- REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika
- Some jobs live up to our wildest childhood imaginations – and pay well, too.
- Jobs like ice cream tasting and toy designing can earn close to $100,000 a year.
- Other jobs, like stunt performing, are not for the faint of heart, and require a brave spirit along with years of expertise.
- Here are 10 professions that pay for you to live out your childhood dreams.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This timeless question often elicits answers like “teacher,” “firefighter,” and “veterinarian.” And while those remain rock-solid choices for anyone’s career, kids have plenty of more unusual options to make a living when they grow up, without actually growing up.
We found 10 professions that let you hang on to all of the adventure, imagination, and flat-out fun that childhood offers while also making a lucrative living, from stunt performer to ice cream taster. Several of these jobs pay more than $100,000 at the highest levels.
Considering a career change? We don’t blame you.
Video game designers earn an average starting salary of approximately $63,000 — and it can eventually rise to $148,000 or more, according to Zip Recruiter.
- Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Good news, gamers. Those countless hours you “wasted” playing Mortal Kombat in your bedroom while your mother begged you to go outside were actually priming you for the job of your dreams.
According to Variety, experts predict that by the year 2025, gaming will become a business worth upwards of $300 billion. And with high demand for games, comes a high demand for people who know how to make them.
Video game designers earn an average starting salary of approximately $63,000 – and it can eventually rise to $148,000 or more, according to Zip Recruiter.
Aspiring video game designers have a variety of disciplines to choose from, including game artist, game designer, or game programmer. Depending on your specialty, you could be in charge of a game’s audio-visual style, narrative, layout, or aesthetics, as well as the actual software programming. Your concentration will also determine the schooling and certification you’ll need to get started.
Meanwhile, professional gamers can earn a staggering amount of money from competitions — sometimes in the millions of dollars. And they tend to retire young, too.
- REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Designing video games is a dream for any gamer who is also gifted in graphic art or computer science. But what if your true talent lies in your ability at the console?
It turns out you can make a fortune doing that too. A pro gamer can earn a staggering $800,000 to $3.7 million in their lifetime, according to the Houston Chronicle.
But the life cycle of a pro gamer is short, and you’ll need to start young. Most professional gamers begin their careers in their teens, and the average age of a pro gamer is about 22. By age 30, many have already retired, having racked up impressive winnings.
No formal education is required to be a pro gamer, but intense dedication, including up to eight hours of practice a day, is essential. This rapidly growing field is gaining more and more recognition as a sport – an esport, to be exact – as pro gamers compete in tournaments, sometimes in front of live audiences. Like traditional athletes, they might also score endorsement deals.
Stunt performers can make an average of $70,000 a year and can graduate to making $250,000 for work in blockbuster films.
- REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika
If ziplining and skydiving wake up your inner child – and serious athletic pursuits keep you young at heart – then professional stunt performer might be your calling. These legitimate daredevils stand in for actors when a scene calls for a death-defying performance – think car chases, gun fights, and free-falls.
Stunt performers literally put their lives on the line each time they clock in, so this career calls for more than just a deep passion for action. To be employable, you should be fit and fearless to the max with dizzying doses of coordination and creativity. You should also have excellent judgment in order to gingerly carry some of the most risky endeavors possible. Of course, responsible film crews also have safeguards in place, like airbags and fireproof clothing.
Performers must belong to the Screen Actors Guild and complete a safety training mandated by the organization. It’s also smart to command union benefits by joining the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
According to Job Monkey, stunt performers can typically make up to $70,000 a year, although the best performers can eventually make around $250,000 annually. Eventually, many stunt performers graduate to stunt coordinator, collaborating closely with directors.
The Magic Kingdom pays its designers and engineers, known as Walt Disney Imagineers, a range of salaries due to the wide differences that exist between roles. A concept artist could earn less than $80,000, while a design architect can make more than $200,000.
- Handout / Handout / Getty Images
If immersing yourself in all things Disney was your childhood dream – and growing up seemed like a drag – there’s one career that was practically invented for you. Disney Imagineers are the playful geniuses who brainstorm, design, and build Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions, cruise ships, and more.
As a Disney Imagineer, you might make 3D animation, build an interactive exhibit, design a new roller coaster, or create elaborate theatrical props. There are 140 different disciplines to choose from, so this field truly lets your imagination run wild.
And because of the kaleidoscope of opportunities, qualifications vary. If you have an engineer’s degree, for instance, you might work in audio animatronics. But if you’re a trained illustrator, you’re more likely to land a sketch artist role. According to Payscale data, certain Imagineering roles can earn more than $200,000 a year.
Here’s a job that’s literally a blast. Pyrotechnicians can get paid up $2,000 per event to coordinate explosives and fireworks for all types of shows and festivities.
- Baranov E/Shutterstock
Pyrotechnicians are the people in charge of conceiving, designing, and executing fireworks shows. In other words, they blow things up for a living.
And job opportunities aren’t limited to Fourth of July festivities. Pyrotechnicians also handle explosives on Hollywood film sets, at theme parks and stadiums, and more.
According to Career Scale, licensed pyrotechnicians can command more than $500 an hour, or $2,000 per event.
Safety is the name of the game when it comes to pyrotechnics, and these trained professionals don’t take any chances. They’re rigorous about federal and state safety regulations, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
If you’re fired up for a career in pyrotechnics, start by pursuing an apprenticeship through a fireworks company or an organization like the Pyrotechnics Guild International.
Sources: Career Trend
It sounds almost too good to be true, but you can actually make a career out of eating ice cream — and get paid a cool $100,000 a year while you’re at it, according to Payscale.
- Getty Images
Just ask the flavorologists who spend long days diligently sampling ice cream to test for nuances in taste, texture, smell, and more. Yes, these brave souls are willing to get brain freeze just to ensure your frozen desserts do not disappoint.
Of course, some ice cream tasters are literal tastemakers – their job not only requires that they devour ice cream but also develop drool-worthy recipes. Ben & Jerry’s has its own staff of “Flavor Gurus,” for instance, who toil away testing outside-the-carton taste combinations like lemon poppyseed and hibiscus from their storied, Willy Wonka-style flavor lab.
The type of degree and education required to land this decadent gig varies by company, but a bachelor’s degree in food science and some experience in the food industry is important. A discerning palate and limitless imagination are essential across the board.
If you’ve always loved inventing silly characters to entertain your family and friends, try channeling that talent and imagination into a career as a voice-over artist. The average voice-over artist earns in the vicinity of $75,000, but at the high end, your pipes could command nearly $200,000.
Bear in mind, though, that it’s not just the quality of your voice that’s crucial, but also the ability to act – controlling tone, relating emotion, and nailing comedy and improvisation. After all, your work will be used in film, TV, and radio.
Though professional voice-over artists are often traditional actors, too, you don’t need to be one first as long as you can find a great, hardworking agent to represent you, according to Backstage. Beyond a background in performance, a voice-over workshop can give your vocal-cord confidence a boost and help you land your big break.
And with a full-time career in this field, you won’t need to moonlight as a server or bartender, either. The average voice-over artist earns in the vicinity of $75,000, but at the high end, your pipes could command close to $200,000, according to Zip Recruiter.
Sources: Zip Recruiter
Toy designers really get to play professionally, and the best among them navigate this highly competitive field to make anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If someone told you in your primary school years that you could play with toys when you grow up and make a living doing it, you might have thought you were dreaming.
But toy designers really get to play professionally, and the best among them navigate this highly competitive field to make just under $100,000 a year, according to Payscale.
Most employers are looking for candidates with a four-year degree in the arts, though there aren’t many schools that offer toy design as a specific concentration, according to The Art Career Project. What they’re mainly seeking is an active imagination, a genuine adult fascination with toys, and a strong interest in child development. An engineering degree is a major plus.
Experts recommend specializing in a specific toy design niche – like puppets, puzzles, or scientific toys, for example – to see more employment opportunities. As a professional toy designer, you’ll be expected to stay apprised of evolving safety regulations, too.
Was the petting zoo your preferred hangout when you were a kid? Zoologists in the top 75% of their field can make anywhere from $60,000 to $126,000 a year, but salaries vary by state.
- Reuters/Amy Newman/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC
You can translate your childhood passion for animals into a salary into a six-figure income by pursuing a career as a zoologist. Zoologists in the top 75% of their field can make anywhere from $60,000 to $126,000 a year in the US, although salaries vary by state.
A career in zoology calls for people who are innately compassionate with animals and are fascinated by their behavior. You might interact with creatures in captivity or simply study them in the wild, as zoologists are not only employed at zoos and aquariums but also in natural habitats like wildlife parks. Some zoologists are focused on caring for the animals themselves, while others are more involved with educating the public.
A bachelor’s degree in a subject like zoology, ecology, or wildlife biology is the minimum requirement to work as a zoologist, but many in this line of work chase advanced degrees and continue coursework throughout their careers.
And if you were obsessed with aviation as a kid, you could go on to become an airline pilot, making a median salary of more than $140,000.
- Helena Wahlman/Getty Images
Were you that kid with your head in the clouds? Are you still that kid? Get a 30,000-foot view of your future by pursuing a prestigious career as a pilot.
There are several licenses to choose from, but commercial and airline pilots are among the most popular. Whichever route you take, gear up for the adventure of a lifetime and a compensation package that will keep you thoroughly grounded.
Pilot training is pretty straightforward. As long as you have a high school diploma or equivalent, you can pursue your commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To be an airline pilot, though, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and an FAA-issued Airline Transport Pilot certificate. That means hours upon hours of practice – and an equal amount of recovery time.
The outlook for this career is bright, as airline travel has skyrocketed in recent years, while the aviation industry has simultaneously been suffering from a pilot shortage. That means that pilots are in a position to negotiate for some pretty sweet deals, including flexible schedules, comprehensive health plans, and sky-high salaries.
The median salary for a commercial pilot is about $82,000 a year, while airline pilots, co-pilots, and flight engineers make a median salary of $140,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.