What's in the perfect job? Money, of course, matters, but it isn't the only measure of an awe-inspiring career. Creative opportunities, healthy interaction, a good challenge from time to time, and other intangible rewards all count, too. FastCompany.com brings you ten jobs that have all these qualities in spades.
Appealing to the Senses
What gives your favorite foods their special taste? It's the flavorist's job to figure out the precise combination of chemicals. Flavorists' creations most often mimic naturally occurring flavors while adding sharpness and robustness, though they create novel flavors as well, particularly for new candies and beverages. Whether the flavors are old or new, flavorists must ensure that their creations endure once they go into a particular food or drink. They often face special challenges, like striving for flavors that avoid triggering certain allergies, even if they taste like the allergens.
Creating flavors isn't all chemistry. It also involves a fair share of art, as different chemical combinations can produce the same flavor. Because of this intricacy, flavorists spend seven years in apprenticeship before they gain seniority. Once they have enough experience, they can make subtle manipulations in chemical formulas to produce unique versions of even common flavors such as vanilla.
Additionally, the scientific understanding behind the flavorist's art continues to develop. Chemists still have an incomplete understanding of the factors that separate taste from odor. "It's an exciting area, a challenging and interesting field," says Gary Takeoka, a research chemist at the Western Regional Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who has also worked for Nabisco.
Combined with the steady demand for innovation in the food industry, such ambiguities offer exciting possibilities for new flavorists. Those entering the field will also enjoy a comfortable salary. Most flavorists earn $58,000-$76,000 a year, according to estimates from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Brewmasters, or head brewers, manage the daily operations of beer breweries, including ordering raw ingredients for brewing and planning the brewing schedule. They participate in the actual beer-making process as well, ensuring that each step transitions smoothly to the next. Doing so requires a combination of management skill and heavy physical labor, including shoveling the raw grain out of containers to prepare beer for fermentation. Even the labor presents opportunity for innovation, however. Brewmasters often play a direct part in the brewing process, in order to test new varieties of beer.
Brewmasters' passion for the job allows them to build strong relationships, even across competing breweries. "There is a very strong sense of camaraderie among brewers in the country," says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. "There's very much a sharing of information, a sharing of resources." And brewers can bring home the fruits of their labor to partake and share with their drinking buddies.
According to surveys of head brewers at packaging breweries and brewpubs conducted by the Brewers Association, brewmasters make $41,000-$76,000 a year. The pay level usually increases with the size of the brewery.
As brand strategy has grown increasingly sophisticated, it has expanded well beyond the visual. Using similar skill sets as interior designers and architects, sensory branders help companies incorporate the other underappreciated but powerful senses into their brands. They encourage clients to consider even minute features such as the sound of a car door closing or the grip of a bottle opener.
"Often when you suggest the idea of sensory branding to a company, they look at you like you're crazy sometimes," says Peter Dixon, creative director of Lippincott, a New York branding agency. "But they already have a scent — they just haven't paid attention to it yet." Sensory branders are steadily curbing this lack of attention, however; in Asia, several agencies solely dedicated to multi-sensory branding can be found.
Sensory branders must understand customers' perceptions. They research how different groups react to particular sensory triggers, such as the combination of scent and color. This research often involves travel for insight into international cultures. For Dixon, however, the biggest perk comes from the innovative nature of the field. "It's a very fun thing to do because it's such a novel idea right now," he says.
Sensory branders make similar salaries to their peers in other areas of marketing management. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, they can expect $51,000-$92,000 a year.
Enhancing Life and the Bottom Line
Reducing contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, or the carbon footprint, is one huge step toward sustainability, but few guidelines exist for how companies gunning to be green should proceed. Carbon coaches offer this essential information. In addition to calculating carbon footprints and offering advice for offsetting them, carbon coaches help companies fit sustainability into their overall mission. Their services range from providing branding strategy for "green" product launches to advising companies on their relationships with NGOs.
Already prevalent in Europe, carbon consulting is steadily catching on stateside. "Getting corporate culture to change is challenging and frustrating, but companies are really starting to change," says Michael Gillenwater, Dean of GHG Management Institute. "It's enormously exciting." The quickly changing nature of the field and the frequent opportunities to compare notes with colleagues worldwide only adds to the excitement.
Most carbon coaches work at consulting firms, where they command salaries ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 for entry-level positions and $60,000 to $100,000 for mid-level positions, according to Gillenwater. Non-profit organization salaries aren't as high; an entry-level carbon coach with a master's degree can expect a salary of $30,000 to $50,000.
Sleep instructors help the overworked catch their zzz's with mind-body exercises for the bedroom and beyond. With corporate clients, they focus on productivity, alertness, and cognitive performance during the day — key factors in achieving restful nights, according to Michael Krugman, inventor of the Sounder Sleep System. Sleep consultants also advise managers on how to create a "sleep-supportive" environment, including limiting work hours and helping employees avoid stressful commutes.
Sleep instructors can sometimes escape the workplace altogether, leading retreats in calm and often exotic locations. But customer satisfaction brings Krugman his biggest reward. "These are people that are really in trouble," says Krugman of his most sleep-deprived clients. "Once they start to feel more rested, they really come alive."
Because sleep instructors do not receive regular salaries, their earnings potential widely varies. "It's a freelance profession, so it depends on how much you work," says Krugman. "For a corporate client, you could charge up to $1250 per day." Based on earnings in similar fitness and wellness training fields, sleep consultants can earn between $25,000 and $60,000 a year.
As Second Life and other virtual worlds, called metaverses, have grown in popularity, they've transformed from a gaming novelty into a communications boon for job-hunters as well as corporate leaders. Ian Hughes, an IT specialist at IBM Hursley in Hampshire County, England, has taken on a new title — metaverse evangelist — to advise how these virtual worlds can benefit individuals and companies. Hughes also joined a team of specialists at IBM to develop a metaverse on the company's intranet so that employees could have a more private place to discuss their work.
While technically, Hughes, along with his colleagues, works a standard forty-hour week, as an evangelist, he continuously promotes the technology, which means plenty of hours spent in Second Life. But for the metaverse enthusiast, that's definitely a perk, along with "freedom to operate and explore," says Hughes.
Regarding salary, Hughes only comments, "Probably not as much as you would think," though the standard salary range of $60,000 to $80,000 for a computer developer is far from shabby.
Interaction designers work at all stages of product development to design innovative and user-friendly products. In addition to wearing the traditional hat of a designer, they work with executives to define goals for products and systems in development. They also investigate how people actually engage with new products and systems by creating "personas," hypothetical users with constructed life stories, to predict their reactions.
Although many interaction designers have advanced degrees in design, such a background isn't a prerequisite, says David Fore, head of consulting services at Cooper, a pioneering interaction design firm. Fore previously worked as a reporter for industry publications — valuable experience, given that interaction designers' research requires "the skills of a reporter and an anthropologist," according to him.
Because interaction designers bring such a comprehensive approach to design, their relatively new field, only ten to fifteen years old, is growing in demand. As a result, entry-level designers with two years of background can expect $75,000 to $80,000 a year, with ample opportunity for an increase in salary. Beginning interaction designers usually gain experience through an apprenticeship.
In addition to the competitive salary, interaction designers enjoy the opportunity "to learn about every walk of life and industry imaginable," says Fore. "There's working with stock brokers, working with a golf course superintendent, an advertising creative director, working with a nurse to build infusion pumps. Everyone needs product design."
Setting Creativity in Motion
Roller coaster engineer
The experts behind a roller coaster's loops, drops, and turns bring several disciplines of engineering — structural, civil, mechanical, and electrical — to each design. Structural and civil engineers design the track structure, keeping in mind the client's budget as well as the proximity to other rides in the park. Mechanical engineers design the cars that run along the roller coaster's track. Their primary challenge is to maximize thrills, achieved by manipulating the g-force, without compromising safety. Electrical engineers then work to configure the system that operates the ride.
Aspiring roller coaster engineers should obtain at least a bachelor's degree in a related field of engineering. Although an internship or entry-level position at a firm specializing in roller coaster design offers ideal entry into the field, such positions are limited. Most roller coaster engineers begin their engineering careers in other fields and then switch to the amusement industry.
Once they've made it, roller coaster engineers command salaries from $45,000 to $80,000. Along with their paychecks, they enjoy another perk: being first in line to ride.
As animation technology has advanced, the field has expanded well beyond feature films to areas such as video games, television, and Internet projects. In all these areas, animators consult with their clients, whether film directors, Web advertisers, or game developers, and then collaborate to develop storyboards for the animations. They also work closely with the people providing sound for their animations, including voice actors and sound engineers.
Although the vast majority of animated projects involve computer and 3-D animation, drawing skills remain invaluable. Most animators train in art school and then complete internships or apprenticeships to improve their craft. New animators often land jobs as in-betweeners, in which they sketch intermediary frames for animations so that the movement appears fluid.
Animators earn salaries ranging from $30,000 to $70,000 a year, with the most prized among their craft earning even more. All who are lucky enough to enter the field, however, share in the magical experience of seeing their sketches come to life.
Travel writing certainly requires a love of adventure, but above all, it demands passion for the written word. The writers use the same skills as other journalists: an eye and ear for detail and the ability to fact check extensively and thoroughly. In transit, the latter often poses steep challenges, especially in rarely traveled locations. The excitement of diving into the unfamiliar, however, well outweighs the hitches they encounter.
Travel writers, especially those just starting out, bankroll most of the adventures they chronicle. Like in other areas of journalism, new travel writers usually begin at small, local publications, most frequently as freelancers. As they earn more clips, or published stories, they have a greater chance at being featured in larger travel magazines or landing a full-time position at a travel guide. Writers with expertise in locations off the beaten path or a particular niche, such as culinary travel, may also secure book deals.
Most travel writers are freelancers, so they don't receive a regular salary. Earnings range from $20,000 to $60,000 a year, with even greater potential for the most successful writers. Even when earnings are tight, however, writers in locations with a low cost of living can often thrive. And unlike most workers who have to dip into vacation time for travel, they make a return on pursuing experiences that many can only imagine.
Fast Company acknowledges Abigail Gehring, author of Odd Jobs: 101 Ways to Make an Odd Buck, VocationVacations founder Brian Kurth, and FabJob.com co-founder Tag Goulet for their help and suggestions in compiling the jobs that comprised this piece.