People often assume that high-profile careers come with big paychecks. In reality, jobs with lots of visibility don’t always pay as much as you might think. “Glamour, for all it is worth, may not be worth very much financially,” says Lori Gersh Weiner, career expert and the author of “Good Manners Are Contagious.”
Here are some high-profile jobs that probably don’t pay as well as you think:
Local news anchors
Since they often become local “celebrities,” many people assume their favorite news anchors earn an enviable salary. That’s often not true, especially in small markets. Entry-level news anchors earn approximately $27,000 a year upon entering the profession, and can earn as little as $30,000 after 5 years of service. Of course, wages depend on the viewership and network range, but even midsize city “celebrities” often maintain multiple jobs to provide for themselves. In Cincinnati, for example, reporters typically earn only $40,000, while salaries for those in the big leagues can be as much as half a million.
Local and state politicians
Sure, New York City’s mayor officially makes $225,000 a year–although billionaire Mike Bloomberg declines to take all but one dollar of that–and Barack Obama has a $400,000 salary, but their small-town counterparts and state politicians usually make a fraction of that. In Mississippi, for example, state legislators make $10,000 a year (plus a per diem rate to cover expenses while they’re in session). The pay level is even lower in small towns, where the mayor and council members often make very little.
Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld make a fortune now, but that certainly wasn’t the case in their early days, when they were doing stand-up at small clubs. Many TV audiences’ perception of stand-up salaries is skewed by well-known comedians of late night television. However, people trying to get into the industry often have to settle initially for unpaid amateur nights and, once they have been accepted into the community, must compete with other comedians for event slots.
According to the Princeton Review, the average stand-up comic earns around $50 for two 20-minute sets at a comedy club. Many comedians start out by doing “open mike” nights, where they get no pay at all. Unfortunately, very few comedians actually maintain a consistent schedule.
“Lots of people think chefs are multimillionaires,” says Eve Tahmincioglu, columnist for MSNBC’s Your Career. “But if they don’t have book deals and they’re not on TV, they’re pretty much living paycheck to paycheck. Cooks probably make about $13 an hour, and unless you’re an executive chef, you probably make under $50,000.”
They may sign autographs and perhaps even have their own trading cards, but these athletes don’t earn big-league bucks. Minor-league baseball players, for example, have a $1,100-per-month maximum rate for their first contract season. Even a major-league athlete isn’t necessarily guaranteed a big payday–Canadian Football League players often have second jobs during the off season.
Furthermore, Olympic athletes get the glory, but unless they are lucky enough to star in commercials or have endorsement deals, they don’t bring home the bacon. In Canada, it’s estimated that 70 percent of amateur athletes live below the poverty line.
For every J.K. Rowling who hits it big, there are thousands of authors (and aspiring authors) toiling away for little or no money. “There are many would-be authors still writing their first book and thinking they will make millions for it,” says Weiner. “Think again. Writing a book, unless you are a big name in the business, doesn’t make the ‘pay grade.'”
Comic-book artists or video game animators
These jobs may have some nice perks–the opportunity to work on cool projects, the potential to develop a cult following, and even the occasional Comic-Con appearance–but the pay is usually not as high as people might think. According to Animation Arena, a video game artist with a few years experience will make around $41,500 on average. For animators and artists, the real money comes if they work on a project that attracts attention from Hollywood, a major game company, or a big publisher.
The bottom line
Becoming a small-town “star” can be very cool, but it doesn’t guarantee a big paycheck. So don’t assume that a local celebrity or a high-profile personality is making the big bucks. In reality, they may earn less than you.