Make $45,000+ with an Associate’s Degree

Great opportunities in the health industry available for people who have only a two-year degree

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Joining the health care field doesn’t require 12 years of training to become a medical doctor. Many good-paying, satisfying positions in health care require only an associate’s degree. These careers limit the amount of debt the student acquires as they’re attending classes only two years. Plus, many community colleges and smaller, less expensive institutions offer the coursework required. In addition, students uncertain of their career path invest only two years in their education. Some of these positions also may segue into provider positions with additional education.

The annual mean wage and projected growth (through 2024) statistics are according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, specific to Rochester, Western New York, and Syracuse, respectively.

Food Services Manager

The food services manager’s role includes working with dietitians, medical staff and social workers to meet patients’ dietary needs while in the hospital. It’s also a managerial role, involving working with staff that prepare and deliver meals. Food knowledge and good people skills combine in this career. Local schools offering a certificate in Food Services Management include Monroe Community College (
Annual mean wage: $51,960
Projected growth: 5 percent

Respiratory Therapist

Whether from an injury of lung illness or disease, patients seek the help of a respiratory therapist to improve their breathing. Like a physical therapy assistant, a respiratory therapist should relate well to people, record accurate information in patient charts and exhibit an ability to think creatively to help patients who struggle with completing their exercises. Many respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Genesee Community College ( offers a certificate in respiratory therapy.
Median annual salary: $54,220
Projected growth: 12 percent

Radiographers and MRI Technologist

At hospitals, outpatient clinics and independent diagnostic offices, radiographers perform diagnostic tests, including X-rays and MRI techs perform MRIs. People with empathy and attention to detail can fit well in these careers. Monroe Community College ( offers certificates in radiography.
Median annual salary: (MRI) $63,460 (Radiographer) $52,580
Projected growth: 9 percent

Cardiovascular Technician

As its name denotes, a cardiovascular technician helps people with heart problems. Specifically, they use imaging equipment to perform diagnostic tests physicians use to diagnose heart problems. “Soft skills” and ability to follow protocols can help cardiovascular technicians succeed. They usually work in hospitals or heart centers. Rochester Institute of Technology ( offers a certificate echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound).
Median annual salary: $55,080
Projected growth: 24 percent

Medical Sonographer

Working in outpatient, hospital and physicians’ offices, the medical sonographer operates equipment used to perform diagnostic tests on organs and soft tissues. They can specialize in maternity, children, breasts or other areas. Rochester Institute of Technology ( offers a certificate in diagnostic medical sonography.
Median annual salary: $68,170
Projected growth: 24 percent

Dental Hygienist

Dental patients often spend more time with their dental hygienist than the dentist. But they do far more than just clean teeth. They also perform patient intakes, update charts, screen for a variety of oral health issues and take X-rays. Dental hygienists need a warm personality as well as close attention to detail. Eastman Institute for Oral Health ( is one example of a local school offering dental hygienist certificates.
Median annual salary: $61,210
Projected growth: 19 percent

Radiation Therapist

Usually working with oncologists, radiation therapists treat cancer patients in hospital and cancer clinic settings. Radiation therapists work with equipment that delivers doses of radiation, so complying with safety guidelines is extremely important. Solid science and math skills and also exceptional people skills are required for the radiation therapist, as they work with patients and families facing what’s often a life-changing diagnosis. Monroe Community College ( offers a certificate in radiation therapy..
Median annual salary: $66,930
Projected growth: 14 percent

The employee’s location, specific employer, experience, and coursework can influence the annual salary. The New York Office of College and University Evaluation website ( can help you determine the educational requirements of these professions and what New York-based institutions can help you obtain the education required to practice these careers in New York.

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