When you’re a naturally creative individual, job searching can feel particularly challenging. It’s easy to feel like any job that isn’t obviously artistic will force you to either give up an important part of yourself or settle for a low salary—but luckily, that just isn’t the case.
“The truth is that every job can be creative,” says career coach Nina Sasson. “Being creative is about harnessing your attention. You can use your attention to create and build anything no matter what job you have.”
There are obvious choices, including copywriting and graphic design, but no two paths to a creative career are alike. Everything from data analysis to marketing to software development can be creative—it all depends on your perspective. Management and training roles offer a lot of creative opportunities for individuals who are outgoing, have strong communication skills, and are able to think through problems in unique ways. “Effective leaders apply their creativity to bring out the unique potential in those they lead,” says Anne Jacoby, founder and CEO of Spring Street, a consulting firm that specializes in helping to develop creative workplace cultures.
Not only are there plenty of jobs out there that let you bring your creative side to work, but many of them are also high paying. Below, you’ll find 12 jobs that pay well and will let you showcase your creative skills on a daily basis.
What Counts as “High-Paying”?
For the purposes of this list, we’re defining high-paying jobs as those whose average salary (according to the compensation resource PayScale) is above the median household income in the U.S., which U.S. Census Bureau statistics show was $68,703 in 2019, the latest year for which data is available. It’s worth keeping in mind that we’ve provided averages and general ranges, so you may see variations depending on where you live. (And PayScale’s database is updated nightly; the numbers below reflect the latest figures as of May 2021.)
You’ll also want to think about your level of experience going into the job search. Some of the roles below are mid-level or senior-level positions, so if you’re just starting out, you may want to look at entry-level jobs in those areas. While a junior role may have a lower salary to start, you’ll be on the path to a high-earning position.
1. Agile Coach
Average salary: $123,130
Salary range: $85,000–$162,000
An agile coach typically works with a specific team, often software developers or product engineers, to help them manage long-term projects and work more effectively as a group. Agile coaching requires a unique blend of creative skills—you need to be organized and good with visuals (there are often a lot of flowcharts and task boards involved!), but you also need high emotional intelligence. This is a great role for people who are natural leaders, mentors, and problem-solvers.
To get into this field, you’ll need to be well-versed in agile workflow methodologies, an approach to project management that helps cross-functional teams work together more effectively. For example, you might use Scrum or Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) methods. There are certifications available, including Scrum master certifications and project management courses, but you can also break into the field through on-the-job experience, especially at a smaller company.
2. Social Media Director
Average Salary: $74,855
Salary range: $44,000–$138,000
A social media director is responsible for developing the strategies a brand will use to reach their customers through social media platforms. They day-to-day involves a combination of overseeing content channels, managing a team, analyzing performance of past and current efforts, and presenting data to demonstrate the success of social initiatives.
This is a perfect position for people who have a broad range of creative and analytical skills. It requires a strong aesthetic sensibility, photo and video editing skills, copywriting, and sometimes even on-camera talent, but it doesn’t stop there. Social media directors also need to be strategic thinkers who can analyze and present data as easily as they can make new online friends.
So if you actually understand how the TikTok algorithm works and your camera roll has thousands of perfectly edited photos just waiting to be posted, you should probably consider working in social media. You might need to start as a social media coordinator or in another entry-level marketing job and work your way up to the manager level before you can become a director, but you’ll have a great time doing it.
3. UX Designer
Average Salary: $74,635
Salary range: $54,000–$108,000
In a UX (short for user experience) design role, you’ll be shaping how customers engage and interact with the product that your company makes. That can mean very different things for different businesses, which is one of the most exciting aspects of the field. At a software development company, you might be figuring out how users will go through the flow of adding items to their cart and checking out virtually, while at a retail business, you might be determining the best way to set up a physical checkout counter.
Some UX design roles are more visual, involving the creation of prototypes and wireframes, while others are focused more on writing copy and content for apps, websites, and physical spaces. Regardless, a problem-solving mindset and a constant desire to make things work better will set you up for success as a UX designer. You’ll also need to be good at research and testing, since you’ll want to go straight to the source—your product’s users—to better understand how to make it work for them.
4. Product Designer
Average Salary: $84,422
Salary range: $51,000–$130,000
Product design can apply to everything from designing packaging, furniture, and toys to creating new software and digital products. In short, product designers shape the things that we use on a daily basis, from apps and web platforms to sneakers and headphones. This role is a good fit for anyone with strong drawing and drafting skills, especially if you’re interested in creating physical products. You’ll also need to work with cross-functional teams—collaborating with engineers, salespeople, and marketers—and find creative solutions that take into account engineering, budget, and other considerations. Product design can also be a great way to get into software or app development.
UX design and product design can be very similar, especially in the tech world. One main difference is the perspective: While UX designers are focused on making a product easy to use, product designers are primarily concerned with taking a concept or an idea and turning it into a product that people will want to buy, though they also have an interest in making their creations highly functional.
5. Creative Director
Average salary: $89,116
Salary range: $49,000–$156,000
Creative directors often straddle a few different creative fields. What a creative director actually does depends on the industry, but the general responsibilities are to shape the aesthetic direction and messaging of a brand. If you work in-house for a fashion company, you’ll be determining the visual look and feel of everything from the clothing to the retail spaces to the e-commerce platforms, while the creative director at an advertising agency will oversee the visuals, words, sounds, and anything else that might go into ads for a number of different clients.
As a creative director, you’ll typically be responsible for managing a team of other creative individuals, so great leadership and communication skills are a must. And it’s worth noting that this is not an entry- or mid-level role. You’ll need to work up to this job, but there are a lot of ways to get there, such as copywriting, graphic design, or marketing strategy roles.
6. Operations Director
Average salary: $87,961
Salary range: $48,000–$154,000
Operations directors are like the CEOs of the business unit they’re in charge of, managing day-to-day functions including staffing, scheduling, budgets, and business negotiations. Operations can encompass HR, management, finance, marketing, and more, so operations directors typically touch every area of the business. Even though it may not seem creative at first glance, it’s a role that really plays to the strengths of creative leaders with a strong business sense, since you'll need to be able to solve problems on a daily basis, manage cross-functional teams, run meetings, and make smart hiring and professional development decisions.
One of the best parts about this high-earning role is that the primary qualification you need to grow into it is experience—anyone with a strong work ethic, good management skills, and an understanding of finances can get there. Almost any entry-level position can set you on the operations road if you find that you’re passionate about it, but roles like office manager and operations coordinator are good places to start.
7. Software Developer
Average salary: $72,283
Salary range: $51,000–$106,000
A software developer writes code to build new pieces of software (or to update or add new features to existing software). Software developers are constantly using creative skills, from problem-solving to creating visually appealing user interfaces. It’s a role that requires strong analytical skills, since you’ll often be starting with a user problem or need and then reverse-engineering a solution.
And yes, being a software developer also draws on creativity. “Creative thinking shows up across a variety of jobs that require strategy, analysis, and the distillation of complex ideas,” Jacoby says, and these tasks make up a lot of a software developer’s role.
Solid coding skills are a must, but you also need to be good at seeing the big picture and understanding how individual components interact to create a functional system. Software developers will often find themselves working with teams of other developers and focusing on small components of a larger project. A degree in computer science is always helpful for anyone looking to become a developer, but if you’re a self-taught coder, many companies will hire you without one.
8. Senior Copywriter
Average salary: $75,697
Salary range: $52,000–$101,000
Copywriting is one of the most straightforward creative careers out there. It’s perfect for anyone who loves to write and come up with clever catch phrases or slogans. You might work for an agency, where you’ll have multiple clients, or as an in-house copywriter, where you’ll focus on creating content for a single company. Expect to write anything and everything from website copy to Instagram captions and the text that goes on printed collateral like posters and brochures, all with the goal of educating customers about the brand you’re working for or promoting the products or services they sell.
This is a great role for people who love working as part of a creative team, since copywriters often work closely with designers, social media managers, product teams, and even executives. Senior copywriters tend to work on larger products or oversee teams of more junior copywriters. A degree in English or creative writing is helpful if you’re trying to get your foot in the door as a junior copywriter and work your way up to higher-level (and better paying) roles.
9. PR Manager
Average salary: $70,239
Salary range: $46,000–$101,000
Public relations is a great field for creative individuals who don’t necessarily want to make something every day. PR managers are responsible for getting the word out and fostering a certain perception about a company, brand, product, or individual. So your day-to-day might be spent strategizing with other team members to figure out the best way to get a new lip gloss into the hands of a beauty editor or to get social media influencers to try a new restaurant. You’ll write a lot (think emails, press releases, and invitations), but you might also plan events and experiential brand activations, oversee digital campaigns, work with influencers and social media teams, and more.
To become a PR manager, you’ll need to work your way up from an entry-level position—perhaps a PR coordinator or assistant—and there’s a lot of room to keep growing in this field to director levels and beyond. It’s perfect for people with exceptional written and verbal communication skills: If you loved theater, public speaking, or writing in school, it’s worth looking into PR. Degrees in business, marketing, and English or creative writing can all be helpful when you’re looking to break into the field.
10. Training Manager
Average salary: $69,110
Salary range: $46,000–$102,000
A training manager is in charge of figuring out how to teach employees the skills they need to succeed in their roles, which means it’s another great fit for people with outgoing personalities and strong communication skills. This role can involve initial training and onboarding as well as continuing education over the course of an employee’s time with a company. At some companies, training managers will need to travel to different locations, ensuring that employees are taught in a consistent manager.
Part operations, part HR, training managers need to be able to think on their feet, and understand how to teach the basics of a wide variety of job functions. They often create lesson plans, write and design training materials, and put together presentations—all of which can be great creative outlets. There’s the possibility to grow into regional or director-level roles, which means more opportunities to get a higher salary, too.
Organizations hiring for training roles might be looking for a degree in communications or a related field, or they might be particularly interested in candidates who have a degree that’s relevant to what their specific business does.
11. Business Development Manager
Average salary: $74,306
Salary range: $45,000–$123,000
Business development managers are responsible for helping a company find more revenue streams. They might identify new markets to sell into, pursue partnerships with other companies, and form strategic alliances to help their organization meet financial goals.
Expect to spend a lot of time meeting with existing and potential clients and partners as well as brainstorming and executing on creative ways to attract new clients, partner with other businesses in ways that will benefit both sides, and bring big projects across the finish line. “Creativity is a huge asset when negotiating and considering what may persuade your counterparty,” Jacoby says, and business development managers will need it when discussing deals externally and suggesting new strategies internally.
This kind of role requires strong social and public speaking skills—which might include creating and giving presentations—as well as research, analysis, organization, and writing skills. You’ll need to work in an entry-level role such as business development associate or representative before you can snag the manager-level salary and title.
12. Email Marketing Manager
Average salary: $73,505
Salary range: $50,000–$99,000
Expect to flex a ton of different creative skills in this role, from copywriting to graphic design and strategy. Email marketing managers are responsible for figuring out the most effective way to communicate with current, past, and potential customers via email, and as anyone with an email account knows, businesses send a lot of emails.
Email marketing managers need to have solid writing skills and at least a basic understanding of graphic and layout design, even if you’ll mostly be working within templates. You’ll also need strong analytical skills, as the role requires A/B testing and analyzing data from past campaigns to see what is and isn’t working. If you studied business, marketing, or similar, and are hoping to flex both creative and quantitative skills, this might be a great path for you. Because email marketing can be a significant source of revenue for many businesses, it’s also a relatively high-paying job within marketing teams, though you may have to work your way up from an email coordinator or a generalist marketing coordinator or assistant role.