11 Cheapest College Degrees with Lowest Unemployment Rates


If you’re looking for a great deal of success and a high-paying job for your future, then getting the right education is critical to your progress. And if you’re looking for the least costly type of degree, then a two-year Associate’s degree may just be right for you.

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According to PayScale (www.payscale.com), people with associate degrees in these areas are some of the highest-paid career paths that don’t need advanced degrees: dental hygiene, fashion design, medical technicians, engineering* and computer programming. Graduates with these degrees often earn salaries of more than $50,000 with approximately 10 years of experience on average.

(*It is important to note that although many engineering jobs rank as some of the highest paying jobs in today’s marketplace, engineering degrees are also very expensive. In fact, students who are enrolled in 4-year engineering programs in the United States often pay up to $5,000 more in tuition per year than students enrolled in other programs.)

If you’re thinking of a new career and are wondering what field to choose, find out what the best major for your highest paying future career should be here, with this list of the most affordable college degrees that have the best employment rates:

 

#11 Pharmacy Technician/Assistant

Degree Needed:                                              Pharmacy Technician/Assistant

Median Annual Salary:                                 $32,000

Entry Level Education:                                 Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                       $7000-$9000

On the Job Training:                                     Moderate

Job Outlook:                                                   9% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    1.4%

 

Offering support to pharmacists, Pharmacy Technicians dispense medication to customers or health professionals. Working in pharmacies found in hospitals, grocery stores, or drug stores, Pharmacy Technicians are required to have computer skills and spend a great deal of time standing on their feet, and may be required to work evenings and weekends. Record-keeping, running a cash register, and other basic administrative skills may be required as well as communication skills with customers, physicians, and insurance companies. Some states may require certification exams for Pharmacy Technicians.

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#10 Biomedical Equipment Technician

Degree Needed:                                             Biomedical Equipment Technology (BMET)

Median Annual Salary:                                   $46,800 (plus possible bonuses)

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $6500-$9,000

On the Job Training:                                       Moderate

Job Outlook:                                                    6% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    4.3%

 

A highly sought after career involving technologically savvy people, Biomedical Equipment Technicians typically spend their days installing, repairing, maintaining, and requesting parts for patient care equipment. Record-keeping is also very important in this career. Those performing these jobs are typically employed by health care systems, hospitals, or medical equipment retail centers. Those who work in hospitals may be required to be on call overnight or weekend shifts in order to provide round-the-clock coverage. Some BMETs will voluntarily obtain certifications in order to increase employment and advancement opportunities.

 

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#9 Physical Therapist Assistant or Aide

Degree Needed:

Median Annual Salary:                                   $43,000

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $9000-11,000

On the Job Training:                                       None

Job Outlook:                                                    40%

Unemployment Rate:                                    1.8%

 

Working under the direction and supervision of a Physical Therapist, Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) help patients who are in the recovery process from injury or illness, or those who are working to increase mobility due to disability. This is a very active job, involving a great deal of physical activity such as moving equipment, assisting patients in performing exercises, and working with their hands. Excellent interpersonal skills are necessary as much time is spent encouraging patients to do their best and improve. All states require licensing or certification for Physical Therapist Assistants.

 

#8 Occupational Health and Safety Technician

Degree Needed:                                             Occupational Health and Safety

Median Annual Salary:                                   $54,923

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $9000-$12,000

On the Job Training:                                       Moderate

Job Outlook:                                                    9% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    2.4%

 

Technicians in the Occupational Health and Safety field work to prevent workers, property, the environment, and the general public from experiencing harm. Duties may range from designing safe work spaces, inspecting equipment, testing air quality, or collecting data to evaluate safety programs. Hazards may be measured using scientific equipment, samples may need to be carefully collected, and test results may need to be analyzed. The work place for Occupational Health and Safety Technicians may vary significantly depending on the industry in which the employee is working. Some areas may require personal protective equipment to be worn on the field while other jobs may function more in the capacity of an office.

 

#7 Computer Support Specialist

Degree Needed:                                             Computer Support

Median Annual Salary:                                   $52,000

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree or less

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $10,000-$13,000

On the Job Training:                                       Minimal

Job Outlook:                                                    12% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    3.8%

 

As the computer industry continues to grow and change, the need for computer support specialists continues to develop. People in this field of work should not only have strong computer skills but should also have good interpersonal skills including speaking, writing, and listening skills. As problem-solvers, Computer Support Specialists often spend time talking with customers or organizations, giving advice on how to use computer equipment and software. Two branches of this field may find that they are supporting IT employees within an organization (Computer Network Specialists) or assisting non-IT users with computer problems (Computer User Support Specialists). Almost all the time for this career is spent sitting at a desk and many support specialists are needed at odd hours of the day to provide support, so there is no guarantee that this is a typical day job.

 

#6 Respiratory Therapist

Degree Needed:                                             Respiratory Therapy

Median Annual Salary:                                   $58,000

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $9000-$12,000

On the Job Training:                                       None

Job Outlook:                                                    12% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    1%

 

Providing support for medical patients who have problems with breathing, Respiratory Therapists typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, and other environments administering medical care. Because of this, jobs may require non-standard hours such as evenings and weekends. Patients may suffer from chronic disease such as asthma, they may be elderly patients who have diseased lungs, they may be premature babies with underdeveloped lungs, or anywhere in between. Because of the constant interaction with people (including patients and other medical staff), Respiratory Therapists should enjoy working with people and have a capacity for medical equipment and record keeping.

 

#5 Fashion Designer

Degree Needed:                                             Fashion Design

Median Annual Salary:                                   $63,670

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $8000-$13,000

On the Job Training:                                       None

Job Outlook:                                                    3% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    3.7%

 

Creating and drawing patterns and specifications for clothing, fashion designers spend a great deal of time at a drafting table as well as choosing colors, styles, textiles, and production methods. Fashion trends must be followed carefully by fashion designers to keep the work fresh and original. Demographics for certain lines must be studied and understood as fashion is a rapidly changing marketplace. A strong portfolio is necessary to gain employment and many businesses require experience through unpaid internships. The field is very competitive and careers can benefit from skills such as Computer Aided Design (CAD), Adobe, and other computer programs.

 

#4 Web Developer

Degree Needed:                                             Web Development or Computer Technology

Median Annual Salary:                                   $65,000

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree or less

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $9,000-$12,000

On the Job Training:                                       None

Job Outlook:                                                    27% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    2.0%

 

Creating and designing website has never been more lucrative. As the technology age continues to grow, the prospects and demand for web designers and developers is growing much faster than the average job market. Web developers create and design websites, having the responsibility for the way that the websites look as well as for the way that they function in performance, user-friendliness, traffic flow, and speed. Web developers may also create content, but they may farm that out to content writers as well. Many web developers are self-employed and those who are not typically work in the computer industry in a very typical office environment.  Specific certifications are not required, but the continued ability to keep up with this fast-moving industry will be critical.

 

#3 Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Degree Needed:                                             Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Median Annual Salary:                                   $68,970

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $9000-$12,000

On the Job Training:                                       None

Job Outlook:                                                    24% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    0.4%

 

Aiding with the diagnosis of ailments, sonogram and ultrasound equipment use sound waves to create images. Although Diagnostic Medical Sonography is often associated with obstetrics for imaging during pregnancy, the technology has a significant number of other applications throughout the entire body. Sonographers operate the imaging equipment that captures the images into either still photographs or through videography. The technician is simply the photographer while the diagnosis is actually performed by a physician. Sonographers have a great deal of patient interaction and must communicate well before, during, and after imaging procedures.

 

#2 Dental Hygienist

Degree Needed:                                             Dental Hygiene

Median Annual Salary:                                   $72,500

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $8000-$11,000

On the Job Training:                                       None

Job Outlook:                                                    19% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    0.9%

 

Caring for teeth through cleaning, removal of deposits, examining gums, taking x-rays, and teaching patients to perform their own dental hygiene at home, Dental Hygienists typically work daily in a dental office. Other duties may include cleaning and sterilizing tools, keeping records, helping to administer anesthetics, and even helping to place fillings or remove sutures depending on the specific State rules. Dental Hygienists are required to be licensed by the state in which they practice after graduating from an accredited dental hygiene school. Candidates should very much enjoy working with people as their days are filled with not only patients but also with dentists, dental assistants, and office staff. Good manual dexterity is also required.

 

#1 Occupational Therapy Assistant or Aide

Degree Needed:

Median Annual Salary:                                   $55,000

Entry Level Education:                                   Associate’s Degree

Estimated Cheapest Tuition:                        $5000-$8000

On the Job Training:                                       Moderate

Job Outlook:                                                    40% growth

Unemployment Rate:                                    0%

 

A rapidly growing field, Occupational Therapy helps patients recover, improve, and develop skills that are necessary for working and daily life, whether related to injury, illness, or disabilities. Occupational Therapy Aides and Assistants provide therapy to patients under the direct supervision of an Occupational Therapist, often in a hospital or medical office environment. This may include support activities such as physical rehabilitation, emotional support, or professional job development. The ability to assist and instruct patiently are necessary, and interaction with the patient or the patient’s family is likely, which makes strong interpersonal skills a precursor to success in this field. As much time may be spent moving actively and on the feet, candidates should be in good physical health. Paperwork such as record-keeping, billing, scheduling, and other administrative duties may be required as needed. Certification and licensure is necessary for Assistants in nearly all of the states, while Aides are not regulated.

 

Resources:

www.bls.gov

www.payscale.com

www.usnews.com

www.studentscholarships.org

www.collegecalc.org

www.associatesdegree.com

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