Want to join the ranks of pajama professionals? Yes, the economy is still suffering, but thanks in large part to the digital revolution, it's easier than ever to launch a work-from-home career that pays well.
One in 4 workers now does some or all of a job at home, an increase of 300 percent since 2005, according to the U.S. Census. "It's all about 'return on investment,' " says social media and careers expert and author Dan Schawbel. "Just get the work done, and if productivity goes up, which it often does at home, then who cares about showing up?"
To be sure, many bosses who came of age before the era of remote digital work may require extra reassurance. "The best way to become a remote worker is to prove yourself first and then ask for it," Schawbel says. And, if you want to be promoted, you'll have to build in some face time with the boss.
But certain professions are more amenable to telecommuters in the digital age. With the help of Schawbel and studies conducted by CareerBuilder, as well as data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, AOL Jobs has found the six best careers -- those with ample opportunities -- for people who want to work from home.
6 Work From Home Jobs That Are Thriving In The Digital Age
6 Fast-Growing Work-From-Home Jobs
Graphic designers combine art and technology to advertisements, brochures, corporate reports and company websites. Work can be done either manually or on a computer, and tasks include layout and production. It's common for graphic designers to freelance, but often they have staff positions (with benefits!) that allow them to telecommute.
Number of Jobs: 279,200
Average Hourly Salary: $20.92
Outlook: Jobs for graphic designers working with computers is estimated to grow by 61 percent by 2020, or six times the average for all positions in the field. The development of new applications for mobile technology will help boost opportunities in the field. But as more and more platforms see new design opportunities, demand will grow for versatility with interactive skills.
Top Industries: computer systems design; advertising/public relations
An event planner develops a large client base by coordinating business meetings, client presentations, off-site retreats and parties. Much of the work is acting as a middleman between clients and event hosts as well as other service providers. And so the planner will solicit bids from a range of workers, from florists to photographers. A Certified Meeting Planner credential will help one stand out.
Number of Jobs: 71,600
Average Hourly Salary: $21.76
Outlook: The field is expected to see "rapid employment growth," according to the BLS, which estimates that jobs will increase by 44 percent by 2020. A combination of factors is contributing to the new opportunities. With the growth of remote work, companies are increasingly adding international hubs, creating a need for periodic meetings to bring together the whole staff. Also, the growth of health care services is a positive for the industry, as that field often ranks high as one that requires large meetings.
Top Industries: meeting, convention and event planners; business/professional/political organizations; health care
Computer support specialists provide tech support to both individuals and organizations. The support specialist is required to both test and maintain computer networks. They will also be required to set up new systems, which would require site visits for the at-home worker. But chat programs and telephones allow for remote work.
Number of Jobs: 607,100
Average Hourly Salary: $22.24
Outlook: The faster rate of upgrading new systems will create more opportunities for support specialists. While the health care industry is expected to greatly increase its need for information technology over the next decade, lower level jobs in call centers are expected to be increasingly sent overseas. Overall, opportunities are expected to grow 18 percent by 2020.
Top Industries: computer operations; computer support specialists; systems design firms
Software developers create programs for a range of devices, from computers to larger networks. They can help develop word processing systems, games and databases. A background in coding is essential.
Number of Jobs: 913,100
Average Hourly Salary: $43.52
Outlook: The BLS projects software work to be one of the fastest-growing American sectors for the next decade. Jobs are expected to grow at a clip of 30 percent. The rise of mobile technology is expected to especially drive growth in opportunity. As software becomes more universal, businesses are expected to customize programs for their needs, creating more jobs at individual firms.
Top Industries: Computer Systems Design Firms; Software Publishers; Corporate Management
Hired to protect their employer's image, public relations specialists write media releases, plan events and maintain relationships with the press to boost coverage. Public relations specialists can also be asked to raise donations and drum up grants for organizations.
Number of Jobs: 320,000
Average Hourly Salary: $27.67
Outlook: Jobs in the field are expected to grow 21 percent by 2020, but is expected to be particularly strong among workers (versus managers) as more companies contract out work. Overall growth is expected to be particularly strong as organizations continue to emphasize community outreach in the hopes of standing out. The increasing explosion of social media platforms also create many opportunities in public relations.
Top Industries: public relations; corporate management
Database administrators store and organize data, from financial to manufacturing information. Among administrators' chief assignments is to make sure data are readily available to workers and to oversee protection of data. Companies also rely on database administrators to make sure data is backed up.
Number of Jobs: 110,800
Average Hourly Salary: 73,480
Outlook: Due to an increase of tasks required by the administrator, the field is projected to grow by 31 percent by 2020, the BLS expects. And as more businesses grow in the field of data collection itself, experienced database administrators will be in higher demand.
Top Industries: database administrators; computer systems