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You can make more money with less classroom time than you might think. Nearly one third of people who hold associate’s degrees earn more money than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to a report released by Demos, a research and advocacy organization. Part of the reason these two-year degrees can lead to higher salaries is the targeted training they provide. So in only two years of full-time training, you could be enjoying a more rewarding career, a higher salary, and a job with a promising potential for future growth.

Career #1: Dental Hygienist

Earn a living caring for people’s teeth and gums. With a degree in dental hygiene, you’ll work closely with a dentist. Part-time work is common in the career, and hygienists who want to earn more may work with multiple dentists. Hygienists earned mean annual wages of $66,950 in 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports.

Career #2: Registered Nurse

Put your compassion to work by getting an associate’s degree in nursing. Working as a registered nurse means having a focused knowledge of health issues and techniques. Long or late hours are common, but nurses can often set their schedules to meet their needs. The BLS reports that registered nurses earned mean annual wages of $65,130 in 2008.

Career #3: Legal Assistant

Go behind the scenes of the legal world as a legal assistant. With a degree in legal assisting, you’ll help research and prepare cases, help lawyers organize their presentations, and work with clients. Part-time work is common, and assistants can often enjoy some flexibility in their schedules. Legal assistants earned mean annual wages of $48,790 in 2008, according to the BLS.

Career #4: Computer Programmer

Create the software and devices we rely on with a degree in computer science. If you have a passion for technology, a head for math, and an eye for details, you can excel in the career. Full-time work is common for computer programmers, with most logging forty-hour work weeks in an office setting. Computer programmers earned mean annual wages of $73,470 in 2008, according to the BLS.

Career #5: Engineering Technician

Work with licensed engineers to design and implement technologies in a range of fields, including civil, electrical, and biomedical engineering. Full-time work is common. Some engineers regularly visit work sites, and their jobs may involve travel. Civil-engineering technicians earned mean annual wages of $45,730, according to the BLS.

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