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Ten best jobs for two-year degrees

  • Story Highlights
  • Associate's degrees take half the time and cost much less than 4-year degrees
  • Workers with associate degrees will earn on average $1.6 million over 40 years
  • Registered nurses' median annual wage: $60,010
  • Paralegals and legal assistants expect a 22 percent employment increase by 2016
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By Anthony Balderrama
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CareerBuilder

Editor's note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.

A computer specialist is the number one job for a graduate with an associate's degree.

A computer specialist is the number one job for a graduate with an associate's degree.

To continue school or not continue school? That is the question for many high school graduates.

Although college can improve your career opportunities and increase your lifetime earnings, it also takes four years (or more) of your life and a lot of money.

Plus, few majors can guarantee a financial return that will offset the financial debt many students will accumulate during college.

Two-year degrees, of which an associate degree is the most common, provide training and education for a variety of fields in approximately half the time as a bachelor's degree.

Plus, you can earn an associate degree from a local community college for a fraction of the cost of a four-year degree at a university.

Also, for most areas of study, an associate degree puts you halfway toward a four-year degree should you decide to pursue one at a later time.

Perhaps more important to students wondering about their educational future, workers with associate degrees on average earn more money than their counterparts with high school degrees.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over a 40-year period, high school graduates will earn a total of $1.2 million, while workers with associate degrees will earn $1.6 million.

Is it any surprise two-year degrees are becoming an increasingly attractive option for many people?

Based on salary, industry employment and projected job growth, here are 10 of the best jobs for workers with two-year degrees:

1. Computer specialists
Median annual wage: $71,510*
Current Employment: 136,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 15 percent

2. Dental hygienists
Median annual wage: $64,740
Current Employment: 167,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 30 percent

3. Fashion designers
Median annual wage: $62,810
Current Employment: 20,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 5 percent

4. Registered nurses
Median annual wage: $60,010
Current Employment: 2,505,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 23 percent

5. Environmental engineering technicians
Median annual wage: $ 40,560
Current Employment: 21,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 25 percent

6. Radiologic technologists and technicians
Median annual wage: $50,260
Current Employment: 196,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 15 percent

7. Industrial engineering technicians
Median annual wage: $47,490
Current Employment: 75,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 10 percent

8. Paralegals and legal assistants
Median annual wage: $44,990
Current Employment: 238,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 22 percent

9. Occupational therapist assistants
Median annual wage: $45,050
Current Employment: 25,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 25 percent

10. Computer support specialists
Median annual wage: $42,400
Current Employment: 552,000
Projected 2016 employment increase: 13 percent

*Salary and employment data based on Bureau of Labor Statistics information.

Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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