The Average Salary of a Male Model

by Ralph Heibutzki; Updated September 26, 2017
Male models must accept the reality of irregular hours and unusual working environments.

Male models earn significantly less than their female counterparts. Without reality TV shows to host, male models must juggle advertising campaigns, catalog photo shoots and runway shows to earn any kind of a living. The majority make do with magazine photo shoots that pay as little as $150 or clothes given in lieu of payments. High-end campaigns pay $8,000 to $15,000, while those fortunate enough to become runway regulars can achieve six-figure salaries.


With only 2,200 people working as models in 2008, competition for desirable assignments is fierce, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. As in many creative fields, pay scales vary widely depending on the job. As of May 2008, models' median hourly wages were $13.18. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.09 and $17.23, according to the bureau. The lowest 10 percent made $8.32 or less, while the highest 10 percent more than $21.10.


Male models must accept a variety of work. Most magazine photo shoots pay $250 or less for several hours' work, although it is not unusual for models to receive free or discounted clothing instead, New York magazine reported in February 2009. Models who do not work right away also receive advances from agency representatives to cover rent or living expenses. Earnings are further eaten up by agency fees that average 20 percent.


Becoming the preferred face of exclusive designer or fragrance campaigns represents a major step up from magazine shoots. These types of jobs pay between $8,000 and $15,000 for work that lasts a day, according to Forbes magazine. However, even these jobs are not as lucrative as before, New York's February 2009 feature story suggested. Jobs that paid $5,000 now average closer to $2,000, former model turned fashion photographer J.D. Ferguson informed the magazine.


The most successful male models can earn up to $500,000 per year for looks deemed desirable by the fashion industry. Examples include the Brazilian-Cuban trend that took hold through the work of Bruce Weber, the photographer who masterminded Calvin Klein's iconic advertisements, Forbes reported in May 2008. High-profile magazines remain a desirable option as their editorial regimes slant coverage and advertising toward mature men, who remain the biggest spenders, according to Forbes.


Prospects for male models remain tightly competitive as the retail industry continues to shrink. In 2005, for example, several top New York stores -- Hecht's, Hudson's, Kaufmann's and Marshall Field's -- were acquired and merged into the signature Macy's store brand, according to Forbes. Male models must also compete with celebrities branching out into their field and perceptions of greater interest in female models -- who typically earn two to three times as much as men for the same types of work.

2016 Salary Information for Models

Models earned a median annual salary of $21,870 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, models earned a 25th percentile salary of $19,010, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $41,470, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 4,800 people were employed in the U.S. as models.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

Photo Credits

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