Updated February 2, 2023
Wouldn’t it be nice if every degree or job gave you high income skills you could apply to the marketplace?
Guess what? They freaking don’t! One of the biggest struggles new graduates have is drawing a line between what they know and what employers want. And the labor market is changing fast, meaning that your skills can become outdated quickly.
Skills matter. Degrees and credentials are great. But the thing that sets you apart, that dictates how much you can earn, will be your skillset. Want to earn more than $100k? You’ll need the right skills. Want to snap up a cushy job? Ditto.
The good news is, you have a whole bucket of skills you’ve acquired from a bunch of different experiences. The more you can put in that bucket, the more in-demand you’ll be.
LinkedIn publishes a yearly list of in-demand skills. If you don’t have any of the high-paying skills on this list, no biggie. You can learn them! Online! And often for free!
So, if you’re starting out on a career and want to be more in demand in the marketplace, here are 12 high income skills to learn to make money, including a few that I’ve taught myself!
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What are high income skills?
High-income skills are abilities that you can learn and develop that are in demand in the marketplace. That means that these skills have an outsized return — learn them and you’ll make WAY more money, whether you’re working at a job or setting up your own business. And dang… it’s nice to be in high demand!
People who have these skills make more and get more job offers coming to them… 🤗
12 High income skills you can teach yourself!
When you type something into a search engine (which you might have done before you landed here), the search engine, let’s say Google, makes some complex decisions about which pages–of the millions that might fit–it’s going to show you.
And there are a lot of strategies to make websites BETTER so that Google moves them up the list. We call this Search Engine Optimization (AKA SEO). This page was high enough up in Google for you to click on it. If it was on page 57 of your search results, you never would have seen it.
SEO is in high demand. You know why? Because companies want to bring in organic views to their websites and products.
Organic views are super valuable, since the alternative requires bringing in traffic through social media posting or advertising.
But organic traffic is different; it’s made up of people who are driven to find the answer to the questions they’re asking.
ZipRecruiter puts the average salary of an SEO consultant at $69,499, while a well-rated SEO consultant on Upwork can make anywhere from $60-250/hour. Not bad for a skill you can teach yourself.
How to learn
The way I learned SEO was by taking courses on Skillshare. Start with Rand Fishkin’s Introduction to SEO: Tactics and Strategy for Entrepreneurs, it’s a great overview!
Then, chances are you’ll need to master tools to help you learn keywords, SEO tools like SEM Rush to learn what people are searching for, and how to optimize a site!
BY THE WAY! I use Skillshare to learn just about everything, from digital marketing to branding. And they let you try Premium FREE for one month!
Blockchain is a way of storing valuable information across a system in which each computer stores a record. It’s the basis for crypto — you know, the thing everyone was stoked about that tanked last year?
In non-computer speak, it’s simply that information is shared and duplicated across a system, making it harder to compromise, versus the model of storing information on a server that each computer accesses. Each computer has a record of any transactions, which makes it way safer than a centralized server. Get it?
As I write this, crypto has done a bit of a crash. But let’s be honest, the technology underlying cryptocurrencies and web 3 IS NOT going away. It will be a part of our lives, and if you’re an early adopter the skill set can pay off.
How to Learn
Blockchain is in high demand and continuing to grow. Because of this, there are a TON of courses and resources of there for learning, with many companies creating their own programming in a desperate bid to get more qualified workers.
Here are 7 free courses for learning Blockchain.
3. Data Science
Every day, there’s a ridiculous amount of data being produced. Companies use this data to try to understand their customers, how they shop, work, and live. And there’s so much data out there that they need people who can help them figure it out.
Enter… Data scientists.
A data scientist
Data science is the… um… the science of understanding data. (Was that too obvious?). Data scientists interpret. They tell stories. Basically, they help companies figure out what the mound of data they’re collecting means.
How to learn
There’s not just one road into data science. But there are a lot of data science skills that you can teach yourself and add to your resume. This DEFINITELY includes programming languages like Python and R, which anyone can learn thanks to handy-dandy platforms like Github.
We love Datacamp, which is an awesome online learning spot for all things data science. And they have a ton of free courses too.
4. Video Editing
I freaking love video editing… weird as that may sound. I get totally lost in creating something.
Although a Video Editor’s salary on ZipRecruiter isn’t huge, $47,000 yearly, talented Video Editors on Upwork can make $40-150/hourly. This is good news for gifted video editors who want to work freelance, especially if you’ve got chops and the ability to market yourself.
How to Learn
With phones now capable of making ridiculously high-quality videos. That means it’s not hard to become great at video editing. You can take your phone out today and start playing around. There are a few free video editing programs, I’ve used FilmMaker Pro.
But above all else, I love Adobe programs. I work in Adobe Premiere, and I play around with AfterEffects a bit. If you want to learn video editing, you can take courses on SkillShare here too, or just start diving in on YouTube! There are lots for free there.
BTW- I have about $3,000 worth of pro camera gear. But lately, I’ve just been using my Samsung A50 with a DJI Mimo Gimble and a Lav Mic. While it’s not perfect, it’s quick, no-hassle, and I’m having fun learning. You can see my newest work here.
5. Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is a BFD — a BIG FREAKING DEAL! And, to be honest, it’s not even fair to lump all the social platforms under one heading. Smart brands & companies know that each social media platform requires its own expertise. BUT for the purpose of this list, we’re sticking them together.
Digital marketing used to be the job companies gave to the intern. “Post this on Tweeter for us.” But no longer. Companies are throwing big budgets at digital marketing, recognizing that it has the potential to overtake traditional marketing—digital is now around 60% of all ad spends.
How to Learn
You can learn digital marketing. But, and I’m going to be honest here, building a following of 5,000 people on Instagram doesn’t cut it anymore.
If you’re serious about becoming a digital marketer, I’d recommend doing a deep dive on learning advertising across different platforms, Facebook and TikTok still seem to be the most popular. Learn Pixel, retargeting, and get serious about metrics and analytics.
Where do you do this? I found this fantastic list of free online marketing courses from HubSpot.. Which is an awesome place to start.
And, if you have that Skillshare account handy, try this course on Facebook ads!
Selling has been around for thousands of years. Unlike most of the other things on this list, it’s not fancy or sexy, and it’s not tech. But sales isn’t going anywhere. Companies need to sell things.
Sales IS changing though. Like everything else, it’s been upended by tech. From fancy AI customer databases to email lead generation software, sales will keep evolving. But at the base of sales is a relationship. As the famous saying goes, “people do business with people they know, like, and trust.”
As far as the money goes, sales is a tough salary to pin down. After all, that pushy guy at the cellphone booth in the mall is a salesperson but might not make that much. But top salespeople can make multiple six-figures a year, actually, potentially more than any other job on this list.
How to Learn Sales
I’m not sure if everyone is cut out for sales, but if you think you might be, you can always improve your abilities. And don’t just assume that because you’re great with people you’ll be able to sell.
There are some fantastic courses on SkillShare, I really like this Modern Sales Training course. And there’s another list of Free Sales Courses here. Check it out!
It’s not surprising that coding is still a valuable skill, and it’s also something you can learn yourself. Developers are in high demand as we transition to a tech economy. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a computer science degree to be a developer.
Anyone can learn to code!
We talked about Data Science above — and yes, there’s some crossover here. Python and R are definitely coding languages.
How to Learn Coding
There are so many free coding courses out there, particularly because everyone needs coders. Codecademy is a great place to start.
If you’re wondering what language to learn, it’s important to choose one that fits within your career goals. Do a search for some interesting jobs and see what languages come with it. If you search for an app developer role, for example, you’ll probably find languages like Java or Ruby on Rails are popular. Give it a try!
Are you a writer at heart? Have you always imagined living in a Starbucks, writing for a living?
Now imagine that life, but with a solid income.
Copywriting is the skill of using words to sell things, and it’s valuable. It’s one of those skills that a lot of people think they have, but few actually do.
It’s hard to write bulletproof prose that perfectly captures your ideal customer, stopping them in their tracks and helping them overcome objections to buy something. And that’s why companies pay.
The average copywriter salary on ZipRecruiter is $59,084/year. But this is another one of those skills that will command you top dollar if you’re the best. Great copywriters are in high demand and charge a lot—the average copywriter salary on Upwork is around $100/hr.
If you want a taste of amazing copywriting, drop by Laura Belgray’s blog, Talking Shrimp. She’s one of the best copywriters around, and a read of her homepage will tell you why. I also love Eddie Shleyner’s blog, Very Good Copy.
Copywriting is about selling. But go read the best wordsmiths in the business, and you’ll see why they’re great. There’s none of that “But wait, there’s more” crap.
Just beautiful, crafted words that make you smile and fall in love with a mission or company.
How to Learn Copywriting
The blogs I mentioned above are a great place to start, and they have awesome resources. You’ll need to develop a portfolio, so writing copy should be a part of your learning. Reach out to local businesses or non-profits to see if you can practice for them. And keep a portfolio of your work!
And, if you’ve got that SkillShare account handy, there are some great copywriting courses here too. Start with Copywriting For Beginners: How To Write Web Copy That Sells Without Being Cheesy
And if you want to learn the art of wordsmithing, perhaps *ahem* reading should be part of it? Try some of these famous titles on for size:
Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads, Luke Sullivan
Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy
9. User Experience (UX)
User Experience is a rapidly growing field, and it’s perfect for people with advanced degrees. It requires a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research. This means that most degree holders have some point of entry, but it’s an especially great choice for grads with social science and humanities degrees.
Hold your breath, because UX Designers make an average of $98,816 in the U.S. UX Managers make $125,712 while UX Directors make $166,940. Who said you weren’t going to be able to use that anthropology degree? UX is the perfect place for it.
How to Learn UX
I found this little guide from Career Foundry for launching a career in UX, and it’s awesome!
If you happen to have a SkillShare membership, which I keep handy, there are also some great UX courses on there like Intro to UX: Fundamentals of Usability or User Experience Design Essentials – Adobe XD UI UX Design.
10. Project Management
Project Management is a bit of a catch-all title. Project Managers might do anything from designing a new road to overseeing a research project. So, if you want to move into project management, you’ll need to figure out what type you’d like to do. The type of projects that interest you.
How to Learn Project Management
It’s important to recognize that you might not be able to do every type of project management out there. If you’re a history grad, becoming a project manager is probably NEVER going to mean overseeing a bridge project.
So your goal is to figure out which domain you’d be applying project management skills in. You can do some free project management courses, there’s a good list here, to get a sense of the requirement and the discipline. You might even choose to invest in a PMP (Project Management Professional) certification, which is widely recognized. You can find more information about how to get certified here.
Google also has its own free Project Management training!
11. AWS Cloud Architecture
What is Amazon? You might say a bookstore, and you’d be sort of right. You might even say an online marketplace, and you’d be partially right too.
But did you know that one of Amazon’s most profitable branches has nothing to do with books or products? It’s the cloud. Amazon Web Services, AWS, brought in 10-12% of Amazon’s revenue last month, but that number is growing year over year.
And businesses are paying big bucks for AWS-certified developers and architects. In fact, an AWS-certified developer makes an average of $122,000/year, while an AWS architect commands an impressive $165,748 yearly.
How to Learn AWS Cloud
Everything you need to get started is on the AWS Website, where you’ll find what you need to train for the certification and take the exam. You can read more about it here.
12. Content Marketing
If you’re creative and love to write and/or edit, content marketing might be another skill for you. Unlike copywriting, content writing isn’t strictly designed to sell. Copywriting is a type of content.
But content is a much bigger bucket. When a company writes a blog post, its goal might not be immediately to sell… “get it now for a limited time!” In fact, its goal might be to educate, create brand awareness, inspire, tell stories, or any number of things.
It’s amazing how many people are hiring writers. Company leaders are hiring ghostwriters to write their Twitter, LinkedIn, or Blog Posts. Heck, they’re even hiring people to write books for them! And companies of all kinds are using that skill we talked about above — SEO — and they need writers to create awesome copy. Ai just hasn’t got there yet.
According to ZipRecruiter, Content Managers make an average salary of $63,000/year.
How to learn content marketing…
Okay, it’s not necessarily that straightforward.
But it is vital to find places to create content and hone your craft. I also found this course on SkillShare: Web Writing Secrets: Create Content That Captivates Your Audience , which I think covers some basics really well. Start finding avenues to write for, pitch content to blogs and magazines or start your own, and create a portfolio of your work to show potential employers.
Or start a blog! I would never have called myself a content writer when I put my first few thoughts down on this website. But as it turns out, I’m pretty damned good at this, and now I can make multiple six-figures consulting. One great way to cut your chops with content (and build your brand and make some money too) is to start your own blog.
I have a post here on How to start a blog and another one on How to make money blogging! And you can get started for like $2.95/mo on with your own blog on Bluehost — that’s the host I started Roostervane with.
Checklist for high income skills
In this post, we’ve given you some ideas for high income skills you can teach yourself. So moment of truth. Here’s a checklist of the things you should look for when considering which high income skills to learn:
- Is it something you can learn relatively quickly, without going back to school?
- Can you find job postings on LinkedIn that require it (preferably with high salaries)?
- Are there people on platforms like Upwork looking for the skill?
- Will the skill help you make something you can show to potential employers or clients? (e.g. websites, portfolio, projects)
- Is it something you’re willing to take the time to learn by yourself?
Chances are, if you get most of these checked off, you’re looking at a high income skill!
If you feel like you’re stuck in your career, especially if you have a degree that feels useless or a dead-end job, why not learn one of these in-demand skills and level up? They’ll help you define the value you offer in the marketplace, and get paid more! Good luck!
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Updated February 3, 2023