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25 Creative Jobs That Actually Pay Well

No more starving artists

Woman posing on the set of a photoshoot with one foot raised in front of a pink backdrop.
Image courtesy of Patricia Palma

Does the idea of sitting in a cubicle for the rest of your life make you wanna bang your head into...well, said cubicle? You’re probably the creative type, and need a more colorful career path to feel fulfilled. There seems to be a common misconception that creative jobs don’t pay well, and that’s not necessarily true! Especially with all the technological advancements of the modern era, there’s plenty of room for creativity in high-paying positions. 

25 creative jobs that actually pay well 

1. Movie makeup artist

Average salary: $92,200

How do actresses always look so flawless on the big screen? Movie makeup artists are behind the magic, and they make a good living while doing it, too! To become a movie makeup artist, you generally either need to go to cosmetology school, or interestingly enough, obtain a bachelor’s degree in theater. Many university theater programs offer courses in stage makeup, and having a background in theater can help to break into the movie production industry. 

2. Visual effects artist 

Average salary: $83,114

Who says art has to be confined to a canvas? Digital art is a wide and growing field, and there are plenty of opportunities in media to use your creativity. Visual effects artists use technology to create photorealistic images for television and video games. From Disney films to Grand Theft Auto, there are visual effects artists behind every scene. Generally, visual effects artists need a four-year degree in graphic design, media technology, art, or photography, but it’s also possible to start as a runner and work your way up in the field. 

Read More: 6 Times When You're Your Most Creative

3. PR director 

Average salary: $147,078

Not all creative people are visual artists. Maybe verbal communication is your strong suit! PR Directors have to be creative and fast thinkers when representing companies, especially when dealing with negative press. They maintain companies’ public images through written and verbal communication, so if you like public speaking, this is a great career for you. Usually, PR directors hold bachelor’s degrees in journalism or communications. 

4. Art director

Average salary: $101,657

If you love marketing but have a soft spot of the arts, becoming an art director could be a perfect fit. Art directors oversee illustration and graphic design teams and collaborate with the marketing department to develop advertising campaign strategies. A degree in marketing, graphic design or advertising and experience in tools like Adobe Illustrator are essential. 

5. User experience researcher 

Average salary: $127,000

Find people fascinating? Love technology? Here’s the perfect blend of both. User experience researchers help marketing and design teams by figuring out how people use products and why they’re motivated to purchase them. They have to be comfortable communicating with customers and interpreting data, and generally have degrees in business.

Read More: Women in Tech: What Women Need to Break Into the Industry & Advance

6. Video game designer

Average salary: $90,270

Mario Kart anyone? How about Halo or Clash of Clans? For every video game on the market, there are masterminds behind the scenes. Video game designers are responsible for coming up with the creative aspects of the game’s world, including the plot, characters, and levels. Game designers usually hold bachelor’s degrees in game design, computer engineering, or computer science. 

7. Film director 

Average salary: $70,792

Lights, camera, action? If you have a passion for storytelling, a career in film could be a good fit. Directors are responsible for the creative decisions behind video projects, ranging from documentaries to feature-length films. They often oversee casting, review scripts, and make other executive decisions. Like many creative careers, the range for pay is wide, but the average salary is high, partially because of the high-earners at the top of the range. Usually, a bachelor’s degree in film or experience in the film industry is required. 

8. Toy designer

Average salary: $65,285

Think you have what it takes to create the next tamagotchi or Barbie doll? Toy designers invent and sometimes physically create children’s toys. The pay range for this job is wide, but if you have the right idea, there is potential to make a high salary. A degree is not always required, but depending on the kind of toy being developed, a bachelor’s degree in fine art or design might be helpful. 

9. Voice actor

Average salary: $76,279

This is a perfect career path for cartoon enthusiasts with expressive voices. Voice actors usually provide voices to animated characters, but also might narrate documentaries or instructional videos. Generally, experience in theater is expected, but no degree is required. 

10. Social media director

Average salary: $75,817

No matter if social media is your passion or you just like marketing and want to try something different, becoming a social media director for a company might be a good fit. Social media directors manage a company’s branded accounts and handle advertisements on social media, brand deals, and collaborations. Sometimes, they even act as graphic designers and create posts themselves. Degrees in graphic design, advertising, or marketing are helpful. 

Read More: What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

11. Wedding videographer

Average salary: $81,565

Here come the wedding bells! If you like videography and have a soft spot for romance, this could be a good combination. Wedding videographers are responsible for filming, editing, and producing videos commemorating the big day. No degree is necessary, but one in media production or film wouldn’t hurt. 

12. Wedding photographer

Average salary: $104,417

Similar to videographers, wedding photographers help capture a couple’s wedding for years to come. If you like portrait photography and aren’t afraid to work under tight time constraints, this is a great option. A degree in photography would be helpful, or even business, if you’d like to own your own company. Ultimately, though, experience in the industry is what counts. 

13. Civil engineer 

Average salary: $87,060

Math and science can be creative, too. Civil engineers design and construct structurally sound buildings, bridges, and roads. Although the practical aspects of the job (i.e. making sure structures don’t collapse) are essential, there’s room for creativity in structural design decisions. A degree in civil engineering is essential. 

14. Fashion designer

Average salary: $98,481

Imagine your work strutting down the runway or gracing the cover of a magazine. Although there’s definitely a wide range in the salaries of fashion designers, the average salary is pretty high, and the top designers can make millions yearly. Degrees in textile design or business are helpful, but really, experience is key in this field. 

Read More: How to Dress for Business Professional Attire 28 Ways

15. Architect 

Average salary: $80,750

Similar to civil engineers, architects design and construct buildings. They focus more on aesthetic design than structural integrity, so creativity is a must for this position in addition to an aptitude for math. A degree in architecture is also essential. 

16. Advertising manager

Average salary: $100,478

If you enjoy psychology and have an eye for art, becoming an advertising manager might be a good job fit. Advertising managers oversee teams of creatives who produce (usually visual) content for brands. They have to understand what is not only visually appealing but also will resonate psychologically with consumers. A degree in advertising is a must, and qualifications in psychology or art are added benefits. 

17. Publishing director

Average salary: $123,333

If you like reading and editing, this one's for you. Publishing directors manage everything related to publishing books for a publishing company, ranging from recruiting authors to reading books to marketing. A degree in literature, English, or creative writing is helpful, and if you’re interested in working in a more specific subfield of publishing, a specialized degree in that subject might be useful. 

18. Plastic surgeon

Average salary: $402,225

Plastic surgeons are artists working on human canvases. They help people enhance their features, alter their bone structures, or reconstruct their bodies after injuries. Although the field requires a lot of scientific training, the artistic aspect of the work is what often draws customers to seek out specific surgeons. To become a plastic surgeon, medical school after a four-year undergraduate degree is a must. 

Read More: What Is a Professional Degree & What Can I Do With It?

19. Creative operations director

Average salary: $121,806

Creative operations directors manage everything related to creative design. This could include branding, marketing, product design, and more. Usually, creative operations directors are fairly high up in a business’ chain of commands, especially in larger companies, so it helps to have some marketing and advertising experience. A degree in business, marketing, or advertising is usually required. 

20. Film producer 

Average salary: $96,778

Producers are the original masterminds behind a film; they’re the one to find and launch a project, as well as select writers, cast members, and crew. They’re a part of pre- and post-production as well as filming. Experience with acting or being a part of a film set in some capacity is valued. Although degrees aren’t required, certifications in theater may help. 

21. Computer programmer 

Average salary: $86,550

I know what you’re thinking...programming might not seem super creative at first, but actually, the problem solving that goes along with writing code requires a lot of creative thought. Computer programmers write code that allows websites, apps, and other programs to run. Figuring out the nuances of code takes ingenuity and the ability to sometimes think outside the box. A degree in computer science is usually a good bet if you’re interested in becoming a programmer. 

Read More: Technical Skills: What They Are & Which Ones Matter Most

22. User experience designer

Average salary: $113,982

User experience designers are closely tied to user experience researchers. While researchers focus on analyzing consumer behavior, designers are responsible for taking that information and translating it into a product. Designers have to be good at translating statistical data into product improvements or creations, and a degree in business is usually required. 

23. Radio talk show host

Average salary: $110,537

Becoming a talk show host might seem a little far-fetched, but plenty of local radio stations have talk shows. There is a wide range in annual salaries, but to move up to larger productions, experience at local shows is important. To be a host, you’ve got to be a quick thinker, willing to come up with creative questions, and good with people. While a degree isn’t a requirement for this position, experience working in the radio industry is definitely a must to snag a host position. 

24. Orthodontist 

Average salary: $208,000

An orthodontist is creative? Absolutely. Think back to how jumbled your teeth were in middle school, and you’ll realize exactly how creative they have to be to create perfect smiles. Innovation, coupled with extensive education, is how orthodontists work their magic. A bachelor’s degree, dental school, and residency are all required. 

25. Lawyer

Average salary: $122,960

Elle Woods, anyone? Lawyers often have got to be creative in order to win their cases. Whether it’s advocating for a sentence to be lessened or finding loopholes in the law, lawyers have to be fast and creative thinkers. An undergraduate bachelor’s degree is required in addition to law school and passing a bar exam to practice. 

Read More: Law School: To Go or Not to Go?

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