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

bjones27 / Getty Images

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 $43,760 — median salary — in 2020. The top-paid 25% earned $60,760 while the lowest-paid 25% actors earned merely $28,080.

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

Make Your Money Work Better for You
Cities Average Salary
Los Angeles $67,548
New York $71,850
Denver $60,400
San Francisco $74,657
New Haven $64,623

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

States Average Salary
Arizona $64,331
California $68,905
Wisconsin $60,167
New Hampshire $69,532
Tennessee $65,339

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 $114,490
Technical writer $78,590
Sound engineering technician $67,210
Choreographer $52,000


According to Glassdoor, actors make an average of $56,763 per year, with $100,000 the highest and $28,748 the lowest earnings.

In comparison, models make $42,060 per year on average, while theater actors make $43,326 per year.

Zip Recruiter

According to Zip Recruiter, the national average earnings of an actor are $70,644 while the average hourly rate is $34.

The highest monthly salary for an actor is $26,583, while the lowest is only $917.

How Are Actors’ Salaries Determined?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50,600 actors were working in the country in 2021, and their median pay was $23.48 per hour. Plus, the Bureau expects actors’ employment rates to soar 8% by 2031.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

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.

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.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

How Much Do They Make

Information is accurate as of Nov. 28, 2022.