When it comes to dreams of a higher income, your first inclination may be to go back to school. Maybe you feel that you’ve hit a wall in your current career and feel the need to launch a new one. Or maybe you feel that an MBA or similar additional degree is the answer to getting ahead with your current employer.
While going back to school can be a helpful way to boost income, you don’t necessarily need a new degree - or a full-time stint at college - to achieve this goal. Here are some ideas on how to develop your earning potential without adding another degree - or paying for one.
How to Map Your Career Path
If you hope to stay on your current career trajectory, the first thing you need to do is map out your career path. Fortunately, that is easier than ever.
- Skim the profiles of others who do what you want to do. Chances are, you know at least one or two professionals in your area of work whose jobs you’d love to have. If that’s the case, use the information they willingly put online. Check out the profiles of others who do what you’d love to do someday - or those who earn more than you in the same field. Figure out what sets these individuals apart from the crowd, and take notes about the skills and experience listed in their profiles.
- Check out job listings of jobs you’d love to have. Now, check for actual job listings for jobs you’d love to have. What are the listings asking for? What are the salary ranges for these jobs? (You can get salary information from many jobs by exploring government wage data at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Write down any skills these listings consistently ask for that you may want to consider developing.
- Check Salary.com for an idea of salary ranges. Not sure if you’re already at the top of your current job title’s earning potential? Check Salary.com. It will give you a bell curve of salaries for your particular job title, and similar titles. This can help you see if you should ask for a raise with your current skillset, or develop a few more skills to earn a promotion.
- Craft your career plan. Now that you’re armed with information, prioritize any additional skills, certifications, or experiences you may need to kick your career up to the next level. With that list in hand, you can decide which of these eight income-boosting options will be most helpful to you.
8 Ways to Boost Your Income
1) Ask for a Raise
Perhaps the reason you are feeling underappreciated is that you haven’t received or asked for a raise lately. If you’ve done excellent work without a raise for more than a year, ask for one.
2) Take on Part-time Work
If you need that extra cash ASAP, take on extra part-time work. You can work for yourself on the side as a freelancer or small business owner, or take a part-time job for someone else. When shopping for a part-time job, though, the key is to ensure it will further your overall career goals. It may be worth your while to take a lower part-time wage if it helps develop needed skills and experience.
3) Get a Mentor
Mentors can be a great tool for developing your career. Choose someone in your line of work who has been successful and whose story resonates with you. Then, set up regular meetings to discuss career goals. If you find someone willing to mentor you, it’s important to honor that investment by actually acting upon his or her advice.
4) Take on More Responsibility
Are there jobs at work that no one ever seems to want to do? Or is there a new project in the offing that no one seems to have time for? Take it on! Taking on more responsibility in your current role is a great way to show you’re worth a promotion - and a raise.
5) Look at Additional Certifications
You don’t have to go back to school full-time or earn another degree to increase your earning potential. Instead, look into certifications and one-off courses that can brush up your skillset. These days, you can even find some excellent courses for free through massive online open course (MOOC) websites like Coursera and edX. Another option is extension schools, which allow you to take one-off graduate-level courses for $200-$1,000 each, or to earn a masters-level certification.
6) Attend Professional Conferences and Seminars
Professional conferences and seminars can be a great option for learning more about your field in a short amount of time. They’re especially essential if you’re in a rapidly-changing field like medicine, online marketing, or technology. Conferences not only let you sharpen your professional knowledge, but they also help you network with potential clients and contacts.
7) Change to a New Field
If you’ve reached the top of your current field and arent satisfied with your salary, use your skills to enter a new field. Check out LinkedIn and other online job listings to see where you could leverage your current skills in a new, higher-earning field.
8) Work as a Volunteer
Like a part-time job, volunteer work can hone your professional skills or develop new ones that you need. If, for instance, you’re primarily a copywriter, you could volunteer to set up a simple WordPress website for a local nonprofit. Learn as you go, and you can add basic WordPress development to your list of marketable skills.
None of these options costs much, and some will even increase your income while developing your marketable skills. The key is to focus your efforts in one or two areas where you can really leverage your time to boost your income without going back to school full-time. With the right attitude and the right strategy, you can increase your salary - or even craft a whole new career.