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Associate's Degrees Worth a Second Look

If you are looking for a way to boost your job-seeking advantage, you might want to consider adding an associate’s degree to your military resume. There are a number of reasons an associate’s degree path might be a perfect complement to military experience.

For starters, in certain industries, such as the ones listed below, job prospects are higher for associates degree holders.

Because most associates programs are two years long as opposed to the four or more required to obtain a bachelor’s degree, the tuition costs are lower.

And finally, according to the United States Census bureau, associate’s degree holders earn an average of $400,000 more over a lifetime than high school graduates. That’s a considerable return on investment. Take a look at these high demand areas and you might decide it’s high time to seek your associate’s degree.


An associate’s degree in accounting will qualify you for entry-level accounting jobs, including:

  • Accounts receivable clerk and accounts payable clerk. CareerBuilder Salary cites starting salaries for these jobs range between $21,000 and $27,000 and can reach around $50,000 for those with experience.
  • A potential career path from AR or AP clerk might include additional education, certification and experience and lead to CPA or controllers – with six-figure salaries.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the nursing industry as one of the few areas in which job growth should remain strong throughout the next ten years. With an associate’s degree in nursing, you can work on staff at a hospital or other inpatient institution.

  • Registered nurses starting salaries are about $30,000, although RNs are often paid overtime for nights and weekend shifts. The BLS cited 2010 median annual wages for full-time RNs at just under $65,000.

Information technology

Although you may need to earn vendor certification to work with particular systems, an associate’s degree can help you get a job as an IT specialist, help desk analyst, network technician or support specialist.

  • Information Technology/Computer support specialist. A review of job openings posted on various boards as well indicated that entry-level salaries in this field have a fairly wide range, between $30,000 - $50,000.
  • CareerBuilder Salary puts the national average at around $60,000.

Like nursing, IT is another field where job growth is expected to be steady over the next few years.

Applied science

Many military members have a strong background and training in several areas that fall under this umbrella. Examples of concentrations within applied science include telecom engineering, aviation maintenance, air traffic control and digital media technology. A two-year associate’s degree combined with military experience will give candidates a leg up on a job – but take note that the higher paying positions can require additional certifications.


High job growth – up to 22 percent through 2018 – is projected in this field over the next eight years, says the BLS. As more attorneys are leaving the legal field, the ones that remain are turning to paralegals and legal assistants to manage much of the day to day research, document preparation, and court and client interaction. Starting paralegals tend to earn salaries in the mid $30,000s; like most other careers, that salary usually increases with experience.

Electrical engineering

With an associate’s degree in electrical engineering, you are prepared to assist electrical engineers in the design, testing and production of electronic components. There are optional certifications in specific areas of this industry, plus a mandatory Professional Engineer license, that can help to boost both salary and job prospects.

  • Engineering technician. The telecommunications industry is a hotbed for engineering technician jobs. The BLS states starting salaries in this field are about $33,000 and the median is around $55,000 annually.

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