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How I Made a Six Figure Income in Six Years Straight Out of College

I’ve read all kinds of routes to a six figure income on various professional and financial blogs.

Some discuss the professions that give you the best shot at a six figure salary, while others discuss how to get there.

Here is my rendition from my own life experiences of how I made a six figure income in just six years straight out of college.

1)     Attend a reputable college / university and major in a field that lends itself to a financially lucrative career (such as accounting, finance, engineering, programming, etc).

Attending a reputable institution won’t necessarily make you smarter, but will ensure that you get some exposure to some of the biggest and most reputable firms and companies that come to recruit at your school.  It is these institutions that give you the best chance at six figures the quickest.

2)     Get a job with a big name straight out of college, preferably in a service related / consulting capacity. For example, as an accountant, you want to shoot for the big four (Deloitte, PwC, E&Y, KPMG).  This experience is perceived as invaluable by most companies of all sizes and will expedite your path to a six figure income.

3)     Do very well and exceed expectations in your first couple years to get promoted rapidly and earn higher raises year over year.  It’s all about the billable hours!

4)     Take your achievements to the market and join a big name, preferably a fortune 100-500 company.  A big name ensures that you are offered a nice salary bump, often up to 35%, that you can leverage on your next move.

5)     Repeat step #3

6)     Repeat step #4, except at this point, you don’t necessarily have to join a big company. In fact, in my experience, joining a smaller company gave me a better overall compensation package, with a six figure income base salary of well over $100,000

Here is a breakdown of time spent at each step.  I spent 3 years at steps 2 & 3, earning one promotion.  When I moved to step 5, I was brought in at a higher level, therefore getting promoted into a new role.  I spent 2 years at steps 4 & 5, earning another promotion.  So far that is 5 years and 3 promotions.

In my sixth year, I transitioned to step 6, which resulted in another promotion and a six figure income.  That’s a total of 6 years and 4 promotions.

No I wasn’t an Investment Banker who sold my life and soul for that matter in exchange for a few dollars.  Yes, I was very busy as a consultant, but I made sure I had the time and balance to pursue side gigs throughout my career.

In fact, one of the biggest reasons for leaving the consulting world was to focus on expanding on and growing my side businesses.

Concluding Thoughts

These steps worked for me, but they are certainly not a rule of thumb or a norm.  There are many ways to slice a bread, and equally as many routes to get to a six figure income.

Many have gotten there in much less than 6 years, and many in much more.  There is also not an age limit to when one decides to embark on the journey to six figures.  The route I took is a basic one and of my preference at the time.  It doesn’t take a super being to replicate it either. Anyone can do it in my opinion.

The point is that whichever route you believe in and want to take, just ensure you have clarity so that you can focus on the route and see through its completion.

Aside from not embarking on the journey itself at all, not finishing the route is the single biggest reason why many fall just short of their goals.

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12 Responses to “How I Made a Six Figure Income in Six Years Straight Out of College”

  1. krantcents says:

    Rather than picking a profession that may earn 6 figures, find one you love and you will be good at it. When you are good at a particular profession, your earnings will reflect it. My children, wife and I are examples of this philosophy. As a teacher, I do not earn 6 figures, but I no longer need it. If I add in benefits, I probably do! I am respected for my skills by colleagues, administrators and students. This is more fulfilling at this time of my life (near retirement).

    • Sunil says:

      I am a big advocate of following your passion and focusing on excellent and the rest will flow into place. The challenge with this route is often times realizing a high income level is either not feasible or takes relatively longer (nothing wrong with that). Some professions / passions are just inherently challenged from an income generation perspective.

  2. Geoff says:

    Sunil, I thought I was reading about my own life in your first two steps…but rather than the fortune 1000 company, I moved to the start-up world and did consulting to fortune 1000 companies (not quite as lucrative….at least the way i did it).

    Anyway, you’re right, as much as I hated working for one of the big four (or 6 when I was there), it certainly does make for an important step in building your resume. Deserved or not, it gives you a pedigree and every employer (and clients) down the line notice and it helps you get in many doors that would have otherwise been closed.

  3. If you were an investment banker, you would be making $300,000-$500,000 at 28, 6 years out of college. Six figures is a wide range! 🙂

  4. Thankfully, I was able to land a great job right out of college and haven’t looked back since! It doesn’t hurt that I attended a good school. Great tips!

    • Sunil says:

      Thanks Jon – the idea of the post was to convey that it doesn’t take anything extraordinary to get to a six figure income in a relatively short amount of time, and that this route likely will get one there sooner than their peer group. The other reason was to demonstrate that ordinary people are doing it everyday / all the time. There is nothing stopping anyone from replicating the success if they choose to.

  5. Sometimes the 6 figure income is overrated. Yes I would like to earn 6 figures and had I gone into public accounting out of college instead of into corporate accounting maybe I would be there by now. But I can honestly say I really really like my job even though I’m not at the 6 figure mark yet. I think it is more important to enjoy your work and be happy in life rather then always chasing the big money.

    • Sunil says:

      Most definitely. Money is not the only factor in deciding what to do for a living and / or where to work. Also to consider – a job is not everyone’s only or main source of income.

  6. It was almost the same thing for me. Got a job after college, worked hard and went my way up the corporate world… but I got bored! Later on, I realized I was not happy with how way my life goes though people call me successful as I was earning 6-digits and one of the decision makers in the company I used to work for. Money is not everything. It is not the only reason why we are here in this world.

    • Sunil says:

      You make some great points. Most of us were definitely not born to work just for money. There comes a point after which incremental money / earnings don’t really mean much compared to other things such as personal satisfaction.

      So what did you do when / after you got bored? How long has it been? Most importantly, how do you feel about the decision in retrospect?

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