Rewarding Careers with an Associate's Degree

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You could be two years away from a rewarding career!

By Jason Latshaw

Conventional wisdom holds that you need a four-year degree to maximize your earning potential.

Reality, however, tells a different tale: If you make wise choices, you could enjoy great dividends on a much smaller investment of both time and money.

The truth is that there are many careers that only require a two-year associate's degree.

If you're interested in rewarding careers that don't require four years at school, read on...

1. Nurses

If the idea of providing health care services to people in need appeals to you, look into nursing. Registered Nurses often offer expertise and emotional support to patients.

The Reward: Registered nurses (RNs) have a mean annual wage of $67,720*.

The Degree: You could join the ranks of these essential heroes with a two-year associate's degree in nursing. From there, get licensed to work in your state.

Explore Nursing associate's degree programs now.

2. Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists are experts who troubleshoot and keep computers and computer systems working. As computers have become a larger part of both the home and the workplace, keeping them operational has become a bigger priority.

The Reward: Computer support specialists have an average annual wage of $49,930*.

The Degree: If you're interested in an IT position, a two-year associate's degree in a computer-related field is a helpful start.

Find Technology programs now.

3. Paralegals

Paralegals assist lawyers in a large variety of ways, preparing depositions, coaching witnesses for trial, drafting contracts, and more. As law firms and businesses continue to shift more legal duties from the hands of high-priced lawyers to paralegals, the need could continue to grow.

The Reward: The median annual wage for paralegals is $49,640*.

The Degree: Unlike lawyers, who must make a hefty education commitment, it's possible to pursue a paralegal position with a two-year associate's degree in paralegal studies.

Find Paralegal Studies associate's degree programs.

4. Fashion Designers

If you have a passion for clothing, you may want to consider a career as a fashion designer. Fashion designers, who are highly concentrated in Los Angeles and New York City, are responsible for the clothing, accessories, and footwear you see at the mall and in stores around the world.

The Reward: In addition to the thrill of seeing their creativity take shape in clothing, fashion designers have a mean annual wage of $74,440*. Remember: starting salaries in fashion can be low, so you'll need to be committed to this career!

The Degree: Fashion designers could be hired on the strength of an innovative, creative portfolio and the education that comes with an associate's degree in fashion design. So if you have a strong fashion sense, that two year investment might be helpful.

Search for Fashion Design programs near you.

5. Food Service Managers

If you want a fast-paced career, consider a position as a restaurant manager. Restaurant managers work with kitchen staff, wait staff...they even interact with customers to ensure that the service and food is up to par. Food ordering, employee recruiting, and preparing payroll are some other common duties.

The Reward: Food service managers have an average annual income of $52,220*. Top earners averaged at $80,410* per year in May 2010.

The Degree: Experience in the food services industry is a common entry path into food service management, however, a two-year associate's degree in hospitality or food service management could also give you real-world experience.

Search for Restaurant Management programs now.

All average salary data is from the U.S. Department of Labor's May 2010 Occupational Employment Statistics

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