You don't have to get a bachelor's degree to have a successful career. In fact, there are lots of high-paying, meaningful jobs that you can land with an associate degree. To help you make a smart choice about where you should earn an associate degree, PayScale has ranked over 400 schools that grant 2-year degrees in this year's College Salary Report. You can compare the the salaries for workers with zero to five and 10 or more years of experience who graduated from a wide variety of schools, including public community colleges, private career colleges, for-profit schools, not-for-profit schools, and colleges and universities that offer associate degrees in addition to bachelor's degree programs.
The Best 2-Year Schools by Salary
This year, public colleges in New York State take gold and silver medals for the highest-earning alumni. The highest median mid-career salary comes from alumni of the CUNY, New York City's College of Technology in New York, New York. CUNY alum typically earn $72,200 with 10 or more years of experience. New York's Fashion Institute of Technology alumni report the second-highest median mid-career salaries on our list, earning $72,100 after 10 years in the workforce. FIT is a public college that offers both 2- and 4-year programs. It takes a while for alumni to reach those numbers though. In the first five years of working, FIT alumni only report a median early career salary of $42,300. Considering most alumni go to work in the highly competitive fashion industry, it makes sense that it takes time for alumni to find a solid career path and nurture their careers. A whopping 85 percent of FIT students are female.
High Early Career Salaries for Associate Degrees
Excelsior College, also in New York, is home to alumni with the highest early career salaries. Excelsior, formerly known as Regence College, has strong medical programs, possibly explaining the high earning potential. Alumni with zero to five years of experience earn a typical salary of $54,300 -- that's higher than the median early career salaries at many 4-year schools.
Community Colleges Are a Good Value
In general, public community colleges produce the highest earners. If you are looking for an affordable education, that's a good thing -- community colleges are usually the most affordable way to get a college education whether you want an AA or want to transfer to a 4-year school.