Making Money

10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

Whether you're looking to pay off a student loan or simply wanting to build up your wealth, here are some ways for those in science, tech, engineering and math to make some extra cash.
10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side
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13 min read

We’ve heard the hype about STEM skills (meaning those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics) -- they’re the foundation for high-paying jobs that are much in demand. However, with the combination of record-breaking student debt in the U.S. and the soaring cost of owning or renting a home, it’s no wonder that recent graduates and early-to-mid career workers are looking for ways to make extra income or build wealth faster.

Luckily for the STEM crowd, there are some terrific opportunities to make cash on the side. Click through the next 10 slides to learn more.

Related: 18 Ways for Digital Nomads to Make Money



 
10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

Software developer

Software developer
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Software development jobs are expected to grow much faster than other occupations through 2022 (with 22.8 percent employment growth projected), and there’s plenty of part-time and project-based software developer work, consisting of designing software programs, websites and apps; also, testing and debugging software across a multitude of industries. The work can be done remotely. The mean hourly wage for programmers in the U.S. is $38.39.

Like with math, coding requires paying attention to the small stuff. Coding is a general term -- there are many different languages you can learn, but you’ll need to figure out which ones to learn in order to fit into a programming niche. For instance, JavaScript and HTML are common programming languages used for website development and video games on the web. When trying to figure out which language to pursue, you may want to start with the ones that have staying power and can be used in many applications.

While it takes time to learn code, you can at least learn it for free on Codecademy, an online teaching platform that offers free coding classes in 12 languages, including JavaScript and Python, as well as markup languages HTML and CSS.

To search for programmer work, visit freelance and part-time job sites, such as Upwork, FlexJobs, Gigster and PeoplePerHour. You can also look to register yourself on project and online job marketplaces specifically for freelance software developer and programmers, such AppExchange, Surge Forward, Koder, Toptal, Gun.io, CodementorX and Workhoppers. Also try Glassdoor, Indeed and Monster.

To look for software development jobs, search for job titles that include software engineer, software developer, web developer, mobile game developer, DevOps developer and application developer.

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10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

IT support

IT support
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The need for IT support is growing. As IT talent, you’re the go-to support for either an individual or a corporation when something is going wrong or for preventing future issues with computers, servers or other related equipment.

The work tends to be in shifts so you can schedule it for a few evenings during the week or on weekends. The U.S. average hourly wage for IT support is $16.15, however this figure varies greatly according to industry and geographical location. The technical computer skills the job requires depends on the company and industry.

As technical support, you’ll be expected to have a good understanding of the most used software and telecommunications applications in offices. You’ll have to do your research and figure out which industry your knowledge base is suited for. Most companies seek IT support with some formal education and certification, which can come in a variety of ways, including a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree in an IT-related speciality (computer science, information technology or computer information systems).

Check for part-time or freelance IT-related work FlexJobs, Indeed, Monster, Upwork and Simply Hired to get started. Search for job title keywords such as “IT support,” “IT desk” or “IT technician.”

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10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

Chatbot developer

Chatbot developer
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More and more, companies are using chatbots to assist customers 24/7 in customer service, so the need for chatbot builders is on the rise. Chatbots (basically automated customer service messaging algorithms) need to be customized for the company and what services they want the chatbot to provide for clients, such as schedule meetings, update travel or hotel information, offer assistance in directions or answer frequently asked questions.

The customization needs to be decided by the company, and the developer builds from there. The good news is you don’t have to build chatbots from scratch. Both Google and Facebook have chatbot developer platforms you can use (not for free) to build enterprise chatbots. Also, you can build bots using platforms including Microsoft’s QnA Maker, IBM Watson, ChattyPeople, Converse.ai, Motion.ai, Octane AI, Chatfuel and Pandorabots, to list some on the market. None of these platforms are one-size-fits-all, so it’s up to you to know your client’s needs and consider which one of these platforms has the features that best suits your project.

Learning platforms Udemy and Skillshare both have affordable classes on how to build chatbots to get you started.

The pay for a chatbot builder varies, but generally it’s better to charge by the hour if you can. Building software always takes longer than initially thought, so an hourly rate works out better for you. The average annual salary for a chatbot developer in the U.S. is $85,239.

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10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

Online course expert

Online course expert
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You can make money selling your STEM knowledge by creating courses in your area of expertise (e.g. coding, bitcoin trading or accounting) that are marketed and sold through an online learning portal. You have to figure out what you can create a syllabus around and teach online, and one of the quickest ways to do that is to check out what already exists. Start by researching some of the many online learning portals, such as Zeqr, Skillshare, Teachable, Yondo, Lynda.com, Uscreen and Udemy.

After you’ve figured out what you want to teach and who your audience is, you can plan out how to create your course, which will likely include creating a class syllabus, recording video lectures, writing content and inventing assignments and assessments. To get an idea of how to successfully structure your course and market it, study other successful and popular online courses in your category. (One idea: You can always market through offering free content on YouTube, your blog or Facebook, with a link to your online course.)

The pay varies between online learning platforms depending on their business models (e.g. monthly subscription versus pay-per-class). Typically, you get a percentage of the sales combined with royalties calculated by minutes of your videos watched.

Related: 50 Ideas for a Lucrative Side Hustle

 

10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

Freelance consultant

Freelance consultant
Image credit: Ezra Bailey | Getty Images

Consulting is a growing area for experts in the STEM field, and one way you can sell your accumulated experience and expertise is by getting into freelance consulting. Consulting is a vague job term, but basically it’s when companies bring in outside experts (the consultant) to solve a problem or tackle a project. For example, an IT consultant can specialize in providing cloud security and efficiencies to a range of industries.

Many businesses will pay handsomely for services. The average pay for a freelance consultant is $72,043 per year.

One simple way to work consulting into your life as a side job is to start with your existing network. Send out an email to let people know you’re consulting, your areas of expertise and that you’re looking for referrals. Also, if you don’t belong to organizations or communities related to your industry (both online and off), join up and engage.

Obviously, the more places that you can be discovered, the more clients you can secure. So take advantage of the growing market of online consulting and coaching marketplaces, such as Clarity.fm, where experts get paid by the minute to talk to clients over the phone or online. You, the consultant, register your profile online as an expert and either allow clients to either come to you or you bid on jobs listed on the platform.

Other places you can sell your consulting services are Moonlighting, a mobile, on-demand app that connects consultants with clients, Zeqr, JustAnswer (where potential clients post questions online and registered experts), Ether and PrestoExperts.

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10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

Part-time accountant

Part-time accountant
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Accounting isn’t typically regarded as a side hustle, but experienced accountants (with at least several years under the belt) can land side gigs helping businesses with monthly reporting, taxes (a big area for extra work), audits and other accounting functions. The median annual salary for an accountant is $53,994 and the median hourly wage is $24.

Your job as an accountant will be to prepare and examine financial records and ensure that taxes are paid by the book and on time. It requires a head for math, familiarity with accounting software and a sharp eye for details.

This work definitely requires schooling: At minimum, you need a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Some states require you to be credentialed as a certified public accountant (CPA) to practice.

Some staffing agencies specialize in accounting jobs (with some part-time work available), such as Robert Half, Adecco and Randstad. Or you can check out job sites, including FlexJobs, Glassdoor, Monster, ZipRecruiter, CareerBuilder and Indeed.

Related: 22 Ways for College Students to Make Money on the Side

 
10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

SAS programmer

SAS programmer
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SAS (Statistical Analysis System) programming is all about data management and building an analytical framework for the data. Sectors work with enormous amounts of data, such as in health or insurance, and SAS programmers develop and use statistical software to manage and analyze data for businesses. 

A real-life example of this job would be an SAS programmer in the pharmaceuticals industry, where an SAS programmer would build code to create datasets, tables, figures and more, to submit reports to regulatory health authorities, including the FDA.

To become a SAS programmer, you need to love working with data. If you already have data-related experience, that’s a good start. While there isn’t a single way to become an SAS programmer, generally you should have a bachelor’s degree in math or science -- to gain the SAS-specific programming skills, you can either earn certification (from the SAS Institute) or take advantage of basic books on statistics and machine learning and YouTube tutorials (available on Edureka, Khan’s Academy and JB Statistics) to bone up on the programming. Also, the Edureka blog takes you through the basics of SAS Programming for free. (Keep in mind, there is more than one kind of SAS language to learn, but the most widely used one is Base SAS.)

The yearly median salary for an SAS programmer is $76,889. The hourly wage varies. Part-time work as an SAS programmer can be found on job sites including Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, Simply Hired, RandstadUSA and Career Builder.

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10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

STEM tutor

STEM tutor
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Tutoring in STEM subjects is in high demand, particularly in math (all grades) and physical science (physics, chemistry and earth science). For this type of work, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and strong subject expertise. Depending on the tutoring company,  you may be asked to either go through training or take a subject assessment -- or both. STEM tutors can make anywhere from $25 to $75 an hour, and you can charge more based on experience or if you have teaching certification. (Research what other tutors with a similar number of years of experience in your area to price your services.)

To find part-time work at a tutor, you can apply to local tutoring businesses or through established national tutoring companies (such as Kaplan or Princeton). Or go rogue, and start your own private tutoring side business.

To make it more convenient for you, try virtual tutoring online. You can create a profile on online tutoring platforms, such as Wyzant, Tutor, Revolution Prep and Course Hero. You can register, create a profile (with your areas of expertise and tutoring fees) and either be contacted by clients or to “bid” on potential jobs.

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10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

WordPress theme developer

WordPress theme developer
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WordPress is the most popular content management system, so theme developers for it are in high demand. There’s a lot of freelance work available. As a WordPress theme developer, you’d create new looks and functionalities for WordPress. To do this type of work, you need to know coding and markup languages -- at minimum, PHP, HTML, CSS and Javascript.

If you need some instruction, there are tons of reasonably priced online tutorials (some free) on how to develop WordPress themes on Udemy, Skillshare, wpmudev and Lynda.com.

The median annual salary for a WordPress theme developer is $50,165, however there is enormous range depending on where you live and the industry. To get started, check out work for “part-time WordPress theme developer” on job sites, such as Simply Hired, Indeed.com, Upwork and HireWPGeeks.

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10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side

Mobile app builder

Mobile app builder
Image credit: Poike | Getty Images

Many of us have had some good ideas for mobile apps, however few possess the valuable skills and follow through to build one. If you have a good idea for an app and a knack for designing things, then this could be a good way to make money on the side.

First, you need a viable idea. To generate some, ask yourself: Which apps do you enjoy using the most? Do you like playing games? Which ones? Like with any new product, you want to research the competition, and if there’s a similar app that already exists, read the customer reviews to dig up ways to make yours better. (Rule of thumb: your app needs to solve a problem, and you need to have some understanding of who the app is for.)

Next, you need the practical know-how to build an app with computer languages, such as SQL and Python. (Python is popular because of its flexibility and simplicity. It’s also both Android and iOS compatible.) You can learn how to build apps (which coding languages are needed; whether it’s for Android or iOS or both; where to download free wireframes) for either free or for low cost on websites, such as Udemy or YouTube. You can also build an app by using one of the many mobile app-building platforms, some of which don’t require coding, including Buildbox, ShoutEm, RhoMobile, PhoneGap, AppInstitute, Appery.io, AppYourself and Appcelerator, to name some.

Once you have a project plan in place, you can troubleshoot possible hurdles (e.g. copyright restrictions), research the back end of your app (servers and APIs) and plan how the user interface will appear and think of how you’re going to market it (in the App Store or Google Play). Creating an app comes with serious work, so start with an idea that you’re really excited about.

The annual median salary for a mobile app developer in the U.S. is approximately $68,000, or $25.17 an hour. To find part-time work and freelance jobs as a mobile app developer, try Upwork, Freelancer, Surgeforward, AppsJobs, XPlace and ZipRecruiter.

Related: 32 Proven Ways to Make Money Fast


 
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  • 10 Smart Ways for STEM Majors to Make Money on the Side
  • 1. Software developer
  • 2. IT support
  • 3. Chatbot developer
  • 4. Online course expert
  • 5. Freelance consultant
  • 6. Part-time accountant
  • 7. SAS programmer
  • 8. STEM tutor
  • 9. WordPress theme developer
  • 10. Mobile app builder
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