Associate degrees

Associate degrees, trade schools, apprenticeships can lead to high salaries

History is full of successful people who forged their own path away from traditional education. Despite what our culture, your parents, or your own inner critic tells you, there are plenty of high-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Now, although you don’t need a particular bachelor’s degree, you do need education. Some jobs require an associate’s degree, trade school, and others require specific certifications or apprenticeships. But here’s the bottom line: you can make a lot of money and enjoy a meaningful job without spending four years in college.

Here are 10 great examples. But believe me, there are many more.

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Wind turbine technician

Median salary: $52,910; Education needed: non-degree post-secondary scholarship, on-the-job training; Employment growth: 61%

Wind turbines are those huge white windmills that dot the plains and other windy regions of the country. As they become a popular source of alternative energy, the demand for technician jobs is skyrocketing. Technicians work on the installation and maintenance of wind turbines. You must be prepared to spend a lot of time outdoors, but it’s not recommended for people who suffer from vertigo!


Median salary: $56,180; Education required: high school diploma, apprenticeship; Employment growth: 8%

If working with wires piques your interest, you might consider becoming an electrician. You can attend a technical school or find an apprenticeship for on-the-job training. Electricians supply electricity to buildings, homes, transmission lines and various equipment.

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Occupational therapy assistant

Median salary: $59,200; Education required: Associate’s degree; Employment growth: 32%

Occupational therapy is about helping people learn and practice skills for life and work. Most occupational therapy takes place after a person has had an accident or for older people who need help with daily tasks at home.

Occupational therapy assistants work with therapists and physicians to help patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and therapy practices. It’s an active and interactive job that gives you plenty of opportunities to work with people.

X-ray and MRI technologists

Median salary: $62,280; Education required: Associate’s degree; Employment growth: 7%

X-rays and MRIs are diagnostic tools that help doctors and patients understand what is going on inside the body. Technicians are the workers who actually perform the tests and work with doctors to obtain the information needed to diagnose and treat patients.

Aerospace Technician

Median salary: $66,020; Education required: Associate’s degree; Employment growth: 7%

If you’ve always been fascinated by airplanes and enjoy technical work, you might consider becoming an aerospace technician. You will work with aircraft or spacecraft to test and calibrate systems, as well as install and repair various parts.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers/Cardiovascular Technologists

Median salary: $68,750; Education required: Associate’s degree; Employment growth: 12%

Sonographers use medical equipment to create images of organs, tissues and blood vessels that allow people to understand what is going on inside their body. Cardiovascular technicians work with doctors to perform complex procedures related to heart health, such as inserting stents or pacemakers. They also help perform tests to diagnose heart health issues in patients.

Web developer

Median salary: $73,760; Education required: Associate’s degree; Employment growth: 8%

Web developers combine a unique set of technical and creative skills to design and build websites. This is a high demand job that you can find in a variety of agencies or companies. Or you can even go freelance as a freelancer if you’re ready to build strong relationships – and the pay is great!

Dental Hygienist

Median salary: $76,220; Education required: Associate’s degree; Employment growth: 6%

Although teeth cleaning is not for everyone, dental hygienists have the opportunity to impact the lives of their patients by taking care of their oral health. They examine patients, take x-rays, remove dental plaque and advise patients on good hygiene and nutrition habits. Most programs last three years, and you must pass the National Council Dental Hygiene Examination to practice.

Elevator installer and repairer

Median salary: $84,990; Required education: high school diploma; Employment growth: 7%

It’s one of those random jobs that most people take for granted. Elevator installers and repairers make a lot of money working with their hands. It’s no surprise that they often work in cramped quarters around heavy machinery. They often have to be available around the clock for repairs.

air traffic controller

Median salary: $122,990; Education required: Associate’s degree; Employment growth: 1%

Air traffic controllers have the exciting and high-stakes job of directing air traffic from the ground. They sit in those towers with lots of windows that you see in airports. Air traffic controllers often work nights and weekends to keep up with travel schedules. It is extraordinarily demanding work, but with rewarding results.

To note: All median wage calculations were taken from 2019 data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ken Coleman is the nationally syndicated radio host of The Ken Coleman Show and the #1 national bestselling author. He has been featured in Forbes, appeared on Fox News, Fox Business Network and the Rachel Ray Show. Since 2014, he has worked at Ramsey Solutions, where he provides expert advice to help thousands of people every day discover what they were meant to do and how to land their dream job. Follow Ken on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube or on