(STACKER) Although it all depends on what you make of it, choosing to further your education may lead to higher paying job opportunities. An associate’s degree takes just two years and offers more affordable tuition rates than a four-year school. As of April 2022, the average yearly salary for an individual with an associate’s degree comes out to $45,989.


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Students have a plethora of specialties to choose from when obtaining a 2-year degree, from industry-specific roles in health care or IT or a more generalized education path. Salaries differ between areas of study, job type, experience, and, of course, location. A Georgetown University study that looked at job growth and education requirements through 2020 stated that 30% of job openings required “at least some college or an associate’s degree.” Students can choose to head right into the workforce after earning an associate’s, or continue their education toward earning a bachelor’s degree.

The unemployment rate for associate’s degree holders is only 2%, according to research from the Education Data Initiative. Having an associate’s degree under your belt is proven to increase one’s chance of holding a professional or management position in any number of industries, among them education and health, wholesale retail and trade, and professional and business services.

Stacker compiled a list of the highest and lowest paying jobs that require a 2-year degree in Santa Fe, NM using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs are ranked by 2021 annual mean wage.

#11. Veterinary technologists and technicians

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $34,840
– #255 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 70

National
– Annual mean salary: $37,860
– Employment: 109,490
– Metros with highest average pay:
— San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($57,990)
— San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ($52,220)
— Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA ($51,340)

#10. Preschool teachers, except special education

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $39,440
– #87 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 160

National
– Annual mean salary: $36,550
– Employment: 370,940
– Metros with highest average pay:
— Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA ($49,990)
— Ocean City, NJ ($49,720)
— Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ ($49,560)

#9. Forest and conservation technicians

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $42,620
– #101 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 50

National
– Annual mean salary: $42,780
– Employment: 30,150
– Metros with highest average pay:
— Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA ($68,370)
— Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH ($66,570)
— Corvallis, OR ($62,260)

#8. Human resources assistants, except payroll and timekeeping

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $45,000
– #77 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 40

National
– Annual mean salary: $44,170
– Employment: 108,470
– Metros with highest average pay:
— San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($60,080)
— San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ($55,410)
— Napa, CA ($54,120)

#7. Architectural and civil drafters

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $45,440
– #354 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 40

National
– Annual mean salary: $59,120
– Employment: 99,180
– Metros with highest average pay:
— Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC ($76,060)
— San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ($75,700)
— Anchorage, AK ($75,650)

#6. Paralegals and legal assistants

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $49,550
– #208 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 240

National
– Annual mean salary: $56,610
– Employment: 332,720
– Metros with highest average pay:
— San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($90,640)
— Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA ($76,960)
— San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ($75,640)

#5. Civil engineering technologists and technicians

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $51,400
– #209 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 150

National
– Annual mean salary: $56,590
– Employment: 67,270
– Metros with highest average pay:
— San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ($92,190)
— Vallejo-Fairfield, CA ($83,250)
— Baton Rouge, LA ($81,340)

#4. Physical therapist assistants

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $59,850
– #170 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 40

National
– Annual mean salary: $59,440
– Employment: 92,740
– Metros with highest average pay:
— San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($85,960)
— San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ($78,740)
— Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA ($76,390)

#3. Radiologic technologists and technicians

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $63,050
– #147 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 80

National
– Annual mean salary: $64,840
– Employment: 206,720
– Metros with highest average pay:
— Vallejo-Fairfield, CA ($127,890)
— San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($118,480)
— San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ($118,100)

#2. Computer network support specialists

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $66,840
– #134 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 110

National
– Annual mean salary: $71,040
– Employment: 184,220
– Metros with highest average pay:
— Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA ($94,120)
— Barnstable Town, MA ($93,670)
— New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA ($92,190)

#1. Dental hygienists

Santa Fe, NM
– Annual mean salary: $92,440
– #47 highest pay among all metros
– Employment: 100

National
– Annual mean salary: $78,050
– Employment: 194,830
– Metros with highest average pay:
— Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA ($125,750)
— San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($122,660)
— San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ($119,320)