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What Kind of Salary Would a Makeup Artist for a Movie Receive in the Beginning?

by Rick Suttle

Monsters, vampires and even Elizabethan characters would not look nearly as realistic on film without talented makeup artists. Movie makeup artists research people and time periods and use various makeup colors, wigs and prosthetics to bring these characters to life on screen. Their starting salaries can vary within the states where most movies are produced.

Good Starting Salary

The average starting salary for a movie makeup artist was $42,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Simply Hired. This equates to $20.19 per hour, based on a 40-hour workweek. To become a movie makeup artist, you need at least one to two years of vocational or professional classroom training, where you either get certified in cosmetology or earn an associate degree. Movie companies also prefer hiring those with five or more years of experience, so you'll likely need to work as an assistant to a makeup artist until you qualify for a makeup artist job. Other essential qualifications are attention to detail and creativity and time-management, research, communication and computer skills.

New York Pays Best

In 2013, starting salaries for movie makeup artists were highest in New York at $49,000, according to Simply Hired. Those in California and Illinois also earned above-average starting salaries of $47,000 and $43,000, respectively. If you worked as a makeup artist in Hawaii or Texas, you'd earn an average of $41,000 or $39,000 per year, respectively. In Florida, you start out at $38,000 annually.

Experience Pays Off

While Simply Hired reported a starting salary of $42,000 for movie makeup artists in 2013, the average salary for all makeup artists was $67,580 as of May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent made more than $117,720 per year. Movie makeup artists earned the highest average salaries of $91,640 and $71,470 in New York and California, respectively, the BLS reported.

Slow Job Growth

The BLS estimates a 3 percent increase in jobs for theatrical and performance makeup artists from 2010 to 2020, which is much slower than average. In comparison, jobs for actors are expected to increase only 4 percent during the same decade, according to the BLS. Job growth for makeup artists is highly contingent on the budgets of movie companies and producers. In strong economies, people often have more disposable income and may attend more movies. Stronger economies may also increase budgets for movie companies and create a higher demand for makeup artists.

Photo Credits

  • Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images