Designers and planners influence practically everything we touch. They design the computer you use, the room you’re sitting in and the car you drive. They plan the layout of your city, the trees outside your building and the pattern on your shirt. They even dreamt up the Web page you’re looking at right now.
“As a designer or planner, you have such a big hand in shaping the future,” says Kathryn Madden, an urban planner and one of the lead faculty members at the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s summer Career Discovery program. “Whether you’re an architect designing a window detail or a planner designing a city, you’re always thinking, ‘what do we have now and how can we make it better?’”
Because design and planning play such an essential role in our lives, it’s no surprise employers are looking to hire in these innovative industries. Madden is optimistic about the potential for growth. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” she says.
If you’ve got a creative eye and strategic mind, check out these seven top careers:
Urban planners are big-scale thinkers. Your strategies guide the development of land—whether it’s a sleepy rural neighborhood or a whole cosmopolitan city—over the span of many years. Juggling the realities of the here and now with the possibilities of the distant future, you work to create, revitalize and grow vibrant communities.
Average Salary: $63,000
Job Growth: 16 percent by 2020*
Graphic designers are the brains behind the visuals and layouts of websites, magazines, logos and more. Job growth for general graphic designers isn’t too bright—in fact, it’s tanking in the areas of print and publishing. However, computer-related jobs are expected to grow a whopping 61 percent by 2020. If you’re ready to develop your programming skills along with your artistry, you can set yourself up for a successful career in Web or tech design.
Average Salary: $43,000
Job Growth: 61 percent for computer-related designers
Cartographers interpret big data and geographic information to create precise maps that help people see the world in whole new ways. In this career, you might develop a digital app that helps users navigate their neighborhoods or work for the government to create a visual illustration of the geopolitical climate of South America. Wherever you put your talents to work, your sense of scale and eye for detail are instrumental to this uncommon career.
Average Salary: $55,000
Job Growth: 22 percent
Landscape architects design outdoor spaces, from private gardens and public parks to urban farms and airport runways. Beyond these more traditional projects, skyrocketing interest in sustainable construction is revving up the demand for environmentally-minded landscape architects. Mix creative flair with a love of the outdoors to find success in this job.
Average Salary: $62,000
Job Growth: 16 percent
5. UX Designer
As a user experience (UX) designer, you’re like the urban planners of the Web world—but instead of developing a brick and mortar city, you develop online spaces. You’re responsible for creating a website users can interact with and navigate with ease. Everybody hates a clunky website, so your particular skills are prized by small tech startups, major corporations and everyone in between.
Average Salary: $90,000
Job Growth: 30 percent
Interior designers combine colors, shapes, textures and sizes to create indoor spaces that are as functional as they are beautiful. Whether you’re planning a home office or an airport terminal, you mix your sense of style with technical design savvy and strong people skills. This is a competitive field, but you can boost your chances of success by specializing in one area, like eco-friendly planning or industrial kitchen design.
Average Salary: $46,000
Job Growth: 19 percent
Take your design skills to the small screen by specializing in mobile development for apps, ads and websites. With the explosion of the smartphone industry (Angry Birds, iPhones and Androids, oh my!), telecommunications design is one of the fastest growing fields out there. This is a great choice for technically minded designers who are ready to blend style, programming and UX expertise to get the job done.
Average Salary: $90,000
Job Growth: 30 percent
*All salary and job outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a site that connects you to career ideas and training programs. If you’re considering a future in landscape architecture, architecture or urban planning and design, don’t miss Harvard’s Career Discovery program (June 10 – July 19), a hands-on immersion program for high school grads, college students and career changers.