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What your dream job really pays

By Laura Morsch
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( -- Go ahead, enjoy your coffee. Appreciate the coziness of your cubicle. Be grateful for all of the little things that make your day more pleasant.

After all, we can't all spend our work days jetting off to Africa or ordering every dessert on the menu in the name of research.

While the rest of us are cramped into cube farms, a few lucky people earn their livings by shopping for designer duds, eating ice cream or traveling the world. The following jobs, envied by people everywhere, are almost too good to be true:

Ice Cream Creatorexternal link

Tempting ice cream flavors -- like lowfat cookie dough and brownie in one carton -- don't just appear on the shelves. It takes teams of workers to turn a great idea into a mass-produced product.

Derek Spors knows a thing or two about ice cream. As an "ice cream scientologist" and senior product developerexternal link for Ben and Jerry's, he's responsible for creating (and tasting) new flavors for the ice cream company, including "Marsha, Marsha, Marshmallow" and "Karamel Sutra."

"When you develop flavors for Ben and Jerry's, there's no shortage of ideas," Spors said. The company gets 1,000 to 1,500 new flavor ideas submitted to its Web site each month. But he still needs to do some research -- for example, hitting trendy new restaurants and ordering every dessert on the menu for inspiration.

Although he can work long hours on his feet under deadline pressure and eats loads of ice cream, Spors says he hasn't gained much weight since starting at Ben and Jerry's six years ago. His secret: He just eats a taste of the frozen treat -- not the whole bowl.

Salary: Average annual salary for food scientists is $56,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Video Game Designerexternal link

Video games can make colossal amounts of time seem to fly by -- which is a good thing, if that's your career. Jon Paquette is in the business of video games: He's the design directorexternal link and writerexternal link for the Medal of Honor Airborne game for EA Los Angeles.

Paquette works with the company's development team, overseeing all design ideas and implementation. Sometimes this means days of meetings. Other days, he'll be at a desk reviewing level designs. "The best days are when I get to play our game and see all of our design decisions in action," he said.

Video game design is a great job for creative, fun-loving people. "There's not much of a downside, other than the fact that there is often not enough time to get everything you wanted to into the game... Most of the time, though, even that is OK because you have fresh ideas to incorporate into the next game you work on," he said.

Salary: Starts around $25,000 with high growth potential.

Concert Promoterexternal link

It's hard to get bored when you're a concert promoter -- it's your job to create the entertainmentexternal link. Concert promoters bring concerts to cities around the country, selecting the cities and venues, selling sponsorships and working out all of the logistics from the number of police officersexternal link needed to the Porta Potty locations.

Concert promotion has obvious benefits -- including seeing major concerts and partying with the bands -- but the perks don't stop there.

"My favorite part is that it's ever-changing," said Grace Bouldin, a partner for Sound Events who has worked with high-profile artists including Sister Hazel, Hootie and the Blowfish and Norah Jones. "The industry reinvents itself all the time, and there are unlimited things you can do."

But concert promotion is not for the faint of heart. Bouldin says she works 70-hour weeks during the concert season between March and October, which can affect her personal relationships, and her salary depends on how well her company's shows perform. "The concert business is as risky as a game of blackjack," she said.

Salary: Varies widely, depending on experience and show performance.

Hollywood Wardrobe Stylistexternal link

Wardrobe stylists rely on their keen fashion sense to create outfits for on-screen characters in commercials, TV shows and movies. This means staying on the cutting-edge of fashion and plenty of shopping.

Jessica Replansky, a freelance assistant stylistexternal link who has worked on productions that include "Sex and the City" and the soon-to-be-released "The Devil Wears Prada" movie, has had duties ranging from shopping and setting up fittings for actors to handling payments. Even her shopping assignments are diverse: Sometimes she's sent to Prada for a specific pair of silver shoes, and other days she is told to pick out whole outfits that fit a certain style.

While the job is glamorous, it can be inconsistent. "The downside is you never know where your next job is coming from," Replansky said. Wardrobe stylists can be offered multiple assignments at the same time, or could go through long stretches without work. Still, you'll always be fabulously dressed: Wardrobe stylists get to keep some of the clothes.

Salary: Ranges from $1,000 to $10,000 per week, depending on duties, experience and type of production.

Comic Book Guruexternal link

With their bright, dazzling colors and epic superhero stories, it's easy to get engrossed by a comic book store. Some people, however, have found ways to turn their penchant for comics into a profitable career.

Josh Blaylock, founder and president of comics publisher Devil's Due Publishing, loved comics as a kid -- and had chosen his career around the same time his classmates were getting their drivers licenses. "(Going through) high school and art school was just waiting to get out into the real world," he said.

After working as a comic book writer and artistexternal link, Blaylock started Devil's Due Publishing in 1999 and put the company on the map two years later when he resurrected the GI Joe comic series. Now he spends his days managing the day-to-day operationsexternal link of his company, traveling to acquire new licenses, and, of course, reading comics.

Blaylock says he loves being involved with something he was passionate about as a kid, but it's not all fun and games -- he's responsible for everyone's payroll, and that means "incessant, never-ending accounting."

Salary: Entry-level pay in comics starts around $20,000 and varies based on position and experience.

Doll Fashion Designerexternal link

Doll designers create miniature fashions to be produced on a large scale. Like other designers, they study fashion trends, sketch clothing designs, pick out fabrics and colors and oversee productions of their designers.

Even as a youngster, Mattelexternal link designer Lily Martinez had an eye for fashion. "As a girl I would design one-of-a-kind outfits for my Barbie dolls using my ruffled socks that I lost the mates for because my parents couldn't afford to buy me fashions," she said.

While studying for her fashion design degree, Martinez was hired by Mattel as an assistant designer for Barbie. Eight years later, she is the head designer for My Scene, a doll brand designed for older girls, and is responsible for working with the company's design managementexternal link and marketingexternal link teams to determine the aesthetic direction of the dolls.

"I guide the designers on identifying trends that are relevant for our dolls and customers as well as making sure the doll's aesthetic is followed throughout in the production process," she said.

Martinez credits her success to hard work, perseverance and passion. "Always listen to your heart and to your gut instinct," she said. "Do what you really love because that's what's going to make you happy."

Salary: Average annual salary for fashion designers is $68,430, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Brew Masterexternal link

Jonathan Cutler likes beer -- he has to, since he's around it all the time. As the resident brewer for Chicago-based pizzeriaexternal link Piece Pizza, Cutler acts as pretty much a one-man show, creating recipes and brewing the restaurant's beer selection.

Cutler started home brewing back in college, and completed a brewer training program after graduation. He refined his skills by going to as many beer tastings as he could -- and his efforts have paid off. This year he was crowned the small pub brewer champion at the World Beer Cup.

Brewing is fun, but it's far from glamorous. "Right now I'm drenched in sweat, I've got malt all over me and I'm wearing coveralls -- and the brewery is about 100 degrees," Cutler said.

Still, despite the heat and constant cleaning involved, he says it's worth it to watch customers when they take their first sips and enjoy his beers. "You get immediately validated," he said.

Salary: $30,000-$60,000 per year

Toy Creatorexternal link

After a certain age, spending all day playing with toys isn't a wise career move -- unless you're creating them. Toy designers -- also known as industrial designersexternal link -- combine their artistic talent with research to create the most appealing, fun and functional toys possible.

Hot Wheels project designer Fraser Campbell's days are devoted to the miniature toy cars. At any given time, he's working on three to six projects in various stages of development. Sometimes he's creating control drawings or designing the vehicles, and other times involve administrative work like e-mails, commenting on designs and scheduling meetings. And, of course, he gets to test the cars.

Campbell said he always knew he wanted to be a car designer, and he planned his educational path accordingly -- attending an art foundation, getting a bachelor's degree in product designexternal link and earning a master's degree in industrial design.

Designing cars has its drawbacks, Campbell says, but the positives outweigh them. "If something really gets you down, it's quite easy to just take a deep breath, look around and see that you're surrounded by toys," he said.

Salary: Commercial and industrial designers earn an average salary of about $57,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Casino Hostexternal link

The only sure-fire way to make money at a casino is to get a job there. But casinosexternal link can't bring in cash without attracting and keeping patrons. Casino hosts are there to keep their customers happy -- taking care of details like making (sometimes complimentary) dinner reservations, booking hotel rooms and scoring tickets to shows.

At Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino, there is a casino host on duty 24 hours per day. Eleftherios "Lefty" Mastorakis, executive host at Mohegan Sun, comes in at noon each day and spends the next eight hours or so checking messages from patrons and monitoring the gambling floor to deal with any requests that come up.

Mastorakis, who entered the casino business after high school and has held a variety of roles over the last 10 years, doesn't gamble much -- but he still has fun. "You meet a lot of really good people and have some really good times," he said.

He said he loves being able to accommodate people, but he has to be prepared for days that present some challenges -- like when there's a big convention in town that limits hotel availability. "We try to do whatever we can, but sometimes our hands are tied," he said.

Salary: $15 per hour and up.

Vacation Tour Directorexternal link

Tour directors get paid for planning and taking vacations -- albeit for other people. Typically employed by travel clubs, tour directors are in charge of arranging dream vacations for their guests by handling details like thehotelexternal link accommodations and tours. Then, when it's time for the trip, they accompany their groups to serve as liaisons and ensure everything runs smoothly.

"It was wonderful because we got to travel around the world," said Julie Bardach, who traveled to places as exotic as Tanzania during her seven years working for Ambassadair Travel Club.

While working as a tour director, Bardach estimates she spent about half of each month traveling. "It's a perfect job when you're young and single," she said, but the travel schedule is hard to balance with a family. And don't expect go get rich -- the job is heavy on intangible rewards (seeing the world and meeting plenty of interesting people, for example), but low on pay.

Salary: Typically $20,000 per year or less. Tour directors also receive a per-diem for their food and related expenses while traveling.

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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