Americans put a lot of value on job status. There are jobs that are revered for heroism—firefighters, soldiers—and others are heralded as the cornerstone of our society, such as educators. But the jobs that most admire with awe and envy are the “sexy jobs.” Positions that, from the outside looking in, appear to pay a pretty penny to live the life. They’re so appealing in fact that if you pay attention to any TV show or film there’s a good chance that one or all of the main characters have one of these “sexy jobs.” However, the luxurious lives associated with these gigs on screen don’t translate to real life, where oftentimes passion outweighs the paycheck. BlackEnterprise.com took a look at the actual earnings for these “sexy jobs” to see if the pay equaled the prestige. —Chloe Hilliard
Hollywood loves a good journalist. Countless films and TV shows feature a roving reporter—running around the city to uncover a murder mystery, publicly shaming a politician or dodging bullets in a war torn country. What they don’t show is the other end of the spectrum. Not every journalist makes six-figures and has a closet full of shoes like Sex in the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. In fact, depending on the size of the market, a journalist can earn a starting salary as low as $19,000. Salaries for journalists have seen a decline largely in part due to low newspapers sales, company downsizing and the growth of the unruly Internet. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 there were 58,500 journalists (including reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts) with a 8% decrease expected to happen over the next 10 years.
Median salary: $33,840
During the height of America’s fascination with flying (1930s-1960s), being a flight attendant was one of the most esteemed jobs for a woman. At one point, the requirement to become one included being a registered nurse, pretty, weight 105 – 135 lbs, between 5’0 – 5’4 tall and single. The idea of jet setting was just as attractive as the women who offered passengers a choice between peanuts and pretzels. Today, the 90,500 men and women who work as flight crew members are required to deal with less than ideal conditions. Low pay, increased hours, rude passengers and post-9/11 security measures have led to some memorable mental breakdowns. It’s estimated that the starting salary for a flight attendant is $16,100, however each carrier has a different starting rate.
Median Salary: $37,740
Who wouldn’t want to have the career, fame and bank account of a Will Smith or Angela Bassett? When one thinks about the life of an actor they image red carpets, TV interviews, and accolades. Not 18-hour days on a set, months away from home, or years without a hit on your hands (ask Eddie Murphy). And that’s if you’re considered a successfully working actor. According to SAG-AFTRA there are over 65,000 “actors” in America. Most of whom won’t ever win an Oscar or Emmy nor become a household name. Still, their desire to perform is enough to applaud although they may have to take on additional work to make ends meet.
Kevin Hart‘s 2011 Laugh at My Pain comedy tour hit 90 cities and grossed more than $15 million with the movie grossing over $7 million. As he stood in front of sold out arenas, Hart made it look easy. Most people think they are funny and the job of a comedian can’t be that hard. Yet, if everyone could stand on a stage with nothing more than a microphone and a spotlight there would be more comedians. The other part to being a comedian is living weeks on the road, out of suitcases, crisscrossing the country performing in bars and small comedy clubs. Oftentimes the compensation is little to no money, makin this job truly a labor of love.
A picture may be priceless but unfortunately for many photographers the pay is miniscule compared to the memories they create. Of course some photographers earn a great deal such as the Annie Lebowitzs or Kareem Blacks of the industry. Then there are the studio photographers who’ve probably taken your family portrait at the mall or wedding photos. With 139,500 photographers working in 2010, it’s a safe bet that 90% of them weren’t working the red carpet or shooting for high fashion magazines.
Median Salary: $29,130
Like actors, there are only a small percentage of musicians/singers who can sustain themselves financially solely off their art. Most won’t ever headline a world tour or be featured on MTV but they can etch out a nice living by playing the background—literally. Musicians and singers can last longer than some bigger names by working as studio players, band members and back up singers. Opportunities are endless for a talented musician but the competition is stiff. There were an estimated 176,000 musicians in 2010. That doesn’t include the thousands of aspiring musicians who apply to televised talent shows or post themselves on YouTube with the hopes of being discovered. Remember, for every Beyoncé there are thousands of dashed dreams.