10 Great Work-at-Home Jobs

Kiplinger

These days, working at home isn't just a pipe dream -- it's an economic necessity. The Great Recession forced more than 300,000 stay-at-home moms to return to work. And in a recent retirement poll commissioned by Allstate, nearly 70% of near-retirees said they plan to continue working past age 65.

For these people, work-at-home jobs promise big benefits: extra income, flexible hours and the enviable dress code of slippers and sweatpants. The trick, of course, is finding legitimate, well-paid positions because work-at-home scams abound.

To assemble our list of top work-at-home jobs, we combed Bureau of Labor Statistics data for occupations with good hourly wages and promising growth prospects. We then identified actual companies that hire home-based workers in these fields, and scrutinized their benefits and schedules.

To weed out scammers, we checked out companies with the Better Business Bureau. Every work-at-home company we mention has an A or A+ rating from the BBB (or, if it's not in the BBB's database, it has been vetted by industry groups). While we can’t guarantee that you’ll get hired for one of these work-at-home jobs, at least you can have confidence that none of these employment opportunities is too good to be true.

Web Search Evaluator

Pay Range: $13.50-$17.50/hour (at Leapforce)
Minimum Education: High school
Essential Skill: Going gaga for Google

When you type a search term into Google or Bing, an algorithm determines what the best results will be. But that algorithm doesn't operate alone: Many large search engines rely on home-based evaluators to test the accuracy of online search results, examining different search terms and the Web sites they turn up. The job involves a lot of analytical thinking, so applicants must pass a test before firms such as Appen Butler Hill, Leapforce and Lionbridge will hire them. Search jobs are flexible. Evaluators generally choose their own hours, and none of the three major search firms has educational requirements.

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Culinary Consultant

Pay Range: $15-$30/hour (at ChefsLine.com)
Minimum Education: High school
Essential Skill: An appetite for home cooking

Friendly foodies can cook up a satisfying work-at-home career with some culinary know-how and a telephone line or PC. ChefsLine.com hires experienced cooks to provide kitchen advice over the phone and via online chat. Customers, who pay a fee for access to the service, can ask questions about anything from how to save a burned casserole to what wine to pair with dinner. The company doesn’t specify educational requirements per se, but a culinary degree or teaching experience boost the odds of getting hired.

Customer Service Representative

Pay Range: $9-$14/hour (at Alpine Access)
Minimum Education: High school
Essential Skill: The gift of gab

When you dial a company's help line, the call usually goes to a mega call center in the U.S. or abroad. But increasingly, customer service calls also route to home-based agents, who answer questions, complete forms and log complaints through their computers. Hours are flexible and qualifications loose–few firms require a minimum education or experience level, although a background in customer service typically helps. Alpine Access, Convergys and West Corporation rank among the major employers. All three are highly rated by the Better Business Bureau, hire agents as employees rather than contractors, and offer benefits such as paid vacation and medical insurance to full-time workers.

Tech Support Agent

Pay Range: $17-$29/hour (BLS data)
Minimum Education: Associate or bachelor’s degree
Essential Skill: Fluency in geek-speak

Computer nerds and A-V types can make solid salaries in tech support, where demand is high and hours flexible. Working out of home offices, such techs generally serve as the first point of contact for customers troubleshooting everything from laptops to stereos to MySQL servers. Some work directly for major brands and retailers, such as Best Buy. But job seekers should also consider third-party support providers, including PlumChoice, which handles tech support for a number of Fortune 500 companies. The majority of PlumChoice's 400 techs work remotely. The company looks for professional certification or three years of experience.

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Virtual Assistant

Pay Range: $28-$45/hour (IVAA data)
Minimum Education: High school
Essential Skill: Ability to juggle calls and clients

A virtual assistant does everything a traditional assistant might do, from scheduling appointments and maintaining records to preparing memos and reports. But there's a key difference between the traditional secretary and a VA, says Nancy Seeger, of the International Virtual Assistants Association: Most VAs are contractors, not employees, and they operate as independent businesses with multiple clients. This can make virtual assisting a tough field to break into because newcomers need to market themselves to potential clients. Seeger recommends networking through local business groups, Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and the IVAA jobs board. Expertise in bookkeeping, event management, social media and the like also helps.

Tutor

Pay Range: $10-$14/hour (at Tutor.com)
Minimum Education: Bachelor's degree
Essential Skill: Knowledge is power

A college degree, a computer and a bit of patience are all it takes to break into online tutoring, a field that can be both personally and financially rewarding. Sites such as Tutor.com match teachers and students in "online classrooms," where they use live chats to teach lessons and help with homework. And while Tutor.com only requires BAs from its applicants, other online opportunities exist for people with advanced degrees. GetEducated.com, for example, lists remote job postings at community colleges, libraries and online universities. Most of these teachers are hired and paid as part-time employees; Tutor.com and similar sites hire on a freelance basis only. But that doesn't mean teachers can't make a comfortable wage. On top of hourly earnings, Tutor.com pays bonuses for "exceptional work."

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Medical Transcriptionist

Pay Range: $25,000-$50,000/year (at Precyse)
Minimum Education: Associate's degree or one-year certification program
Essential Skill: Willingness to follow doctors' orders

Home-based transcription predates the Internet, making it, in some ways, the quintessential work-at-home job. Medical transcriptionists type doctors' dictated notes and use them to prepare memos and reports. A good transcriptionist is more than a typist. Increasingly, medical firms want their employees to have associate's degrees or vocational certificates, as well as an advanced understanding of medical terminology. Companies such as Amphion Medical Solutions requires a minimum of two years' experience but promise flexible hours and a full range of benefits. Precyse and M*Modal, both large medical firms, also hire home-based transcriptionists.

Proofreader

Pay Range: $12-$20/hour (BLS data)
Minimum Education: Bachelor's degree
Essential Skill: Two eyes for detail

It's hard to hack it as a freelance writer or full-time blogger, and both fields are already crowded. But if you have some writing or editing experience under your belt, you may find steady work as a proofreader, especially for academic or foreign firms. Cactus Communications, an Indian editing and translation company with offices in Philadelphia, hires proofreaders to check academic papers and medical documents written by non-native speakers. U.S.-based FirstEditing employs proofreaders to work on manuscripts, theses and business documents. While neither company requires a specific academic background, advanced degrees and editing experience help.

Concierge

Pay Range: $11-$17/hour (BLS data)
Minimum Education: High school
Essential Skill: No reservations about making reservations

Concierges used to be the highly primped men and women who gave restaurant suggestions at the counters of hotels. Thanks to the Internet, however, they can now work anywhere, providing travel assistance, making reservations and answering questions by phone, e-mail, text message or chat. VIPdesk.com, the foremost employer in this field, hires home-based concierges for a variety of companies around the world, including JPMorgan and Starwood Hotels. Employees can earn full benefits, including insurance and paid vacation, and can set their own full- or part-time schedules. Other companies, such as Virtual Concierge, act as go-betweens for home-based concierges and clients, including UBS.

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Translator

Pay Range: $1,000 - $2,500/month (at Argos Translations)
Minimum Education: Bachelor's degree
Essential Skill: A way with words

If you speak at least two languages and have an Internet connection, you're well on your way to becoming a home-based translator. A number of firms hire multilingual people to freelance translations of business documents, consumer Web sites, computer software and academic papers. Preference often goes to applicants who speak in-demand languages, such as Chinese or Japanese, and have backgrounds that would help in translating technical material. Mega-translation firm SDL hires freelancers for brands such as HP and LG. We Localize and Argos Translations also employ thousands of translators around the world. Positions are often freelance, but benefits and contracts vary by company.

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