Independent Careers that Pay Well

Well-paying independent careers are available in fields like business, science and the arts. Learn about a few of these jobs, what makes them independent, their median salaries and education requirements.

Well-Paying Independent Career Options

People who are looking to work mostly or completely independently have several well-paying careers to choose from across multiple job fields. These independent careers allow people to perform most of their job duties alone, whether that involves researching, writing, creating or more. Find out more about some of the well-paying independent careers below, all of which offer a median salary exceeding $50,000 per year.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Writers and Authors $61,240 8%
Computer Programmers $79,840 -8% (decline)
Fine Artists (including Painters, Sculptors and Illustrators) $50,790 9%
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists $60,520 8%
Historians $55,110 5%
Accountants and Auditors $68,150 10%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information for Independent Careers that Pay Well

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors made an annual median salary of $61,240 in 2016, according to the BLS, and usually work alone on their various writing projects. They may create the written content for blogs, books, articles, songs and more after conducting research on a particular subject they think will interest their readers. Writers and authors usually need to submit multiple drafts of their work to an editor to prepare a piece for publication. These professionals need a college degree in English or a related field, and experience in the field is helpful.

Computer Programmers

The BLS reported that computer programmers made a median salary of $79,840 in 2016, and they normally work alone on different programming projects. They are responsible for writing the code for programs that engineers and software developers have designed. They test the code to make sure everything is working properly, correct any mistakes and expand existing programs as needed. Computer programmers can find positions with an associate's degree, but they typically need a bachelor's degree in computer science or a similar field.

Fine Artists

Most fine artists work alone to create beautiful pieces of artwork and were reported to have an annual median salary of $50,790 in 2016, per the BLS. They may specialize in paint, illustration, sculpture or other areas and incorporate a wide range of fine arts and visual techniques, like space, texture, color and perspective, in their work. Fine artists need to maintain a professional portfolio of their work, and they may also display their work in galleries and/or sell it at various marketplaces. These artists usually have a bachelor's or master's degree in fine arts.

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

According to the BLS, zoologists and wildlife biologists made a median salary of $60,520 in 2016, and although they may occasionally work in small research teams, much of their research is done independently. Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically conduct a lot of experiments and field work to study a particular species of animal in order to learn more about its various characteristics, such as physical and social characteristics. They present their findings in scientific articles and presentations and may apply their work to improving the conservation efforts for a particular species. These scientists need a master's or doctoral degree for most research positions, but some entry-level positions may only require a bachelor's degree in zoology or wildlife biology.


Some historians work independently on their research. In 2016, historians made an annual median salary of $55,110, according to the BLS. Historians may research a particular time period, historical event, historical figure or other aspect of history by studying artifacts, historical documents, archives and other sources. They usually write their findings and opinions in books or articles, and some may choose to use their knowledge to educate the public and/or assist museums or historical sites with their displays and materials. Traditional historian positions need at least a master's degree, but some may require a doctoral degree in the field.

Accountants and Auditors

Although they occasionally work in teams, most accountants and auditors complete their work alone, and they made a median salary of $68,150 in 2016. Accountants and auditors prepare financial records and ensure that taxes are calculated correctly and paid on time. They also organize and examine financial records for accuracy and to search for any possible areas to reduce costs and increase profits. Accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor's degree. Certification, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential, may be preferred.

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