Level of education has long affected earnings. The more advanced the degree, the higher salaries tend to be. Just take the difference in pay between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree. As of 2012, half of all workers with an associate degree earned at least $40,820 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median wage for a bachelor’s degree was nearly 36 percent higher, coming in at $55,432 annually. However, some associate degrees provide much better returns than others, and computer science is one of them.
Topping the List
In 2011, computer science took the top spot in U.S. News & World Report’s list of highest paying associate degrees, outperforming criminal justice, paralegal and physical therapy. The average salary for the sample job in this field was anywhere from $44,703 to $63,973 a year. But as with any degree, earnings vary by position and employer.
Salaries Soar for Support
At the very base level, an associate degree in computer science can often qualify you to work in a technical support role. A survey by Modis, a national IT recruiter, found that help desk support staff averaged $46,281 a year in 2013. Those at the senior level brought home closer to $55,023. LAN support staff, who configure, test and maintain local area networks, averaged $49,724 to $75,577, depending on level of experience.
Solving Technical Problems Pays
Training in the computer sciences may also open the door to work as a technician, who installs, configures, upgrades and repairs anything from desktop and laptop computers to operating system software and computer applications. A survey by Robert Half Technology, another national IT recruiter, found that PC technicians started at $32,250 to $47,500 as of 2014. The Modis survey, however, provides a much higher wage, setting the average salary at $40,550 to $54,831, depending on experience. Earnings were even higher for network control technicians, who manage network systems and install any upgrades and enhancements. In 2013, these techs earned between $49,580 and $70,416 a year, depending on experience.
Design Can Deliver Dividends
With an associate degree in computer science, you may find yourself working as a programmer, who designs and develops programming systems. In general, an associate degree only qualifies you to work in lower-level positions, but salaries ranged from $54,500 to $66,486 a year, reports Modis. Salaries for OS programmers, who design and implement computer operating systems, were much higher, averaging $55,143 to $81,188, depending on experience.
Earnings Highest for Administrators
One of the highest paying positions for candidates with an associate degree was systems administrator. These IT professionals install, configure and optimize operating system software, as well as resolve problems with system hardware and software. As of 2014, systems administrators can expect to earn $62,250 to $96,500 a year, according to the Robert Half survey.