Approximately How Much Money Do Starting Models and Actors Make?

You may need to do some low-paying jobs to build your resume when starting as an actor or model.
You may need to do some low-paying jobs to build your resume when starting as an actor or model. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Acting and modeling are two closely intertwined jobs that allow for a great deal of personal expression. When just starting in either of these industries, you will not have the clips or photographs an experienced actor or model does. You thus may not get a very high pay rate -- some actors and models even do a few gigs for free just to build their resume. Eventually, you'll have a portfolio large enough to land better roles and shoots.


The Sure Fashion website indicates that the low end of the hourly range for models is $150. However, the Fashion schools website asserts that a model who is just starting out may earn anywhere from $500 to $5,000 per modeling engagement. This represents only about half of what a more experienced model may make at best, as experienced models earn up to $10,000 or more per modeling job.


The average starting annual salary for an actor was $23,000 as of 2010, says the CV Tips website. The Bureau of Labor Statistics further points out that actors in the lowest 10th percentile of earners, which usually includes those just beginning in an industry, made $7.98 per hour in 2009. The average for this industry, by comparison was $28.79, with some actors earning up to $74.44.

Sectors for Models

Both modeling and acting have multiple sectors in which you may work which impact wages. The main sectors for modeling include commercial, specialty and high fashion. Commercial models are the models who show up in general store catalogs and sale fliers. Specialty models have something unique about them that can attract specific clients, such as beautiful nail structure that looks attractive for hand products. High fashion models are the ones who appear on runways and in best-selling magazines. High fashion models tend to earn the most, but as pointed out by Sure Fashion, some commercial and specialty employers actually pay more than high fashion employers. Commercial modeling usually is the sector in which beginning models have the easiest time getting started, but it tends to pay the least overall.

Sectors for Actors

Actors can work on the stage, in film and television, radio and other sectors like advertising and business. Advertising averages a higher rate of pay than film and television -- only a very small percentage of actors ever get the million dollar salaries of famous stars -- over double what the rate is in performing arts companies, according to 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Bottom Line

In general, modeling will pay you more per hour than if you acted. However, both industries rarely provide a full 40 hours of work per week as you work job by job -- you'll likely need to have other employment to support yourself, especially when you're first starting out. Actors do have a little more flexibility in terms of where they work, as it's possible to jump around the various sectors based on what gigs come up. By contrast, models tend to stick to the sector they select. If they do switch sectors, they tend to work up from commercial modeling. Some individuals are able to do both modeling and acting. In particular, the specialty area of modeling requires more acting talent, says

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