Whether it’s the rush from performing on stage in front of an audience or the allure of all the glamour that goes with a silver-screen career, there are many reasons women pursue a career in acting. Salary probably isn’t one of them, however, as apart from the elite television and Hollywood actresses, work for actresses may be inconsistent and provide poor wages.
Average Actress Wages
Most actresses struggle to find steady work and many support themselves with another source of income, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Most don’t work in long-term positions, so accurately tracking the average actress’ annual salary is difficult. Instead, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the mean hourly wage those who work as actresses earn on each job, which is $16.20 per hour, as of May 2009. Half of all actresses earn between $10.18 and $29.33 per hour, though their earnings vary by their abilities as well as the type of work they perform.
Wages by Experience
Perhaps due to the preoccupation with image in the entertainment industry, actresses in the middle phase of their careers command higher wages than those in the first or second portion of their careers. Although wage ranges are large and depend upon the type of production on which an actress works, those with four or fewer years of experience earn hourly wages between $7.45 and $27 as of January 2011, according to PayScale. Those with five to nine years in the industry command the highest average hourly wage, and earn wages that range from $10.50 to $74.58 per hour. Actresses with 10 or more years of experience earn salaries that range from $12.33 to $44.22 per hour.
Average Full-Time Salary
An actress who’s able to work the equivalent of a full-time position may expect to earn an average annual salary of $49,736 as of January 2011, according to Salary.com. Half of all full-time actresses earn salaries between $40,986 and $60,726. Actresses who live in New York, Los Angeles and Vancouver, where the majority of film and television projects are filmed, are the most likely to find full-time employment in their field.
Celebrity Actress Earnings
Although many actresses struggle to find work, those who become stars have little problem making ends meet. Sandra Bullock, the actress with the highest salary in the 2009-2010 shooting season, earned $56 million, according to Forbes. During the same period, Cameron Diaz and Reese Witherspoon earned $32 million and Jennifer Aniston earned $27 million.