Creative Jobs That Actually Pay Well

The term “artist” used to conjure images of an impoverished bohemian working in a drafty garret. But these days, that’s not necessarily the case. According to Rod Berg, a visual-arts career coach and the associate director of career services at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, there are now many job opportunities that allow artistic people to earn a comfortable living.

Here are some lucrative career paths for artistic types–most pay more than $45,000 a year.

1. Web Designer ($50,800)
Berg says there are two approaches to Web design, and designers who incorporate both are often the most successful. “Web design is very much about the creative aesthetic,” he says, “but there’s also the technical side–Flash, Dreamweaver. They’re two very separate worlds, but artistic types who have some sort of technical understanding can have a very successful career. Those with a pure design aesthetic can be successful, too.”

2. Art Director ($58,400)
Typically, an art director spends several years as a junior graphic designer before working his or her way up the food chain at an ad agency, a magazine, or a large company. People with strong communication and leadership skills might excel at art direction. “It’s less designing and more overseeing and managing,” explains Berg. “You might have a concept, but you’re not actually doing it. It requires good delegation skills and an understanding of how the process works. You’re the bridge between designers and senior management.”

3. Interior Designer ($45,900)
Interior design is another area where it helps to have technical and artistic skills. Berg notes, “It’s visual, so you need great drawing, sketching, 3D abilities, and CAD [computer-aided design], but the other core component is great communication skills. You need to be able to really speak about your ideas and vision. It helps to have some kind of communications skills or business background.”

4. Illustrator (General Illustrator: $45,200; Medical Illustrator: $61,800)
People with strong illustration and drawing skills have several options. One is medical illustration–creating detailed drawings for textbooks, medical journals, and the like. Another is being a freelance illustrator who accepts a wide variety of projects (magazines, children’s books, and greeting cards, just to name a few)–good for artists with an entrepreneurial streak. Berg describes one Parsons graduate who’s a very successful freelance illustrator: “He got a contract with the U.S. Postal Service. He’s designed two sets of stamps, so his stamps are literally all over the world.”

5. Video Game Designer ($62,500)
Even during a recession, the video game industry often flourishes because it offers escapism that can last for hours. And as the technology becomes more sophisticated, it attracts more users. “Video game studios need all kinds of expertise,” says Berg. “They would work with a fashion designer, an interior designer–companies like that don’t expect the student to have the technology understanding. They’re looking for enthusiasm and raw talent.”

6. Animator ($61,700)
Creating animation for companies like Disney and Pixar may sound like child’s play, but Berg points out that it’s also highly competitive. “You’ve got be very proactive,” he says. “There’s mad competition for these positions, so you’ve got to be good and have a way of selling yourself verbally. Companies like Disney and Pixar would like to see a sketchbook and a portfolio, so you must understand how to represent yourself visually.” Berg adds that for many of these jobs, “self-branding is really important. Your resume is not just a piece of paper. Consider how you present yourself with typography and maybe a logo.”

7. Fashion Designer ($60,900)
Shows like “Project Runway” lead some designers to dream of being the next big name in fashion. But Berg says that many people enjoy successful careers working behind the scenes for large brands. He suggests that an aspiring designer “get into a company as a junior designer in bridal, knits–whatever the genre of interest is. Get your foot in the fashion world and navigate how the process works.” He adds that having an upbeat personality is vital in the fashion world.

8. Museum Curator ($48,300)
Working in a museum allows serious artists to keep a foot in the creative world while earning a living. And Berg says that, unlike personality-driven jobs like interior design or fashion design, this is an area where introverted types can really excel: “Your personality doesn’t have to be as bubbly,” he says. “You can be more studious.” A sharp intellect and an excellent understanding of art history are required in this field.

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