How much money do you earn each year? As of 2013, Labor Statistics report the median annual earnings for someone with less than a high school diploma at $24,544, while someone with a professional degree earned $89,128. Everyone else fell somewhere in between.
•High school diploma holders: $33,852
• Associate’s degree holders: $40,404
• Bachelor’s degree holders: $57,616
• Master’s degree holders: $69,108
• Doctoral degree holders: $84,396
• Some college, but no degree: $37,804
Of course, we all know obtaining a degree requires a substantial amount of time and money, and these are resources that many people don’t have in excess. There are other things you can do to increase your earnings power, however, that do not necessarily require such a lengthy time commitment or a hefty financial investment.
1. Certification; potential earnings increase of $5,000 to upward of $20,000 annually
These days, virtually everyone has basic computer skills. Most employers expect educated candidates to understand how to use Windows, operate Word, and create basic spreadsheets. You can increase your value to an employer by proving your skills through certification.
Microsoft certification exams cost around $150, and passing these certifications renders you more valuable to an employer, and also opens you up to new job opportunities. According to a Microsoft publication, “Office Specialists are viewed by their supervisors as more competent, more productive, and more credible as a result of their certification status. Whether you are new to your career or a highly trained administrative professional with a top-level staff position, you will find that adding “Microsoft Office Specialist” to your resume is beneficial.”
Microsoft Office Specialist certifications are an ideal choice for the business professional. Some of the more advanced tests are notoriously difficult, though, and advanced IT certifications in particular (like database and programming certifications) or are generally designed for those with specialized computer expertise.
The average starting salary for a certified Microsoft Office Specialist is $62,849, which is around $5,200 higher than the median salary for bachelor’s degree holders. Microsoft Solutions Associates typical start at $73,149 per year and a certified Solutions Administrator earns around $77,000, according to IT Career Finder. A certified Microsoft Office Specialist is oftentimes qualified for these and other positions, such as office manager and executive assistant positions. There are no specific degree requirements to take the MOS certification.
2. Learn another language increases earnings potential by around 2% per year
Being bilingual or multilingual in a global business world will increase your earnings power. The Economist examined just how much of an impact learning a foreign language has on an employees’s earnings and employment. Overall, learning a language improves decision making skills, and increases earnings potential by around 2% on average.
The specific language you learn impacts your potential earnings return, though, with Spanish producing a 1.5% wage premium, and German producing a 3.8% salary increase. This may not sound like a lot, but over the long-term, when you consider compound interest, you could be looking at six figure gains over your lifetime.
3. Take on new projects/learn new skills; a skill like project management may increase earnings potential by 7%
Data from a recent study published Accenture found that “39% of the 300 U.S. manufacturing executives surveyed described the shortage of qualified, skilled applicants as “severe,” and 60% said it has been difficult to hire the skilled people they need.” Although this particular study focuses on the manufacturing industry, skillshortages are a problem in many industries and work environments.
By taking on additional projects and tasks, and showing your employer that you have a diverse skill set, you will increase your overall value and learn new skills in the process. When it’s time for a performance review, promotion, or when you apply for a new position, these new skills may just pay off for you. Data published on Monster indicates that negotiation skills can increase earnings by 4% at some jobs, and some companies will pay a 5% higher salary for someone with strategic marketing skills. A data analyst who knows their way around SAS programs, for instance, can earn 17% more than an analyst without that skill.
4. Be flexible; it can help you land a job or ace a performance review
Are you willing to travel? What about weekends — do you need those off, or are you willing to work when needed? Recent data published on The Huffington Post found that 16% of Americans would take 20% less pay for 20% less work. To quote the publication, this translates into “about 23 million people would take a proportionate pay cut in exchange for a three-day weekend.”
While a healthy work-life balance is essential, being willing to take on some of the unpleasant or unwanted tasks around the workplace every once and awhile will show your commitment. When it comes time for a performance review or a raise, your commitment may just boost your pay. – USA TODAY