If you have ever worked a minimum wage job, the idea of a six-figure salary may seem like an impossible dream.
To many Americans, a six-figure job is the ideal—but equally as many people are stuck in jobs with little or no advancement opportunities.
Others may be fresh out of college and dreaming about the future.
Regardless of your situation, getting a job that yields six figures per year is easier than you think.
The economy and the opportunities that come with it are better now than they have been in years.
Maybe you were told all you needed to find financial success was a college degree.
Maybe no one ever told you anything about how to earn big.
That's okay. It doesn't matter if you've tried and failed.
As Samuel Beckett says, "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
My grandparents left Cuba for the United States, when it was still possible to do so, to ensure my generation would have opportunities to go to college, own a home, and have the freedoms they did not have.
My grandfather always spoke about the importance of education and encouraged us to go to college because he knew the value of education and experiences far beyond a classroom or lecture hall.
He knew the real value in education was life experiences that we could grow and mature from.
Anyone can read a book and regurgitate the facts.
But living and experiencing things brings a deeper level of understanding and life knowledge.
Money can't buy happiness, but it can make life easier.
Financial concerns are one of the main contributors to stress.
Remove those concerns and you'll be much happier.
Take a look at the market, figure out the direction it's moving in, and align yourself with the right opportunities and company.
You can get there. Here's how.
1. Break down a six-figure salary into smaller pieces so you know what you have to earn
What does it mean to actually make six figures per year?
There are 52 weeks in a year, of which the average person works 50.
That's around 2,000 paid hours of work each year.
In order to earn six figures (before tax), you will need to earn about $8,333 per month, or $2,083 per week.
That's an hourly wage of roughly $52.
Your goal is to close the gap between what you're earning now and that $52 hourly wage.
2. Follow the money and know the top ten six-figure jobs in America
This list of jobs offers the best chances of employment for the average person.
Best of all, these jobs don't necessarily require a college degree.
This means–with some extra training–you'll be able to get one of these jobs whether you've been to college or not.
Air traffic controller
Becoming an air traffic controller is far from easy—and doing the job is even harder.
There are a number of strict requirements, but the average salary is $159,000.
You need to be under 31 years of age, and you'll have to undergo numerous medical tests, security checks, and many other examinations in order to qualify.
It's one of the most stressful jobs out there, but because it does not require a college degree, it's accessible to most people.
Learn more about becoming an air traffic controller over at Study.com.
Being a pilot, much like being an air traffic controller, doesn't require a college degree (it is preferred that you have a degree, however), but it does take a pilot's license.
Becoming a pilot requires hours of training, multiple classes, and more than 1,500 hours of in-flight training before you qualify.
The effort is worth it.
The average salary for a pilot is around $110,000 per year, and the potential to grow that figure is much more.
The more experience you gain, the more money you can make as a pilot.
Study has a good breakdown of what it takes to become a pilot.
A longshoreman is someone that works to load and unload shipping containers at a marina or a dockyard.
The job is tough, physically intensive, and not overly popular—but anyone can do it with a bit of training.
The starting salary is around $20 an hour, but the rate increases quickly.
No college degree is necessary, but the majority of longshoremen are part of the harbor worker's union.
WikiHow does a decent job of sharing the basics on how to get started as a longshoreman.
You don't need to be able to pound out a novel to make a good living as a writer.
Technical writers take intensive technical documents, equipment manuals, instructions, and other related materials and turn them into something the average person can read.
Top-earning technical writers make around $102,250 on average.
Here's how to become a technical writer by Career Builder.
A court reporter has only one major requirement: that you type 225 words per minute.
You have to be able to do this while listening to two or more people speak and transcribe the entire conversation.
Court reporters are responsible for producing the transcripts of conversations that happen in the courtroom.
If you can do this, you'll easily be able to qualify.
While the median rate of pay is far less than $100,000, the top-earning court reporters command salaries upwards of six figures.
You may be wondering: How do I become a court reporter?
- Earn your high school diploma
- Complete an associate's degree program
- Get a license
- Find a job
- Get your certification
Real estate agent
Real estate agents don't usually earn an hourly wage but are instead paid in commission.
This means the earning potential is heavily limited by where you live, but if you're in an area with expensive homes, you'll be able to earn $100,000 or more with ease.
Of course, real estate agents must be licensed and often work outside the normal nine-to-five hours, but if you're someone with a sales-oriented personality, it may be the job for you.
- Get educated
- Choose a brokerage
- Get a license
- Develop a real estate agent budget
- Make the realtor/real estate agent decision
- Build your client/referral portfolio
Companies will pay extremely well for a talented marketing director or manager.
Art directors and online marketers fall under this description as well.
If you're able to routinely command successful marketing campaigns, you can ask for the rate of pay you want.
Depending on this position, you may need a college degree in order to get hired.
I did not have an online marketing or technology degree. I taught myself and learned via hours of research and reading, trial and error.
To this day, there are methods and ways of doing things I have picked up here and there, that continue to evolve my business.
The top earners who work for a specific company make around $166,000 per year.
However, if you are your own boss and start your own online marketing business, this number can easily double or triple in some cases.
Insurance sales agent
Much like real estate agents, insurance sales agents are paid on commission.
Their earnings are limited only by how much they are able to sell.
Many can make six figures (averaging around $115,000 per year) with relative ease, although it is possible to earn much more than that.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes an entire section on how to become an insurance sales agent.
- You'll need to be educated—a bachelor's degree gives you the best prospects.
- You'll need to get licensed in the state you operate in.
- Build a client base.
You don't need a college degree to write scripts.
There are many scripts written and sold each year that never make it to theaters.
Many aren't produced, but even those that are sometimes go directly to DVD.
That said, scriptwriters can make over $100,000 per year easily.
Scripts are needed for everything from radio and television commercials to Youtube videos.
A talented scriptwriter can command a competitive salary in almost any market.
Chron offers steps on how to become a scriptwriter.
Programmers are needed in almost every market, yet many people are still intimidated by the idea of computer code.
It's easy to learn the necessary skills with the sheer amount of educational materials out there.
Entry-level programming jobs start around $84,000 per year and go up from there.
IT managers command $141,000 salaries.
LearnHowtoBecome.com provides a good breakdown on how to become a programmer.
Take a hard look at your technical skills
What are you good at? What are you passionate about? Where do those categories overlap?
While following your passion is important, you must also consider how to turn those passions into viable earnings.
Though you can't make six figures building model cars or airplanes, you can earn six figures as a designer.
While you can't make six figures playing with Lego bricks, you can earn six figures as an architect.
If you think you have no skills, take the opportunity to learn some.
Some of the most in-demand skills in the labor force today are:
- The ability to write basic code
- The ability to manage large-scale projects
- The ability to design a functional, attractive website
- The ability to effectively manage your time
- The ability to adapt to a rapidly shifting job environment
If you noticed a pattern in there, there's a good reason for it.
As the world moves more and more towards a fully technological society, skills relevant to keeping that society running—coding, building websites, managing databases, etc.—will become the best-paid jobs.
It's okay to become a student again if you've got a six-figure goal in mind.
Don't be afraid to become a student again, if you don't have a technical skill set
If you lack the skills you need to find a high-paying job, there is still hope.
You're never too old to further your talents.
More students than ever before are enrolled in college as non-traditional students; in other words, there are people getting college degrees at fifty, sixty, sometimes even seventy years of age.
Just because you didn't start secondary education at 18 doesn't mean you're too old to do so now.
You also do not have to attend college. There are ways to obtain the necessary skills without going for a four-year degree.
One option is technical school.
Although these institutions are often seen as budget colleges, there is a lack of skilled laborers in traditional blue-collar industries.
If you want to learn to code, there are "coding camps" that you can attend.
These are intensive, multi-week long crash courses in everything you need to know about programming.
If you're willing to put in the time, you can also look at apprenticeships.
Some occupations are best learned hands-on.
No matter what you learn in a classroom, some skills can only be taught when you're in the thick of it.
Becoming an apprentice will allow you to learn these skills.
Here is a list of resources if you want to dig deeper into becoming a programmer:
And here is a list of the best trade schools if you want to look into blue collar work.
3. Consider entrepreneurship
If the corporate world isn't for you, you can still earn a six-figure salary by opening your own business and building it up.
As I said before, the economy is the best it has ever been.
This is great news for aspiring entrepreneurs.
In 2014 alone, more than 452,835 companies were founded.
More than 6% of the adult population in the United States owns a business as their main job.
And despite the huge number of companies opening up, business failure rates are in the midst of a long-term decline—down 30% since 1977.
Some of the most popular ways to do so today are authorship via Amazon Kindle, opening a freelance web design company, becoming a technical writer, and much more.
You might also want to consider less "sexy" jobs—offering tech support services to construction crews may not be the most glamorous job, but the demand is there.
Finding a niche with an unsolved pain point can open the door to incredible earnings.
If your business idea requires money, you can take out a personal loan to fund it.
You don't have to go through venture capital or any of the more intimidating methods.
If your credit isn't the best, you can still take out a bad credit loan to help you get back on your feet.
I used every resource I had to start my business, from income tax returns to personal credit cards.
Because bills were due every month, it gave me more reason to push harder and get my business up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Your potential is limited only by the risks you're willing to take.
4. Network, network, network.
The bigger your network, the fatter your wallet.
You may have heard, "It's not what you know, but who you know."
While not always true, knowing the right people can be a huge boost to your career.
Having the right person in your corner can help you get the promotion you need to make more money than ever before.
Attend networking events in your area and get to know the big players in your industry of choice.
Even if you aren't interested in working in a specific industry, knowing the movers and shakers of that field can be helpful further down the line.
Resources like Meetup.com can help you connect with like-minded individuals in your area.
You can also look at your local Chamber of Commerce website for hosted networking events.
Social media is also an excellent way to make contacts and learn about upcoming events.
If you live within half an hour of a major city, you'll have access to dozens of networking events each month.
Have business cards made up, dress sharp, and put on your most welcoming smile.
The value of the right contact at the right time cannot be overstated.
Here are a few tips before you attend a networking event:
Be clear about what you bring to the table. You'll want an elevator speech—a 15-20 second introduction that summarizes your skills and talents.
Talk to everyone. Even people working in industries far different from yours can be valuable allies.
Introduce people to others. Once you've met several people, start connecting the dots and introducing them to others you've met.
Follow up. Don't let your introductions be the only interaction you have with someone. Reach out after the event by sending an email or connecting on social media.
Become a regular at events. You may not make connections at the first event you attend, but if you begin attending networking events around your city on a regular basis, you'll start to become a familiar face.
How to Tie a Tie: The Windsor Knot
If you want to earn six figures per year, start now
First, break down how far you have to go. Then determine what your most employable skills are, and how you can apply those to finding the career you want.
The list of six-figure jobs above is just a sampling of some of the most accessible options out there.
There are far more jobs that pay as much, if not more.
When I was starting out, one of the fields I had interest in medicine. But after assessing how much it would cost for med school, living expenses, time in a residency, and possibly relocating for college and/or a good opportunity, I knew this was not the path I wanted to take.
I opted for Nuclear Medicine, went to a local community college to obtain my degree, and went on to advance my credentials by becoming the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) for the hospital where I was working at the time.
This path allowed me to make a six figure income without a six figure student loan debt.
Success means taking a chance, but you can never lose as long as you're moving forward.
Do you know any six-figure salary facts I missed?
Let everyone know in the comments below!