10 Awesome Jobs With an Associate's Degree

A recent graduate holds a degree and smiles.

A little education in the right field goes a surprisingly long way for a military spouse. We discovered these ten great jobs that you can get with an Associate’s Degree through your MyCAA benefit.

All of these are jobs that you can find anywhere, so no need to worry about being limited to the geography of your base. Moreover, they’re all in demand in today’s job market. No matter what your skills or interest, one of these jobs is bound to be a good match for you as you get started with your new career.

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1. Graphic Designer

You’ve always had an eye for design or a desire to doodle. And you know your way around Photoshop, even if you can’t afford to own a legit copy yourself. Your spouse is always bugging you to design the unit t-shirt. Guess what: You are, essentially, a graphic designer.

So give yourself the degree to go with it and start earning a salary that will add considerable comfort to your bank account. Most entry-level graphic designer jobs pay $27,000-$60,000, making the two-year investment on your way to an Associate’s completely worth it.

Plus, a job as a graphic designer is one that grows with you. While you’ll start out as a junior designer or an associate, you can work your way through the ranks to senior designer – and then you can start thinking about bringing in $86,000 a year.

2. Registered Nurse

One good thing about military bases is that, like schools and car dealers, there are always hospitals nearby. And that’s a great place to get started with an associate’s degree in nursing.

When you’re just starting out, you can expect to make between $45,000-$86,000, and all the while you get to help people, too. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the demand for nurses and LPNs is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country.

Bonus point: While a two-year degree can get you in the door, a four-year nursing degree will significantly elevate your job opportunities. So while you’re getting the ropes of the job down, look for an employer who might help defray the cost of getting your Bachelor’s, too.

3. Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists (who you probably know as the super helpful person digging around in your mouth before the dentist comes in) have the kind of job flexibility most milspouses crave. Many work only part-time. You’ll clean teeth, talk shop to the patients in the chair, inevitably calm them down about that dental machinery noise they’re really afraid of. You may even gain experience administering anesthetics or working on fillings. All in all, a great job for a people person with a cheery attitude – and someone who really likes clean teeth. Pay ranges pay somewhere between $47,000- $88,000.

4. Computer Support Specialist

Every time I interview an expert about spouse employment, they can’t wait to mention how in-demand trained computer support people are. The projected growth for this job field by 2018 is supposed to be 78,000 jobs ... that’s a lot of new jobs. So if you’re decent with computers (you know who you are), this could be a great career path for you.

Computer support specialists are specially trained and usually work in IT departments in all kinds of offices. And because nearly every business has an IT department these days, you have a lot of flexibility about what industry you’ll work in. Car dealers, colleges, yogurt companies, and large fitness conglomerates all rely on inside IT help.

So if you want a job with a company you love, pursuing a job in IT could actually mean combining your skills and your passions. Win-win! You’ll probably end up working as technical support or as a help-desk technician, so being a people-person is an added boon. Expected the job to pay somewhere between $29,000 - $57,000.

5. Paralegals

If you’re interested in law, this is a great entry job into a potential career path as an attorney or a great lifetime job researching and gathering information for a law office or legal department.

Paralegals read a lot, so this is the perfect profession for constant readers. Most paralegals get into the field by earning their associate’s degree or getting a certificate.

Some firms you might work for are very corporate and fast-paced. Others will offer a smaller, more boutique experience. Find a firm that practices the kind of law you’re interested in (to make sure that what you’re reading all day is actually engaging).

Get started in this growing field right away. By 2018, an expected 74,100 paralegal jobs are supposed to be added to the market. That’s great news, especially since you can expect to make $29,200 - $67,000.

6. Physical Therapy Assistant

We all know how much physical therapy goes on at a base, and around a base, and in the military in general…so you might as well get a foot in the door. As a physical therapy assistant, you’ll follow the lead of the physical therapist and help rehabilitate the patient.

This can be a very hands-on job, and it’s probably great for you if you’re already a fitness guru. Expect to work directly with patients, help them out and provide them support, record their progress, and report your findings to the physical therapist. You can look forward to making between $39,000 - $69,000.

7. Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists take care of patients who have trouble breathing, usually due to a chronic disease. Think kids with asthma or adults with emphysema.

Respiratory therapists usually work in hospitals, where they can also end up providing emergency breathing assistance to people who have had a heart attack or stroke. Others work in nursing homes or travel to patients’ homes.

While you’ll only need a two-year degree to get the gig, prepare yourself for some tough classes: chemistry and anatomy, to name a few. But if you’ve got what it takes to get through the schooling, you can hope to earn $35,000 - $63,000 a year.

8. Programmer

In the same vein as a computer support specialist, you can also get a two-year degree in programming that can lead to a great, highly paid and successful career as a programmer.

Programmers are much more than just IT gurus who are awesome at a specific computer language, they’re creative thinkers and collaborators who work just as well in a team as they do individually.  Look for programs that offer training in the high-demand Java, JavaScript (also known as HTML5), J2EE, CSS, PHP, and MySQL. If those terms don’t make your head spin, you could be headed for a career as a programmer!

Jobs for these specially-trained, in demand programmers pay from upwards of $40k for someone just starting out to over $100,000.

9. Industrial Engineering Technician

If you have a penchant for numbers and enjoy planning and strategic thinking, a career as an industrial engineering technician might be the right job for you. These technicians work alongside industrial engineers to plan ways for businesses to most effectively use materials, machines, and personnel in factories, stories, hospitals, and many other types of organizations.

As a technician, you’ll help the head engineer plan machinery and equipment layouts, produce statistical production studies, and analyze production costs. So if all those PCS moves have made you a smart-thinking, quick-planning, guru of efficiency, look for a two-year program and look forward to earning $30,000 - $69,000 a year.

10. Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists are responsible for administering, monitoring, and documenting the course of treatment proscribed by a radiologist.

Where you choose to work will determine a lot of the day-to-day of your career: you might work in a radiology department that specializes in sports medicine, rehabbing injured service members or some of your local athletes. You might be a vital part of on oncology team, supporting people through some of life’s biggest challenges. 

No matter where you choose to practice, radiation therapists rely on strong interpersonal skills, a great deal of compassion, careful work habits, and critical thinking skills. If you choose to pursue a career in radiation therapy, you’ll find that this unique profession opens doors to many other job possibilities, including management, education, sales, and technology-related fields. On average, radiation therapists make $49,000 - $92,000 annually.

There are countless other jobs an associate's degree can prepare you for, too. Most community colleges have programs that will train you to be an HVAC technician, electrical engineering technician, or even a pastry line chef! But before you commit to any career path, talk to the guidance counselor at your school or visit the resources at your base, like your local Career Assistance Branch.

Make sure that the job you’re looking at is a best fit for all you have to offer. Putting your skills and interests to use will make going to work everyday something you look forward to, and that -- no matter what kind of job you choose -- is something that can make your whole life better. 

Related: For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Military.com Job Search section.

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