Feeling stuck at your income level? The right career could double your earnings.
By Jennifer Berry
The Great Recession. The Lesser Depression. Whatever you want to call it, these last few years have been rough. But if you’re starting to despair of ever making more money, don’t lose hope.
“It is possible to double your income,” says Susan Heathfield, management consultant and writer of the human resources site at About.com. How long that takes will depend on a variety of factors. Are you going after promotions within your company or looking for opportunities elsewhere?
One avenue to increasing your earning potential is education. “For some occupations, like accounting or human resources, more education increases your value to a company,” Heathfield says. And with the right education, you could be poised to go after some of these more lucrative positions.
If you’re ready to get serious about upping your earning potential, read on for some examples of careers you can switch to that might pay double your current salary.
Making $30K? Double it to $60K.
Are you pulling in around $30,000 per year and wondering what it would take to double that amount? If you’ve got a head for numbers, there are a variety of financial sector positions paying $60,000 – like personal financial advisor. If you’re more interested in helping people, you might want to consider looking into a career as a dental hygienist.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, personal financial advisors might help people with investments, taxes, or insurance decisions. They might also help others plan for retirement or education costs.
“This is a career with a lot of opportunity,” says Heathfield. “The economic meltdown put people in challenging positions. Many don’t know if they’ll be able to retire. Personal financial advisors who can help these people plan for their future are going to do well.”
By the Numbers: If you’re looking to double a $30K salary, this career could be your ticket. The median annual wage for personal financial advisors is $66,580, according to the Department of Labor.
What Does It Take? Before you go after a career as a personal financial advisor, you will probably need a bachelor’s degree, notes the Department. While employers typically don’t require a specific field of study, degrees in finance, accounting, economics, mathematics, business, or law could be good preparation.
Dental hygienists provide important dental care for their patients. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, they might remove tartar and plaque from teeth, apply sealants to help protect teeth, and take and develop dental x-rays.
“There is outstanding potential in dental hygiene,” says Heathfield. “This is a marvelously growing field because you have the same thing happening in the dental field as you have in the medical field. Dentists and physicians are not seeing patients for everything anymore. The dental hygienist does almost all of the preventive care now.”
By the Numbers: Dental hygienists enjoy a median annual wage of $69,280, notes the Department of Labor, making this another career path that could potentially double your $30K salary. Healthfield states that with the right credentials or experience, “the top pay in this field can go as high as $100K.”
What Does It Take? If this sounds like the career path you’re interested in traveling down, you’ll typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, according to the Department. Some private dental offices might only require a certificate in dental hygiene.
Heathfield brings up a few other important points to consider if you’re interested in pursuing this path: “Every state has their own licensing requirements for dental hygienists, so you’ll have to check those out,” she says. “And higher salaries come with experience – or if you go for a bachelor’s degree.”
Making $40K? Double it to $80K.
What if you’re looking to double your $40,000 annual salary? Assess your strengths: If you’re good at managing people, you might consider pursuing a career as a medical and health services manager. If you’re more tech-savvy, look into a career as a software developer. Whichever way you go, you could be on the path to doubling your salary to $80K.
Medical and health services managers (aka health care administrators) coordinate the medical services of a health care facility, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That could mean handling patient billing, managing work schedules, and keeping up to date on laws and regulations.
“Health care will be expanding aggressively over the next few years,” Heathfield says. “People that can manage others – perhaps with experience in the function they’re trying to manage – will be in demand.”
By the Numbers: For someone with the right managerial skills and experience, this could be one way to work towards that $80K target. The Department of Labor reports the median annual wage of medical and health services managers is $86,400.
What Does It Take? According to the Department, “prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor’s degree in health administration.” Master’s degrees in long-term care administration, public health, health services, public administration, or business administration are also common.
Software developers might design, test, and develop software to meet a need, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That could include analyzing users’ needs, making flowcharts for programmers, and documenting applications for future reference.
“I think there’s nowhere to go in this field but up,” says Heathfield. “But a degree in computer science or engineering is critical if you want to be a developer.” Why is it critical? Perhaps it’s because school is where developers usually gain experience programming computers, according to the Department of Labor – skills which will help prepare them to pursue this career.
Once you’ve got an entry-level job as a software developer, Heathfield offers some pointers for climbing the ladder. “Work on multiple products and projects,” she says. “Become the person that everyone in the department looks up to. Even if you don’t want to manage other people, being a senior person in the department can make a big difference in income.”
By the Numbers: If you like to combine your creative and technical skills, this could be one road to an $80K career. According to the Department of Labor, the median annual wage of software developers who design applications is $89,280, and for those who design systems software, it is a bit higher at $96,600.
What Does It Take? You’ll usually need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field to get started as a software developer, according to the Department – though computer science is the most common degree because it covers such a broad range of topics.
Making $50K? Double it to $100K.
What if you’re making $50,000 a year? Wondering if it’s even possible to reach six figures? It might be – but keep in mind that experience will play an important role in climbing to a salary of $100,000 a year.
Why is experience so important? Because most jobs that pay $100K – like a top executive or a human resources manager at a big company – require leadership skills that are earned over time.
There’s a good reason human resources managers bring in the big bucks. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, they might oversee recruiting, interviewing, and hiring employees. They might also be called upon to serve as a link between a company’s employees and management.
“The trend in larger companies is more and more HR managers have master’s degrees, and more people are taking tests like the SPHR (senior professional in human resources),” says Heathfield.
By the Numbers: Larger salaries, says Heathfield, tend to be found in bigger cities, and usually go to senior HR managers responsible for heading entire departments (like compensation) in a bigger company.
It’s true, HR managers’ salaries vary depending on location and responsibilities, but this career path could lead you toward that $100K goal. According to the Department of Labor, the median annual wage of human resources managers is $99,130.
What Does It Take? You’ll need both education and experience to pursue a career as a human resources manager, according to the Department. HR managers usually need a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business administration, though the Department notes that higher-level jobs often require a master’s degree in labor relations, human resources, or business administration.
And, as Heathfield mentioned, experience is crucial. Before you climb the ranks, you’ll need to demonstrate your ability to organize, manage, and lead others – as well as have a solid understanding of federal, state, and local employment laws, she says.
Top executives are the big bosses – the presidents, vice presidents, and chief executive officers (CEOs) of small companies and big corporations alike. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, top executives might decide what a company’s goals are and how it should go about reaching those goals.
“Top executive’s salaries are dependent on their industry and how well their company is doing,” says Heathfield. “But they also have all sorts of perks that ordinary employees don’t, like stock options, separation packages, and bonuses.”
Why do top executives earn the big bucks? “A lot of CEOs in small to mid-size companies might be the ones who started the business in the first place,” Heathfield says. “They’re leaders, they make decisions, they’re accountable, they set direction well, they’re achievers.”
By the Numbers: This is a hard career to fit into a box, and as Heathfield noted, all kinds of different factors can affect a top executive’s pay. However, according to the Department of Labor, they are some of the highest paid workers in the United States – their median annual wage is $166,910.
What Does It Take? That depends on a lot of factors. According to the Department, a lot of top executives have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration or in something related to their specialized field of work. They might have been promoted from lower-level management, or from supervisory positions in their own firm. Education varies by position or industry, the Department adds.
What’s just as – or more – important than their education, however, is their managerial experience. So don’t give up on that $100K dream – it just might take a little more time to get there.