The cost of a four-year college continues to skyrocket, leaving many saddled with debt well into their careers. But alternative educational avenues can help you get started in many professions. You might consider an associate degree. This degree is a two-year program that costs much less than a four-year college. It can get you into the workforce quickly without the debt associated with university degrees. 

Before pursuing an associate degree, look at the types of jobs you can get.

Associate Degree Jobs in the Medical/Dental Field

You can work in the medical arena with an associate degree. Focus on a program that prepares you for the job you want. 

Dental Hygienist

An associate degree in dental hygiene can get you started in a career as an assistant who cleans dental patients’ teeth. Though the dentist does the major dental work, the hygienist does the cleaning.

This position requires an associate degree in dental hygiene. Check with Commission on Dental Accreditation for accredited programs in your area. You will also need a license in your state. 

Pharmacy Technician

A Pharmacy Technician works under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Duties include retrieving and bottling medicines for patients, as well as providing information about dosages, warnings, and interactions with other drugs. 

Here are some other opportunities in medicine that you can pursue with an associate degree.

Clinical Laboratory Technician

Cardiovascular Technician

Medical Office Assistant

Certified Nursing Assistant

Pharmacy Technician

Medical Assistant

Veterinary Technician


Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)


Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse

Radiology Technician

Surgical Technician

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

MRI Technologist

Ultrasound Technician

Respiratory Therapist

Tip: You may have to get a specific degree for these positions. 

Associate Degree Jobs in the Legal Field

Paralegal or Legal Assistant

You don’t have to be a lawyer to work in the legal field. Become an assistant to a lawyer with an associate degree. 

An attorney may ask you to prepare legal documents, do research, and organize records. You may even interview prospective clients and go to trials and hearings with an attorney. 

Get started with an associate degree in paralegal studies. Check with the school that offers the degree program to make sure it is approved by the bar association in your area. 

Court Reporter

You can get right in the thick of courtroom action as a court reporter. Expect to create transcriptions of legal proceedings and answer questions about what was said by a witness. You may also provide dialogue for television monitors as the testimony happens. 

You will need an associate degree in court reporting from a school accredited in the region where you plan to work. It is possible you will need to take a test showing you can type at above 225 words per minute. 

Other jobs for associate degrees in legal studies include:

  • Law Clerk
  • Legal Receptionist
  • Research Assistant
  • Court Messenger

Tip: Check with your school’s offerings to make sure you will have broad legal training so you can choose the type of job that suits you best. 

Associate Degree Jobs in the Business Field

Your associate degree will help you compete for business-related jobs. Employers often favor candidates who have at least some college, and completing an associate degree is even better. Here are some positions you can pursue with your degree in hand.

Executive Administrative Assistant

This position puts you in the heart of the business world. You will be working for business executives handling administrative and clerical duties. These can range from answering phone calls to scheduling meetings and appointments. You could also be maintaining files, answering emails, and preparing invoices.

Relationship Banker

This is the person that helps customers with issues and tasks that can’t be handled at a teller’s window. You will assist customers in applying for loans and opening personal accounts, as well as establishing trust funds and putting money into investment opportunities. A relationship banker also promotes special offers or bank products and services.

Your associate degree can also help you with a variety of other business opportunities. Here are a few:

  • Customer Service Associate
  • Assistant Store Manager
  • Sales Support Specialist
  • Store Manager
  • Executive Assistant
  • Sales Consultant
  • Sales Supervisor

Associate Degree Jobs in Trades

Many trade schools offer two-year degrees to prepare you for specific jobs. Choose the degree that is targeted toward positions you are interested in.

HVAC Technician

You can work as an HVAC technician where your duties include repairing and installing heating and cooling systems. HVA technicians tend to focus on either residential or commercial jobs. 

The job requires an associate degree in HVAC technology, where you will get hands-on training in maintenance, inspection, repair, and installation. 


A licensed electrician wires homes and businesses for electrical power. The electrician may also install machinery and lighting. You will read blueprints to learn where to install circuits and breakers.

Here are a few other trades to consider when deciding which degree or certification to pursue.

  • Mechanic
  • Plumber
  • Wind Turbine Technician
  • IT Technician
  • Ironworker

Warning: In many trades, you will need to join a union and serve a paid apprenticeship. An apprenticeship can last as much as two to five years.

Associate Degree Jobs if You Have a Liberal Arts Degree

If you choose to get an associate degree in liberal arts, there are still many jobs you can consider. Let’s look at a few.

Administrative Assistant

An administrative assistant does not work for an executive like an executive assistant does, but may work for managers. You will schedule appointments, answer phones, enter data, answer emails, and keep files organized. You need basic computer skills, communication ability, and a knack for organizing.  

Police Officer

Law enforcement officers patrol cities and towns. They enforce the law and arrest violators. In some cases, you will testify in court and write reports about incidents. Police officers are often among first responders in emergencies. 

In addition to an associate degree, you will receive training at a police academy. You will also need to pass physical fitness tests and learn lifesaving skills. Training in firearms will familiarize you with weapons you will be using.

There are many other opportunities you can pursue with your liberal arts associate degree. Here is a sampling.

  • Receptionist
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Installation Technician
  • Human Resources Assistant
  • Office Manager
  • Sales Manager

Tip: Even if you want to work in areas a liberal arts degree does not prepare you for, the fact that you have a degree will give you an advantage over those who only have a high school diploma.

Many people who get an associate degree apply their credits to a university so they can pursue a four-year degree. In this way, the associate degree becomes not only a launching point for a job, but also for further education. 

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