I loved my college years at UC Irvine. I met some of my favorite people who are friends for life, got connected to blue chip companies, and eventually landed my first job in consulting making $70,000 after graduation. With all that said… it’s been over a decade since I was back in school and times have changed.
In today’s day and age, college is not the requirement it used to be and there are so many more opportunities to get education in other ways. Some prefer a broader range of experiences over specialized fields. And others thrive outside traditional schooling, chasing unconventional, unexplored ideas. Also, did I mention the costs? College is a big investment that not everyone is ready for.
So with all that said, let’s dispel the myth that a college degree is the only path to success. I’d like to introduce you to some thriving careers that offer both financial stability and upside for the future. Here are 6 six-figure jobs you may never have considered before and how you can break in.
Average yearly pay: $119,000 – $183,000 (Glassdoor)
How to become one: Training and certification on big data platforms and programming languages
You can make it big with big data. Often overlooked, data collection, analysis and processing are very important aspects to pour resources into, especially now that the economy is increasingly being tied to advanced technology. In the era of digitalization, data scientists are in hot demand!
The work of a data scientist is utilized by businesses, nonprofits, and even governments in identifying trends, and their corresponding problems and proposed solutions. This also means that aside from the big pay bracket, your work has the potential to effect profound changes in the world around you. So you can get paid to make a big impact!
To become a data scientist, you’d have to go through a rigorous training series which can be a challenge but a great learning experience. Because this is a fairly new arena of study and work, you will learn some emerging technologies that are evolving with time. You can check out MITx for free data science training courses, or if you’re ready to commit to paid programs, you can enroll in a DataCamp training course!
Average yearly pay: $129,000 – $203,000 (Glassdoor)
How to become one: Study of design fundamentals, investment in software, and a great portfolio
Every organization with websites and mobile applications want them to look nice, neat, and appealing to the end user. This opens up a vast ocean of job opportunities for user interface and user experience (UI/UX) architects and designers. Having that optimized experience for faster transactions and streamlined processes is a top priority for organizations nowadays.
To become a UI/UX designer, you must have an eye for design, a necessary skill that marries aesthetics with functionality. If you have this at your core, you’d want to add to your natural flair for design with training and boot camps on current trends and best practices in the field.
Additionally, you have to invest in the right tools and familiarize yourself with them. You can maximize the software to gain an advantage in creating better UI/UX output. A sleek portfolio will help you get noticed by potential clients, and your own website can be a portfolio in itself. Figma is a free tool and a great place to start. You can eventually subscribe to a Professional plan with Figma, or try out other software like Axure or Unbounce.
Average yearly pay: $130,000 – $230,000 (Glassdoor)
How to become one: Real estate training courses and license, market know-how, professional certifications
Real estate remains to be one of the most lucrative industries out there. And the good news is that you can be an agent in typically four to six months. Just after getting your high school diploma, you can enroll in short-term real estate training courses, take a qualification exam and get your license.
But since it’s a competitive field, you’d have to work on your reputation. You can build yourself up with testimonials with your satisfied clients. Check out this piece to learn how a good reputation in the market can prove to be a big advantage for agents. Gaining additional professional certifications is another aspect that would be good for you to focus on.
Average yearly pay: $97,000 – $133,000 (Glassdoor)
How to become one: Training course, age requirement, medical evaluation, on-the-job training
Soar high with your new job up in the air. Becoming an air traffic controller is an exciting job opportunity that is out of the ordinary, yet has great compensation potential. The training with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Academy can be finished in two to five months before you proceed with the on-the-job training.
Once you pass this stage after one or two years, you’re well on your way to becoming a certified air traffic controller. Three years of general work experience is needed, however. Medical evaluations and drug screenings are also undertaken to ensure you’re fit for the job. All applicants must be aged 31 or below at the moment they are hired. Check out the FAA Website to be aware of the complete requirements.
Average yearly pay: $103,000 – $127,000 (Glassdoor)
How to become one: Skills in strategic planning and brand campaigns, prowess in communication and emerging trends
This job is perfect for creative minds and communication experts. But to become an advertising or marketing executive, you’d have to develop your capabilities in strategic planning as campaigns are not a one-time, short-term thing. You’d have to adapt with the trends and adjust with client feedback to get the results they are looking for.
It’s also a competitive world out there so get your portfolio ready, and strive to become ten steps ahead when you plan and operationalize for different campaigns. This field is always changing so you would want to consistently refresh your skills on the best practices. To get started, check out Google Digital Garage which offers free courses on many topics!
Average yearly pay: $200,000 – $300,000 (Glassdoor)
How to become one: A product, your team, the capital and technical requirements, and A LOT OF GUTS
An exciting but risky track for your professional career is to start your own company. A startup CEO can earn well but they also have to invest a lot in order for the enterprise to take off. Creating an innovative product, building up, and taking care of your team are key aspects. Other things you’d have to focus on are the starting capital, the necessary permits, and logistical requirements depending on your industry.
Ultimately, it takes bravery to take this road less traveled but it can also help you achieve some professional and salary heights that may not be possible as an employee. But who knows, you may be the one to create the next big thing. 🙂
The type of job you get that pays well and fulfills you ultimately depends on each person. Whichever track you prefer in life, don’t get bogged down by what others think is right for you. You know yourself best and as long as you find ways to upskill and improve on your skills, you can have the career you’ve always wanted.
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