How Much Do Actors Make? Here’s the Typical Starting and Average Salaries

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Actors often lead lavish lifestyles, which may make people curious about the average earnings of an actor.

We all know our Hollywood favorites live in their multi-million-dollar Beverly Hills homes, but how much do actors make on average? Indeed, not every actor is raking in millions for a movie.

How Much Do Actors Make?

The amount of money an actor makes depends on how much the audience thinks that character is worth. It also depends on how famous they are, the kind of movie they’re in and how central their role is.

Let’s take a look at the salaries of actors. Here’s an estimate of how much an actor makes, according to different sources:

Median Salaries for Actors

According to U.S. News, actors made nearly $40,860–median salary–in 2019. The top-paid 25% earned $58,580 while the lowest-paid 25% actors earned merely $25,180. Meanwhile, the mean salary was $58,280.

The best-paying cities for this profession are New York, Los Angeles, New Haven, Denver and San Francisco.

Cities Average Salary
Los Angeles $72,600
New York $70,560
Denver $64,980
San Francisco $55,400
New Haven $55,020

More From Your Money

The best-paying states for actors are Arizona, California, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Tennessee.

States Average Salary
Arizona $73,200
California $69,480
Wisconsin $60,260
New Hampshire $59,240
Tennessee $57,600

Actors seem to be earning less than some other professionals in the same field. Here’s a look at how much art directors, technical writers, sound engineering technicians and choreographers are making.

Profession Average Salary
Art director $109,600
Technical writer $76,860
Sound engineering technician $67,090
Choreographer $53,590

According to this data, only choreographers are earning less than actors.

Glassdoor

According to Glassdoor, actors make an average of $45,397 per year, with $152,000 the highest and $14,000 the lowest earnings.

In comparison, models make $70,294 per year on average, while theater actors make $52,213 per year.

Zip Recruiter

According to Zip Recruiter, the national average earnings of an actor are $32,367 while the average hourly rate is $16.

The highest monthly salary for an actor is $7,333, while the lowest is only $917. Here’s a breakdown of how much actors make by city:

City Average Earning
New Haven, CT $36,325
Lakes, AK $36,211
San Francisco, CA $36,452
San Mateo, CA $40,866
Brooklyn, NY $36,650

There’s not a huge variance no matter where you are, except in some parts of California.

How Are Actors’ Salaries Determined?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70,100 actors were working in the country in 2019, and their median pay was $21.88 per hour. Plus, the bureau expects actors’ employment rates to soar 3% by 2029.

So, what determines how much an actor gets paid?

  1. The difficulty level of the role. Bigger parts with more lines require more of the actor’s time both in preparation and execution, and the actor will likely be paid more.
  2. Some cities are more lucrative for actors than others. For instance, if you’re an actor in Los Angeles, California, you’re likely to get more opportunities and be paid more than working as an actor in Tampa, Florida.
  3. Actors also get paid according to their experience. For instance, a newcomer might be getting paid below the national median pay while a seasoned actor earns more.

Likewise, an actor’s popularity, fan following and film franchise also determine their earnings. An actor’s earnings increase as their profile rises.

More From Your Money

For instance, Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki, the stars of ‘Big Bang Theory,’ signed a $1 million per episode deal — up from $350,000 — as the show’s popularity increased.

Key Takeaways

  • Small-scale actors don’t make as much as Hollywood hotshots do. You might need a side hustle while you get started.
  • Your earnings through acting depend on experience, popularity, city/state and how big of a project you’re signing on for.
  • If you want to climb up the financial ladder in acting, hire an agent or an agency. They’re pros at networking and have strong relationships with casting directors. Thus, they can get you auditions for potentially life-changing roles.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Scott Jeffries is a seasoned technology professional based in Florida. He writes on the topics of business, technology, digital marketing and personal finance. After earning his bachelor’s in Management Information Systems with a minor in Business, Scott spent 15 years working in technology. He's helped startups to Fortune 100 companies bring software products to life. When he's not writing or building software, Scott can be found reading or spending time outside with his kids.

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