Creative jobs often get a bad rap for being low-paying career choices. The idea that people who aspire to perform creative endeavors will struggle to make ends meet for their whole lives is a common trope. And it is true that some creative-minded people do end up with lower-paying roles than some other positions in more technical or scientific fields.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for art and design occupations is $49,600. This salary is higher than the median annual wage for all occupations, which the BLS puts at $41,950.
If you are a creative person looking for a job that exercises your talents and interests — and allows you to earn a more lucrative salary — don't despair! There are plenty of creative jobs that actually pay very well and allow you to use your unique strengths and talents.
“Talented creative professionals can receive very attractive, competitive salaries, depending on their skills and experience," says Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group.
From graphic designers to writers to web designers, there are many positions and opportunities for creative work and career paths for people with a diverse range of talents, strengths and abilities.
Using data from the BLS and The Creative Group, we have outlined some of these well-paying creative career paths — as well as their average salaries and projected growth — below:
There are tons of art and design jobs from which to choose, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor that collects data on employment and the average salary of different positions and roles within a wide range of fields and industries.
This includes information on median and mean pay, required education, and projected job growth or decline for particular occupations and lines of work. However, while the BLS collects data on hundreds of jobs, it does not cover every single occupation on the market.
So, while you will see many creative fields represented below, you will not see salary information for every possible occupation, simply because the BLS doesn't provide the data on earnings and salary ranges. For example, the BLS has data on graphic designers but not on user experience designers.
For people with strengths in visual arts and design, there are many career possibilities available. And while the idea of being a struggling artist may seem unappealing, don't worry! There are actually plenty of well-paying jobs for people interested in the visual arts.
According to the BLS, these are the 2highest-paying jobs in art and design fields:
Median Pay: $97,270 per year
Job Outlook: Through 2030, art director positions are projected to grow by 11%.
Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree in a design or art field
Art directors earn the highest wages in the states of New York ($142,210), California ($140,740), New Jersey ($121,940), Oregon ($115,070) and Washington ($113,610).
Median Pay: $77,700 per year
Job Outlook: Through 2030, multimedia artist and animator positions are projected to grow by 16%.
Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, art, or a similar field.
Special effects artists and animators earn the highest wages in the states of Connecticut ($115,660), California ($105,480), New York ($98,770), Oregon ($96,350) and Washington ($90,130).
Median Pay: $75,810 per year
Job Outlook: Through 2030, fashion designer positions are projected to grow by 0%.
Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising.
Fashion designers earn the highest wages in the states of California ($97,270), New York ($91,690), Vermont ($90,640), New Hampshire ($84,990), Massachusettes ($84,480).
Median Pay: $71,640 per year
Job Outlook: Through 2030, industrial designer positions are projected to grow by 6%
Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree in architecture, industrial design, or engineering
Industrial designers earn the highest wages in the states of Arizona ($91,690), California ($88,240), New York ($85,760), North Carolina ($83,590) and Massachusetts ($82,410).
Other art and design jobs that pay less than other creative work involving visual arts include: interior designers ($57,060), craft and fine artists ($49,120), and graphic designers ($53,380).
Wordsmiths and media enthusiasts may find plenty of well-paying jobs in media and communications fields. If you want to exercise your writing and language skills, you don't need to compromise on your salary expectations; according to the BLS, these are the highest-paying jobs in media and communications:
Median Pay: $74,650
Job Outlook: Through 2030, technical writer positions are projected to grow by 12%.
Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, usually in journalism, communications, or English. Depending on the type of technical writing you do, you may also need knowledge of a field like computer science, medicine, or engineering.
Technical writers earn the highest wages in the states of California ($95,170), Massachusetts ($93,290), District of Columbia ($90,230), Maryland ($87,520) and Virginia ($87,470).
Median Pay: $67,120 per year
Job Outlook: Through 2030, writer and author positions are projected to grow by 9%.
Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree in English, journalism, or communications
Writers and authors earn the highest wages in the states of the District of Columbia ($104,720), California ($102,230), Connecticut ($97,420), New York ($95,880) and Massachusettes ($88,900).
Median Pay: $63,400 per year
Job Outlook: Through 2030, editor positions are projected to decline by about 5%.
Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree in English, journalism, or communications.
Editors earn the highest wages in the states of the District of Columbia ($95,590), New York ($93,550), Massachusetts ($84,420), California ($80,930), New Jersey ($77,890).
Median Pay: $62,810 per year
Job Outlook: Through 2026, public relations positions are projected to grow by 11%.
Typical entry-level education: Usually a bachelor’s degree in public relations, communications, journalism, English, business, or a related field.
Public relations specialists earn the highest wages in the states of the District of Columbia ($109,140), New Jersey ($82,890), Washington ($81,380), California ($ 80,090) and Maryland ($79,970).
Median Pay: $61,900 per year
Job Outlook: Through 2030, projected to grow by 29 percent.
Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree in film/broadcasting or communications.
Camera operators earn the highest wages in the states of New York ($109,310), California ($80,240), New Jersey ($72,620), District of Columbia ($70,440) and Maryland ($66,270).
There are plenty of other media and communications positions available across the county, though they may not be as well compensated as the ones listed above. For instance, photographers receive an average salary of $41,280, according to the BLS.
Each year, The Creative Group releases a salary guide for creative and marketing jobs.
“Since businesses are increasingly focusing on digital initiatives, design thinking and improving customer experience, creative professionals with experience in these areas can see higher salaries,” explains Domeyer.
She lists some of these occupations and corresponding average salaries as follows:
Creative skills do offer earning potential in your career, but that doesn't mean you can't extend your knowledge and skills beyond the realm of the arts. For creatives who want to increase their earning potential, Domeyer recommends developing your digital expertise. “For example, graphic designers may want to incorporate web or mobile design into their skill sets,” she says. “Copywriters could learn search engine optimization (SEO) and perfect writing for a web audience.”
As the world increasingly relies on digital spaces to share and communicate ideas, concepts, and projects, gaining skills that can add to your artistic and creative strengths can help you secure a lucrative position in the competitive job market. Honing your ability to articulate and demonstrate these skills and strengths can give applicants a leg up during the interview process.
It is also worthwhile to add these important digital skills to your resume, so hiring managers and recruiters will see them during a quick glance or overview of your application. Having knowledge of relevant tools and resources will demonstrate that you are serious about personal growth, the industry, and keeping your skillset and your work up to date—and will ultimately put you ahead of the pack and give you higher earning potential in the short- and long-term.
“Creative professionals who are familiar with the latest industry tools, technologies and trends are always in high demand, so make learning an ongoing priority," Domeyer says.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Terri Williams is a business, higher ed, tech and ethics journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, Robert Half, U.S. News & World Report, About.com (dotdash) and Business.com. Follow her on Twitter @Territoryone.
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