17 Top-Paying Jobs With a 2-Year Degree

Author: Maurie Backman | July 18, 2018

Man counting hundred dollar bills.

Source: Getty Images

1 of 18

Earn a living with less time devoted to school

With college costs going nowhere but up, the idea of getting a four-year degree might seem overwhelming from a financial perspective. Case in point: For the previous academic year, tuition alone at a four-year in-state public school cost an average of $9,970 on an annual basis, while out-of-state tuition cost an average of $25,620 a year. And there lies the appeal of the two-year degree, which can be completed in half the time and for a fraction of the cost of a four-year degree. Best of all, you won’t necessarily resign yourself to a lifetime of low earnings by going the two-year degree route. Here are some of the top-paying jobs out there you can snag without actually getting that bachelor’s.

ALSO READ: How Much Is a College Degree Worth?


Previous

Next

Man working in air traffic control tower.

Source: Getty Images

2 of 18

1. Air traffic controller

Median salary: $124,540

Job outlook: 3% growth

Air traffic controllers have one of the most stressful jobs in the country: directing air traffic and helping to ensure that planes take off and land safely. Air traffic controllers are often required to work nights, weekends, and other such demanding shifts, but the payoff, as you can see, is well worth it. To work in air traffic control, you must pass certain medical and background checks, as well as be a U.S. citizen. You must also pass certain courses as determined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy. The good news, however, is that you don’t need a four-year degree to work in this field. 

Previous

Next

Man typing on laptop in front of multiple monitors.

Source: Getty Images

3 of 18

2. Computer programmer

Median salary: $82,240

Job outlook: -7% growth

If you’re a tech person who enjoys creating code, you might consider a career in computer programming, as many companies are willing to hire job candidates with an associate’s degree alone. But while the salary for a programmer is good, the outlook for this profession isn’t. Employment in this field is expected to decline 7% between now and 2026. The reason? Since programming can easily be done remotely, companies are expected to outsource from other countries where labor is notably cheaper. 

Previous

Next

A radiation therapy machine.

Source: Getty Images

4 of 18

3. Radiation therapist

Median salary: $80,570

Job outlook: 13% growth

Radiation therapists work directly with patients, treating cancer and other diseases. If the idea of tending to ill patients sits well with you, you can do pretty well for yourself as a radiation therapist with a two-year degree. You will, however, need to be licensed or certified in most states. Continuing education may be required as well, which means you may need to invest additional time and financial resources into retaining your credentials.

Previous

Next

A nuclear power plant.

Source: Getty Images

5 of 18

4. Nuclear technician

Median salary: $80,370 per year

Job outlook: 1% growth

You’ll need a lot of professional training to work in a nuclear facility. What you don’t necessarily need, however, is a four-year college degree. Keep in mind that while nuclear technicians make a decent living, job growth in the field is projected to be pretty minimal over the next eight years. 

ALSO READ: Let's Face It: Not Everyone Needs a College Degree

Previous

Next

A sheet of x-ray images.

Source: Getty Images

6 of 18

5. Nuclear medicine technologist

Median salary: $75,660

Job outlook: 10% growth

If you like the idea of working with patients, but not necessarily ill ones, you might consider becoming a nuclear medicine technologist. In this role, you’ll perform diagnostic tests that medical professionals will then interpret. Though you will need to become certified to work in this field, you don’t need a bachelor’s degree. And since job growth is estimated at 10% over the next eight years, it’s a good role to consider for long-term stability.  

Previous

Next

Female dental hygienist cleaning female patient's teeth.

Source: Getty Images

7 of 18

6. Dental hygienist

Median salary: $74,070

Job outlook: 20% growth

Though there are four-year hygienist programs out there, you can become qualified to work as a dental hygienist after completing a two-year program as well. You’ll need to become licensed by the state you wish to work in to be employed in this field, but if you like helping patients and earning a nice salary, it pays to look into a hygienist career -- especially since job growth is expected to boom over the next eight years.

Previous

Next

Woman in scrubs standing in front of elderly patient.

Source: Getty Images

8 of 18

7. Registered nurse

Median salary: $70,000

Job outlook: 15% growth

If you like caring for patients, here’s some good news: You can become a registered nurse with just a two-year degree, and you’ll make a pretty nice living in the process. You will need to get licensed to work as a registered nurse, and you’ll be subject to continuing education requirements throughout your career. Still, it’s a worthwhile investment, especially given the outlook for this particular role. 

Previous

Next

Man typing in code on laptop.

Source: Getty Images

9 of 18

8. Web developer

Median salary: $67,990

Job outlook: 15% growth

If you like the idea of coding and creating websites and interfaces, web development might be a good field for you. This role is one that naturally lends itself to flexibility, which means that once you get that two-year degree, you can quite potentially enjoy a competitive salary that comes with a healthy degree of autonomy. In fact, in 2016, one in six web developers was self-employed. 

ALSO READ: Tech Giant Follows a Different Path to Filling Open Jobs

Previous

Next

Woman having an ultrasound.

Source: Getty Images

10 of 18

9. Medical sonographer

Median salary: $65,620

Job outlook: 17% growth

By now, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that there are numerous opportunities within the medical field for folks with a two-year degree. As a medical sonographer, you’ll perform diagnostics on patients in a hospital, lab, or medical office setting. Not only is the pay pretty strong, but with above-average job growth, it’s a pretty solid role to land in. 

Previous

Next

Close up of the chest of a police uniform with badge.

Source: Getty Images

11 of 18

10. Police officer

Median salary: $62,960

Job outlook: 7% growth

Though there’s a fair amount of risk involved in being a police officer, there’s also a fair amount of glory. You don’t need a four-year degree to work as a police officer. Rather, you must complete your local academy’s training program before diving in as a full-fledged officer. Additionally, you must be a U.S. citizen who’s at least 21 years old, and you must fulfill certain physical requirements. Needless to say, the work itself can be stressful, but if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll do pretty well financially. 

Previous

Next

Man writing on a dry erase board.

Source: Getty Images

12 of 18

11. Electronic engineering technician

Median salary: $62,190

Job outlook: 2% growth

Electronic engineers design a wide range of equipment, from navigation tools to medical devices. You can work in this field if you have an associate’s degree coupled with the right skills, and as long as you meet certain criteria, you might even land a government job. Just be aware that while the salary is pretty good for a two-year degree, the outlook for this role isn’t all that encouraging. 

Previous

Next

Man working on an aircraft engine.

Source: Getty Images

13 of 18

12. Avionics technician

Median salary: $61,260

Job outlook: 5% growth

Somebody needs to repair and maintain aircraft, and if you have the skills and a two-year degree, it might as well be you. To work in this field, you’ll generally need to obtain an education from an FAA-approved school, though in some cases, avionics technicians learn their skills in the military. Job growth, however, is only expected to be fair in the coming years -- not great.

ALSO READ: Is an Ivy League Degree Worth It in the Job Market?

Previous

Next

Woman lying down with a breathing mask on her face.

Source: Getty Images

14 of 18

13. Respiratory therapist

Median salary: $59,710

Job outlook: 23% growth

As the name implies, respiratory therapists are tasked with helping people breathe better. If you work in this field, you might land in an ER, a doctor’s office, or even a sleep clinic, as respiratory therapists are often the ones to perform sleep studies on patients. The outlook for this particular role is fantastic, and the salary is pretty competitive given that you only need a two-year degree to get hired. Just be aware that you’ll probably have to fulfill continuing education requirements over the course of your career. 

Previous

Next

Wooden casket being carried.

Source: Getty Images

15 of 18

14. Funeral service worker

Median salary: $56,850

Job outlook: 5% growth

If the idea of working in a funeral home doesn't bum you out, then here's a good opportunity to score a decent salary with a two-year degree. The downside (aside from the bleakness factor), however, is that funeral service workers are often on call, and, as such, don't necessarily have the best work-life balance.

Previous

Next

Man on a ladder working with communications wires.

Source: Getty Images

16 of 18

15. Telecom installer

Median salary: $53,380

Job Outlook: -8% growth

When communication lines break down or need to go up, telecom installers are the ones who get called. The good news is that telecom installers earn a pretty good living without having to invest in a four-year degree. The bad news, however, is that with the general shift to mobile technology, the need for this sort of work is expected to decline in the coming years. 

Previous

Next

Smiling professionally dressed woman at computer.

Source: Getty Images

17 of 18

16. Paralegal

Median salary: $50,410

Job outlook: 15% growth

Paralegals support lawyers with everything from filing motions to communicating with clients. With a two-year degree and some training, you can get yourself hired, but expect to potentially work long hours if employed by a major firm.

ALSO READ: 10 States Where Graduate Degrees Boost Your Pay the Most

Previous

Next

Man working on air conditioner.

Source: Getty Images

18 of 18

17. HVAC installer

Median salary: $47,080

Job outlook: 15% growth

HVAC installers work with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (hence the acronym) and are often in demand because, well, just about every home and business requires air and temperature control. As such, job growth in the field looks good, and while you may need a license depending on where you live and the nature of your work, you can get hired with just a two-year degree.


The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Previous

Next