Top 5 High-Paid Creative Jobs | Top Universities

Top 5 High-Paid Creative Jobs

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Mathilde Frot

Updated May 16, 2022



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The Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani, whose ‘Reclining Nude’ recently sold at Christie’s for $170,405,000, was commonly known among Parisians as ‘Modi’ – a pun on his name’s resemblance to the French maudit (i.e. cursed). Living up to his nickname, Modi died at 36 of tuberculosis, sans un sou and possibly in a garret.

Don’t be maudit like Modi – choose a creative career that pays while you’re still alive to reap the benefits! Contrary to popular belief, careers in the creative industries can actually be very lucrative, if you have the right contacts, skillset and know where to look. Here are five of the highest-paid creative jobs you should consider before reaching for that bottle of absinthe…

1. Creative director

The payslip: According, creative directors in the US have high average starting salaries of roughly US$44,000, with average US$83,000 earnings of a year. The figure can rise up to US$163,000, depending on employer, industry and bonus packages.

The job: Creative directors conceptualize creative projects in graphic design, media, music or advertising.  

Entry routes: To become a creative director, you would need to earn a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or marketing, build a slick portfolio of your work, and gain five to seven years’ experience of working in-house or for an agency on packaging, brochures, online advertising, et cetera. A postgraduate degree in animation, product design or visual communications could help you market yourself to employers, increase your earning potential and round out your skillset in areas related to marketing, web design and multimedia design.

2. Art director

The payslip: Art directors in the US initially start on around US$40,200 and earn on average US$61,000 – tough some reach the US$94,000 benchmark depending on their city, experience and skillset. Knowledge of user interface design can be a massive earnings booster.

The job: Art directors manage design staff to execute a concept outlined in a brief. While creative directors rely on their experience, intuition and artistic flair, art directors need strong technical expertise and project management skills.

Entry routes: You would need a qualification in a relevant area which, depending on your industry, could be anything from photography to architecture to interior design. Alongside this, you would need to build experience working for art departments, initially as an arts department assistant and progressing gradually to the role of art director.

3. Senior graphic designer

The payslip: Senior graphic designers in the US earn on average US$56,000, while, at the top end of the pay scale, designers with extensive experience and a rounded skillset can make as much as US$81,000!

The job: Graphic designers create graphics for brands using a variety of media and software such as Adobe InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop for commercial purposes.

Entry routes: To become a graphic designer, you would need to study graphic design at university and build up a portfolio of your work. Typically, you would kick-start your career as a trainer designer in an agency or in-house and work your way up.

4. Animator

The payslip: The average animator in the US earns about US$50,200, though salaries can rise up to US$79,700 with time and a more advanced skillset.  

The job: Animators create cartoons by hand, motion capture animation or digitally, in both 2D and 3D for the web and presentations. Knowledge of Photoshop and animation software such as Flash or Morpheme is of course absolutely vital.

Entry routes: To become an animator, you would need to complete an animation course to develop the requisite technical skills, build your portfolio and complete as much work experience as possible.

5. Game designer

The payslip: Video game designers start on around US$38,000 a year and earn on average US$58,300, though salaries can stack up to US$96,400 depending on experience.

The job: Game designers work for gaming companies in an office or studio alongside programmers and artists to guide the artistic direction and programming of a video game. They may contribute to the development of gameplay, storyline, user interface, characters and game rules.

Entry routes: A common pathway into game design is to undertake a course in game design or information experience design at university and complete work experience, before securing an entry-level role in a gaming company, probably starting out as a tester, and working your way up.

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