How to Become a Model (Duties, Salary and Steps)

Want to make your way into the world of modeling? Strike a pose!

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to become a model

It’s hard to think of a career as glamorous as being a model.

Models can work in many sectors and in different mediums — there’s much more to the role than being a fashion model. The role also requires the application of many different skills and, contrary to popular belief, isn’t just a privileged job for those who are exceptionally good-looking.

This article discusses the complex and varied career path of being a model, including salary prospects and how to become one.

What models do

Modeling can offer a varied career path. One of the most famous modeling paths is the fashion model, where you will work with clothing brands and designers to strut your stuff on runways, wearing some amazing clothing along the way. However, there are other branches to the profession, meaning this career is a lot more diverse than it appears.

Here are the main types of models:

  • Advertising models who advertise companies or items, appearing in print or video.
  • Art models who work as artists’ muses or serve as their inspiration.
  • Child models, children or babies who model clothing or items used by their specific age group, as well as toys.
  • Fashion models who appear in magazines and adverts, modeling clothing.
  • Fit models who are employed to showcase certain fits of clothing or sizes to ensure outfits fit and are created according to specific measurements.
  • Fitness models who demonstrate fitness regimes, sport clothing or sporting equipment.
  • Glamor models who are employed for their looks or body shape, often appearing for the sole purpose of entertainment.
  • Mature models, senior individuals modeling clothes or working in other areas of modeling.
  • Parts models who show off only a part of their body, such as a leg or a hand to demonstrate accessories or other close-up requirements.
  • Plus-size models who might be taller or larger than typical models.
  • Runway models who appear on catwalks and in fashion shows. Some of the most famous models in the world are runway models.
  • Tattoo models who are tattooed or are employed to showcase tattoos or tattoo artists.

Below are the main responsibilities of a model:

  • Maintain an updated portfolio of work, including pictures and poses, and a résumé.
  • Understand and follow directions issued by photographers and other art directors.
  • Maintain set expectations of appearance, as required by the type of modeling undertaken.
  • Be filmed and participate on film sets and in studios.
  • Appear in trade shows and in other commercial environments to advertise specific products, companies or services.
  • Stay up to date on modeling trends and fashions.
  • Keep fit and healthy to be able to participate in the physical exertions of the job.
  • Participate in runways shows and photoshoots, wearing various types of clothing and accessories.
  • Take part in media appearances like TV shows and news interviews.
  • Undertake basic artistic and photographic skills and techniques.

What the job is like

Being a model offers a very exciting lifestyle and a not-so-typical day-to-day job. With that in mind, it’s a very demanding career and requires a lot more than just strutting your stuff on the catwalk or having your photo taken. This section takes you through a model’s working hours and environment, as well as their job satisfaction.

Work environment

Being a model is a great job to take you out of the office. You’ll be just as busy in studios as well as shooting on location, which might include being outside, or even all over the world. The role is, therefore, very intensive in terms of your schedule. You’ll be expected to work late at night, early in the morning and at weekends, sometimes for many hours at a time.

You’ll need to keep looking fresh and presentable and be always ready for photoshoots, as well as keep on top of your diet and fitness regime. There might be a lot of waiting around as crews get ready or they wait for the right lighting and atmosphere for photoshoots.

Being a model is also physically demanding. You’ll be on your feet for much of the working day, as catwalk shows can go on for hours. Seeing as a large part of the role requires networking and building relationships and connections, attending events outside of your modeling duties is also very important — you will rarely stop!

Work hours

Being a model offers a very flexible work pattern, but don’t expect a set 40 hours a week. There will be a need to tour and spend long hours on photoshoots. Conversely, modeling work can be very sporadic. You might be working 24 days straight in one month, and then go without work for the next few weeks. You will likely be paid per shoot, so your income might be equally atypical, too.

Job satisfaction

For many models, the role is a dream come true. The benefits of being a model, such as a way into other avenues of fame, free clothes and accessories and, in some cases, the good pay, mean that the role can lead to a lot of happiness. However, models must be aware of the stressors and the drawbacks to the role, including fickleness (one minute you’re hot, the next you’re not) and high levels of exhaustion.

Many models have written of their negative experiences, and whereas many still maintain that it’s an amazing and exciting role, they all urge caution and ask that prospective models do their research before embarking on the career.

Job market

The modeling job market is expected to grow extremely quickly from 2020 to 2030, with a projected annual growth of 9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — way ahead of the wider US employment market, which is forecast to grow by 5% over the same period.

This growth is said to be driven by the increase in e-commerce and digital advertising and sales, which means that the reach of models and the demand for them will continue to grow, with the industry becoming more lucrative over time.


The wage scale of models can be extremely broad. Whereas some of the top models can earn tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single shoot, the career can also generate much more modest salaries if your exposure, remit or audience is a little less broad.

The average salary for a model is $32,730, compared to the US national average for all occupations, which is $58,260. That said, earnings depend on location, which models employed in the State of Ohio earning an average salary for $49,850 per year. They are followed by models in the states of Texas ($37,680), Oregon ($36,050), Florida ($32,370) and Iowa ($26,760).

Essential skills and qualities

Being a model requires the use of a lot of different professional skills and attributes. To be the best of the best in this career, you need to ensure that these skills are honed and that you’re well-practiced in using them. Becoming a top model requires a lot of hard work, and this begins with how well you can execute the role.

The top skills and qualities needed to become a model include:

  • The ability to be flexible and agile, as well as manage change
  • Being able to interact with the media, network, and maintain a polished online presence
  • Being patient and coping well with stressful or pressurized situations
  • Collaboration skills and the ability to work well with others
  • Concentration skills
  • Coordination and gracefulness, and high levels of physical fitness
  • Listening skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Reality and a strong sense of discipline and self-motivation
  • Reflective ability and the ability to take criticism well

Steps to become a model

If you’ve read this far and feel that modeling is the career path for you (whether you’re considering your options after leaving school or making a career change), you’ll need to plan your first steps into a successful career. This section guides you through the process.

Step 1: Determine if it’s the right job for you

The first thing you should do on your journey to becoming a model is to seriously weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of this industry to determine if it’s a good choice. You’ll also want to consider whether your inherent skills and qualities align to the ones needed to become a model, and if these are skills you enjoy using.

Also, think about your values and interests. Do these align with modeling? For example, do you have a keen interest in fashion or a desire to travel? If so, then you could be well-aligned to being a model.

If you’re at a crossroads in terms of deciding what career might be best for you, then it could be worth taking a career test, such as our very own six-part assessment, CareerHunter, which maps out your interests and skills against various careers, suggesting the ones that are a good fit for you.

Step 2: Research modeling agencies

Whereas some models are simply in the right place at the right time when they get “discovered”, being connected to a modeling agency is also a good way to be selected for work.  The choice of agency is important, as these will have the networks and connections to help you launch a modeling career.

The best agencies will be difficult to break into, so ensure your portfolio is eye-catching and up to date. Some agencies have casting calls, where they invite prospective models in for assessment. Be prepared to “try and try again”, as these calls will be very competitive. Some agencies will mandate certain physical characteristics (like height or weight limits), so make a note of these as well.

Step 3: Consider modeling school

Going to a modeling school can be a good way to learn about the intricacies of the industry. At one of these schools, you’ll learn about modeling poses, portfolios and inside knowledge of the industry. Some modeling agencies also send scouts to these schools to see who the next big thing might be.

Step 4: Prepare your portfolio

One of the most important things to do as a model is to create your portfolio. This is a collection of photographs of your past work or, if you’re just getting started, some sample shots that you might have paid a photographer to do.

Your portfolio needs to be comprehensive, include your résumé and be professionally produced. It’s your first impression in front of agents and might make the difference between you being awarded a modeling contract or not. Ensure that you keep it up to date and include everything that you do.

Step 5: Be prepared to start small

It’s rare for a model to get their big break immediately. One of the best ways to get started in the industry is to take on small gigs — or even volunteer — in order to build your portfolio and get noticed. Some examples of this would be posting your modeling skills on social media (gaining followers along the way), volunteering as an art model for schools, or even volunteering in theater productions.

Final thoughts

Being a model can be a dream career. The role can be glamorous, high-profile and a great way into other areas of entertainment or fame. The other side to modeling is that it can be hard work, and like many areas of show business, only the select few are picked for stardom. Other modeling avenues, such as fit, fitness or part models, are more akin to regular careers where fame and fortune will form part of the experience.

Whatever modeling career you embark on, it pays to understand the role and ensure your skills are in good shape. A big part of the role is about how well your network and that your portfolio is up to date and eye-catching. After you get your first big break, subsequent opportunities will follow, if you do a good job. Good luck!

Got a question? Let us know in the comments section below.


Originally published on August 2, 2018.