6 Ways to Get Paid to Learn

by Ben Edwards on 3 October 2011 5 comments

Getting paid to learn is a good way to keep your career skills sharp, and it may be the key to keeping your competitive edge in the future.

Penelope Trunk earns her living by keeping her finger on the pulse of the workplace, and not long ago she let slip the secret to competing with up and coming Generation Z — lifelong learning. Trunk's advice is to start focusing on your own lifelong learning now, so you won’t be stuck leaning on your cane when Gen-Z bursts through the office doors.

But with a busy job and life’s obligations, how do you find time to be continually learning? The good news is you don’t have to go back to school or take classes to expand your skill set. Here are six things you can do to constantly be learning new skills while you make money. (See also: 5 Ways to Learn a Language)

1. Write Articles

When you write how-to or news articles, you learn a lot about the topic you’re covering. Regardless of how much you knew before you wrote the article, chances are you’ll learn something as you research your topic.

It used to be that you had to get a Journalism degree and go work for a newspaper to get paid for writing. You still have to show you can write thoughtful and well-researched articles in order to get paid to write. If you can prove this, then there are many opportunities to learn new things as write about them. I know many people who earn a part-time or even full-time living from freelancing or self-publishing their own articles.

2. Teach Your Own Course

Modern technology has made it possible for you to create and deliver your own course digitally. If you’ve ever prepared a lesson or an entire course, you know that there’s a tremendous amount of learning that goes into the process.

Your goal as a teacher is to distill as much relevant information about the topic as you can into a concise and easily understandable package. You learn an amazing amount through your preparation — it’s true that the best way to learn a subject is to teach it.

You may not be able to convince anyone to pay for the first course you offer. However, if your material is good, then offering a few free courses can generate interest in a course people are willing to pay you for.

3. Write a Book

I’ve never written a book myself, but I know many people who have. Although you may start the process thinking that you’ll simply brain dump onto the pages of the book, you’ll probably discover that there’s some learning you need to do in order to do your subject justice.

Unless you’re a well-known expert, no one will pay you up front to write a book. However, the barriers of trading your knowledge and expertise for dollars have been greatly reduced. It used to be that you had to find a publisher to get a book out for sale. Now the ability to self-publish gives people like Mike Piper the ability to write, publish, and sell his own books on the topics of investing, accounting, retirement, and taxes.

4. Work in R&D

Constantly learning new technologies and coming up with ways to apply them is the role of research and development in many companies. Working in a R&D group myself, I can say that I’ve been paid to learn multiple new programming languages and web technologies. The R&D job is the best one I’ve ever had — I’m always learning something new, and I get a paycheck for it every two weeks! As an added bonus, if (when) I lose my job someday, I’ll have lots of marketable skills in my industry.

5. Be a Consultant

A relative of mine is one of the owners of a startup company, and they hire consultants to fill specialized roles. They don’t need a full-time employee for certain positions, but they do need the input of someone who’s an expert in the area.

Constant learning is a big part of being a consultant, because the people who hire you expect that you’re up on the latest trends and technologies. Consulting gigs won’t just fall into your lap, but if establish your expertise (through publishing articles and books or via networking), you can be well-paid to learn new skills.

6. Become a Professor

You don’t necessarily have to earn a PhD to teach at a University. There are graduate schools like Keller Graduate School and the University of Phoenix that hire people from inside the industry to teach their classes. Check out all the degrees and courses these schools offer on their websites; if you work in one of those industries and have a Masters degree, you may qualify.

One of my former co-workers didn’t have a Masters in Project Management, but he did hold the industry standard certification, the PMP certificate from the Project Management Institute. He was hired as an instructor at Keller, and when the new PMP test came out, he was paid to learn all the new requirements so he could teach them in his courses.

Not all of the methods I’ve covered provide full-time salaries. In fact, most don’t. However, they don’t take up all your time either. You can spend 10–15 hours a week on any of these and get paid to learn.

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Meg Favreau's picture

There might be opportunities at your current job as well. The first company I worked at offered several classes for employees to help you learn about other areas of the business and general workplace skills like improving communication.

Ben Edwards's picture

Good point, I guess I could have added a 7th way. Get a free degree - my last employer paid for 100% my Masters degree. So since they paid my tuition, I guess I was getting paid to learn.

Guest's picture

Education is one thing no one can take from you.... ever!!! And sharing it with others is a wonderful way to give back.

Guest's picture

There have to be no talks about the value of quality essay service uk. Professionals who work there really save a lot of students. Thus, we must value the activity of these people!

Guest's picture

Great article - and very true. I have learned so much by blogging and writing articles for others. You learn so many interesting facts about things you'd never think would interest you - and the facts come in handy!

The professor section took me by surprise - I never thought about teaching industry practices because I didn't think I was qualified (being as I don't have a PhD :-) ). Gonna have to reach out and give it a shot!

Thanks again!