You can’t have your cake and eat it too — meaning that in life, you can’t have everything. Right? Many people assume this is true especially of their career, where we must often choose between our passion and our pocketbook.
It makes sense that unpleasant jobs would pay more. Otherwise, how would employers get people to do them? On the other hand, there are so many people who look for a fun job that employers don’t have to pay the best. While it’s certainly true that many fun jobs don’t pay well, there are a select few that do. You may need talent, planning, and a little luck to pull it off. However, if you can land one of these jobs, you’ll have the best of both worlds.
We broke the jobs down into three somewhat arbitrary categories: coolest, most fun, and highest paying. While these categories shouldn’t define your job search, take a look and see if any coincide with your interests.
Top Cool Jobs That Pay Well
1. Fashion Designer
Bottom 10% of earners: $33,580
Median income: $63,760
Top 10% of earners: $127,190
Many people are interested in the creative world of a fashion designer. Fashion designers are typically around models, photographers, and magazine editors all day. A typical day might involve starting with an idea of what a dress, shirt, or jacket would look like. Then, they’ll sketch out some ideas, consider cost and materials, and think about production. Eventually, after much planning, designers can see their finished product.
The entire fashion design career is dedicated to fulfilling a passion for fashion, and you’ll spend most of your day creating. Not all designers go on to be Yves St. Laurent and design entire collections for the boutique and the runway. Some designers must be content with designing running shorts and rain hats. However, even in less desirable positions, fashion designers get to work with what they’re passionate about. They get to see their vision become a reality. Not many average workers can say that.
The income statistics for fashion design are impressive. On the low end, fashion designers make a comfortable living at $33,580. The median and the upper percentile incomes are both fairly high. Fashion design is one of the highest-paying fun jobs, combining the freedom and fulfillment of a creative career with the income of more tedious and stressful positions.
Bottom 10% of earners: $17,770
Median income: $29,280
Top 10% of earners: $66,360
Don’t tell Annie Leibovitz or Terry Richardson that photography isn’t cool. Even though cell phone cameras have turned everyone with an iPhone into an amateur photographer, there’s still plenty of work for professionals. Even though fashion or celebrity photographers might be the most famous, it’s just as cool to be an artist. You can hang your pictures in a gallery, or take pictures of products and submit them to various magazines.
Photographers often work freelance, taking on as much or as little work as they like. This also allows them to switch up their day-to-day workload and vary their routine. Work with the latest high-tech digital gear to strike a geek-chic pose. Better yet, try being old school and shooting everything on film. Either way, photography is one of the few cool jobs that pay well.
Bottom 10% of earners: $22,130
Median income: $48,330
Top 10% of earners: $87,970
Behind every over-exposed, cheesy rock star, there is a songwriter — the real creative force behind a hit song. Songwriters are one of the coolest parts of the creative team. They can work with relative anonymity, writing songs without all the celebrity duties or rigors of touring. And if you’re looking for a big break, there are worse ways to get it than as a songwriter. Many of today’s top acts, from Lady Gaga and Pharell to Bruno Mars, got their start as songwriters.
As a songwriter, you write the melody, chords, and lyrics for the song. Songwriters often work in pairs or groups. In this case, you might specialize in the lyrics, while your partners focus on instrumental parts or chords. Songwriting is a distinct role from the producer, who oversees the recording of the record. The producer is often more focused on the particular instrumental sounds or arrangements than the song itself.
Songwriters work in some of the coolest cities in the country, from L.A. and New York to Nashville and Memphis. Since their pay can include royalties from landing a song with a successful radio artist or having a “sync license” where their song is used in a movie or commercial, they can receive regular pay from work they did years ago. Songwriting takes a particular kind of talent, and there’s stiff competition. It can eventually pay off if you work at it.
Fun Careers That Pay Well
4. Tour Guide
Bottom 10% of earners: $17,110
Median income: $23,770
Top 10% of earners: $37,550
Leading tours doesn’t have to be a summer job in between semesters. For those interested in travel and tourism, a position as a tour guide can be one of the most fun and rewarding careers. It also pays a decent salary.
As a tour guide, it’s your job to show visitors what is beautiful or interesting about your site. You might be a city guide, taking visitors through streets and neighborhoods to expose hidden gems. You might run your own international touring company, leading groups through several countries in Europe or South America. No matter where you work, it’s hard to imagine having a more fun career that pays well than a job that allows you to indulge in a love of travel.
Many tour guides give specialized tours that cater to specific interests. There are celebrity tours in Hollywood and adventure tours in the rainforest. In Scotland, there are whisky tours that take you from one distillery to the next. Running a tour means not only getting to enjoy travel, but also getting to indulge in a passion at the same time. Tour guides spend their day talking. If you’re a social butterfly, this might be the job for you.
5. Event Planner
Bottom 10% of earners: $26,480
Median income: $46,260
Top 10% of earners: $79,550
What could be more fun than helping people plan some of the biggest personal, social, and corporate events in their lives? Event planners specialize in making important days and nights go smoothly — they ensure that every detail of an event is accounted for. This career often appeals to individuals with a knack for hosting and arranging parties. If you’re not happy until everyone in the room is having a great time, you’re a natural event planner.
Event planners often run their own business, which is where an education in business administration can help you. Programs like our Business Administration Diploma at Vista College can give you the tools you need to ensure your business works the way it needs to.
Event planning is a fun career that pays well, but it also appeals to the natural organizer. Event planners arrive on site with binders, schedules, tabs, and sticky notes. They act as the single point of contact between the organizers and the catering staff, florist, or DJ. When an event goes well, the event planner has the satisfaction of seeing the guests have a good time.
Event planners don’t just throw good parties. They manage corporate conventions and conferences as well. These are often key moments in an industry’s calendar year. Event planners can help make the necessary collaborations run seamlessly. Slick events like TED Conferences and Apple’s famous World Wide Developers Conference can provide the environment for groundbreaking academic presentations or product launches. Event planners help people have a good time — they can also help change the world.
6. Graphic Designer
Bottom 10% of earners: $26,690
Median income: $44,830
Top 10% of earners: $79,260
Graphic design is an in-demand field that appeals to both the artistic and practical sides of the brain. Equal parts technical and aesthetic, graphic design is about making print and online publications beautiful and usable. Most graphic designers work on the web as the Internet becomes a bigger part of business practices. What better way to leave your mark on the virtual world than to make it cleaner and more intuitive.
Many graphic designers work freelance, giving them the ability to take on as much or as little work as they please. They also have the opportunity to work remotely. This makes many graphic design positions compatible with travel and mobile lifestyles. In other words, graphic design works with your lifestyle — allowing you to do more fun things outside of work.
Graphic designers can also work in an office helping to build the latest websites and apps. Graphic designers work with usability experts to determine how our devices should look and feel. If you have ever marveled at the latest Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy innovation, there are graphic designers at work helping to define the look and feel of the software running on those devices. If you like technology and art, this is a fun career that pays well and allows you to combine both sets of skills.
Highest-Paying Fun Jobs
7. Marketing Manager
Bottom 10% of earners: $64,440
Median income: $123,220
Top 10% of earners: $166,250
Marketing managers plan, coordinate, and execute strategies designed to promote the brand and products of the companies they represent. Marketing strategies are a central component of any company or organization’s success, making the marketing manager a key member of any team. All sorts of groups, from large corporations to non-profit arts organizations, need marketing managers. With the right background and experience, you can easily find the sort of company that best fits your talents and career goals.
With a wide variety of fields to choose from, marketing managers have access to many different corporate cultures. Determine what type of working environment seems fun to you and find the industry that nurtures that. Whether your idea of fun is the hard-charging world of alcohol and beverage brands, or the refined culture of an opera company, you can find the people and the environment that make a marketing manager’s daily responsibilities enjoyable.
8. Software Developer
Bottom 10% of earners: $63,140
Median income: $101,410
Top 10% of earners: $150,760
It’s hard to imagine a more in-demand job these days than software development. Make no mistake– being in-demand is fun. Competition for good software developers is so fierce that recruiters are scouring the country to find talent to fill their positions. Your work will definitely be appreciated if you chose software development as a career path.
Of course, this is a deeply technical field. However, it appeals to creative people as well. In software development, your day consists of solving problems. You are tasked with finding efficient, elegant solutions to problems while using as few system resources and lines of code as possible. Sometimes, you’ll be given complex mathematical problems and asked to find a unique solution. Other times, you’ll be asked to fix a nasty bug that’s making the program unworkable. Depending on your position, every day in software development might be different. And if there isn’t enough variety in one position, there will be enough opportunities that you can get a change of pace by switching jobs.
Software developers also find satisfaction in seeing their work result in real programs and apps. Everyday people can use these programs to make their lives better, giving the developer personal fulfillment. Software developers are responsible for the web and social media programs that are shaping our world — they take great pride in watching their work move from idea to execution.
Software development is the field that’s given us some of our most successful and influential billionaires. Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin both got their start as software developers. If you’re looking for one of the highest-paying fun jobs and want something with a high ceiling, it doesn’t get any better than software development.
Another attractive technical field is network administration. As an information technology specialist, you’ll provide technical support and systems administration for companies with complex technical needs. A diploma in Information Technology and Network Administration at Vista College can help you find work in this growing field.
Finding the Best Fit for You
Many of these jobs hardly seem like work sometimes. If you try to line up your job with your skills and interests, you can turn those passions into a lucrative career — a career with responsibilities you would do even if you weren’t getting paid. Finding these jobs requires a proactive, creative approach to career planning. All too often, people fall into whatever job runs in the family or employs many people in their community. Thinking outside those boxes can help you work in careers that sustain you in more ways than one.
If you can make money doing what you love, you’ve got it all. That’s why it’s important — and fun — to think about fun careers that pay well. You shouldn’t have to resign yourself to either having a good salary and hating your job on the one hand, or loving your career and having to scrape by on the other. Working in one of the highest-paying fun jobs gives you the freedom that money can buy and the satisfaction of a job well done. If you have fun doing it, it’s even better.