Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

$alaries in the City

Broadcast Media
To air is divine

Of course, in the attention-deficit age, it makes perfect sense that broadcast journalists are the biggest media breadwinners. On-air reporters at the major networks start at about $75,000 to $100,000 and go as high as $300,000. Major-network news producers in New York start at about $70,000 and can reach the $1 million range as executive producers of ratings draws like Today and 20/20. ("CBS tends to be the lowest-paying across the board," points out one major agent.) For producers at news-magazine shows like 60 Minutes, salaries start a bit higher, at around $125,000, and also top off at around $400,000 to $500,000.

"Some in news won't admit it, but the real high-end jobs are at the news magazines," asserts one on-air correspondent, who points out that those with his job at shows like Dateline rake in between $200,000 and $500,000. "Aside from Sam Donaldson, White House correspondents only make about $300,000."

Dog Walkers
Pooper troopers clean up

The going rate for letting the dogs out? With owners paying $10 to $20 per half-hour of exercise, you take home about $8 an hour if you work for somebody else. Some services limit hours to avoid burnout: Angela Pulci, owner of Puppy Paths, Inc., employs walkers for four to six hours a day, tops. Most of her hires are artists and students -- and housewives "who want to make extra money so they don't have to ask their husbands for it." But bone up on your pooch pampering and go out on your own, and you can more than double your money. Eddie Bimonte launched Eddie's Pet Service after a year of working for another company for $7.50 an hour. Now he puts in an eight-to-ten-hour day as a private walker, charging $15 per half-hour, for a total of $4,000 a month -- 70 different dogs a week. "I'm a genuine, gushy smotherer," Bimonte says. "People would rather pay a few extra dollars for a dog walker who is loving and truly interested in being with the animal, not just to schlep it down the street and pick up its poop."

. . . and all the rubber chicken you can eat

There isn't much about the current mayor of New York that can be considered modest -- except, perhaps, his salary, which, when you consider that he runs the equivalent of the fourth-largest corporation in the country, is a tad low at $195,000. Still, Rudy's draw is $30,000 more than he made last year (not counting all those box seats at Yankee Stadium) and $16,000 more than Governor Pataki brings in. Moving down the executive roster, police chief Bernard Kerik makes $150,500; Sunny Mindel, the mayor's press secretary, gets $120,000; deputy mayors make $156,000. Parks and Recreation commissioner Henry Stern makes $150,500. Borough presidents earn $135,000. City Council members make $90,000 (although a few supplement that with outside jobs, usually in law firms).

On the state level, state senators make $79,500, and assemblymen $57,500. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer gets $151,500. Members of the judiciary are in the same ballpark: Jonathan Lippman, chief administrative judge of the courts, $147,600; Judith S. Kaye, chief judge, Court of Appeals, $129,000. And federal judges have parity: Robert D. Sack, a Second Circuit appellate judge, makes $149,000; Kimba Wood, a judge for the Southern District, $141,300.

Get the voters to send you to Washington, and you'll earn $136,700 as either a senator or a representative. Working for your senator may be a prestigious job, but it's anything but cushy: Starting salaries for the New York congressional delegation's staff are in the mid-twenties, and people with a few years' experience get paid in the mid-thirties; no federal staff member's salary will ever exceed that of the senator or congressman he or she works for, though. But one former New York congressional staff member now working in corporate-government relations (translation: lobbying) says he doesn't regret his low-pay years because without the experience and contacts gained, he wouldn't be pulling down six figures now.

Elected officials themselves often land lucrative second careers (not to mention book deals). Now that he's no longer "Senator Pothole," Al D'Amato charges $15,000 to $30,000 for each of the twelve or so speeches he gives a year. That's on top of what he earns from his job at the corporate-consulting company he founded.

The people in politics really cashing in are those least accountable to the public. As a campaign manager on a hotly contested state-senate race, you can make $4,000 to $6,000 monthly; that can jump to as high as $8,000 to $10,000 if you're managing someone like Rush Holt or Dick Zimmer on a congressional ticket. The big bucks are reserved for Senate campaign managers, who can make as much as $25,000 a month. Media consultants draw $25,000 a month plus 15 percent of the total advertising costs of a campaign. It is also common for them to demand retainers -- which can exceed $50,000 -- because, according to one consultant, "you're always afraid that you're going to get stiffed at the end, so you try to get as much up front as you can."

Public Relations
The best friends money can buy

P.R. maven Lizzie Grubman presides over a staff of 30 and says she gets 100 résumés a week from aspiring public-relations professionals. That's about all you need to know to understand why P.R. starting salaries seldom get over the $30,000 hurdle. Young P.R. people often find themselves where the action is -- but they're definitely not getting rich. "Public relations is just not a tremendous moneymaker," Grubman says. "You have to own the business to make money." Needless to say, Grubman, who's 29 years old, owns the business.

Before you set up your own shop, however, you'll want to score a few clients in an established firm. Win an account and you'll move up to be an account executive. If you're successful, you'll manage people and be a senior AE making $45,000 to $55,000. After five years, you'd start looking to be made a VP in a smaller agency or an account supervisor in a larger one. In either place, you'd bring home $75,000 to $100,000.

Some P.R. professionals end the infighting and maneuvering that come with the territory at certain agencies by going to corporations that regularly hire media specialists. Someone doing marketing communications at a big company, for a salary in the neighborhood of $60,000, has more control over the strategy. "You may still pick up the phone for the press calls," says Bill Heyman, a P.R. and corporate-communications recruiter, "but you'll also be putting together the press plan."

The Lizzy Grubmans and Peggy Siegals of the world may know lots of celebrities -- but (surprise, surprise) the big money in P.R. tends to lie in corporate finance, where the most senior professionals can break a million handling such sensitive matters as investor relations and crisis communication. Financial P.R. firms tend to be smaller, and often structure their compensation with modest salaries and large bonuses: A boutique financial like Abernathy MacGregor Group or Citigate Sard Verbinnen -- where clients are counseled on how to deal with the media during a difficult merger or a Firestone-tire mess -- might pay $150,000 in salary and a $150,000 bonus when business is booming. And If you've looked at the financial-news channels on cable TV lately, you've noticed that business is definitely booming.

Dry Cleaners
The power of the pressed

"If you want to make a lot of money -- and not work -- the dry-cleaning business is a bad choice," says Bill Seitz, executive director of the Neighborhood Cleaners Association International, who estimates that owners of most of the 425 dry cleaner's plants (where the work is done on premises) in Manhattan log a minimum of 70 hours per week (most are family-run, and roughly 40 percent are Korean-owned). The average annual sales for cleaners located in the "Gold Coast" (the Upper East and West Sides) run between $250,000 and $400,000 (a "good" customer spends $1,000 a year). The owner's net profit? Ten to twelve percent, or around $40,000. Paid-per-hour workers like "rough pressers" ("That's not their attitude," Seitz laughs), who iron heavier garments like pants, get $10 per hour, while "spotters" -- who swipe soup stains from your Prada pants with surgical precision -- are compensated for their technical expertise at $15 per hour.

Their fingers do the working

The higher the body part, at least at nail salons, the higher the salary. At neighborhood nail salons like Nail's Noble, most of which are Korean-owned, workers start at $200 a week, glossing that milky, pink-hued Delicacy on toes, then move up to a half-leg wax and bikini wax ($300 a week) and, finally, to fingernails. Five years into it, you'll be pulling in $600 a week, not including tips, which run another $200 a week. At glam salons like Melange at the Peninsula Hotel, rookie manicurists start at a day rate of $50, with a $10 raise every six months (plus a 15 percent tip from each $20 client -- as many as nine a day, booked back-to-back). Cut enough cuticles, build a clientele, and you could make $80 a day. That's $26,750 a year.

It all ads up

Madison Avenue could be a poster child for our flush economy: Revenues are up, and the market for talented employees is tight. The industry is divided into three branches: creatives (the artists and writers who dream up the jingles and slogans), account execs (who deal directly with the clients), and media buyers (who buy the ad space and airtime).

Media buyers, even young assistants, tend to be extremely popular, since they're responsible for the purse strings. "When you go into the business," says one former media director, "you don't think about the fact that you might get invited to a boat cruise or to a football game. It's just one of the perks of the job."

Perks like that, of course, come in handy on an entry-level straight-out-of-college salary for an assistant media buyer that's in the high twenties. In perhaps eighteen months, you get promoted to media planner or buyer for about $40,000. Up the ladder a rung -- and a salary bump of maybe $20,000 -- is the position of media supervisor. After three to five years, these people generally become associate media directors and their salaries enter the $70,000-to-$100,000 bracket. From here, you move to media director and begin earning around $125,000, with a bonus of $6,000 to $10,000.

The account department is an agency's lifeline to its clients. Entry-level assistant account execs begin a little bit higher than their media peers, but often come through the door with M.B.A.'s. Account executives, the next level up, make $50,000 to $60,000 at big agencies. As an account supervisor you'll earn about $80,000; as a management supervisor, $120,000 to $150,000, with a $10,000 to $15,000 bonus. By your twelfth year, if all goes well, you might be a group director, with a salary of about $200,000.

On the creative side, there are spot directors who shoot the actual commercials and creative directors who dream up ideas for each ad. While the average spot director earns $15,000 to $20,000 per day of shooting, superstars like Ridley Scott and Spike Jonze get significantly higher fees. And the best perk, adds David Perry, director of broadcast production at Saatchi & Saatchi, is "all manner of assistants taking care of what you need. It's a little like being a rock star."

Office creative personnel have to content themselves with less travel and slightly smaller paychecks. Junior copywriters begin at about $40,000; shed the "junior" from your title, and you earn about $65,000. As an art director your salary will approach $100,000. The watershed in this sector comes when you arrive at creative director, running a group of projects within large accounts for as much as $120,000, with a potential bonus of $20,000 to $30,000. Executive creative directors manage groups of creative directors and command between $150,000 and $200,000. Those who handle larger accounts can earn as much as $350,000. "It's totally fun work and you get almost enough money to make you want to vote Republican," says Cheryl Van Ooyen, group creative director at Deutsch. "But if you broke it down per hour, I think I'd make more working at McDonald's."