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Healthcare Careers in Forbes’ Top-Paying list offered at STC

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A recent Forbes article spotlighted the 10 highest-paying associate degrees in 2024, featuring two-year careers such as Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Respiratory Therapy, and Radiology Technology, all of which are offered at STC.  STC Image
A recent Forbes article spotlighted the 10 highest-paying associate degrees in 2024, featuring two-year careers such as Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Respiratory Therapy, and Radiology Technology, all of which are offered at STC. STC Image
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By Selene Rodriguez

South Texas College continues to be at the forefront of a rising demand for specialized skills and technical expertise, offering educational programs that lead students to well-paying careers, some even reaching six-figure salaries.

A recent Forbes article spotlighted the 10 highest-paying associate degrees in 2024, featuring two-year careers such as Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS), Respiratory Therapy and Radiology Technology, all of which are offered at STC.

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“Health care careers demand an immense level of dedication and responsibility because ultimately, we play an essential role in the welfare of the entire community,” explained STC Diagnostic Imaging Program Chair Crystal Bird. ” We are responsible for patients’ lives, and we are continuously held to the highest standards. I believe that’s why health care professionals are compensated at a higher rate.”

Sonography holds the sixth position in the article’s ranking, with a median annual salary reported at $78,210. However, as noted by Bird, this sum has the potential to increase substantially depending on job experience and additional expertise. 

“Our students are trained to become nationally certified in two modalities, obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) and abdomen (AB), but there are many additional certifications that may be obtained. With more certifications such as vascular sonography or maternal fetal medicine, individuals can earn well into the six-figure range,” explained Bird. “Depending on the employer and if they’re hired as full-time employees with benefits, our graduates can earn a starting salary anywhere between $25 and $40 per hour.”

She added that STC offers two pathways for entrance into the DMS program; an associate degree and an advanced technical certificate, both completed within a duration of 17 months.

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“As new medical facilities open in the Rio Grande Valley, the demand for all health care professionals continues to rise,” she added. “However, within the diagnostic imaging sector, the salary will not solely depend on the level of education; it also includes the years of experience and the number of certifications one holds.”

Following the ranking, Respiratory Therapy claims the number 9 spot, with an annual median salary of $70,540, a highly sought profession nationwide. 

“Due to the high demand experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, many therapists faced burnout,” said STC Respiratory Therapy Program Chair Gabriel Pena. “Coupled with retirements, we are now experiencing an extreme shortage of respiratory therapists nationwide which leads to increasing pay rates.”

He added that every year, medical institutions from across the state and beyond visit the college to recruit STC students before they graduate.  

“Our graduates often start earning anywhere from $25 to $33 per hour, most times accompanied by sign-on bonuses worth thousands,” he said. “The demand for therapists is substantial. In fact, some hospitals even recruit from within and actively encourage their employees to pursue the profession.”

That is the case for STC student Brenda Lee Vela, who was encouraged by her peers at Starr County Memorial Hospital to become a respiratory therapist.

“I always knew I wanted to work in health care, but I wasn’t sure which area was right for me, so I joined the Patient Care Technician program at STC which helped me become a certified Electrocardiogram (EKG) technician and start working at the hospital,” she shared. “That’s when I met the respiratory team who encouraged me to join the profession. I’m graduating this spring and I’m excited to start helping people as a respiratory therapist in Starr County.”

Radiologic Technology holds the final position in the ranking, coming in at number 10, with a median annual salary of $67,180. 

Nonetheless, Bird noted that despite its position, this degree could be a gateway to other careers highlighted at the top of the ranking, such as Radiation Therapist or Nuclear Medicine Technologist.

“Starting salaries typically range from $20 to $30 per hour. However, by gaining certifications and job experience, individuals can advance to careers in Nuclear Medicine or Radiation Therapy, where salaries will be significantly increased,” explained Bird. “The job outlook for radiology is excellent, especially with the variety of specializations available for career advancement, which provides high employment opportunities for those who choose to enter the field.”

The consistent availability of job opportunities was precisely what led STC student Corrine Johnston, currently employed at DHR Health, to pursue a degree in radiology.

“Like many others, I did research on the potential earnings. However, what drew me to Radiology is its consistently high demand, ensuring there will always be jobs available,” she said. “Beyond the financial aspects, working in radiology is incredibly fulfilling. It’s an amazing field filled with people that genuinely care about patients. We’re sometimes the first people to know about a diagnosis, it’s truly life changing and makes you reconsider the value of life. There’s no other field I would picture myself in.”

For more information on STC’s Nursing and Allied Health programs, visit southtexascollege.edu or call 956-872-3100.

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