Models pose for artists, photographers, or customers to help advertise a variety of products, including clothing, cosmetics, food, and appliances.


Models typically do the following:

  • Display clothing and merchandise in print and online advertisements
  • Promote products and services in television commercials
  • Wear designers' clothing for runway fashion shows
  • Model accessories, such as handbags, shoes, and jewelry, and promote beauty products, including fragrances and cosmetics
  • Pose for workers taking photos or creating paintings or sculptures
  • Work closely with photographers, hair and clothing stylists, makeup artists, and clients to produce a desired look
  • Create and maintain a portfolio of their work
  • Travel to meet and interview with potential clients
  • Conduct research on the product being promoted—for example, the designer or type of fabric of a particular article of clothing

Models appear in different types of media to promote a product or service. Models advertise products and merchandise in magazine or newspaper advertisements, department store catalogs, or television commercials. Increasingly, models are appearing in online ads or on retail websites.

Other models may appear on fashion magazine covers or in photographs accompanying magazine articles. These models typically participate in photo shoots and pose for photographers to show off the features of clothing and other products. Models change their posture and facial expressions to capture the look the client wants. The photographer usually takes many pictures of the model in different poses and expressions during the photo shoot.

Models often display clothes and merchandise live in different situations. At fashion shows, models stand, turn, and walk to show off clothing to an audience of photographers, journalists, designers, and garment buyers. Other clients may require models to interact directly with customers. In retail establishments and department stores, models display clothing directly to shoppers and describe the features and prices of the merchandise. At trade shows or conventions, models show off a business’ products and provide information to consumers. These models may work alongside demonstrators and product promoters to help advertise and sell merchandise.

Other models pose for sketch artists, painters, and sculptors.

Almost all models work with agents, who provide a link between the models and clients. Clients prefer to work with agents, making it very difficult for a model to pursue a freelance career. Agents recruit new models, advise and train models, and promote them to clients in return for a portion of the model’s earnings. Models must do research before signing with an agency to make sure it has a good reputation in the modeling industry. For information on agencies, models should contact a local consumer affairs organization, such as the Better Business Bureau.

Models often prepare for photo shoots or fashion shows by having their hair and makeup done by professionals in those industries. The hair stylists and makeup artists may touch up the model's hair and makeup and change the model's look throughout the event. However, models might sometimes be responsible for applying their own makeup and bringing their own clothing.

Models spend a considerable amount of time trying to book jobs with potential clients. Models put together and maintain portfolios, print composite cards, and travel to meet prospective clients. A portfolio is a collection of a model's previous work and is carried to all client meetings and bookings. A composite card contains the best photographs from a model's portfolio, along with his or her measurements.

Because advertisers often need to target specific segments of the population, models may specialize in a certain area. For example, petite and plus-size fashions are modeled by women whose sizes are, respectively, smaller and larger than that worn by the typical model. Models who are disabled may be used to model fashions or products for consumers with disabilities. “Parts” models have a body part, such as a hand or foot, particularly well suited to model products such as nail polish or shoes.

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Work Environment

Models held about 4,800 jobs in May 2012. Most models work for clothing stores. Other models work for educational services, including modeling schools, or for employment placement services, such as casting and modeling agencies.

Models work in a variety of conditions, from comfortable studios and runway fashion shows to outdoors in all weather conditions.

Work Schedules

Many models work part time and have unpredictable work schedules. Models must be ready on short notice to work for a show or a photo shoot, and the number of hours worked will vary depending on the job. Many models experience periods of unemployment.

Schedules can be demanding and stressful, although some models may enjoy the frequent travel to meet clients in different cities.

Education and Training

No formal education is required and training is limited. Specific requirements depend on the client, with different jobs requiring different physical characteristics. However, most models must be within certain ranges for height, weight, and clothing size to meet the needs of fashion designers, photographers, and advertisers.


Although there are no formal education requirements, some aspiring models attend modeling schools that provide training in posing, walking, applying makeup, and other basic tasks. Attending such schools, however, does not necessarily lead to more job opportunities.

Although some models are discovered when agents scout for “fresh faces” at modeling schools, most agencies allow applicants to email photos directly to the agency. Models who are well liked are then invited to be interviewed and seen in person by an agent. Some agencies also have “open calls” where aspiring models can walk into an agency during a specified time and meet directly with agents and clients.


Models advance by working more regularly and being selected for assignments that have higher pay. They may appear in magazines, print campaigns, commercials, or runway shows that have higher profiles and provide more widespread exposure.

Because advancement depends on a model’s previous work, maintaining a good portfolio of high-quality, up-to-date photographs is important to getting assignments.

A model's selection of an agency is also important for advancement: the better the reputation and skill of the agency, the more assignments a model is likely to get.

Personality and Interests

Models typically have an interest in the Building, Creating and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Creating or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a model, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Models should also possess the following specific qualities:

Specific requirements depend on the client, but most models must be within certain ranges for height, weight, and clothing size to meet the needs of fashion designers, photographers, and advertisers. Requirements may change slightly from time to time, as the perceptions of physical beauty change.

Courteous. Models must interact with a large number of people, such as agents, photographers, and customers. It is important to be polite, professional, prompt, and respectful.

Discipline. A model's career depends on the maintenance of his or her physical characteristics. Models must control their diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep to stay healthy and photogenic. Haircuts, pedicures, and manicures are necessary work-related expenses.

Listening skills. Models must be able to take direction from photographers and clients during photo shoots and commercials.

Organizational skills. Models must be able to manage their portfolios and their work and travel schedules.

Persistence. Competition for jobs is strong and most clients have specific needs for each job, so patience and persistence are essential.

Photogenic. Models spend most of their time being photographed. They must be comfortable in front of a camera for photographers to capture the desired look.

Style. Models must have a basic knowledge of hair styling, makeup, and clothing. For photographic and runway work, models must be able to move gracefully and confidently.


The median hourly wage for models was $9.02 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.81, and the top 10 percent earned more than $20.91.

Many models work part time and have unpredictable work schedules. Models must be ready on short notice to work for a show or a photo shoot, and the number of hours worked will vary depending on the job. Many models experience periods of unemployment.

Schedules can be demanding and stressful, although some models may enjoy the frequent travel to meet clients in different cities.

Job Outlook

Employment of models is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 700 new jobs over the 10-year period.

Demand for models is expected to increase as the economy continues to grow. Increasing consumer confidence and spending will encourage the expansion of retail clothing stores, the industry employing the largest number of models.

In addition, efforts to increase sales and the growing competition from online retailers will likely force stores to create a better overall shopping experience for customers. Stores will rely in part on models to create a more inviting, customer-service oriented experience for shoppers. By interacting directly with consumers, models increase awareness of a store’s merchandise and create more positive impressions and interest among customers.

Rising consumer confidence and spending will also encourage businesses to increase their advertising and marketing budgets to reach out to potential customers. Businesses may also introduce new advertising campaigns and product launches. These will require models to promote and market products in stores, television commercials, and fashion shows.

Models may increasingly appear in online publications, digital advertisements, and websites. Spending on online and mobile advertisements will likely increase in response to the continuing growth in online shopping and consumer use of smartphones and tablets. Although models will still be needed to promote products in print advertisements and catalogs, businesses may begin to shift away from this traditional form of advertising.

In addition, businesses may cut back on their advertising budgets during economic downturns, making them less likely to develop new advertising campaigns or hire models.

Job Prospects

Many people are drawn to this occupation because of its glamour and potential for fame. Some enjoy traveling and modeling for famous designers. In addition, there are no education or training requirements for entering this occupation. Therefore, many applicants will be competing for very few job openings.

Although there may be more jobs available in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, competition for these jobs is expected to be very strong. Aspiring models may have the best job opportunities in smaller cities working for smaller modeling agencies and local clients and businesses.

Modeling careers are typically short, and many agencies and clients are always looking for new, young models. Therefore, younger models with a solid portfolio will have the best opportunities for jobs. However, age, weight, and height requirements are typically less rigid for models appearing in commercials and advertisements than for those looking to become a runway or fashion model. As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse and businesses become more globalized, demand for racially and ethnically diverse models may increase.

For More Information

For information about modeling schools and agencies in your area, contact a local consumer affairs organization, such as the Better Business Bureau.


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).