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Two-year degree could mean a lucrative job

  • Survey ranks top-paying jobs that require an associate's degree
  • Air traffic controller tops the list
  • Medical jobs make up half of the top 10
Two-year degree could mean a lucrative job

With college costs on the rise and student loan debt threatening to become a full-blown crisis, a four-year college degree may be out of reach for many people. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for a small paycheck.

According to a new survey from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists, there are numerous jobs that pay quite nicely and only require an associate's degree. An earlier study from Georgetown University on these so-called "middle jobs" pointed out that nearly 40% of them pay more than $50,000 a year. CareerBuilder's survey focuses on the top of the heap.

The job at the top of the list might surprise you: air traffic controller. The median salary is $113,547, a very nice paycheck no matter what your level of education and not exactly out of line with the heavy responsibility that goes with the job. Besides the potential for stress, the government says jobs in this field are expected to decline slightly over the next several years.

The rest of the top 10 is dominated by jobs involving medicine or nuclear, and a couple that combine the two. 

Radiation therapists, who use radiation to treat patients with cancer and other diseases, place second with a median salary of $76,427, followed by dental hygienists ($70,408), nuclear medicine technologists ($69,638), nuclear technicians ($68,037), registered nurses ($65,853) and diagnostic medical sonographers ($65,499).

A hard left turn at number 8: fashion designer. While the big names in the business make millions, the median salary is $63,170.

The last two spots in the top 10 are in engineering: aerospace engineering and operations technician ($61,547) and engineering technician ($58,698). A study this week found engineering to be the highest-paying major among all college graduates.

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