7 minute read

Model Job Description, Career as a Model, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: None

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Models pose for still photographers, television cameras, and artists. They also display clothes and accessories for clothing manufacturers and stores.

There are several different kinds of models. Artists' models typically work for individual painters, sculptors, and photographers, but most also work for art schools on a part-time basis. They must be comfortable working nude or wearing very little clothing, since the contours and fine lines of their bodies must be visible to the artists. Artists' models also need the ability to hold poses for long periods of time.

Photographic models, also known as print models, are hired by advertising agencies and freelance photographers. They may appear in a print advertisement for clothing, accessories, or makeup. Photographic models also appear on magazine covers and in feature stories. These models must be attractive, photogenic, and able to portray different moods by changing their expressions or poses. Photographic models are usually very young, and they stay in the business an average of only seven years.

Fashion models generally work for clothing manufacturers, fashion magazines, retail stores, or dress designers. They display the latest in clothing designs at fashion shows and are sometimes referred to as runway models. Other fashion models work in showrooms, small designer shops, and department stores.

Models help manufacturers sell products. This model is advertising a new car design at an automobile show. (© Rebecca Cook/Reuters/Corbis.)

Fashion models must be able to wear clothing and accessories well. They must walk and move to bring out the best in the clothes they wear. Except for an elite few, fashion models are not as highly paid as photographic models, but they can have longer careers. Some can model more mature styles of clothing as they grow older.

Fitting, or fit, models are called in by garment manufacturers when an outfit is almost complete. Only then can designers see how their fashions will look on a real person. Although fit models do not command the high salaries of fashion models, they tend to have more work, and their careers can last as long as their figures meet the needs of the clothing manufacturer. Large-sized models can also find work in this field.

Television commercial models generally work for advertising agencies and demonstrate a variety of products. Models with acting experience are among the first to be hired for television spots. The exception to this general rule is the advertisement of makeup and other beauty products: casting directors often choose photographic models for these roles. Although many television models are young, older models are also needed for certain products.

Education and Training Requirements

Interested individuals do not necessarily need a high school diploma to become a model; however, employers tend to prefer models with a diploma or its equivalent. Most photographic models are very slender, because they will look ten pounds heavier in photographs. In addition to being physically attractive, models are usually quite tall. Female fashion models are about five feet ten inches tall (although some are shorter), and male models are typically six feet one or taller. There are no specific requirements for fit models or for artists' models, but artists' models must have a great deal of stamina to hold the same pose for several hours at a time.

Prospective models should study speech, dance, drama, and fashion design in high school. Fashion and photographic models should be fastidious about personal grooming. Skin, hair, nails, and clothes must be perfect, and models must know how to dress and apply makeup to achieve different kinds of looks. Some beginners attend modeling schools to improve their posture, movement, makeup application skills, and diet. Information on a modeling school's reputation may be found online.

Getting the Job

Because this is a very competitive field, candidates should first seek advice from a professional model, an agent, a fashion designer, or a photographer. If you decide that you want to become a model, develop a portfolio—a collection of many pictures of you in different settings, poses, and types of clothing. Be sure to choose a good photographer to help you develop your portfolio. Visit modeling agencies, fashion designers, and manufacturers for jobs. You may have to call on many agencies before one accepts you as a client. If you have attended a modeling school, check with the placement office for help in finding a job.

Artists' models can look for jobs in college and adult education art departments. The head of the art department may know of individual artists and sculptors who need models. You can also check the want ads in your local newspaper for potential jobs.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Photographic models are already at the top of their field. A few fashion models become photographic models, but most remain on the runway throughout their careers. Models with acting ability can become television models, and a few become actors.

Some models move into other jobs in the fashion industry, becoming fashion coordinators or beauty editors of a magazine. A few successful models have opened their own modeling agencies.

Many models have to supplement their incomes with work in other fields because modeling assignments are not always steady. Most openings for models will be to replace those who leave the field. A few other openings will occur because of increased spending for advertising. Most modeling jobs are in New York City because the fashion industry is located there; for successful models, a willingness to travel is a necessity.

Working Conditions

Models work under very different conditions in a variety of places. Their work is hard and not as glamorous as many people assume. Showroom models usually work a regular forty-hour week, but most other models work irregular hours. Photographic models pose under hot studio lights indoors and work outdoors in all kinds of weather, wearing all kinds of clothes. An assignment may mean a trip to a famous landmark that the photographer is using as background. Because the work is generally part time, models may need a second job.

Fashion models usually work indoors in pleasant surroundings such as high-fashion stores and showrooms. In the busy season they must stand and walk a great deal and change outfits often. Showroom models often have office duties, such as typing, filing, or answering phones, during slower seasons. Fit models work in a garment manufacturer's place of business. They must stand while the designer makes adjustments in the outfit being modeled. Television models work in studios under bright lights. Like photographic models, they sometimes work on location. Artists' models work in classrooms and in artists' studios and lofts. Photographic, fashion, and television models have many chances to meet different kinds of people. Their lives are often hectic but exciting.

A model's private life often revolves around work. Because models depend on their appearance for their work, they must look fresh and alert every day. This often means going to bed early, working out regularly, and always watching what they eat.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for models vary greatly, and since many work through agencies as free-lancers, exact salaries are hard to determine. Income also varies with the type of modeling and the model's degree of experience. Artists' models make a standard fee of $10 to $12 per hour modeling for beauty and fashion shots in art school photography classes, and $12 to $15 per hour for high-fashion and nude modeling in painting and drawing classes. Professional photographic models may earn between $150 and $250 per day, and a select few earn as much as $500,000 per year or more; however, a career as a photographic model lasts only about six to eight years.

Models who work through agencies must pay their agency a percentage of their fees. Steadily employed fashion models usually earn from $30,000 to $60,000 per year. Fitting models are paid by the hour. Rates in Manhattan's garment district range from $50 to $100 per hour. A top fitting model might make as much as $250 to $450 per hour in a major designer's house.

Television models must belong to the Screen Actors Guild or the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The unions set the rates that models will be paid. Models in a television commercial can earn $2,000 to $3,000 for an eight-hour photo session. Also, television models may get additional pay, called residuals, when their commercials are used again.

Where to Go for More Information

MODELS.com, Inc.
1133 Broadway, Ste. 221
New York, NY 10010
(646) 638-3901

Models working full time receive vacations and other fringe benefits. Freelance and part-time models do not receive benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts