Getting a degree can empty out your bank account and leave you struggling to pay off student debt for years. According to the College Board, it costs on average $23,000-$$33,000 to attend a private college, or public college from out of state. It costs $9,410 a year to attend a state or public college if you’re FROM that state. If a bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete, you’re looking at a $37,6402 price tag even with this cheapest option.

However, there are jobs out there that will hire you with an associates degree or professional certificate. Associates degrees and professional certificates are often offered at community colleges, and take only 2 years to complete—cutting the price of a degree in half.

Here are the top five certificate programs and associates degrees that can get you a well-paying job in 2017:


1. Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

Study criminal justice and work in the field of law enforcement. There are plenty of high paying jobs available to those with just an associate degree. Like working with people and have a tolerance for a high-stress position? Become police officer and make up to $100,000 a year. You could also become a private investigator, correctional officer, crime scene technician, bailiff, or even a paralegal. Hate people, but love the outdoors? An associate degree in criminal justice is also a path to becoming a fish and game warden. Imagine having a national park as your office! The diversity of positions available to a graduate of criminal justice makes this our number one choice for 2018.

2. Certificate in Web Design 

In 2018, no business or institution can survive without a website. A website is the most convenient way for people get information, sign up for services, and look up credentials that make institutions trustworthy. If you like the freelance life, you can make a career out of designing websites for companies or individuals in any field under the sun.

3. Associate Degree in Accounting

If you’re great with numbers and are interested in a corporate position, you may consider getting an associate degree in accounting. You’ll learn valuable skills in cost accounting, taxation, payroll accounting, and financial statement analysis. These transferrable skills make accounting a career with frequent opportunities for promotion, and you’ll certainly be getting your money’s worth with this degree.

4. Certified Nurse Aide (C.N.A) Certificate

Despite the challenges Obamacare is facing at a national level, the healthcare industry is booming. You can take a preparation course (usually around 100 hours) that includes both classroom hours and hands-on training in First Aid and patient care. Land a job in a hospital or as a live-in caregiver, and make up to $25 an hour. Furthermore, becoming a C.N.A. is a great stepping-stone if you’re considering an even lucrative career as a certified registered nurse (CRN).

5. Veterinary Assistant Certificate

If you love animals and like taking care of them, consider a Veterinary Assistant Certificate. Veterinary Assistants make up to $18 an hour, and you could earn a certificate in less than two years. Take classes such as physiology and anatomy, and learn proper techniques for vaccination, nail trimming, bandaging, and grooming. Veterinary Assistant positions are available at Veterinary Clinics, Hospitals, and Emergency & Referral Centers.


The range of jobs available to people with associate’s degrees or professional certificates makes them a valuable option when considering higher education opportunities. If you’re considering one of these programs, your first step would be to look up a community college or certificate program near you, and contact their admissions office for more information on eligibility requirements and financial aid. Who knows? One of these programs may lead to the career of your dreams!

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