Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Work Hard, Play Hard

By Jason Latshaw

Many of us remember the days when our time was filled with playing a game or inhabiting an imaginary world. Unfortunately, the demands of a full-time career, family, and other responsibilities have since curtailed such flights of fancy.

But what if your career consisted of playing? There are many jobs that revolve around the concept of playing. And playing, whether it is for entertainment or therapy, is becoming an increasingly big business.

So if you're someone who pines for the games and endless hours of fun from childhood, check out these four careers that pay you handsomely to play.

1. Toy and Game Designers: From initial sketches and computer concepts to the final prototype, designers of toys and games are involved in the whole process. Most toy and game designers are entrepreneurs who are skilled in pitching their ideas to toy and game companies. However, many also work in-house for those same companies. To become a toy and game designer, you need to be able to communicate your ideas visually, something you can learn with a creative degree program, like one in graphic design.

The Play: Toy and game designers get to play with prototypes while testing iterations and figuring out how to make everything more fun. Hours are dedicated to making sure the consumer (children of all ages) has the best possible time with the eventual released product.

The Pay: The U.S. Department of Labor maintains no salary figure specifically for toy and game designers. But as with other entrepreneurial jobs, the sky's the limit if you have the skills and passion. For those designers employed by toy and game companies, reports that the annual mean wage is $53,000. Not bad for such a fun job.

2. Video Game Designers: The increasingly popular world of video games has created a number of new job opportunities, like video game designers, who influence many aspects of the game, including graphics, characters, animation, code, and design. To become a video game designer, look into video game design degree programs.

The Play: Despite the job title, it's not all fun and games. There can be long hours and grueling work sessions to get the video games just right - especially when a ship date is looming. However, this is offset by the fact that you get to create worlds and characters, interact with them, and improve the playing experience until its perfect.

The Pay: According to, this popular career pays from $38,000 to $88,000 and upwards, depending on how many years of experience you have.

3. Recreational Therapists: You know that playing can be fun, right? But did you know it can be healing as well? Recreational therapists know this secret, and this growing field uses a large number of fun activities - games, arts and crafts, animal visits, sports, music, and more - to help people with disabilities and illnesses in a variety of ways.

To become a recreational therapist, a person normally completes an undergraduate degree in therapy or counseling.

The Play: Playing is a powerful part of many therapy programs and can be used to help people deal with depression, recover a wider range of motion, learn valuable skills, and more. And the fun part is - while helping and leading activities, you also get to participate in them as well.

The Pay: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, recreational therapists are paid a median of nearly $35,000.

4. Activities Directors: College campuses, cruise ships, vacation resorts, and even nursing homes and hospitals could all use activities directors to coordinate fun events. Aspiring activities directors can prepare for the role with a variety of degrees, including marketing, business, or hospitality - all programs which prepare people to work and organize large groups of people.

The Play: Activities directors coordinate games, meetings, events, and other forms of entertainment. The fun part: They often get to participate in all the fun and entertainment they plan and organize!

The Pay: or those who work at nursing homes, the median annual wage is nearly $35,000. For those leading activities on a cruise ship, pay can be up to $90,000, according to


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