Ways to Earn a Six-Figure Income
A six-figure income is a milestone that many people want to achieve, and while in some areas it isn’t all that much, in others it is a life-changing sum.
Breaking that $100,000 barrier in your career is seen as ‘making it’ – and with a monthly income of over $8,000 it is not hard to see why getting there is desirable.
However, it isn’t always easy to achieve. Many of the top-paying jobs need formal university education or years of experience to make that income, so preparation and dedication are key.
When it comes to finding six-figure income ideas, sometimes you need to think outside the box, consider learning new skills and take advantage of the growth of certain sectors to find the $100k role that is perfect for you.
When it comes to assessing the skills you might need to achieve a six-figure income, education becomes important.
In most cases, you will probably need to achieve more than a high school education to get there as most of the highest salaries come from industries that value specific technical expertise and training.
You can find out about what education you might need through career exploration.
A great example of this is a surgeon.
Top surgeons can earn millions – but it isn’t a job that everyone could do. Even aside from the decades of studying, training and practicing, the financial implications of training to become a doctor are a barrier for many people.
For some of the top ways to earn a $100,000 income, a degree or postgraduate qualification is likely to be essential, but for others, you can find other ways to gain the expertise and knowledge needed.
When you are considering where to invest your time in terms of learning, tech skills seem to be the best place to start.
The growth of the technology industry is huge, and the potential for high earnings in multinational companies cannot be ignored.
Web development, both back and front-end, is a valuable tech skill needed for many roles – as is skill in SEO and Google Analytics.
Design – for example, graphics and web, as well as UX and UI, are really sought after tech skills that can help create a six figure income.
All these are examples of hard skills – and they can all be learned online, without the need for a university education.
Soft skills are more about inherent knowledge and ability – they can’t really be taught, only developed and encouraged.
Soft skills are often transferable – if you have managed projects before, the likelihood is that you will be able to transfer that knowledge to a new role.
Soft skills that are always in demand for the highest paid roles can include:
- Interpersonal communication
- Problem solving
- Critical thinking
- Public speaking and presentation skills
- Project management
- Time management
These are just a few examples; you can find out more in our comprehensive article on soft skills.
For those who are dedicated to earning a six-figure income, whether through a job or passive income, some personal attributes are even more important.
According to some self-help gurus, these are the secrets to making a six-figure income:
- Embrace risks
- Think outside the box
While these might not be ‘secret’, applying them can be difficult for some people.
Knowing that there are others out there who are easily earning six figures may help with motivation and self-belief – giving you the confidence to take risks and change your life by making the leap to a whole new career.
Average income: $103,620 (according to US News)
Software developers write the code that makes software products work – everything from video games, robots and apps, to operating systems.
Becoming a software developer means learning coding languages and understanding syntax – and it is a role that no longer requires a computer science degree.
To become a software developer, you can take online courses and coding boot camps to learn the skills necessary – and completing courses from well-known, accredited and respected sources will ensure that you can apply for the top-paying roles.
Find out some tips about writing your resume with our article to help you land your perfect software developer role.
Average income: $111,361 (data from Indeed)
Full-stack developers combine skills in the front and back end of website development, working on both the creation and operation of a website.
They are the ‘Swiss army knife’ of coding, able to provide end-to-end solutions for businesses – and as such, good full stack developers can command the highest salaries.
To become a highly marketable full stack developer, having a computer science degree is a great starting point, but you can learn all you need to know online.
In terms of back-end development languages, there are so many to choose from – try and learn some of the more ‘agile’ languages like Python and Ruby on Rails. Don’t forget to brush up on database management (SQL/NoSQL) and API architecture, too.
Average income: for Google, $136,335 (according to Glassdoor)
UX (User Experience) designers create an environment where the end-user interacts with the product or service.
A good UX designer creates a seamless experience for customers, allowing them to use online services from any device – as well as making sure that the environment suits the audience.
UX designers are involved in market research, product development, strategy and design.
Data science and computer science degrees aren’t necessary, but they do help. You can learn how to become a UX designer through online courses – the best ones will have the right combination of project-based learning and mentors so that you can get support from actual experts.
Average income: $113,309 (according to Glassdoor)
Data science sounds like a complicated role, but it mainly involves using and manipulating data sources to find information that can be used to create meaningful, actionable insights.
Processing and analyzing data is useful across almost all industries, from healthcare to e-commerce.
Data scientists are often experts in statistics and probability, computer science and communication, and although a data science degree is advantageous to gaining that top salary, online coding boot camps and other courses can provide you with the knowledge that you need to get qualified.
Average income: $127,990 (according to US News)
A financial manager coordinates and oversees the financial activities of major companies – from financial reports to profit projections.
Financial managers need to comply with laws and regulations – and it is a competitive job market.
For many firms, the minimum qualifications needed is a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics or business administration. The big companies (and those that consistently offer the biggest salaries) need a master’s degree.
To get one of the high-salaried roles, alongside the degree education, you are likely to have more than five years of experience in finance roles.
Average income: $110,816 (according to Glassdoor)
Becoming a pilot is often a dream of children, imagining taking to the skies.
Qualifying as a pilot might not need formal education in terms of university degrees, but there are strict training requirements. Becoming any kind of pilot needs a license and a certain number of flying hours.
You can learn to become an airline pilot through a full-time integrated course or modular training. Either way, it can be a costly career path, with training costing between $70–200k.
When you consider that captains can earn several hundred thousand dollars and the need for well-trained pilots increases year on year, the investment can seem worth it.
If you want to find out whether you are suited to a career as an airline pilot, it might help you to learn more about the pilot aptitude tests that are part of the application process.
Average income: depending on location, top earners can easily make $100k+
Real estate is a market that seems to be steady, with property holding value and remaining a tradeable commodity. People are always looking for new homes, so becoming a real estate agent gives you the opportunity to make money from this exchange.
Real estate agents are typically paid through commission, and with average rates at about 5%, selling $4 million in property will get you a nice six-figure income.
Becoming a real estate agent means passing an exam to become licensed, and working on behalf of a real estate broker. The exact rules for licensing do vary from state to state, so some research is needed to ensure that you meet local requirements.
Earning a six-figure commission is more likely when the area you are buying and selling houses has high prices – for example, in larger metropolitan areas.
Moving into real estate is a popular choice for those looking for a midlife career change, making the most of transferable skills from other careers.
Average income: early adopters and some other network marketers can earn over $100k
Network marketing, also known as direct sales and multi-level marketing, is a process where a company creates a product or service and then recruits independent reps to sell it for them.
These reps are paid commission on sales and encourage others to sign up under them – and then are also paid a percentage of their ‘down-line’ sales.
It is popular with those looking for stay-at-home working opportunities.
Network marketing is certainly not for the faint-hearted, it isn’t easy to make those six-figure sums. In many cases, independent reps must invest money in starter kits and products before they can make money, and it isn’t rare to find network marketers who make a loss.
If you are prepared to use your network, encourage others to take the risk, and invest money, energy and commitment, then achieving that six-figure income can happen.
Average income: $100k+ depending on area and property types
Property investment is credited as a great way to make money, with many millionaires investing in property portfolios for the huge tax breaks.
Getting into property investment doesn’t need a degree – or any formal education – but you do need to have some idea of what the market is like and where investment is likely to be more buoyant.
Whether you buy a ‘fixer-upper’ to remodel and sell for a profit, want to make the most of ongoing income from rental yield, or make the most of tourism with an Airbnb, property investment makes sense if you are looking to become asset rich.
Of course, to make the six-figure income from property, you need to have a rather large portfolio – so it might take some time and there are risks involved.
Average income: hard to define, depends on streams chosen
'Passive income' is a term used to define ways you can make money without having to do anything.
For some entrepreneurs, passive income earns them a fortune while they sleep; but the reality is, you need to create one thing and sell it lots of times.
This might be an eBook or an online course, for example.
Passive income streams can include:
YouTube. Creating videos on almost any subject can get subscribers – and YouTube channels that have a certain number of subscribers can get money from adverts placed in and around their uploads. This ad revenue can make money on an ongoing basis.
Onlyfans/Patreon. This is creating content specifically for subscribers, who are usually paying a monthly amount. This content can be videos, music or even learning resources.
Affiliate marketing. If you have a blog or a website, affiliate links can help you earn money from links placed in your content.
Index funds. A passive portfolio of stocks and bonds that have lower fees than those that are actively managed.
High dividend stocks. Owning high-yield stocks in a company can be a risky business, but the rewards can be much higher.
Become a business silent partner. If you have money to invest, you could become a silent partner in a business that needs funds in return for a percentage of the profits.
The amount of income from each stream will vary, of course, but a combination of these can add up to help you achieve a comfortable six-figure income – without an hourly commitment.
Achieving a six-figure income is seen as the benchmark for success – and there are so many routes for getting there, depending on what your education, background and interests are.
If you are just starting on your career path or looking at routes through higher education, then getting a degree in your chosen field (especially one in the growth industries like tech, software and health) is a great place to start.
Following a career path that moves towards one of the top paid jobs, if you can, makes you more likely to get the qualifications and the experience you need to achieve that magic number.
Of course, if you have talent and expertise in almost any niche, you can achieve the highest income – if you can apply that alongside the drive, self-motivation and will to succeed.
Taking the time to research careers and income sources that can net you the most money – and then working on gaining the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to be in the position to make the most of them – is how you will get there.
Make the most of your inherent talent and skills – alongside your passion – to achieve that six-figure salary in 2022.