According to PayScale's new College Salary Report, there are several associate degrees -- requiring just two or three years of school at a community or junior college -- that can prepare you for a high-paying job. Plus, you won't get buried in (as much) student loan debt.
Cheapest degrees with high-paying jobs
If you're considering going back to school, or where to start your higher education, choosing the right major can have a big impact on your future -- and your future income. According to PayScale, people with associate degrees in management information systems, construction management or economics earn a median mid-career salary of more than $71,000.
If you want to make good money early in your career with an associate degree, PayScale's data found that dental hygiene majors earn the highest early career salaries ($61,300), followed by nursing majors ($52,200).
But in general, starting salaries for associate degree graduates are usually lower -- around, or less than, $40,000 a year. The higher-paying salary potential comes down the road with more experience. But in some fields, even experience won't earn you a higher paycheck.
An associate degree in early childhood education has the lowest salary potential, with a median mid-career salary of $23,000. This subject is also the lowest-paying bachelor's degree major, with a mid-career salary of $38,000.
So if you're looking for a future in a high-paying field, make sure to consider a major's potential salary if/when you decide to take on student loan debt in order to get that degree.
How to save on a college degree
When considering the cost of a degree, community colleges tend to be cheaper than traditional four-year schools. According to Sallie Mae, attending a two-year public school, rather than a four-year public school, will save you about $10,000 per year. And that's just for public colleges. Attending a private four-year school would cost you about $24,000 more per year than a two-year public college.
Clark is a big supporter of cutting college costs by doing your first two years at a community college and then transferring to the four-year school where you want to graduate from. And there's a new program that takes it a step further. AmericanHonors.org will guarantee your admission to big name schools if you do the required coursework and maintain your grade point average. More details here.
Whether you start at a community college or a four-year college, if you're after more money when you graduate, here are the top five bachelor's degrees with the biggest median mid-career salaries: