Salary Surprises For People Working In the Arts

Posted by The Editors on November 4, 2011
Salary Surprises For People Working In the Arts

“Artists have high salaries”? This headline, the article it’s attached to, and the study it cites all made me do a double take. The study, conducted by the National Endowment of the Arts, surveyed artists in 11 distinct categories: “actors, announcers, architects, dancers and choreographers, designers, fine artists, art directors and animators, musicians, other entertainers, photographers, producers and directors, and writers and authors."

The median salary for creative people in this wildly disparate group of professions is $43,000, compared to $39,000 for the entire labor force. Not bad—though it’s a lower figure than the median for the larger category of “professional” workers, which is $54,000.

The study also found that artists are “entrepreneurial (more likely to be self-employed) and more educated than the workforce at large," and that they are three times more likely to work from home than the general laborer. This is where what I thought was a hopeful article turned out to be somewhat misleading.

Self-employment and working from home might seem like perks, but they’re really more like standard procedure for creative professions, where there are fewer permanent positions and more ad-hoc or freelance work. When you work independently, you might make your own schedule, but you also have to make your own support network. Those “high salaries” that the headline alludes to go toward health insurance, office supplies, computer equipment, or anything else a full-time employer would normally provide.

Whether you’re in one of these creative fields or an entrepreneur in another field, it’s worth considering: How important is it to you to work from home? Would you rather rely only on yourself, or would you rather be part of an established team? What would it take for you to give up your independent status?

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