4. Recreational therapist
The nitty-gritty: Raise the curtain. It's showtime. As the population ages, there's a growing demand for people who can artistically provide activities for older adults. These programs and one-on-one sessions range from playing music to dancing, singing and storytelling, painting and making crafts, even the garden arts of flower arranging, planting and pruning. These new positions are being created for therapists with artistic flair to work alongside a variety of patients, including those suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia, at nonprofit long-term and residential care facilities, adult daycare centers, nursing homes and memory care centers. The heart of the job is to improve quality of life and mental health through imagination, stimulation and social interaction. The budding movement, called "creative aging," is getting some attention. Federal and local governments, agencies on aging, nonprofits and foundations have begun to fund these arts programs across the country. (Check out our AARP Bulletin story: Artists Bring Creative Aging to Care Facilities.) Other venues for job openings: health care facilities that specialize in working with brain-injured patients may have openings. Community-based park and recreation departments, substance abuse rehabilitation centers and special education programs for school districts may also tap into recreational therapy. It takes more than talent to excel at this kind of work. A relaxed, easy-going manner and sense of humor must be in your personal tool kit. Not everyone is going to instantly have your passion for Christmas caroling in December, for instance. But watch the smile that spreads across that face, when he or she shouts out the last lines of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." In some situations, you'll need to be in decent physical shape too. No temperamental artists need apply.
The hours: Part-time and full-time positions.
Median pay: $11.85 per hour to $30 and up. Annual wages of recreational therapists typically range between $29,660 and $49,140.
Qualifications: It's possible to land a gig based on your artistic chops but an official position as a recreational therapist may require some professional training. Requirements vary by state. Some states, such as Oklahoma, North Carolina, Utah and New Hampshire, require a license to practice as a recreational therapist. For specific requirements, contact your state's medical board. Although it's not mandatory to be a certified recreational therapist, many employers prefer it. One designation to consider is offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. A good source for information is the American Therapeutic Recreation Association. There are also a growing number of groups such as Lifetime Arts, offering courses to train artists and musicians for this type of work.