strong through the decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Starting salaries for registered nurses are around $30,000, and hospitals generally pay more. In addition to base pay, RNs are often paid extra for night and weekend shifts. According to the BLS, the 2010 median annual pay for full-time RNs was just under $65,000. (Find out what the other five include).