Many people who have leisure time during daytime hours enjoy watching soap operas. Soaps are ongoing television dramas, full of attractive actors and actresses portraying glamorous fictional characters, that are aired on a daily basis. It's tough to determine the average salary of all soap opera stars, because with so many levels of participation in the industry, numerous pay rates exist to compensate the actors. Though the current state of the American economy has caused a significant decrease in the average salary of soap stars, many are still making a good chunk of change.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer any specific information related to soap opera stars. However, such positions could be classified under "Actors, Producers, and Directors" in the BLS 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook. According to the document, in May of 2008 the median hourly average rate of pay for all actors was about $16.59. Actors in the video, TV and motion picture industry -- which would include soap opera stars -- earned closer to $28.72 per hour during the same reporting period.
Average Soap Actor Salary
The Simply Hired career and salary website offers salary information related specifically to actors of soap opera television programs. In June of 2011, Simply Hired reports that though it may vary considerably, the overall national average yearly salary for soap opera actors is about $89,000. Soap Auditions broke it down per episode, stating that in 2009 a principal actor on an American soap earned a minimum or $913 for a one-our show. With as many as 300 shows taped each year, the actor would have the potential to earn as much as $273,900 per year, providing they appeared in every show. The Daily Motion website reports that featured actors can make a minimum of $1,400 per episode in 2011.
Inexperienced actors, supporting roles and infrequently participating characters may expect to receive compensation far below the estimated averages for soap opera stars. According to the Soap Auditions website, soap opera actors who deliver five speaking lines or less on camera only receive $397 per one-hour show, or $324 for acting in a half-hour show. Background actors with no direct to camera lines at all only earn $144 for an hour-long show or $111 for appearing as an extra in a half-hour show.
A career acting in soap operas often opens doors to advancement opportunities, or at very least the potential to watch your salary grow as your job description remains the same. Actress Susan Lucci of ABC's "All My Children" reportedly makes more than $1 million per year portraying "Erica Kane" — the same job she has had since 1970. Many soap stars advance to become television and film stars, which significantly increases their income. The Celebrity Networth website reports that former "Days of Our Lives" star turned film actress, Vivica Fox, is now worth more than $6,000,000, and "One Life to Live's" Mark Consuelos is worth $8,000,000. Eric Braeden of "The Young and The Restless" — and the film "Titanic" — is reported to be worth more than $25 million in 2011.
Unionized soap stars with regular speaking parts can typically be guaranteed a certain amount of pay for each day that they are on the set. According to BLS, an agreement made between the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in 2009 states that all union actors with speaking parts must be guaranteed a minimum daily wage of at least $782. Benefits and royalties for syndication and reruns may also be applied.