Artists aren’t the only ones using imagination and innovation at work

By James Militzer

It’s the classic career dilemma for creative people. You love creative work, but aren’t sure you have what it takes to make a career out of it–and the “starving artist” lifestyle doesn’t appeal to you. How can you find a career that nurtures your creative side, but also lets you make a living?

“Don’t define creativity so narrowly,” says Margaret Lobenstine, career coach and author of  The Renaissance Soul. “If you think that creativity is just whether you can paint, sing or act, then you’re not going to get anywhere unless you have talent in painting, singing or acting. But if you are a creative person, you’re a problem solver, because you see the world in a new way–and that applies to many fields.”

Here are five careers that offer good salaries, abundant jobs–and boundless opportunities to put your creative talents to work.

Design

If you’ve got aesthetic skills, magazines and factories might be better venues for your work than museums and art galleries. Careers in applied arts like graphic or industrial design are plentiful, well-paid, and just as creative as their fine-arts counterparts, says Carol Eikleberry, career counselor and author of The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People. “You need to be practical as well as aesthetic, but you still get to be creative with visual information and three dimensional thinking.”

Education:

Most design-related fields require anywhere from an associate’s to a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s will make you more employable.

Outlook:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs in graphic design and commercial/industrial design will experience steady growth this decade, while interior design jobs will grow faster than average. Median annual wages are $42,400 for graphic designers, $44,950 for interior designers, and $57,350 for commercial and industrial designers.

Teaching

Teaching offers plenty of opportunities to flex your creative muscles, from the problem-solving abilities required to plan a lesson, to the performance skills needed to present it. And you’ll use these skills even if you don’t teach a creative art. As
Lobenstine puts it, “A third grade teacher might not be able to draw or sing on key, but she can be one of the most creative people in the world.”

Education:

Most teaching positions require a bachelor’s degree plus licensure.

Outlook:

The BLS predicts steady growth in the demand for kindergarten, elementary, middle and secondary school teachers, with average salaries ranging from $51,640 to $57,200.

Consulting

As Eikleberry puts it, “Work that involves synthesizing complex information tends to be highly creative, and it offers a great opportunity for self expression.” Whether it involves designing clients’ business plans or budgets, or advising them on how to improve worker productivity, consulting fits that description. The BLS also projects it to be this decade’s fastest-growing industry.

Education:

Entry-level positions require a bachelor’s at minimum, and higher positions often require an MBA.

Outlook:

Employment in management, scientific and technical consulting services is projected to grow by 83 percent Between 2014 and 2024. Annual pay for salaried workers averages almost $80,000 – with self-employed consultants often earning much more.

Computer Software Engineering

Like consulting, software engineering often involves creative problem solving as many programs are developed to address specific business needs or organizational challenges. But some software, like video games, can require as much aesthetic creativity as any fine art.

Education:

A bachelor’s degree is required for most jobs, with graduate degrees preferred for more complex positions.

Outlook:

The BLS projects that employment of computer software engineers will increase
by 17% from 2014-2024 wages from $85,430 to $92,420.

Entrepreneurship

Besides letting you build a career around your creative interests, running your own business can involve a vast array of creative secondary tasks. As Lobenstine puts it, “I ran a bed and breakfast for ten years. That required me to be a chef, a gardener, a storyteller, an interior decorator, a publicist–there were so many pieces to it that required creativity. We tend to think that a job requires one label, but if your work includes many ways to be creative, it can be more satisfying.”

Education:

A degree in a relevant field may not be necessary for all businesses–but it can’t hurt. Business management classes are also a plus.

Outlook:

Pay and job opportunities vary wildly for entrepreneurs. But with hard work, persistence and an active market for their products or services, business owners can earn far more than practically any other job holder.