As tuition prices skyrocket and student debt deepens, there’s been a lot of debate around what the value of a degree truly is. A bachelor’s degree no longer guarantees you a job, or even makes you stand out in the job market, while even many master’s degrees don’t always directly translate into gainful employment. And when you have to pour tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars and several years of your life into finishing those programs, it may just not be worth it in the eyes of many job seekers.
However, there are a handful of programs out there that train students on highly in-demand skills, open a tremendous amount of job opportunities and offer a handsome paycheck to boot. There are even options for those who don’t have a bachelor’s degree! Read on to learn more about programs that provide a great return on your educational investment — all in just two years.
1. Master of Science – Physician Assistant
The Job: Physician Assistant
Median Base Salary: $104,097
If you’ve got a passion for medicine, healthcare and helping others, but don’t want to spend the next four years of your life waiting to jump into the workforce, Physician Assistant is the perfect position for you. And you’ll have no trouble finding a position once you graduate — the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this hot job to grow by 30 percent between 2014 and 2024. The cherry on top? Physician Assistant cracked the top ten on our list of the Highest-Paying Jobs in America for 2018.
2. Associate Degree in Aviation Management
The Job: Air Traffic Controller
Median Base Salary: $129,963
Associate’s degrees that can earn you six figures or more are few and far between, but an Associate Degree in Aviation Management is one of them. After this two-year degree, certification and some on-the-job training, you could be pulling in almost as much as the average attorney. If guiding and ensuring the safety of aircraft sounds like the career path for you, you can check out this list of programs from the Federal Aviation Association’s website.
3. Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
The Job: Occupational Therapist
Median Base Salary: $90,182
A challenging but rewarding career field, Occupational Therapists help guide disabled, ill or injured patients through the activities needed to function properly in everyday life. This can involve everything from eating to brushing one’s teeth to typing and more. No need to worry about fighting other candidates for an open position — the BLS estimates that this field will grow by 27 percent between 2014 and 2024, resulting in plenty of jobs to go around.
4. Associate of Applied Science – Nuclear Medicine
The Job: Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Median Base Salary: $77,407
Although it may sound otherwise, this job does not take place at a power plant (sorry, Homer Simpson). Nuclear Medicine Technologists administer radiopharmaceuticals and use medical equipment to see up-close images of patients’ bodies and assist in diagnosis. While it requires a lot of technical know-how, this position requires only two years of formal schooling in the form of an associate’s degree, and it can earn you over $20,000 above the nationwide median salary.
5. Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology
The Job: Speech-Language Pathologist
Median Base Salary: $57,884
Much more than just eliminating speech impediments or improving stutters, Speech-Language Pathologists diagnose and treat a variety of communication disorders so that patients can express themselves to the best of their abilities. After a two-year master’s degree, certification test and a paid, year-long clinical fellowship, Speech-Language Pathologists are on their way to change the world one patient at a time, with a respectable paycheck in tow.
6. Associate Degree in Construction Management
The Job: Construction Project Manager
Median Base Salary: $117,786
If you like using your head and your hands in equal measure, consider becoming a Construction Project Manager. A couple of years spent earning your Associate Degree in Construction Management can fast-track you towards a role in management, where you’ll not only oversee a team of construction workers but also manage budgets, collaborate with engineers and architects and interact directly with clients. Besides the appealing salary and steady job growth, Construction Project Managers tend to be highly satisfied with their jobs, earning a spot on last year’s Best Jobs in America for 2017 list.
7. Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene
The Job: Dental Hygienist
Median Base Salary: $77,464
While they may not get all the credit that dentists do, Dental Hygienists are the ones that do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to making your teeth squeaky clean when you stop in for your six-month check-up, in addition to screening for signs of oral diseases and coaching patients on proper dental care. You might call them real-life Tooth Fairies, but these dental professionals pull in much more than just a quarter under their pillows.
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and editorial staff of Glassdoor. The degrees and jobs highlighted in this article are curated by the editorial staff, listed in no particular order, and do not necessarily reflect the official methodology of Glassdoor’s official awards or honors. For more details about how companies and specific roles are considered for editorial coverage, please visit Glassdoor for Employers.