It's common for students to wonder whether the degree they are spending time and money to earn is really going to pay off after it is completed. "Are there really job prospects for this degree?" "Will I be in demand in the job market?" These are sensible questions to ask, and in order to shed some light on them, we've compiled this list of 10 in-demand associate degrees that can be earned online.
We based this list on the job projections made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) -- every subject on this list is linked to at least one career that the BLS predicts should experience above-average job growth between the years of 2016 and 2026. If you're looking for a reliable career path, consider these 10 in-demand associate degree programs, organized in order of projected percentage of employment change for their associated career.
Earning a physical therapy assistant degree can let you get hands-on with people, improving their mobility and helping them through stretching, massage and more. Not only can an associate degree program in physical therapy assisting aid in a fast-growing career, but it can introduce you to pertinent knowledge in anatomy, biomechanics, kinesiology and physiology. Two years spent wisely in an associate degree program for physical therapy assisting can create many opportunities and put you on your way toward employment in a hospital, nursing care facility, doctor's office or private physical therapy business.
You may want to consider a respiratory therapist (RT) program if you are intrigued by an in-demand health care career that lets you make a difference in the lives of people with respiratory illnesses and conditions. An associate degree program in respiratory therapy can help you to become adept in areas like airway management, lung expansion therapy, mechanical ventilation and more. Graduates of respiratory therapy programs can later work toward certification and attain titles such as sleep center technologist, polysomnographic technologist or pulmonary function technician; the potential pay that can result from such work may be equally enticing.
Another in-demand associate degree program is radiologic science, an allied health care field that can lead to a career in X-ray use and computed tomography (CT). In a two-year RT program, students usually learn about anatomy, pathology and radiation physics and protection, while participating in hands-on clinical experiences. Certification is necessary for employment, but RTs can create their own career paths working in a hospital, outpatient clinic or doctor's office as diagnostic medical sonographers, magnetic resonance imaging techs or radiation therapists, all of which are generally compensated rather well.
Working with pets and animals may be more your cup of tea, in which case a two-year associate degree program in veterinary assisting can be a good way to jumpstart your career. Veterinary technologists and technicians can work in settings as varied as clinics, wild animal parks and even zoos. In a veterinary assistant associate degree program, you may find yourself gaining skills in diagnostic imaging, lab animal science, exotic medicine, surgical nursing and more. Students can also learn more details about working with veterinarians and other related professionals, perhaps providing a better sense of what veterinary careers entail and which one best suits each student personally.
The dentist might be the first or only career you think of in relation to dental work, but in fact it takes many different people to keep a dentist's office running smoothly. An associate degree program in dental assisting can help you become one of these people. In the process of the program, you may learn many different facets of dental care, including how to clean teeth, remove stains, take X-rays and, of course, work as part of a larger dental team. While the median annual pay for a dental hygienist or assistant may not be as high as for a full-fledged dentist, their wages can still reach well above the median annual wages of all occupations in the U.S.
Open the doors to opportunities as a geological and petroleum technician, an environmental engineering technician or an environmental science and protection technician through an associate degree program in environmental science. It's easy to assume that an advanced degree is necessary for a career in science, but as it turns out, that's not true. There is plenty of need for technicians in these fields, and an associate degree can be sufficient to step up and fill that need -- helping you learn how to collect samples and how to analyze them for different materials and pollutants.
For all the excitement and legal jargon of preparing a case for court without the pressure of prosecution or defense on your head, consider the role of a paralegal. Online associate degree programs can teach you many things about the field, including how to prepare legal paperwork and to file court documents. In addition to the appealing median annual wages and the large number of job openings predicted, paralegal careers can be an excellent springboard for other, even more advantageous opportunities in law.
If you're fascinated by the unseen world we can glimpse beneath a microscope, then a career analyzing blood and tissue samples for diseases, abnormalities and brand-new discoveries might be the perfect choice for you. And not only can this career save lives, but it can improve yours with its encouraging projections in terms of the job market. A clinical lab science degree program can teach students about blood banking, microbiology, clinical hematology and more -- knowledge that can even help prepare students to sit for testing certification, giving them an avenue for further improving their job prospects or salary potential after earning their degree.
Online associate degrees in early childhood education present the chance for prospective teachers to learn about literacy, health, safety, nutrition, expressive play and more. These programs can even help new graduates to seek related credentials, which can more quickly open career doors. The field of early childhood education is wide open to graduates who have earned their associate degree, creating opportunities for future teacher assistants, childcare center directors, nannies, childcare workers and preschool teachers.