Employment Prospects


The approximately 3,600 models employed in the United States work in a variety of settings that require different skills and qualifications. Fashion models may be employed by apparel firms or retail stores; photographic models work through one or more agencies for a variety of clients. High fashion models usually work in major fashion centers such as New York, United States; London, England; or Paris, France. Large cities generally offer more opportunities for modeling work than small towns.

A large percentage of those in the modeling industry do not work full time as models, since there are far more applicants than assignments. Therefore many models have other means of supporting themselves. Models generally choose part-time jobs, especially those with flexible schedules or evening work, in order to be available for auditions and assignments. Many work as restaurant servers, though individuals with special skills or training may find other work. Some work in sales, which allows them flexibility in schedules and number of hours.

Starting Out

To gain employment as an artist's model, men or women may apply directly at various art schools, cautiously check online job postings and newspaper want ads, or apply at the state employment office. 

Graduates of modeling schools may be aided by the schools' career services offices in securing their first job. Another possibility for the prospective model is to register at a modeling agency. Aspiring models, however, should be wary of disreputable agencies or schools that promise jobs for a fee toward the purchase of a portfolio of photographs or a contract for modeling classes. Legitimate agencies and modeling schools are listed in industry publications. Choose a modeling agency certified by such bodies as SAG-AFTRA or check with your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to make sure the agency or school is licensed by the state education department before signing an agreement or paying money to an agency or service that promises jobs.

Many agencies select only those people with qualities they feel their clients will demand. If accepted by an agency, the future model's composite card and photographs are placed on file and the model will be called for a job when the agency feels they have one for which the person is qualified. In return for the agency's services, models pay 15 to 20 percent of their earnings to the agency.

All models who wish to have a career in modeling are required to have a collection of photographs to show prospective employers. These photographs should include at least one head shot and several full-length shots in various kinds of situations and garments to show the model's versatility and ability to sell whatever he or she is modeling. Photographic models must have multiple copies of these photographs to leave with potential employers. The back of each picture should list the model's name, address, a contact phone number, height, weight, and coloring, along with clothing and shoe sizes. This picture will be placed in a file along with pictures of many other models. When someone of this type and size is needed for a picture, the model may be called to pose. Models include tear sheets in their portfolios from the assignments they have completed. These sheets prove to prospective employers the model's experience and ability.

Aspiring models who plan to seek work in a large, unfamiliar city should go there prepared to spend at least three months looking for a job. They should have enough money to support themselves and pay for such modeling necessities as a fashionable wardrobe, professional hair and beauty care, adequate diet, and such incidentals as additional photographs or special short-term training.

Advancement Prospects

The modeling profession has no standard line of advancement. It is rare for artists' models to advance in the usual sense of the word. It is to be expected, however, that the better art schools and the more successful artists may pay higher hourly wages to experienced models.

Advancement for fashion or photographic models takes the form of increased income and greater demand for their talent. However, their careers usually are short. The model who works in the field for longer than eight years is considered highly unusual. Certain physical changes and lifestyle often make it difficult for older people to compete with younger models for the same type of assignments.

Even a high degree of success can lead to the shortening of a model's career. When models appear too frequently on magazine covers or in features, the uniqueness of their look becomes familiar, and they are passed by in favor of models who have not received such wide coverage. Also, models who become identified with one particular product, such as a line of makeup or shampoo, may find it difficult to qualify for jobs with other employers.

Most fashion and photographic models must therefore learn a marketable skill or profession to which they may turn when they can no longer continue modeling. Many fashion models gain enough knowledge to move into fashion design, advertising, public relations, or retailing. Others attend special schools between modeling assignments to learn business, technical, or vocational skills. Still others go to work for modeling agencies or open agencies of their own. Modeling can be a gateway to consulting jobs in the fashion and merchandising field, and some models serve as board members of fashion magazines. Other models become actors and actresses. Well-known models may develop their own line of cosmetics or other products. Many models also grow their reputations by developing a presence in social media and increasing their number of followers, which often leads to increased exposure. 

Tips for Entry

Consider attending modeling school to increase your knowledge and skills.

Create a portfolio of your work to show to agents. Consider also creating your own Web site that advertises your talents.

Volunteer to model for a local department store or local publication. Be sure to get photos of your work to use in your portfolio.

Participate in open calls for models. 

Conduct information interviews with models and ask them for tips on how to enter the field.