What's the definition of the perfect commute? From the kitchen table to the couch. Working from home, or telecommuting, is no longer the stuff of cubicle daydreams. As of 2011, an estimated 20 to 30 million people worked at home at least one day a week, and at least 2.8 million people worked primarily from home [source: Telework Research Network]. With improvements in networking technology and changes in corporate philosophy, the right career -- and income -- might be closer than you think.
While "rich" is a relative term, researchers have identified how much money a person needs to be happy. According to researchers at Princeton University, those who earn $75,000 annually are generally satisfied with their lives. Earning less than $75,000, however, seems to introduce higher levels of emotional stress [source: Rubin]. To that end, we've uncovered 10 telecommuting careers in which you could earn $75,000 or more.
First, however, you'll need to steer clear of Internet "work at home" scams promising thousands of dollars a month for 20 hours of work a week, no college degree required. Remember that telecommuting is a benefit of a job, not the job itself. The best way to land a well-paying telecommuting job is to look for jobs that offer telecommuting as an option. If you're qualified for the position, then you might be able to negotiate a part-time or full-time telecommute, even if it's not an option at the time of your interview. Beginning on the next page, find out which careers made our list.
You don't need to be a certified public accountant (CPA) to land a lucrative work-at-home career in accounting. However, you will need a bookkeeping background or an accounting degree to get started, as well as a way to network with potential clients.
Accountants help their clients by handling a variety of tasks, from running payroll to preparing corporate taxes. The highest-paid accountants earn $100,000 or more per year, but even an average salary is still between $45,000 and $78,000. Better still, accountants can operate their businesses from home without a lot of overhead [source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]. All it requires is a typical office setup, including a computer and printer, as well as some specialized accounting software.
Experienced software and Web programmers are in high demand, and an increasing number of companies view telecommuting as way to retain talented employees. Cisco Systems, for example, allows many of its 65,000 employees in 92 countries to interact through video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings [source: Reuteman].
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80 percent of software or Web programmers have earned a bachelor's degree in computer science or information systems [source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]. However, depending on the job requirements, you may be able to apply for a telecommuting programmer position with an associate's degree or a certificate in a related field. Programmers with proven skills in Java, C#, SQL and other Web and software development scripts can easily pick up freelance projects and work from home. There are even dedicated Web sites, like Programming from Home, that specialize in freelance programming job listings.
Are you a fast typer? Do you speak more than one language fluently? Do you have a mind for legal or medical terminology? Transcription or translation might be for you.
Of the two, translation jobs offer the best pay. Businesses, book publishers, Web sites -- just about anyone who produces marketing or editorial content -- need the help of experienced translators to push their products into new global markets.
In the medical field, hospitals and doctors offices need trained transcriptionists and coders to document procedures for insurance and record-keeping purposes. Law offices also need fast, accurate typists who can transcribe audio or video recordings of depositions.
Public relations specialists, also known as media relations professionals, help corporations and nonprofit organizations implement and measure public perception campaigns. The job may require creating and carrying out public awareness initiatives, drafting news releases, writing speeches for company executives, executing social media strategies and handling the requests of reporters -- and can encompass many other aspects of communication between a client and the public. Traditionally, public relations professionals have worked in offices, but an increasing number of people who work in the field have launched their own home-based firms or arranged telecommuting options with their employers.
According to a survey of Public Relations Society of America members, the average annual income of freelance public relations professionals is about $104,000 [source: PRSA]. And job prospects throughout the industry are encouraging. Between now and 2018, public relations jobs are expected to grow by 24 percent nationwide [source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics].
By setting aside space for a home office, any small business can be turned into a home business. Get a 1-800 number, an e-mail address and a well-designed Web page, and no one needs to know that your corporate headquarters are in your spare bedroom.
Some high-paying careers are increasingly centered at home, such as home-based physicians who review and evaluate patient cases for health care companies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these physicians earn an average of $100,000 a year [source: Goudreau]. Even if you don't hold a doctoral degree, there are virtually unlimited options for running a small business out of your home: business consulting, meeting or event planning, Web-based retail, life coaching, personal training, therapy, dog grooming -- the list goes on and on.
For experienced journalists and editors, freelance writing and editing can be an excellent career move. Most journalistic jobs require a degree in journalism or communications, and it's important to obtain this education -- plus real-world experience as a journalist -- before embarking on a full-time freelance career. One of the chief indicators of future telecommuting success is networking. As in any career, building relationships with other journalists and editors can help freelancers secure steady work.
Many large newspapers and magazines have taken on more freelancers to save money on full-time employees. And Web content is in high demand. For editors, there are opportunities to manage teams of freelancers, help executives write their memoirs or do freelance editing for fiction and nonfiction authors. The highest-earning 10 percent of freelance journalists earned more than $77,000 in 2008, the latest year for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released data [source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics].
Are you craving some variety in your workday? Consider a career as a telecommuting virtual assistant. These professionals provide administrative services to businesses, but should also be willing and able to step in when other tasks are requested. According to the International Virtual Assistants Association, this home-based job can include everything from light bookkeeping and data processing to Internet marketing and event planning [source: International Virtual Assistants Association].
You'll either need to have some previous administrative experience or specialized training from organizations like VAClassroom to launch your virtual assistant business. Of course, it also helps if you're a tech-savvy person with stellar organizational and communication skills. Although the starting wages for virtual assistants are about $25 an hour, those at the top of their field can charge about $100 an hour [source: Peterson].
An increasing number of companies are hiring American workers for call center jobs. And as of 2011, the 60,000 call centers located in North America had hired 20 percent of their employees to work from home. By 2013, the percentage of North American call center agents working from home is expected to reach 30 percent [source: TMC]. For some companies, such as Denver-based Alpine Access, work-at-home employees make up the bulk of the company's hires [source: Beeler].
With today's networking technology, it's much easier to route help desk calls to any phone, anywhere. You may not become independently wealthy while answering calls from home, but you could earn about $2,000 a month working 30 to 35 hours a week. Those willing to work more hours could earn $75,000 or more a year [source: Weston].
According to the 2010-2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook, new jobs for computer support specialists are poised to outpace all other occupations. And tech-support jobs fit a telecommuting model, too. Computer support specialists provide phone and e-mail support for clients, run diagnostics on misbehaving machines and perform repairs on company computer systems.
The highest-paid computer support specialists earn well over $70,000 a year, assisting tech-reliant people and companies in a variety of industries, and require little more than a bachelor's degree to get started. In some cases, this typical requirement will be waived if a company offers on-the-job-training.
If you're interested in learning how investments, tax laws and other financial decisions impact the bottom line, working as a financial planner or advisor could be a great way to help others while avoiding a daily corporate commute. Because financial planners can meet with clients in a variety of settings, from the local coffee shop to the client's own home, it's a simple matter to run this enterprise as a home-based business. And, with salaries in this field exceeding $100,000, you could afford to make a few smart investments of your own [source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics].
In addition, telecommuting could increase your job satisfaction. A July 2011 survey of telecommuters found that more than 85 percent reported higher productivity and happiness when working from home instead of a corporate office. For financial planners, the ability to work at home without interruption can result in less stress, too [source: McConville].
For more information about telecommuting careers and related topics, check out the links on the next page.
Dreams really can come true, gamers. Learn more about professional gaming from HowStuffWorks.
- All Business. "The Top 25 Home-Based Business Ideas." (Dec. 16, 2011) http://www.allbusiness.com/top-25-home-based-businesses/16659292-1.html
- Beeler, Carolyn. "Outsourced Call Centers Return, to U.S. Homes." NPR. Aug. 25, 2010. (Dec. 16, 2011) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129406588
- Goudreau, Jenna. "The Best-Paying Work-at-Home Jobs." Forbes. Sept. 27, 2011. (Dec. 20, 2011) http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2011/09/27/the-best-paying-work-at-home-jobs/
- International Virtual Assistants Association. "101 Ways to Use a Virtual Assistant." (Dec. 16, 2011) http://www.ivaa.org/general/custom.asp?page=101WaysToUseaVA
- McConnville, Jim. "Telecommuters More Production, Financial Workers Say." Financial Advisor Magazine. July 21, 2011. (Dec. 16, 2011) http://www.fa-mag.com/fa-news/8004-telecommuting-and-financial-services-industry-make-good-mix-.html
- Peterson, Erin. "Five Great Second Jobs for Extra Cash." Fox Business. Oct. 12, 2011. (Dec. 16, 2011) http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/10/12/5-great-second-jobs-for-extra-cash/
- Public Relations Society of America. "Solo Practitioner Survey Results: 2008." November 2008. (Dec. 16, 2011) http://www.prsa.org/SearchResults/view/2D-0011/0/Solo_Practitioner_Survey_Results_2008
- Reuteman, Rob. "Companies Embrace Telecommuting as a Retention Tool." CNBC. Sept. 30, 2011. (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.cnbc.com/id/44612830
- Rubin, Courtney. "At What Price Happiness." Inc. Sept. 7, 2010. (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.inc.com/news/articles/2010/09/study-says-$75,000-can-buy-happiness.html
- Telework Research Network. "How Many People Telecommute?" (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.teleworkresearchnetwork.com/research/people-telecommute
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Accountants and Auditors." (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos001.htm
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer Software Engineers and Computer Programmers." (Dec. 20, 2011) http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos303.htm
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "News Analysts, Reporters and Correspondents." (Dec. 20, 2011) http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos088.htm
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Personal Financial Advisors." (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos302.htm
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer Support Specialists." (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos306.htm
- Weston, Liz Pulliam. "Real Work at Home Jobs." Bundle. Dec. 20, 2009. (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.bundle.com/article/real-work-at-home-jobs-7142/