How to Become a Model: Requirements, Qualifications, & Salary

Oct 20, 2021

How to Be a Model

When one thinks of the phrase 'fashion model', one may automatically think of celebrities and a life of jet setting from one fashion show to the next. While a modeling career may seem glamorous, this career is far more varied and demanding than one may think. Furthermore, the potential careers of a model are highly varied and differ greatly from one another.

Nature of the Work: Modeling Information

A model may specialize in runways, commercial shoots, magazines, brand modeling, and more. In day-to-day life, a fashion model description may vary, just as the job may vary greatly between projects. Models in the fashion world work in promoting clothes and accessories to fashion buyers for major stores, the media, and customers. Fashion models work in various fields, including photographic modeling, television commercials, live or runway modeling, and product modeling.

Education No degree required, but one can be earned in design, photography or merchandising
Job Skills Taking direction, conveying emotion, dependability, flexibility
Median Wage (2019)* $17.52 per hour
Job Growth (2019-2029)* 1% (slower than average)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Environment

A model's work environment is liable to change rapidly and to be different given different kinds of modeling work. Some models work primarily on runways and in photography studios, while others work outside. For some models, travel to different areas or countries may be required in order to take part in fashion shows, though many models work locally.

Educational Requirements to Be a Fashion Model

Modeling is a career that doesn't require any specific degree or credential. With that said, obtaining a relevant degree could enhance your prospects of becoming a fashion model. Relevant associate or bachelor's degree programs include fashion design, accessories design, fashion merchandising, and photography. An associate degree in fashion design or merchandising usually takes two years to earn, and a bachelor's degree would typically take four years to complete.

Modeling Agencies

Rather than focusing on a university career, it may be more useful for prospective models to focus on getting a place in a modeling agency. Modeling agencies can help models to promote themselves and to find work, focusing on the kinds of work that interests a particular model.

Model Training Institutes

Many models take courses at model training institutes in order to learn skills like walking, posture, and makeup. Examples of such institutes include the Frankfinn Institute of Modeling and Acting and universities like the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Skills Required to Be a Fashion Model: Job Duties and Responsibilities

While the education requirements to be a fashion model are flexible, there are many skills you'll need to possess to forge a successful career in this field. You'll need to be flexible, dependable, reliable, hardworking, and capable of taking direction. Whether you're a runway model or acting in a television commercial, you need to understand and be able to convey the emotion and attitude of the brand you're representing. Working as a model requires significant dedication because the job can be highly demanding because of the constant casting calls that one must attend. Work environments change constantly. Casting calls are essentially auditions for the brand. During these casting calls, a model must be able to show their best work and attempt to portray the specific image of the brand in order to be hired for a specific shoot or show.

Qualifications for Modeling

While there is no specific education requirement for a model it may be helpful to take part in training programs or attend a training institute. These programs will teach a number of skills such as networking, how to look natural, how to pose, how to take direction from a photographer or designer, how to present oneself well, how to walk properly on a runway, and how to work within large teams. This will provide a significant amount of experience to a model and allow for many learning opportunities that a model would not likely be able to learn on their own.

Requirements to Be a Model

While a model does not have specific employment requirements there are several things that are essential to a model's career. It is vital that a model has an excellent portfolio. This portfolio will showcase a model's work and allow for a casting agent to see the versatility of a particular person and how well a model performs in front of a camera or an audience. A model must also be able to present themselves well and have enough experience with makeup, styling, and hair to be able to be prepared for castings and in situations where they are responsible for part of their look. Furthermore, one pursuing a career as a model will likely want to sign with a modeling agency that will allow for union protection, access to many exclusive castings, and job promotions. Some other requirements are as follows

  • Good personal grooming - a model must look put together and natural. This means no noticeable makeup, unnatural nail colors, or piercings
  • Collaboration skills - a model must work well with all backstage member of a shoot or a show, the director, the photographer, and the designer
  • Physical fitness - a model must maintain their body well based on the type of modeling that they do
  • Time management - a model must be able to be at all casting calls, and work opportunities on time as the costs of running these are high and there are many people involved
  • Dedication - this career is highly demanding and a model must be highly dedicated in order to succeed.

Career as a Model and Economic Outlook

Earnings and employment prospects for fashion models vary depending on the type of work they're involved in. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated the median annual wage for models to be around $28,350 as of May, 2019. Exact compensation will vary as some models are paid hourly, while others are paid per day or per project. According to Forbes, the top 10 highest paid models made a combined $142 million in 2019. While the highest-paid models in the industry make an incredible amount of money, the average model will make far less than that. Additionally, many models are not paid in money, but rather clothes from the designer or shoot. A career as a model is typically expensive as the cost of living in cities that are 'fashion hubs' are typically very expensive, and a model must present themselves well and be well dressed. The BLS predicts a job growth of 1% between 2019 and 2029, which is slower than average.

Fashion Model: Alternative Career Options

Outside of modeling, you can pursue several careers in the fashion industry, including the following:

Fashion Model to Fashion Designer

For a fashion model design may be a natural choice for expanding one's career. While income varies by location, employer, and skill, the median salary of fashion designers in 2019 was $73,790, according to the BLS. Designers may be self-taught, complete postsecondary training or learn through an internship. An employment decline of 4% was projected from 2019 to 2029 for fashion designers.

Fashion Model to Demonstrator and Product Promoter

Models may be hired by retail or wholesale stores, advertising firms or employment agencies to promote a product or service, such as food, cosmetics or clothing. Those with a high school diploma and sales experience are preferred. The median income for demonstrators and product promoters in 2019 was $30,930, per the BLS. The number of jobs in this field was expected to increase by 3% from 2019 to 2029.

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