Who says you have to work in a cubicle to pull in a decent wage? These six careers pay well and allow you to work from anywhere.
It seems like everywhere we look, more and more people are skipping the trek to the office and opening up shop right at home. But how and why are they choosing to work remotely versus staying in the office trenches with their co-workers?
"As more and more people realize that their jobs can be done remotely through a computer or on the Web, they're less likely to want to spend time and money commuting into an office," says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.com, a website that matches candidates with telecommuting jobs. "For many, the convenience of working from home, coupled with the lack of micromanagement from their superiors is a dream come true."
Ready to learn about six careers that could allow you to work from home while still pulling in a median annual salary of more than $40,000 a year? Keep reading.
Career #1: Applications Software Developer
Anytime you've opened up a computer or tapped on your mobile device, you've come into contact with the work of a software developer. And while it's true that software developers work mainly behind a computer all day to earn top dollar, it's not true that they have to do so in an office.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor says that some software developers telecommute. They might perform tasks such as developing software that helps devices run, designing applications, and collaborating with other computer specialists to create optimum software programs.
Working Virtually: Software development is almost entirely computer-based, which makes it a great career for telecommuting, says Sutton Fell. But certain skills and traits can help you perform this job even better from home.
"Along with having great time-management skills, successful telecommuting software developers are also tech-savvy and comfortable using technology such as screen-sharing, IM, email, and video for the elements of the job that need team collaboration," she adds.
Education Options: According to the Department of Labor, these professionals usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field, though computer science degrees are the most common. Math degrees are also considered to be acceptable.
Career #2: Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts are the well-paid people who know what you buy, when you buy it, and the reasons behind your purchases. So, it makes sense that they wouldn't be stuck spending all their time within the confines of a cubicle - their subjects won't be found within those walls, either!
After all, how could they do things like measure the effectiveness of marketing programs, study market conditions, and gather data about consumers and competitors - all tasks outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor - without actually getting out into the market and seeing it first-hand?
Working Virtually: Sutton Fell says that because so much of this job is data-driven - doing research, giving presentations, analyzing trends, and identifying opportunities - that it's a natural fit for telecommuting.
She also notes that to be successful, you should be well-versed in database and spreadsheet programs, plus you'll need a workspace where you can focus and really dive into the data.
Education Options: The Department of Labor says that most market research analysts need at least a bachelor's degree in market research or a related field, and that many have degrees in statistics, math, or computer science. Other analysts may have a background in business administration, communications, or one of the social sciences. However, many of these jobs also require a master's degree.
Career #3: Accountant
Almost every organization has an accountant that manages the books. Specifically, this means they're examining financial statements, computing taxes, and maintaining financial records, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. So shouldn't that person earn their hefty salary in the office, watching how and where money is flowing? Not necessarily, says Karen Elizaga, founder of Forward Options, a career consulting company.
Working Virtually: "With the excellent accounting software available these days, an accountant with the right experience can set up shop to service a variety of clients from home," Elizaga says. "The most important software an accountant ought to have in his or her arsenal is Quickbooks, software by Intuit available either in desktop or online versions." She adds that most companies that deal with banking, corporate cards, benefits, and payroll have online tools that an accountant would use, depending on their role.
Sutton Fell adds that in order to make a remote accountant position successful, you must be very detail-oriented and have excellent security and virus software on your computer.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.
Education Options: Most accountants need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, according to the Department of Labor. However, they note that some employers may prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree in accounting, or business administration with an accounting concentration.
Career #4: Graphic Designer
The simplest explanation for what a graphic designer does is to say they make things look good, while getting paid well for doing it. And because they work mainly on computers, these ladies and gents don't need to be anywhere near their co-workers or an office to do their jobs.
And what does this job entail? It might include developing the layout for a Web screen, which involves advising clients on strategies, creating images, and developing graphics with computer software, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Working Virtually: "Like a software developer, a graphic designer can create solutions for clients in the comfort of his or her own home directly from their computer," notes Elizaga.
Sutton Fell agrees: "Because graphic designers heavily use computer software, such as Illustrator, Photoshop, and Quark, it's easy for them to telecommute and still effectively do their job."
To successfully telecommute as a graphic designer, she says that you should be comfortable collaborating and receiving feedback online, as well as sticking to and communicating timelines.
Education Options: Graphic designers are usually required to have a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field, according to the Department of Labor. However, people who hold a bachelor's degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.
Career #5: Personal Financial Advisor
While the U.S. Department of Labor says that personal financial advisors typically work in offices, they also note that almost one-fourth of them were self-employed in 2010. This means that a quarter of the professionals in this lucrative field determined their own place of employment. And when you're able to choose where you work, you're effectively allowed to work virtually from just about anywhere.
And even when personal financial advisors are working in offices, they're still not clocking as much cubicle time as other office workers. They might be out and about - meeting with clients, traveling to attend conferences, or teaching finance classes, according to the Department of Labor.
Working Virtually: "More personal financial advisors are quite entrepreneurial in their work, operating, in a real sense, their own business," says Dale Austin, director of the career development center at Hope College in Holland, MI. "Given that most prospective clients of the financial advisor may be working during the day, the advisor also must have a very flexible work schedule, often meeting clients in the evening."
Additionally, to be a successful telecommuter in this role, you'll want to have a highly secure computer setup, have a quiet and professional home office, and be very organized, Sutton Fell advises.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.
Education Options: You'll typically need a bachelor's degree to pursue a career as a personal financial advisor, notes the Department. And you might want to consider majoring in finance, accounting, business, economics, math, or law, since the Department says these degrees are good preparation. They also note that a certification and master's degree could help improve your chances for advancement as a personal financial advisor.
Career #6: PR Specialist
Thinking about a career that would allow you to constantly be on the go? From corporate events to community activities, PR specialists are out and about, bridging the gap between clients and the general public, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Since people in this well-paid role are managing and organizing several events at the same time, it's easy to escape the office.
Public relations specialists maintain a positive public image for their clients, which might include writing press releases, helping them effectively communicate to the public, and developing their corporate image, reports the Department.
Working Virtually: "Being a PR specialist entails the development of PR campaigns, researching media contacts, and pitching stories, all of which can generally be done via computer, phone, and email," says Sutton Fell. Additionally, PR deadlines can often be unpredictable and fall outside of standard work hours, so telecommuting is a beneficial work arrangement that allows employees to respond from anywhere, anytime.
Sutton Fell points out one necessity for this at-home profession: "It is critical that you are easy to reach at all times, so having reliable mobile and internet service is a must if you want to be successful as a virtual PR specialist."
Education Options: Typically, PR specialists need a bachelor's degree. Employers usually want applicants who've majored in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.
*All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages data, May 2012.
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