Telecommuting may save you time and improve your productivity, but do telecommute jobs mean a cut in wages when compared to onsite employment? Take a look at the data before assuming the worst.
Do Telecommute Jobs Pay Less Than Onsite Jobs?
Telecommuters tend to work long hours and are often willing to compromise salary for a flexible schedule. However, they don’t have to settle for less to live the remote lifestyle.
To give you an idea of telecommuting compensation trends, we dove into U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other research data to prove that telecommute earnings are comparable or better than national median salaries and wages.
How Much Do Telecommuters Make?
According to the 2016 American Time Use Study (ATUS) by the BLS, weekly earnings for full-time remote workers with one job are as follows:
- 8.6% earned $0 to $580 per week
- 12.8% earned $581 to $920 per week
- 18.6% earned $921 to $1,440
- 33.4% earned $1,440 or more per week
Employees who earned at least $921 per week pulled in a minimum hourly wage of $23.02 and an annual salary of $47,882. These figures are higher than the national median hourly wage of $17.81 and national median salary of $37,040 across all occupations. Plus, most of these telecommuters earned more than the national median weekly pay of $860.
Researchers at the University of Texas and the University of Iowa conducted a 19-year telecommuting and earnings study that showed workers who telecommuted at least one hour per week made $280 more in weekly pay. Remote professionals earned an average of $1,063 per week (compared to the average $783), yet they tended to work more hours than non-telecommuters.
In 2007, BLS published a wage differential study that showed work-at-home professionals earned slightly more per hour than those who primarily worked at their employer’s centralized location.
Global Workplace Analytics also reports that 75% of telecommuters earn more than $65,000 per year. Such data suggest that remote workers make more than 80% of the entire U.S. workforce.
Based on current information, it’s clear that telecommuters earn at least comparable wages and often surpass national salary medians.
Is Telecommuting a Secure Career Option?
Though some big businesses change their minds and call their telecommuters back to the office, most studies find that remote work is on the rise.
Percentage of Workers Who Telecommute
Working at home isn’t just for the self-employed. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 50% of U.S. jobs are telecommute-compatible. They also found a 115% increase in remote workers from 2005 to 2017. About 3.7 million professionals (2.8% of the entire U.S. workforce) telecommute at least half time, and 20-25% of the workforce works remotely at least occasionally.
BLS data mirrors some of Global Workplace Analytics’ findings in their ATUS. Here are a few key ATUS insights:
- 22.3% of employed persons worked remotely
- 2.3% more women worked remotely than men
- 21.0% of employees with one job worked remotely
- 32.1% of professionals who held multiple jobs worked remotely
The ATUS report also shows that workers spent an average of 3.13 hours per day telecommuting, which includes working at home or an alternate location. The data highlights the nature of schedule flexibility in that jobs don’t necessarily have to be 100% telecommute and employees can work from both an office and remote location within the same day.
Percentage of Telecommuters by Education
The ATUS also shows a correlation between the level of education and time spent telecommuting. The data suggest that professionals with higher education are more likely to work remotely. Here are the percentages of each group that telecommuted at least partially:
- 8.8% with less than a high school diploma
- 12.0% with a high school diploma but no college
- 20.6% with some college or an associate degree
- 31.6% with a bachelor’s degree
- 43.1% with an advanced degree
The 19-year University of Texas study found similar results, where telecommuting was more prevalent with higher educational attainment. The data showed that:
- 2% of remote workers had less than a high school diploma
- 18% had a high school diploma
- 19% had some college education
- 62% had college degrees
Most jobs in the Virtual Vocations Database require at least a high school diploma, and some require at least an associate degree. Typically, telecommuters need more education and experience to land positions with more technical and managerial responsibilities. However, on-site jobs have the same requirements.
Percentage of Work-at-Home Parents and Caregivers
The latest BLS Employment Characteristics of Families data shows that two-fifths of all U.S. families have at least one child under age 18, and most families have at least one working parent. Of those 34.2 million families, 70.5% have working mothers, and 92.8% have working fathers.
Also, data from their 2004 Work at Home Study revealed that 17.2% of employed individuals usually worked at home and had children under age 18. The percent of telecommuters in the U.S. workforce increased since the study, so it’s safe to assume that the percentage of telecommuting parents has also increased.
In fact, the University of Texas showed that 61% of telecommuters were parents during their 19-year study. Plus, 51% of Virtual Vocations Members declare responsibility for the daily care of children or elderly relatives.
What are the Most Popular Telecommute Occupations?
According to the 2016 ATUS, most telecommuters work in:
- Management, business, and financial occupations
- Professional and related occupations (i.e., science, engineering, social service, legal, education, arts, and healthcare)
- Sales and related occupations
Since telecommuting jobs offer comparable pay to traditional employment, we discuss national median salaries and hourly wages for each occupation category.
Management, Business, and Financial Occupations
34.1% of remote workers hold management, business, and financial occupations. The median salary for management occupations is $100,790 ($48.46 per hour), and the median salary for business and financial occupations is $66,530 ($31.99 per hour).
Examples of jobs that often pay at least $70,000 include:
- Telecommute Compliance Officer
- Remote Business Analyst
- Virtual Business Operation Specialist
- Work-at-Home Accountant
- Telecommute Insurance Underwriter
- Remote Credit Counselor
- Virtual Loan Officer
In addition, telecommuting high-level managers and financial analysts and advisors usually can expect to earn over $100,000.
Professional and Related Occupations
33.3% of remote workers hold professional and related occupations, which include eight sub-categories. Median salaries for each occupation sub-category are:
- $82,830 ($39.82 per hour) for computer and mathematical occupations
- $77,900 ($37.45 per hour) for architecture and engineering occupations
- $63,340 ($30.45 per hour) for life, physical, and social science occupations
- $42,990 ($20.67 per hour) for community and social service occupations
- $79,650 ($38.30 per hour) for legal occupations
- $48,000 ($23.08 per hour) for education, training, and library occupations
- $47,190 ($22.69 per hour) for arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations
- $63,420 ($30.49 per hour) for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations
Examples of jobs that often pay at least $70,000 include:
- Remote Web Developer
- Telecommute Civil Engineer
- Work-at-Home Economist
- Virtual English Literature Professor
- Remote Technical Writer
- Telecommute Physician Assistant
- Remote Registered Nurse
Highly technical and specialized jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), legal, and healthcare often provide salaries over $100,000.
Sales and Related Occupations
22.5% of remote workers hold sales and related occupations. The median salary for this category is $26,590 ($12.78 per hour), which includes retail sales occupations in industries like grocery, clothing, and other merchandise stores. Sales representatives in advertising, insurance, and financial services often earn a median salary of $70,512 ($33.90 per hour).
Examples of jobs that often pay at least $70,000 include:
- Remote Financial Services Sales Agent
- Telecommute Wholesale Sales Representative
- Work-at-Home Sales Engineer
- Virtual Real Estate Broker
Jobs related to securities, commodities, and financial services often pay over $100,000 per year.
What Are the Top Industries for Telecommuters?
The BLS Monthly Labor Review predicts that healthcare, energy, and computer and information occupations will account for a majority of job growth through 2026. Here are some detailed projections:
- 30 occupations will account for 19% of overall employment growth
- 81% of all jobs will be service-related (e.g., retail, information, financial, educational, healthcare, etc.)
- At least 33.3% of all jobs will be in the healthcare and social assistance industry
- Computer and information jobs are expected to increase by 30.7%
Examples of telecommuting job titles for the fastest growing occupations include:
- Telecommute Registered Nurse
- Remote Statistics Instructor
- Remote Software Developer
- Virtual Nursing Instructor
- Telecommute Genetic Counselor
Keep in mind, internet-based jobs are the most telecommute-friendly. Job categories like administrative, customer service, data entry, education, information technology, marketing, social media, and writing have hundreds of open positions. Look for job titles such as:
- Virtual Executive Assistant
- Work-at-Home Customer Success Manager
- Telecommute Data Entry Specialist
- Remote Special Education Teacher
- Telecommute Information Security Analyst
- Remote Online Content Marketer
If you don’t see your current occupation listed here, have no fear. There are plenty of ways to break into the top industries or make strategic career moves to capitalize on employment trends.
How Can Telecommuters Increase Earnings?
There are two ways to make more money: earn more and save more. A combination of both can skyrocket your salary.
Tips for Earning More Money
First, research the median salary and hourly wage for your current occupation and compare it against your current pay. Next, dig a little deeper and examine the typical educational background, years of experience, size of the company, and other credentials for professionals who earn higher salaries in your occupation.
Do you feel that your qualifications are comparable to those earning more than you? Then you need to brush up on your salary negotiation skills. If you get shut down, you may need to upgrade your employer or choose a company with the capacity to pay competitive wages.
Does your resumé need a makeover? Consider enrolling in online classes, attending workshops, or taking certification exams to boost your brainpower. Initiate independent side projects to gain more hands-on experience. Consider moving up the management ladder and work closely with mentors who can help steer you in the right direction.
If you’re not interested in changing jobs or employers, then become a master at what you do. The ATUS reports that individuals who engage in work or work-related activities spend an average of 8.44 hours per weekday and 5.62 hours per weekend and holiday working. Plus, employees with children under age 18 spend an average of 5.77 hours per day performing work or work-related activities. Find ways to work more efficiently so that you cut your average workday by 20%. Efficiency can decrease your total daily and weekly work hours, which means you increase your hourly wage without asking for more money.
Tips for Saving More Money
Telecommuters automatically save money by not driving to work every day. However, you still need to watch your wallet when you work at home. Follow personal and professional financial best practices, such as:
- Create a realistic budget and follow it.
- Make room for “fun money” as a reward for your hard work.
- Ditch destructive habits that burn a hole through your pocket.
- Balance short-term gratification with long-term gain.
- Maintain a savings account with at least six months’ worth of living expenses.
- Secure your future by contributing to investment accounts.
Use common sense for savings, and you’ll see your financial cents increase.
Let Telecommuting Enrich Your Life
As Zig Ziglar once said, “Money isn’t everything, but it ranks right up there with oxygen.” We confirmed that telecommute jobs offer competitive wages and opportunities for career growth. However, the perks of working remote extend far beyond salaries and job titles.
Telecommuting jobs offer the opportunity to spend more time doing things that are most important to you. Time is the most valuable currency we have, and all we can do is spend it. So, use your time wisely by pursuing an occupation that allows you to live an enriched life.
Photo Credits: 1. iStock.com/anyaberkut; 2. iStock.com/agrobacter
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