High earning jobs for telecommuters

Have laptop, will travel? If you’ve ever dreamed of working at home, the local coffee shop or a beach somewhere, you’ll be happy to hear today’s technology has more employers looking for help online. We’ve seen online businesses, blogging and freelancing touted as side gigs, but it is possible to make a living online?

Yes, according to experts. It’s a win-win situation. Employers can hire help without being limited to local resources — and often at a lower cost. Employees, be they full time or contract, aren’t limited by geography and can find a wider hiring pool for their skills — not to mention greater flexibility and autonomy. Experts say the virtual environment is primed for entrepreneurship and independent contractors.

Wondering where the demand and the money will be? While salary and demand vary depending on where you live, here are some top paying virtual careers according to Forbes.com:

With an eye-popping earning potential of up to $400,000/year in the U.S., it’s no surprise that teleradiologists top Forbes.com’s list. This line of work involves reading and interpreting tests and reports, and it can be done as easily online as in an office thanks to teleconferencing.

Unfortunately, this job is out of reach if you aren’t already a radiologist — a doctor who has specialized training and experience. Still, this career option is part of a growing trend of “telehealth” jobs that help fill gaps such as providing service to rural areas or offering around-the-clock on-call services.

Reviewing prescriptions, checking for drug interactions, handling patient records and offering advice doesn’t have to be done behind a counter. Telepharmacy services have already made their way to Canada and often provide support for rural communities and smaller hospitals where 24/7 pharmacy services aren’t possible.

While it’s difficult to gage numbers in Canada, Forbes predicts telepharmacists can command a median salary of $105,000 to $112,000 USD per year, and there’s demand working for retailers as well as hospitals. Regardless of what country you work in, you’ll need the right degree and some tech savvy

If you’ve ever used a service such as Telehealth Ontario, you’re already familiar with some of the work telenurses do.  These professionals can provide advice over the phone such as answering questions about symptoms and assessing the seriousness of a medical concern. They can help triage patients at hospitals, provide after-hours advice on behalf of clinics and offer follow-up to patients released from hospitals.

Again, a nursing degree is required — but telenursing may be an option for nurses who want to transition away from a physically demanding role. In the U.S., telenurses can earn up to $65,000/year or $31/hour — but compensation will vary in Canada.

Technical Writer
It isn’t just high tech companies who need technical writers. Many industries need people to write documentation, online help and manuals. You’ll need more than just good communications skills — these jobs often require formal training in writing and technical communications, relevant work experience and a good understanding of the industry in which you plan to work.

In the U.S., Forbes reports telecommuting technical writers earn about $63,000/year or $30/hour. That number is in line with Canadian writers, but compensation can vary greatly depending on the industry.

Online Post-Secondary Teacher
Online education isn’t as big in Canada as it in the U.S. just yet, but experts say there’s potential here. You will need a graduate degree or two in your subject area, but you won’t be limited by where you live. Forbes predicts online profs can earn around $62,000 in the U.S., but comparable numbers and career opportunities are harder to find here in Canada.

If you’re looking to earn some money on a part time basis, online tutoring may be a more accessible option. (See 12 ways to earn money in retirement for more ideas.)

Perhaps you’ve heard of the global marketplace? Communities here in North America are more diverse too — for example, nearly 200 languages are now spoken in Canada, according the 2011 census data. To become a translator, interpreter or terminologist in Canada, you’ll need the right training and certification granted by provincial organizations. Certification can involve a dossier, mentorship and exams.

While Service Canada doesn’t have data specifically for online translators, it does note the outlook is good for this profession. Forbes predicts compensation of $43,000/year or $21/hour for online translators.

Phone Sex Operator (or “Phone Actress”)
No, that isn’t a mistake: Forbes really did include this career on its list. Believe it or not, people are drawn to this job for the flexible hours. This line of work certainly isn’t for everyone, but some experts say the sex industry is recession-proof and demand should remain good.

The good news is you won’t need to go back to school — but you will need a great voice, a way with words and above par improvisational skills. The earnings aren’t as high as you might think: anywhere from $6 to $30/hour or $240 to $1,200 a week. (Not surprisingly, many services are billed by the minute.)

Virtual Tax Preparer
Are you good with numbers and have a sound knowledge of tax policies? Many accounting firms are overloaded during tax season and bring on some extra help. This work is usually seasonal but may turn into consulting work throughout the year. Some firms are even going online to find temporary workers.

Forbes notes these professionals can bring in $39,000/year or $19/hour — but numbers can vary. Some positions are paid a salary, an hourly wage or as a commission of the preparation fee charged by the company. You don’t need to be an accountant — though accountants can charge higher prices — but you will need to earn certification in your province or state.

Medical Transcriptionists
You know what they say about doctors’ handwriting… When it comes to making notes about diagnosis or treatment or updating files, many health care professionals choose dictation instead. Medical transcriptionists turn those recordings into text. You could work in a hospital, doctor’s office, long-term care facility or other clinic — but experts say the latest workplace for this professional is the home office.

You don’t need a medical degree — just a medical transcriptionist diploma. (Some colleges offer part time and online certification programs.) Forbes notes that transcriptionists can earn $33,000/year or about $16/hour. Depending on where you live and your previous experience, you can earn up to $36/hour in parts of Canada.

Customer Service Representative
It should come as no surprise that many companies outsource their customer service responsibilities, but call centres aren’t the only ones fielding the calls. This role can also be handled from home and may involve making sales, answering questions and handling complaints.

Forbes pegs earnings at $30,000/year or $15/hour, but numbers may be a little higher in Canada — especially if you work in IT. The median salary for customer service representatives (virtual and otherwise) is about $16, with top earnings ranging $25-$30 and a low of minimum wage. Compensation depends on a number of factors such as the industry or company.

By now we’re sure you’re thinking: $30,000-$40,000 is a top-paying job? Remember, these numbers are estimates and they apply to the online environment. When companies can hire workers from almost anywhere, there is a lot of competition and employers are often looking for the lowing price. These numbers also don’t include equipment and expenses people who are self-employed may incur.

While working from home isn’t for everyone, neither is working in an office environment. If you’re interested in an online career, put the time and effort into researching the possibilities before diving in — just as you would for any career-related decision. This list is just a few of the possible jobs that can be performed from home. With the rapid pace of technology, no doubt there will be more opportunities in the years ahead.

Curious about what careers are in demand — and what they pay? Try the Government of Canada’s Explore Careers by Wages & Outlook database.

Additional sources: Human Resources and Development Canada, Statistics Canada, WorkinginCanada.gc.ca.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Mark Bowden

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