Not a Starving Artist: 10 Creative Jobs That Pay at Least $45,000

rent musical

A performance of the musical Rent, about artists living in New York City | Carol Rosegg/Broadway Across America via Getty Images

You don’t need a trust fund to make it as an artist. Contrary to popular perception, there are jobs out there for creative types, and many of them pay quite well.

Jobs search site CareerBuilder and Emsi, a labor market data provider, combed through available data to find out the top career fields for artists. They identified 10 different creative jobs, from animators to translators, that have high demand for workers and paid at least $45,000.

“Jobs that require creative thinking aren’t as numerous as STEM jobs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t available or lucrative,” Rob Sentz, chief innovation officer of Emsi, said in a statement. “We continue to see these jobs grow and pay a good salary.”

That’s good news for people who’d rather spend time in the art studio than a lab. Though data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce shows that people who major in STEM, business, or health earn more than other people who concentrate in fields like dramatic arts or studio arts, even people with less lucrative majors can earn decent money.

“Some college graduates with low-paying majors earn more than college graduates with high-paying majors. For example, one in four college graduates who majored in the humanities or liberal arts earns more than a quarter of college graduates who majored in architecture or engineering,” according to Georgetown’s report on the economic value of college majors. While it might be less common or a bit more difficult for people in certain fields to land high-paying jobs, it’s far from impossible.

Most well-paying creative jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Often, the salaries at the bottom of the scale are quite low, but wages are better for people with more experience or talent. Film editors, for example, can earn anywhere from $46,000 to $92,000 per year, according to CareerBuilder.

Want more proof that you don’t have to give up your creative dreams to make a living? Check out these 10 creative jobs, which all pay $45,000 a year or more on average.

Average wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

10. Interpreters and translators


Interpreters at work | Axel Schmidt – Pool /Getty Images

Average salary: $44,190

In an increasingly globalized world, there’s more demand than ever for people who can serve as interpreters and translators. (Translators work with written language, interpreters with spoken words.) More than 13,000 jobs in the field have been added since 2011, with salaries ranging from $35,000 to $55,000, according to CareerBuilder. The BLS predicts another 17,500 jobs will be added by 2024, for job growth of 29%.

Fluency in more than one language isn’t enough to get work as a translator. Professional translators need special skills and training, especially if they’re working in a field like law or medicine, according to the American Translators Association. How much you earn will depend a lot on your language specializations and the number of other translators competing for those jobs. Chinese and Japanese are among the languages with high demand and relatively low competition, according to Translation Rules.

9. Graphic designers

graphic designer

A graphic designer that’s not starving |

Average salary: $46,900

Graphic designers shape how we see the world. They might create advertisements, logos, data visualizations, and websites, among other forms of visual communication, according to AIGA, the professional association for design. Roughly 21,000 jobs have been added in this field since 2011, and salaries range from $37,000 to $57,000 per year. Some designers may eventually become art directors, one of the highest-paying creative jobs.

Successful graphic designers have strong creative skills and artistic ability, but they also need to be good communicators, tech savvy, and analytical, according to the BLS. Most have a bachelor’s degree in design or a related field.

8. Interior designers

bathroom interior

A well-designed bathroom fit for a spa |

Average salary: $48,840

If you’re addicted to design blogs and can’t get enough of HGTV, then a job as an interior designer might be the creative career for you. More than 9,000 interior design jobs have been added to the U.S. economy since 2011, and they pay anywhere from $38,000 to $56,000 annually, CareerBuilder found.

Most interior designers work on both residential and commercial spaces, according to the American Society of Interior Designers, though some are highly specialized (focusing on interior design for boats, for example, for historic properties). Many work for themselves and need business skills as well as a keen creative eye. Most designers have some kind of formal training, like an associate or bachelor’s degree, and in many states, they must be licensed.

7. PR specialists

press release

A press release | Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Average salary: $56,770

Public relations specialists are the bridge between the organization they work for and the public. A big part of the job involves interacting with reporters and the news media, but PR pros might also spend their time writing articles, crafting press releases, planning events, and coordinating social media, among other duties. Strong communication and writing skills are a must if you’re interested in this career, as is the ability to work in a fast-paced environment and manage crises.

Some people study in public relations or communications in school to get a foot in the door in this industry. Others have degrees in English or journalism and might end up in a PR career after working as reporters or writers. There are more than 211,000 PR pros in the U.S., with 21,000 new jobs added since 2011.

6. Film editors

film editing oscar envelope

The envelope for the film editing Oscar backstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Average salary: $61,750

You wouldn’t be able to enjoy the latest Hollywood blockbuster without the help of film editors. These creative professionals are responsible for cutting together footage and turning it into movies, TV shows, and videos. About 4,800 jobs have been added in the field since 2001, according to CareerBuilder.

Though average salaries in this field are $61,750 per year, according to the BLS, there’s huge variation in pay. The lowest 10% of film editors earned just $26,270 per year, while the top 10% took home $155,840 annually. Unsurprisingly, the most jobs – and the highest wages – for film editors, are in California, the heart of the film industry.

5. Multimedia artists and animators


An animator shows off his work | Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

Average salary: $63,970

Multimedia artists and animators create graphics and visual effects for movies, TV shows, video games, and other media. Just over 5,000 jobs have been added in this field since 2011. The average salary is about $64,000 per year.

To land a job in this competitive field, you’ll need a mix of the right technical skills and a strong portfolio of work. As with many jobs in the film industry, there are more opportunities and higher salaries in the Los Angeles area, which has more animator and multimedia artist jobs than the next four cities (New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago) combined.

4. Commercial and industrial designers

apple watch

Industrial designers help create products like the Apple Watche | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Average salary: $67,130

Design is all around us. Commercial and industrial designers combine creativity with engineering skills to design the objects we use every day, from cars to furniture to toys. For the right person, it can be a very lucrative career. Though the bottom 10% of commercial and industrial designers earn less than $40,000 per year, those at the top end of the scale make more $100,000 annually, according to the BLS.

To become an industrial designer, you’ll need specialized training. Dozens of colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in product design, industrial design, and related fields. Companies around the country hire industrial designers, but the highest concentration of jobs is found in Michigan, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, according to a report from the National Endowment for the Arts.

3. Producers and directors

film director

A film director on set | Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Average salary: $68,440

Whether they work in film, television, theater, or advertising, producers and directors are responsible for turning ideas for movies, shows, and commercials into reality. Directors work on the creative side, while producers handle the business and financial details. Depending on the size of a production, there may be several layers of producers and directors, each with their own set of duties.

Most producers and directors start out with low-profile (and low-salary) jobs like production assistant before gradually working their way up the ladder to more prestigious positions. Some producers have a background in business, others come from the creative side. Salaries can vary dramatically, from $31,780 on the low end to $181,780 on the high end, according to the BLS.

2. Technical writers

instruction manual

An instruction manual | Adam Berry/Getty Images

Average salary: $70,240

If you want to turn your English degree into a lucrative yet still creative career, technical writing may be the job for you. Technical writers are the folks responsible for churning out manuals, instruction guides, help documents, white papers, and other specialized or complex communications.

Because there’s a lot of demand for technical writers but relatively few people who have the aptitude for or interest in the field, salaries tend to be fairly high. The average technical writer earns about $70,000 per year, and some make much more. Strong writing skills are a must, and completing a course or other training in technical writing will help you break into this field, technical writer Kimmoy Matthews explained in an article for The Write Life.

1. Art directors

Shot of mixed race young people sitting at a table

A creative team during a meeting | Ammentorp Lund

Average salary: $89,760

Art directors oversee teams of designers, copywriters, photographers and other creative professionals to produce magazines, advertisements, and movies or TV shows. The job requires both strong creative vision and the ability to manage teams of people. To land a job as an art director, you’ll need experience working as a designer or in another creative job.

Even art directors at the low end of the salary scale earn close to $50,000 per year, according to the BLS, while the top 10% earn $172,900 per year on average. In addition to five years or more of hands-on work experience, you’ll need a strong portfolio that shows off your creative chops to move into this role.

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