What does it take to make six figures by the age of 25? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Shane Luke, Founder & CEO, Former Investment Analyst, on Quora:

If you take the lower end of 6 figures, this is actually pretty easy to do these days, assuming you have access to high quality education, possibly even just online.

The most certain path (at least that I know) is to become a software developer, and work in the USA, Canada, or some parts of Western Europe. In some other places, you might make a bit less money, but still have an equivalent or higher standard of living.

Here is an example of a common path people take today:

  1. Go to a good university, and take computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, physics, or a handful of other degree programs.
  2. Select courses that give you exposure to programming various kinds of things, from low level systems to high level applications.
  3. Enroll in an internship program that allows you work at a tech company, or IT division of a non-tech company.
  4. Graduate, and either work where you interned, or somewhere else that recruits you.
  5. Earn ~ $80k/year to start in an average market. If you are in a high paying market, like NYC or Silicon Valley, you might be over $100k to start.
  6. Get 2-3 years experience, and be earning ~$120k/year, or more in high paying markets. You may have to switch employers to get your salary up quickly. Usually, you will climb pay scales faster by switching companies than staying at the same one.

If you take that path and start the degree right after high school, you should easily make over $100k by 25. In a high paying market, $200k is quite achievable by that age, though high paying markets come with high cost of living. You can even do it without the degree and internships, which can enable you to start working sooner, and get to $100k faster. There are online courses, like the Udacity "nanodegree" that are only a few months, and conclude with recruiting events where graduates have access to many potential employers. However, there is some risk in doing that, because you will have learned a lot less, and in particular those programs tend to skip the harder mathematics and theory. That can come into play if you start working on really hard problems later in your career, and can also inhibit your early growth. Still, that route would get you to $100k very fast.

You can also go into finance, which pays even higher on average, but is harder to get into. Many finance jobs start lower than software, but the pay climbs faster, assuming you advance.

Here is a piece of advice (that you didn't ask for): don't over-optimize for income early in your career. You should give pay some weight in your decisions, but remember that most of the money you will earn starts coming in 15 years from now. If you want to maximize what you earn, and how satisfied you are with what you do, you should optimize for personal growth early in your career. You want to be learning as fast and efficiently as possible, and figuring out how to have an edge over others in your field. A high growth rate compounded over 15 years is much better than a high starting baseline with low growth. Good luck.

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Published on: Jan 8, 2019