Best and Worst Jobs 2010

Ok, this survey by that I found on the Wall Street Journal (here) I’m sure is not very sound in its methodology but still it’s kind of fun to browse the different jobs. Since the photographer jobs listed are staff positions I wonder where freelance falls on the list?

The 200 best and worst jobs in the U.S. in 2009 based on five criteria — environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress — according to a newly released study from job site

#65 Publication Editor (just above forklift operator)
Starting salary: $28,000
Midlevel salary: $50,000
Top salary: $95,000

#126 Photographer (just below Waiter but still above undertaker)
Starting salary: $17,000
Midlevel salary: $29,000
Top salary: $62,000

#189 Photojournalist (sadly falls below Nuclear Plant Decontamination Technician but still above metermaid)
Starting salary: $16,000
Midlevel salary: $28,000
Top salary: $60,000

There Are 46 Comments On This Article.

    • @billy kidd, You can do that as a hobby. In fact much of the competition and impact on the industry is from hobbyists today.

      Doing it well means having a healthy ROI – either from a photography business or some other business. Starving artists generally don’t manage well.

      I’ve been telling starting photographers for years, they’d do better waiting tables. No overhead, easy hours.

      • @Bob, do what as a hobby? love?

        of course when you do something as a job, you have to have an understanding of business.

        However, i think it’s laughable that so many photographers blame their lack of success on semantics, such as a “hobbyist”.

        If you could ask any great painter through time, what makes a painter, they would say “Passion and paint.” I believe the same for us. Passion and a camera is all you need. money is a biproduct that comes in time.

        • @billy kidd, call it love, passion, photography, business, hobby, or semantics. It doesn’t matter what you call it or what you believe. There is a reality which exists, regardless. The bottom line is gravity. There are no free lunches. What one does is generally an asset or a liability. Besides direct costs, there is also the concept of “opportunity costs”. Which brings in the consideration of ROI . If one’s beliefs and behavior (including the “passionate painter”) are consistent with reality there is a better chance of success.

          Of course the painter could try to get around this state of *gravity*. Maybe go back to nature, live in a cave. Eat grubs and roots, and make paint from berries and bat guano. For those of us that choose to live in this social construct we call civilization there are responsibilities.

  1. The numbers are about the same as the U.S. Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-11 ( Yes, sad numbers all. Are they adding up the thousands of shooters who work staff jobs as assistants and are not yet shooters (they get a W-4)? Freelances probably fall under the category of “small business (we get a 1099),” and therefore are not included.

  2. Erica Chadwick

    The comment about the undertaker is interesting. Did they say how much the undertakers make per year? From what I know it doubles a few times over from the photographer salaries. And- there is always a demand for people to enter that business, much unlike the one we are in.

    Not sure how this relates to photography itself- just that this points out to me how we are vulnerable to economic times, while other businesses are not.

    Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2010 is a great year for each of you.

    • @Patrick Cavan Brown,

      That’s awesome! Me Too!
      I do it for free just to have my work appreciated and of course for the great exposure.

      • @Randy, Good to know. I was going to have myself cremated on Craigslist, but now I can find a *pro* to do it for free for the exposure :)

  3. It seems that it is better to work in a lab than to use one…


    Starting salary: $17,000
    Midlevel salary: $26,000
    Top salary: $49,000”

  4. It is for love and passion to create. I would love to earn close to 6 figures again and you never know. The opportunities that exist can be endless and I think this year will be much different than last year. Besides I love having a large office!

  5. Haha – and Philosopher is #11 with $33,000 / $60,000 / $105,000 Starting / Midlevel and Top Salaries. What a great study! It looks like that degree in philosophy will turn out to be practical yet.

    • @tait,

      Not so fast. Those salaries are for the three people who found work as philosophers.

  6. even though i find a list like this bullshit, it’s interesting that number 93 (photographic process worker) has the 2nd worst hiring outlook.

    • @jesse,
      Shouldn’t be a surprise. 15 years ago film was still king. Lots of labs. For the last 10 years digital is king. Lots of labs out of business.

  7. I see these list every year. Thing is lists like these will include Part-Time positions, photographers right out of school trying to build a portfolio by working at Lifetouch.

    I don’t put much faith in these unless they show how they define Photographer

  8. @CynthiaWood, from Wikipedia,

    “A roustabout is a labourer typically performing temporary, unskilled work. The term has traditionally been used to refer to traveling-circus workers or oil rig workers.”

    Many a day I have asked myself… really, how is this *that* different from working in a circus ? ( Aside from their superior earning power, of course )

  9. I love being a photographer and make a very good living at it!

    Thanks to all those that helped and continue to help me in this journey.

    Jason Lindsey

  10. One of my fathers friends purchased a photo by Diane Arbus of a boy holding a hand grenade years ago for a hundred dollars.

    They recently sold it for $170,000.

    Follow your passions. Keep shooting!

    • @Debra Frieden, LOL, How much of that did Diane get? ;P
      Is this a strong foundation for creating images or speculating?

      • @Bob, No, what I am saying is she followed her passion, which took her to some odd and out of the way places, creating some great images. She followed her passion, regardless of income, and her photographs are coveted by the art community. Some artists and photographers maintain prints, negatives and copyright for long term value. I am giving only one example of how a photographer may not see a high dollar value in the immediate, but may expand to have their work valued far higher over time. Sadly, I wish we did have a crystal ball for the speculative issue. ;-p

        • @Debra Frieden, Well, she followed her passion and also ended her own life. While the world loves to collect and sell the work of dead artists, I hope we can find a more optimistic example.

          • @Dani, True it is sad. Other examples of increasing value of photographic work: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Cindy Sherman, Jill Greenberg, Chuck Close.

        • @Debra Frieden, It’s can be easier to disregard “income” when one comes from a wealthy family :)

          I am not one of those that likes her work much.
          If you are looking for a true value, it is not found outside of yourself. It is not to be found in what others think of you, your work, or the speculative financial value of either. Value comes from within.
          Having said that, there are examples of artists that do good work and don’t need to starve. Along with countless “starving artists” that can’t pay their bills and also can’t afford to create their art. Just because a photographer is a professional in another career does not mean they can not also create meaningful work.

  11. One of the reasons I enjoy being a photographer is BECAUSE I am in control of how much I do or do not make….both financially as well as creatively.

  12. “An artists with an MBA sounds like a powerful combination. Anyway, here’s to the decade where the artists take over. That will probably be frustrating for some people, hopefully not you…” from a previous post.

  13. So, again i come across some crappy statistic on your website, I am not even out of college yet and I made more than 17,000 dollars on photography this year, i think you go and seek out the worst information.

    • @m2,

      Here *sunshine* lemme see if I can brighten your life a lil:

      “But the bureau’s examination of Brooks’s records found not one 2003 graduate at any degree level whose reported wages and employment tenure were enough to generate even $50,000 of earning potential.

      Indeed, of the 45 graduates reported by Brooks as employed full time, the average income was about $26,000, the report said. The average indebtedness of this group was around $74,000”.

      Of course this was back when things were a bit better.
      Btw – Consider net income, and ROI, over the entire career.

  14. Probably best to read clearly before making comments. The photographer statistic only considers salary positions which do not make up the bulk of the income generated in the photography world. As a freelancer the income potential is far greater or far worse probably for most people as they just wont have what it takes but the opportunity exists to make a huge amount of money at least by the standards from that report.

  15. Ha ha ha – Love it. I think I might become a podiatrist although I have no idea what it is. I hope to god this is not true, as much as I love photography as a career I still have a desire to be able to live in a house bigger than a cardboard box (london house prices are CRAZY) and travel further than the Isle of Wight!