2022 Highest Paying Associate Degrees & Programs

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If signing up for 4 years of college is a bigger commitment than you want to make right now, then pursuing one of the highest paying associate degrees could be a strategic alternative.

Highest Paying Associate Degrees & Programs

In about 2 years, you could earn a college degree with high salary potential. Associate degrees can provide entry-level training for exciting, lucrative fields.

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Whether you’re interested in law, engineering, technology, or medicine, there could be a promising associate degree waiting for you.

Highest Paying Associate Degrees

If you’re looking for 2 year degrees that pay well, then check out the following collection of 20 rewarding associate degree programs. You’ll find salary and job growth information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as must-know details about each field of study.

Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

Both of these fields offer plenty of opportunity for growth, a lot of different job prospects, and plenty of job security.

Aeronautics Associate Degree

Aeronautics Associate Degree

  • Air Traffic Controller
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $72,760
  • Annual Median Salary: $130,420
  • Job Growth: 4%

Aeronautics is the science of flight. Students in this degree program prepare for exciting careers in the world of airplanes and other aircraft.

In aeronautics programs, you’ll study aviation science concepts like propulsion and aerodynamics. Other topics can include weather, maintenance, management, and instrumentation. Some programs include flight training that can lead to pilot licensure.

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A beneficial path to becoming an air traffic controller is to earn a college degree from a school that’s approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). For this career, it’s also necessary to meet specific age and health criteria. Other aeronautics jobs include pilot, airplane mechanic, airport manager, or security screener. The career options available to you may depend on the focus of your particular aviation program.

Radiation Therapy Technology Associate Degree

Radiation Therapy Technology Associate Degree

  • Radiation Therapist
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $60,080
  • Annual Median Salary: $86,850
  • Job Growth: 9%

Radiation therapists administer life-saving treatments for people with cancer. You can prepare for this valuable career by earning an associate degree in radiation therapy.

You’ll study human anatomy and medical terminology. You will also learn the science behind radiation treatments and receive essential lessons on how to use radiation technology safely. Clinical experiences are a vital part of radiation therapy college programs.

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Most students who earn this degree plan to become radiation therapists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiation therapists usually work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, or outpatient healthcare facilities.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) administers the professional credential for this line of work. To become a registered radiation therapist, it’s necessary to pass an exam. Some states also require licensure for this field.

Nuclear Technology Associate Degree

Nuclear Technology Associate Degree

  • Nuclear Technician
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $53,570
  • Annual Median Salary: $84,190
  • Job Growth: -12%

Handling radioactive materials requires specialized training. In a nuclear technology program, you can learn to work with nuclear radiation and radioactive elements.

To earn this degree, you’ll study thermodynamics and nuclear engineering at an introductory level. Lessons in health and safety are paramount, and you’ll also study the laws surrounding nuclear activities. Internships and lab sessions are common in this degree program. The category of nuclear technicians encompasses a variety of jobs.

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For instance, operating technicians keep an eye on radiation levels and make necessary adjustments to equipment. Equipment operations technicians run equipment for scientists. Radiation protection technicians promote health and safety around nuclear materials. Nuclear technicians may work in power plants, manufacturing facilities, or nuclear waste facilities.

Nuclear Medicine Technology Associate Degree

Nuclear Medicine Technology Associate Degree

  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $57,830
  • Annual Median Salary: $79,590
  • Job Growth: 8%

In nuclear medicine, medical professionals use small amounts of radioactive substances to learn more about a person’s health. Nuclear medicine technologists administer these radioactive materials to patients and operate medical imaging equipment.

Human anatomy, chemistry, and physics are important areas of study for students in this program. You’ll also learn about operating equipment, evaluating images, and caring for patients. Clinical experiences are essential in this field of study.

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After graduation, nuclear medicine technologists should become certified in their field. Some states issue licenses for nuclear medicine technologists as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a nuclear medicine technologist is most likely to work in a hospital. Other job sites could include doctor’s offices, labs, or outpatient facilities.

Web Development Associate Degree

Web Development Associate Degree

  • Web Developer
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $40,750
  • Annual Median Salary: $77,200
  • Job Growth: 13%

Web developers are instrumental in your ability to navigate the internet. Without developers, your favorite websites and online applications wouldn’t exist. To join this exciting field, you could earn an associate degree in web development.

For this program, you’ll study coding and scripting principles and learn how to use specific computer languages. Design—making visually appealing logos and layouts—is another important part of this program. Other topics could include computer science fundamentals, databases, and online security.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some web developers are self-employed. Others work in advertising, computer services, or publishing. Additional career options for graduates include digital designer, information technology specialist, or computer support specialist.

Dental Hygiene Associate Degree

Dental Hygiene Associate Degree

  • Dental Hygienist
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $54,200
  • Annual Median Salary: $77,090
  • Job Growth: 11%

Dental hygienists play a key role in people’s oral care. They may clean teeth, take X-rays, assist dentists, educate patients, and screen for diseases.

You can obtain the necessary training for this career through an associate degree program in which you’ll study oral anatomy, dental diseases, patient care, and sanitary practices. Clinical experiences can help you learn in hands-on settings.

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Most people who earn this degree choose careers in dental hygiene. To qualify, it’s necessary to pass a national certification exam and, if required, obtain state licensure. The responsibilities assigned to dental hygienists vary from state to state. Studying dental hygiene might also lead to a career as a dental lab technician or a dental sales representative.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography Associate Degree

Diagnostic Medical Sonography Associate Degree

  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $53,790
  • Annual Median Salary: $75,920
  • Job Growth: 19%

Sonographers are also known as ultrasound technicians. They use medical equipment to scan patients and record images. Medical professionals can use these images for making diagnoses or tracking a patient’s progress.

As you study for this degree, you’ll learn about anatomy, patient care, and equipment operation. You’ll discuss what to look for in images and how to obtain the best results. Lab sessions and clinical practicums can help develop your skills. Some classes focus on certain patient groups, such as children or pregnant people.

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Graduates may choose to pursue certification through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). There are a few potential areas of specialty, including obstetrics and vascular sonography. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most ultrasound techs work in hospitals.

Aerospace Engineering Associate Degree

Aerospace Engineering Associate Degree

  • Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $43,400
  • Annual Median Salary: $68,570
  • Job Growth: 9%

Aerospace engineering technicians work with aircraft equipment. They can also hold jobs in the spacecraft industry. Their responsibilities include installing, operating, or performing maintenance on airplanes and other flight craft.

An aerospace engineering associate program requires a good deal of advanced math and science courses, such as physics and differential equations. You can also study materials, thermodynamics, and mechanics. In some programs, you might have classes in electronics and fabrication.

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Many aerospace engineering associate degrees are designed to transfer into four-year engineering programs. Others are intended for students who want to enter the workforce as engineering technicians right after graduation. It’s beneficial to know your goals and select your program accordingly.

Electrical Engineering Technology Associate Degree

Electrical Engineering Technology Associate Degree

  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technician
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $40,170
  • Annual Median Salary: $67,550
  • Job Growth: 2%

Electrical systems are nearly everywhere in the modern world. People and businesses depend on well-functioning electrical systems every day.

In an electrical engineering technology program, you can learn to work with these systems and assist electrical engineers. You’ll study circuits, instrument panels, motors, microprocessors, and amplifiers. You’ll also learn how to take measurements, communicate scientific information, and solder metal.

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Graduates tend to go on to work as electrical engineering technologists or technicians. Their responsibilities might include installing parts, running tests, or performing maintenance on electrical systems. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that electrical engineering technicians and technologists often work for manufacturing companies or engineering services organizations. The federal government also hires for this role.

Computer Science Associate Degree

Computer Science Associate Degree

  • Computer Network Specialist
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $40,620
  • Annual Median Salary: $65,450
  • Job Growth: 7%

Computer science programs introduce students to the inner workings of computers. This STEM degree could help you qualify for rewarding jobs in technology fields.

Computer science students usually learn at least one programming language, such as Java or C++. Other topics you’ll likely study include data structures, operating systems, and software development. You can expect to take a number of advanced math and science courses too.

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Graduates often pursue work as computer help desk technicians or computer network support specialists. Some organizations might also employ web developers or programmers with an associate degree. Computer systems design companies may hire graduates of this type of program as well. Other potential workplaces include schools, telecommunications companies, financial institutions, and software publishers.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technology Associate Degree

MRI Technology Associate Degree

  • Radiologic and MRI Technologist
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $42,180
  • Annual Median Salary: $63,710
  • Job Growth: 9%

MRI, also known as magnetic resonance imaging, is an important tool for diagnosing medical issues. If you’d like to learn to help patients and operate MRI equipment, you may want to pursue an associate degree in magnetic resonance imaging.

To work in this field, you’ll study human anatomy and pathophysiology. You’ll also learn how to work with patients, operate MRI equipment, and administer IV contrast. An in-the-field internship can provide essential training in a real-world setting.

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Professional certification is available for MRI technologists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the majority of MRI technologists work in hospitals. Jobs may also be available in medical labs, doctor’s offices, outpatient treatment centers, and government agencies.

Respiratory Therapy Associate Degree

Respiratory Therapy Associate Degree

  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $45,940
  • Annual Median Salary: $62,810
  • Job Growth: 23%

Respiratory therapists help people breathe. They can provide life-saving assistance in emergency situations or offer therapeutic support for people with chronic conditions. Respiratory therapists are trained to run tests, operate equipment, and monitor a patient’s status.

In this program, you’ll study human anatomy and physiology. Your studies will focus especially on the heart and the lungs. Other courses may cover medication, assessment tests, and respiratory equipment. You can learn to work in specific settings, such as emergency departments, intensive care units, or pediatric departments.

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After graduation, you can pursue certification through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Your state may require licensure as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory therapists are most likely to work in a hospital setting.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Associate Degree

Occupational Therapy Assistant Associate Degree

  • Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $43,180
  • Annual Median Salary: $62,940
  • Job Growth: 36%

Occupational therapy is a field that focuses on helping people engage in daily activities and improve how their minds and bodies function. This type of therapy can be useful for people with diseases, injuries, or disabilities.

For this program, you’ll study normal movement and conditions that restrict function. In addition, you can learn about methods of therapy, learn to work with patients, and develop leadership skills. There will likely be an internship component as well.

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National board certification is available for graduates. To become certified, it’s necessary to pass an exam. Your state may also require you to become licensed. Occupational therapy assistants usually work alongside occupational therapists in a variety of settings. Work settings can include hospitals, private therapy offices, schools, nursing facilities, and home healthcare agencies.

Cardiovascular Technology Associate Degree

Cardiovascular Technology Associate Degree

  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $30,140
  • Annual Median Salary: $59,100
  • Job Growth: 8%

When people have heart problems, they need medical tests and interventions. Cardiovascular technologists play an important role in their care by operating testing equipment, monitoring vital signs, and assisting in medical procedures.

Cardiovascular technology students learn about human anatomy and diseases, especially those involving the heart. In this program, you’ll explore both invasive and noninvasive methods for caring for cardiovascular health. You will also take advanced science classes, learn about working in medical settings, and complete practicums.

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Workplaces often prefer candidates who have earned board certification in this field, but licensure isn’t usually required. Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that most cardiovascular technology jobs are available in hospitals. You could also look for a job in a lab, a doctor’s office, or an outpatient facility.

Mechanical Engineering Technology Associate Degree

Mechanical Engineering Technology Associate Degree

  • Mechanical Engineering Technician
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $36,200
  • Annual Median Salary: $58,230
  • Job Growth: 6%

Mechanical engineering is the branch of engineering that focuses on machines and things that move. Mechanical technicians have the skills to help with designing, building, testing, or maintaining mechanical systems.

The topics you’ll explore in this program include materials, controls, and circuits. You can also learn about design concepts and manufacturing processes. In addition, you’re required take classes in math, physics, computer-aided design (CAD), and safety practices.

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It’s common for mechanical technicians to work in the manufacturing sector or for engineering services companies. With experience, you might gain additional responsibilities as a mechanical engineering technologist. Related careers include mechanical drafter, industrial engineering technician, or electromechanical technologist.

Funeral Service / Mortuary Science Associate Degree

Funeral Service Associate Degree

  • Funeral Service Worker
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $29,080
  • Annual Median Salary: $58,170
  • Job Growth: 4%

When families are grieving, funeral workers offer support and essential services. In a mortuary science associate degree program, you can prepare for a career as a funeral worker or funeral director.

Your classes can introduce you to traditions and practices surrounding death and dying. You can learn to support bereaved families, organize funeral services, prepare bodies for burial, and comply with legal regulations. Your coursework will likely include hands-on labs and may offer internship opportunities.

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Completing an internship may help you become a licensed funeral worker in your state. You might need additional certification to offer cremation services. Funeral directors and other funeral home workers may be employees in the death care services sector or operate as self-employed service providers.

Civil Engineering Technology Associate Degree

Civil Engineering Technology Associate Degree

  • Civil Engineering Technologist and Technician
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $34,230
  • Annual Median Salary: $54,080
  • Job Growth: 2%

The field of civil engineering focuses on developing and maintaining buildings and infrastructure. Civil engineering technicians and technologists assist civil engineers with projects related to roads, bridges, pipelines, and land development.

Soil, water, cement, and other materials are important topics in civil engineering associate degree programs. You can also develop your surveying and drafting abilities. The math and science courses may include algebra, physics, and trigonometry.

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New graduates might work in government or engineering services as civil engineering technicians. With experience, some workers advance to jobs as civil engineering technologists with supervisory responsibilities. This degree might also help prepare you for a career in construction, cost estimation, drafting, surveying, or transportation inspection.

Paralegal Studies Associate Degree

Paralegal Studies Associate Degree

  • Paralegal and Legal Assistant
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $32,900
  • Annual Median Salary: $52,920
  • Job Growth: 12%

The legal field depends on trained professionals who can provide support and assistance for lawyers and their clients. Paralegals and legal assistants have the expertise to fill that role.

You can enroll in a paralegal studies program to learn about litigation, legal documents, and legal research. In addition, you can learn how to use office technology, stay organized, interview witnesses, and conduct yourself professionally. Your courses will cover various types of law, such a bankruptcy, criminal, corporate, and family law.

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Most paralegals and legal assistants work in law offices, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there are also government jobs and positions in the financial sector. Other job opportunities for graduates could include working as a file clerk or a debt collector.

Environmental Engineering Technology Associate Degree

Environmental Engineering Technology Associate Degree

  • Environmental Engineering Technologist and Technicians
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $32,850
  • Annual Median Salary: $51,630
  • Job Growth: 8%

If you care about protecting the planet, then you might want to pursue a job in environmental engineering technology. You could work alongside environmental engineers or other professionals to ensure proper care of the earth and its resources.

Water, air, and soil are key topics in this program. Other concepts can include hydraulics, erosion, waste management, and land development. To round out your studies, you may take classes in sustainability and surveying.

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Environmental engineering technologists or technicians gather samples in the field or run tests in the lab. You might look for jobs in a recycling facility or a water treatment plant. Some graduates are involved with making sure that organizations comply with environmental regulations.

Biomedical Engineering Associate Degree

Biomedical Engineering Associate Degree

  • Medical Equipment Repairer
  • Entry-Level Salary per year: $31,180
  • Annual Median Salary: $51,610
  • Job Growth: 7%

People who study biomedical engineering technology have the skills to maintain and repair the devices used in hospitals and other medical facilities. Their work allows healthcare workers to provide essential care for sick and injured people.

To earn a degree in this field, you’ll learn essential medical concepts, such as human anatomy. You’ll also be required to have an advanced understanding of equipment technology. This may require learning about lasers, instrument panels, electronics, and microprocessors. There could be an internship component as well.

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Common job titles for people with this degree include biomedical equipment technician or medical equipment repairer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that those roles are often offered by medical equipment suppliers, including wholesalers, retail shops, and rental services. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are also common job sites.

Accreditation

associate degree programs accreditation

Many different institutions offer associate degree programs, but they’re not all equal in quality. The most reputable programs are offered by regionally accredited schools.

Regional accreditation is a trusted sign that a college meets educational standards and offers dependable training. Regional accreditation is also respected by other colleges, increasing the chances of having your associate coursework transfer to another associate program or count toward a future bachelor’s degree.

Regional accreditation may also be required for board certification or state licensure. Plus, some employers prefer degrees from accredited institutions.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

associate degree programs financial aid

You may be eligible for financial aid to help you pay for an associate degree. To get started, you can take a look at government aid programs. The federal government provides funding for many students, and states offer programs as well. Student assistance often comes in the form of grants or loans.

Most students begin the funding process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some colleges provide scholarships or other tuition breaks to qualifying students. You can speak to a school’s financial aid office to learn about the sort of funding package you could receive there.

In addition, you might pursue scholarships from outside organizations, such as industry associations or charitable groups. To get a scholarship, you usually have to complete an application and be selected for the award. Your employer might also contribute to your school fund if your degree will enhance your contribution to the organization.

What Is an Associate Degree?

associate college degree programs

An associate degree is a college program that prepares students for entry-level jobs, specialized careers, or additional study. This type of program usually requires about 60 college credits and takes approximately 2 years to complete.

Associate degrees come in a variety of forms. Many are Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degrees. These are often designed for transfer into a bachelor’s degree program but can also lead to immediate employment. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees provide specialized skills for workplace success. After graduating with an AAS degree, most students seek jobs in their field of study.

What Associate Degrees Pay the Most?

highest-paying associate degree programs

You don’t have to go to college for years on end for a lucrative career. There are many associate degrees that pay well. By choosing one of the associate degrees that pay the most, you might be on your way to a rewarding career in 2 years or less.

If you’re interested in finding the highest-paying associate degree programs, you can check out the table below. It includes top-earning degrees along with related career and salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Degrees Related Careers Median Annual Salaries
Aeronautics Air Traffic Controllers $130,420
Radiation Therapy Technology Radiation Therapists $86,850
Nuclear Medicine Technology Nuclear Medicine Technologists $79,590
Dental Hygiene Dental Hygienists $77,090
Logistics Logisticians $76,270
Aerospace Engineering Technology Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technologists and Technicians $68,570
Criminal Justice Police and Detectives $67,290
Network Engineering Computer Network Support Specialists $65,450
Mortuary Science Funeral Service Workers $58,170
Computer Aided Design and Drafting Drafters $57,960

Of course, this is just a small sampling of potential high paying careers with an associates degree, so you may find additional options that appeal to you.

What Associate Degree Should I Get?

The best degree for you depends on your interests and your strengths. You might also want to consider the salary potential of various degrees.

If you’re proficient at advanced math and science, then you might do well in engineering technology or computer science—both lucrative fields. For a healthcare job, you could learn to operate radiation, MRI, or ultrasound equipment. Other healthcare options include medical assisting or dental hygiene.

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Mortuary science prepares you to help people in their time of need, while criminal justice studies are useful for police hopefuls. Logistics and aeronautics degrees can lead to careers in transportation.

What Can You Do with an Associate’s Degree?

There are many jobs that can be obtained with an associate degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some jobs that only require an associate degree include cardiovascular technologist, respiratory therapist, air traffic controller, funeral director, and environmental engineering technician.

Which roles you can perform, though, will depend on the field you study. Many of these jobs require a specialized set of skills, but you can acquire specific training in an associate degree program geared toward your career goals. For example, it’s necessary to study diagnostic medical sonography to become an ultrasound tech, and occupational therapy studies are required for OT assistants.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree?

associate degree program

An associate degree is usually considered a 2 year program. That’s an estimate, though. In reality, high paying associate degrees can vary in length.

Many do take right about 2 years to complete, but some programs—especially those with extensive internship requirements—may take a few months longer. Career training in the medical field often falls in to this category.

Other associate degree programs can be finished in less than 2 years. If you have completed several college prerequisites that you can transfer in, you may save time in your program. Also, some schools offer accelerated terms to speed students through school.

Is an Associate’s Degree Worth It?

community colleges degrees

Yes, an associate’s degree is worth it for many students. Many community colleges degrees provide specialized training that can help prepare you for a specific career niche. You can develop skills that students in no other program will have.

Specialized skills might help you qualify for an entry-level position in healthcare, engineering, funeral services, transportation, or another field. Plus, earning a degree can improve your job security. For workers with only a high school diploma, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 9% unemployment rate. That figure is reduced to 7.1% for people who hold associate degrees.

Getting Your Associate Degree Online

Associate Degree Online

An associate degree may be your ticket to qualifying for a profitable career in an exciting field. It typically takes about 2 years to earn this type of degree. After that, you may be workforce-ready with specialized training and in-demand skills.

Also, you don’t have to rearrange your entire life to get a college degree. Online associates degree college classes are increasingly common, and this style of learning helps many students fit classes and homework around their other commitments.

The sooner you start exploring your options for accredited and most useful associates degrees, the sooner you might find degree programs that fit your interests, abilities, and ambitions.

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Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.