Five Two-Year Degrees That Pay Off

Many Americans pursue an education as a way to improve their finances. An associate’s degree from a community college or technical institution is often the quickest path towards a better paying job, but some choices yield better financial results than others.

The average salary of an associate’s degree holder in the United States stands at $33,000 with up to four years of experience. Workers with ten or more years earn an average of $46,000 annually. The degrees we talk about next significantly outperform those numbers, providing above average income across the board.

We have chosen five modern and easy to access career paths that require no more than a two-year degree and pay off considerably well. In most cases, an associate’s degree is all that’s required to become eligible for one of these jobs, while others rely on experience and technical expertise.

Read our article on which jobs can make you earn $100,000 per year with nothing more than a two-year degree.

Radiation Therapist

A radiation therapist is a professional who works within a radiation oncology team. Their job is to administer radiation treatment to cancer patients, although they often serve as liaisons with physicians and care providers in general.

As part of their daily routine, radiation therapists are tasked with preparing equipment and maintaining the records and reports about cancer patients. Most healthcare facilities which offer cancer treatment have at least a few radiation therapists on board to make sure operations run as smoothly as possible.

Working as a radiation therapist requires a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. However, people with a two-year degree in Radiography are often hired as long as they are certified in radiation therapy. This certificate takes a year to obtain.

According to data from, a radiation therapist with two to four years of experience can expect a salary of at least $60,000 a year. With ten years of experience or more, the median annual salary goes up to almost $76,000. However, some healthcare facilities will not pay the highest annual salary until employees obtain their bachelor’s degree.

Read our article on how to start a career in medical coding and billing to learn more about this and other similar healthcare positions.

Ultrasound Technician

An Ultrasound Technician is a healthcare professional who handles ultrasonic imaging devices to diagnose a wide array of medical conditions. Most people often associate sonography with viewing babies in the womb, but ultrasound technicians rely on this technology to diagnose hundreds of conditions, such as cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

The required degree to become an ultrasound technician is called sonography. It takes about two years to complete and is divided in several specialties, such as cardiac, obstetrical, vascular and general sonography. People pursuing this career path should be ready to learn about anatomy, physiology and instrumentation.

Ultrasound technicians with four years of experience or less make around $54,000 annually. After ten years of service, annual benefits grow to almost $69,000. However, most sonographers continue their studies, which often increase annual income to as much as $300,000. Those who stick with a two-year degree can expect to remain within $70,000 annually after several years of service.

Wind Turbine Technician

Renewable energy sources are a popular industry at the moment, as wind and solar energy businesses get set up nationwide. This has created a surging need for so-called green-collar workers, who have expertise to install, supervise and maintain the equipment needed to harvest alternative energy resources.

Wind turbine technicians are among the most popular and best paid positions in green energy industries. The average annual salary of a wind turbine technician with no more than four years of experience is $48,000. Workers with more than ten years of experience are paid around $53,000.

Unlike solar panels, wind turbines require constant maintenance to make sure they operate at maximum efficiency. The responsibility to maintain entire wind farm infrastructures falls on the shoulders of wind turbine technicians. People who accept this job should expect to handle a wide array of tasks. They will repair and maintain most wind turbine components, including circuit boards, motors, blades and generators. As such, some knowledge about engineering and electric equipment is required.

So far, there are no specific degrees designed to teach this profession. Most utility companies operating green energy installations have designed training programs to help newcomers get up to speed in a couple of weeks. However, keep in mind that companies often look for workers with knowledge in engineering, or associate’s degrees relevant to the industry.

Railroad Conductor

Railroads are one of the backbones of trade, with millions of products being shipped each year across the country. Working as a railroad conductor has more benefits than people usually think. For example, data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that most railroad workers belong to unions, which means their salaries are often relatively high.

Railroad Conductors are responsible for the coordination of all freight and passenger activities carried out by train crews. On a daily basis, conductors review schedules, shipping records, waybills, switching orders and other relevant paperwork. In general, an associate’s degree is not required to work as a Railroad Conductor. Railroad companies often ask for no more than a high school diploma or GED. The real challenge is to pass formal training programs and perform above expectations during on-the-job training.

On average, a railroad conductor with two to four years of experience makes around $45,000 a year. This number increases significantly for workers with ten or more years of experience, who earn around $80,000 annually. The low academic requirements needed to join this side of the railroad industry means experience plays a major role in employee selection. However, knowledge in mathematics, engineering and management are positive qualities often sought after by railroad companies.

HVAC Controls Technician

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, commonly known as HVAC, is one of the largest maintenance fields in America. The vast majority of personal homes, commercial buildings and industrial complexes rely on HVAC systems to control temperatures both indoors and outdoors. As a result, it is no wonder that HVAC technicians are always in demand.

In general, an HVAC technician has the required expertise to perform installations, diagnostics and repairs of heating and conditioning equipment. This includes troubleshooting, system updates, controls maintenance, software checking and update, system calibrations, and more.

The HVAC controls technician should not be confused with the HVAC controls programmer, which handles different aspects of the HVAC system, particularly writing and debugging programs used to operate installations. However, HVAC controls technicians and programmers often work together within the company.

HVAC technicians usually specialize in either repair or maintenance. They must have good skills in mathematics, mechanical drawing, computer science, and other relevant topics. There are many training programs nationwide designed to give newcomers toolsets to get started in the HVAC business. During their first few years, HVAC technicians can expect to earn around $43,000 annually. After a decade in service, their salary usually rises to around $57,000.


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