In a world where everyone discusses the most intimate matters with stunning frankness – and on national TV, for goodness’ sake! – salaries are the last taboo. If we don’t talk about money, goes the neo-Victorian platitude, we’ll have more time and energy to talk about the finer things. To which we say: Like what, for instance? Politics? Maybe if the culture were more open about money, it might actually make us nicer. And at least we wouldn’t spend so much time obsessing about it, and envying our friends, and cursing ourselves for not choosing investment banking as a career. It was in the spirit of this financial glasnost that we began an exhaustive survey of New York’s most important professions. We studied doctors, dog walkers, bankers, baristas, headhunters, advertising honchos, prostitutes – just about anyone who does anything in this town to make a buck. And surprisingly, most of them – in the strictest of confidence, of course – spilled the beans. It was heartening that only one profession preserved the taboo by maintaining silence on this matter: the clergy. Now, this may have something to do with their sacred trust. On the other hand, they may not be entirely without the sin of envy in their hearts. “If you find out what everyone else is making,” said one rabbi, “give me a call.”
Who Makes How Much
The tipping point
Bartenders have a high burnout rate. It isn’t only the odd hours. At a downtown watering hole, a night’s shift will put $200 to $250 (minimum wage plus tips) in your pocket, but you might have to slide patrons a few free drinks to get the tips rolling. At some of the hotter clubs where there’s music, you don’t get to build a clientele, but the volume of customers can yield $300 to $400 a night. Barkeeps at a fashionable spot like Asia de Cuba rake in $500 to $600 in an evening. Still, these guys rarely work more than three nights a week. If you want steady money serving drinks, a hotel is the place to be. Hotel bartenders are union members; they make $17 an hour plus tips – and benefits. A good bartender at the Plaza’s Oak Bar can make $50,000 to $70,000 per year including tips; $100,000 isn’t unheard of.
A slight pain in the bank
Remember those coffee mugs that read, if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich? These days, a doctor’s income, while nothing to sneeze at, is unlikely to make a software engineer, or even a day trader, jealous. Making matters worse, there remains the widespread perception that doctors are overpaid. “They resent the fact that patients resent what they earn,” says physician-placement specialist Richard Glehan, “the idea that a heart surgeon is making $500,000 off of sick people. Whereas nobody questions what Michael Eisner of Disney made when he exercised $72 million in options a couple of years ago.” Add the fact that the closer you get to any metropolitan area, the lower the demand and the lower the compensation – unless you’re a top specialist. “Traditionally, the Midwest and the South have the lowest number of doctors per 100,000 people,” says Glehan, “and they make more.”
It’s hard to generalize about doctors’ salaries; a Park Avenue plastic surgeon who only accepts cash (and charges what he pleases) is worlds away from the foreign-medical-school graduate practicing as an internist at a hip center in downtown Brooklyn.
Broadly speaking, primary-care doctors make the lowest salaries. A first-year internist makes $115,000 (in Nebraska, that number climbs to $160,000). Pediatricians start at $110,000.
Specialists make more: An OB/GYN starts at around $135,000 (but there’s $10,000 to $15,000 more in it for you if you’re a woman) and by mid-career is earning $300,000. An ophthalmologist at mid-career, depending on how specialized the work is, can make from $300,000 to $800,000. But the guys who do corrective eye surgery operate outside the managed-care system and easily earn high-six-figure salaries. Anesthesiology is becoming hot, starting at $130,000 and going up to $400,000. Radiologists start at about $140,000 and reach $500,000.
Cardiothoracic surgeons earn a minimum of $200,000; half a million is not a problem for most, and some make more than a million. Noninvasive cardiologists and gastroenterologists earn $300,000 to $400,000.
General surgeons make about $150,000 in their first year and $300,000 at mid-career. Plastic surgeons start at $140,000, and the sky’s the limit after that. According to the Greater New York Hospital Association, registered nurses in the metropolitan area average $47,742, although hospital RNs can go higher: At Beth Israel, the starting salary for a nurse right out of school is $51,000. And supervisory nurses who have worked there for years make as much as $70,000 or $80,000. Physical therapists average $45,000, and pharmacists $52,000.
A whole lot of commerce going on
“This is a business of heartbreak, a business of dreams,” says Suzanne Hebron, managing director of commercial investments at Corcoran Group, which claims an annual volume of more than $2 billion. “Everybody sees those big deals. But things can fall apart in a million different ways. You have to have a lot in the hopper.” For the first year, Hebron says, expect to suffer a lot. “You’re pounding the pavement, getting listings, learning about buildings, calling the seller, getting him to the point that he trusts you with the listing.” Then, “when you have your listings, you have everything – it’s like having gold.” By year two, says Hebron, “you should reap at least six figures – or you’re in the wrong business.” Beginners split commissions with the house 60-40 in the house’s favor. The split shifts to the broker’s favor as he gets experience – reaching as high as 70-30. Commissions in commercial real estate are negotiable (versus the standard 6 percent on the residential side). “Nobody’s held to anything. It’s whatever you can get.” A 5 percent commission on a $10 million property is not unheard of.
Old media, old salaries
“It’s not so bad as it used to be,” says Lorraine Shanley, a publishing recruiter, “before Harry Potter.” Publishers have been suffering brain drain, with promising talent defecting to the Internet or other more glamorous businesses. Random House’s recent move to a $30,000 starting salary may have turned the tide, but Shanley suggests that some sex appeal comes from a renewed focus on electronic publishing, big advances, and the presence of world-straddling media conglomerates like Viacom, Time Warner, and Bertelsmann in the book business. Once you get in the door, the real salary escalators are in marketing, and especially publicity, where the promotions come fast and furious and a decent publicist should make $65,000. A marketing director should make $85,000 to $100,000 or more. In editorial, where everyone seems to want to work, the salaries start low and stay there until you get a big job offer across town or have a hit author. Senior editors make $55,000 to $90,000; executive editors pull down closer to $100,000 or more. Establish a list and make your name in the business, and you should be able to make in the low six figures; the editor-in-chief of a good-size imprint makes $175,000, and the publisher of a larger imprint should make $250,000 or more.
Haul the right moves
“It takes a special kinda person to handle garbage,” says a manager at a private waste-disposal company. “Take some guy out of Wall Street, stick him on the back of a truck, and the second it rains or snows he’s outta there. Now you’ve got garbage that isn’t picked up – a very extreme tragedy.” So what, exactly, does it cost to prevent such a calamity? City-employed sanitation workers – whose job requires a high-school diploma or a G.E.D. – start at $27,842 and peak, after five years, at $44,441 (though raking in overtime increases this “significantly”). Not paltry pay – just about $4,000 less than a cop or a teacher makes – except that in the private sector, without the diploma, sanitation workers start out pulling in $44,200.
Doormen add cachet, but they don’t cash in. “I think it stinks,” says a 25-year-old doorman at a West Village high-rise, referring to the piddling pay. A union doorman – and they are all in the union – must log 30 months on the job at $25,680 before he tops out at $32,000 (the same wages apply to front-desk workers and porters, regardless of the building’s size or neighborhood). According to Bill Meyerson, of the Service Employees International Union, Local 32B-32J, which represents the city’s building-service employees, the only way to move up is to become a super, for an average salary of $39,000. Add the $5,000 in Christmas-bonus money that’s common in a big building, and it still isn’t enough to keep the young doorman nostalgic about logging and lugging packages and guarding tenants against jilted lovers and stalkers: “This is definitely not a career.”
Almost no business in show business
“You never feel that you’ve got enough money to live,” says Sean Martin Hingston, a featured dancer in the Broadway hit Contact, who’s been earning a living as an actor, singer, and dancer since he was 18. “When we started Contact, we were doing a workshop, making $311 a week. Now that it’s a hit, I’ve been stashing the money away because I don’t know when there’s going to be a drought.”
The minimum weekly salary for actors on Broadway last year was $1,215, and Off Broadway minimums range from $440 to $763. But Actors’ Equity confirms that fewer than 15 percent of its dues-paying members work during any given week and the average annual earning for an actor in 1999 was $14,936.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a hit, the ensemble, says Hingston, makes something more than the minimum; a featured part might be two to four times the minimum. For a lead, it’s five to ten times the minimum, and it’s “through the roof” for a star like Bernadette Peters.
In the orchestra pit on Broadway, musicians take home $1,220 a week for eight shows – that’s $63,440 if the show lasts a year. A regular gig at the New York Philharmonic pays $91,260.
Seasoned dancers at the New York City Ballet make $1,500 a week. A dancer like Ethan Steifel, who guest-stars with major companies, makes $3,000 to $5,000 a performance.
Of course, you can do a lot better in pictures – if you can get the work. The Screen Actors Guild says its minimum day rate is $617, or $2,142 for a five-day week. For commercial work, it’s a $500 session fee for shooting the commercial and a sliding scale for residuals, ending at nearly $50 every time the commercial airs. But sag reports its members’ average annual incomes are under $12,840 – not including waitressing.
It ain’t all bad news
Why pursue a career in the media? Perhaps to bask in an inflated sense of personal power. Or to savor the image of millions of complete strangers cursing your name over the breakfast table. Whatever the reasons, the money is usually not chief among them.
Take magazines. On the lowest rungs of a masthead are editorial assistants and fact checkers, paid between $22,000 and $28,000. Some of the more generous parent companies, including Time Warner, pay for overtime hours, which at a high-pressure title like Entertainment Weekly can double your weekly take-home. At The New Yorker, first-year fact checkers pull in $30,000 to $35,000 (just don’t dream of moving up the masthead; for one thing, there isn’t one). “You’ll make nothing for a while,” says an editor at a major consumer magazine, “and then suddenly you hit the senior bracket as a writer or an editor and boom – in comes the real cash.”
What exactly qualifies as “real cash,” of course, depends on the parent company. Freshman staff writers and reporters at Time Warner make between $35,000 and $50,000, about 10 percent more than at most other companies. Senior writers at marquee publications like Sports Illustrated and Time earn between $60,000 and $150,000; their editors make between $100,000 and $150,000. The top editors make about $250,000, with the editors-in-chief making $500,000 to $1 million. In addition, “some of the top people are getting bonuses equal to good salaries,” says a Time Warner writer.
Condé Nast also has a reputation for generosity – at least on the upper rungs. Writers and editors working at the lowest levels bring in $30,000 to $40,000. But once you graduate to the next tier, working until ten (with, of course, a radio car waiting downstairs to take you to dinner) doesn’t seem so bad. Executive editors make $200,000 to $300,000. Photo editors can make from $125,000 to $200,000. Art directors make $180,000 to $225,000. “And these guys are getting massive perks,” says an editor. “They’re set.” As are the editors-in-chief. Depending on the profitability and profile of the magazine, their pay ranges from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
On the advertising end of magazines – the guys getting Calvin and Donna to sign for millions – pay is better. A junior ad salesman, the typical starting job, makes between $45,000 and $70,000. Stay on that path and your pay could increase to around $150,000 as a senior salesman. Publishers’ pay packets depend on the profile of the magazine, ranging from $200,000 to $800,000, with bonuses that can double these figures.
Newspapers are a whole different story. The New York Times, not surprisingly, is the best-paying paper in town. Copy editors start out at $70,000 and earn up to $120,000. Mid-level editors can make $110,000 to $250,000, while those closer to the top net $300,000 to $400,000. Reporters’ salaries are established by the Newspaper Guild, so while their pay starts out high – $70,720 – it doesn’t increase as exponentially as that of their magazine counterparts, peaking after decades at around $120,000. Columnists, however, are not members of the guild, so, depending on the luminosity of the star, pay ranges from $150,000 to $350,000.
The days of the chain-smoking, hard-drinking tabloid reporter may be over (Steve Dunleavy notwithstanding), but the pay scale at the Post and the News, which aren’t members of the Newspaper Guild, still smack of that era: At the Post, cub reporters out on a beat make between $30,000 and $40,000, the same as the guys up late editing their copy. Considering that the entire paper revolves around the dish in “Page Six,” it’s not a shock that reporters there earn more – between $50,000 and $60,000, the same as feature writers. Top writers net between $70,000 and $80,000, while the major columnists make between $100,000 and $150,000.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
Not just child’s pay
Standard starting salary for those who cater to the needs of the next generation of Gothamites is $400 a week, with a premium, as high as $100 a week, for additional kids – especially twins. While the vast majority of the city’s nannies work off the books, some sign on with agencies serving the city’s high-end professionals. They can earn $800 to $1,000 weekly, topping out at $2,000 for surrogate parents who cover 24-7 for, say, actors and actresses who travel a lot. Applicants for top spots must know New York City (toddlers need tour guides, too) and have at least two years of experience in “a valid home, similar to the one they’ll work in,” says George Handin, the owner of the International Agency. “There’s nothing wrong with Jackson Heights or Astoria,” says Handin, “but a nanny is more likely to get placed in Manhattan if she has references from Little Neck or Douglaston.” Thanks to young moneyed Manhattanites, nanny salaries have doubled since the eighties. “In a select crowd of multimillionaires and billionaires, there are bidding wars for nannies.”
The hosts with the most
“It’s not a thankless job,” says Harald G. Mootz, president of the New York City Association of Hotel Concierges and assistant chef concierge at the Plaza Athénée. “To be able to pull off certain things – like getting a corner table for somebody – they come back and they’ve got that twinkle in their eye; what you did made their stay a little bit better.” For one regular guest from the Virgin Islands, Mootz micromanaged the delivery of caviar from a Manhattan purveyor to the client in his Caribbean home in time for dinner that night. “I just consider it part of the job.” Junior concierges at a four- or five-star hotel make roughly $30,000; assistant chef concierges get about $35,000, plus possible commissions (from Greyline, for instance), which can jack wages up to $10,000 extra a year, not to mention tips from grateful guests. Chef concierges, the highest position, top out at $50,000. Members of the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or (“The Golden Keys”), an international association of concierges who have logged at least five years in the industry, can earn even more, sometimes as much as $80,000.
Wheeling the wheeler-dealers
A real or perceived need? Who knows. But security-minded moguls like Ron Perelman, who like their chauffeurs locked and loaded, are willing to pay up to $100,000 to put the likes of an ex-CIA or FBI agent behind the wheel. Private chauffeurs without the firepower survive on just $30,000 to $50,000. Livery drivers, the guys who take you home from the office late at night, can take in $30,000 a year if they own the car – which most do – after they pay expenses. But there are exceptions. Says Louis Gargiulo, general manager of Allstate Car & Limo: “I’ve heard of people working ten to twelve hours a day, six or seven days a week,” to pull in $60,000 to $70,000.
Cabbies, too, tend to make $100 a day over expenses. Those who own the cab and medallion have the luxury of working the most profitable hours – morning and afternoon rushes. But their counterparts who lease have to work the standard six twelve-hour shifts a week to make the same $30,000.
Where sucking-up is a given
In the hours before curtains go up on (and off) Broadway, you can find actors all over town rehearsing their lines (and humming show tunes) while vacuuming, dusting, and polishing floors. Jim Ireland, owner of White Glove Elite, a cleaning service, employs many off-hour thespians to scour upscale abodes. While the going rate for the average house cleaner is $9 per hour, folks employed by high-end referral services like White Glove can take home up to $15 per hour (the client pays $17). Not bad for extra cash – since it’s a referral service, taxes are up to the client and the cleaner – but can a career dust-buster support a family? Ireland assures that working eight-hour days, six days a week, can yield $31,000.
Dicing for dollars
If you’re considering trading your office togs for a toque, consider this: Line cooks, those folks slaving over the stove, make at least $10 an hour. Work your way up to sous chef or pastry chef and you could pull down $45,000 to $100,000 – if you can sauté well enough to impress the brigade at Daniel. According to our sources, chefs at Danny Meyer’s ever-popular nightspots make $100,000 to $125,000, but with perks and bonuses that figure can more than double.
If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, there’s still money to be made out front. Seasoned restaurant folks say a good waiter can make an honest $50,000 at a significant name restaurant and as much as $75,000 in the city’s busiest and best places. Sommeliers, who push the high-margin product, can make $65,000 to $80,000 – but if they move a lot of big-ticket wines that number can go higher. And a general manager, who runs the place, should expect to report at least $100,000 on her 1099.
Money talks, everybody walks
Greed – good, bad, or indifferent – is the norm on Wall Street. It’s impossible to imagine the financial world without it. So even rookies make salaries that in other businesses take years to achieve – and move up swiftly from there. Not that everyone becomes a Master of the Universe. Wall Street is divided into the buy side and the sell side. Sell-side firms (for instance, Merrill Lynch) make most of their money on fees from underwriting companies and selling stock and investment ideas. Buy-side firms are primarily involved in managing people’s money (Fidelity, for example). Broadly speaking, sell-siders make more money.
The classic Wall Street entry point is the junior analyst position, which functions as a kind of just-out-of-college apprenticeship. Junior analysts spend two years as grist for the money mills, then return to campus for an M.B.A. The pay is in the $40,000s, but with a second-year bonus it averages out to $150,000 for two years’ work.
After business school, prepare to make some real money. Second-year associates can earn $250,000; by the fifth year, you might make $750,000 – plenty for that starter home in Greenwich. By the time you’re a managing director, you could be in an oceanfront mansion with a $10 million paycheck.
At the top of the investment-banking heap are the mergers-and-acquisitions specialists. Last year, even these elite ranks were fending off raids from dot-coms. But the collapse of Internet compensation probably won’t affect M&A salaries. “The volume of mergers and IPOs this year is ahead of the pace for ‘99,” says Scott Dinhofer of the Concorde Group, a recruiter who specializes in M&A. “So this year’s numbers should be up at least another 10 to 20 percent.”
In the nineties, equity analysts joined M&A directors onstage as the rock stars of the financial world. There are two types of equity analysts: the buy-side kind, who study companies to find value, and the sell-side kind, who flog companies that their bank has underwritten in order to create value. The latter make a lot more money – star analysts like Mary Meeker earn upwards of $15 million.
Portfolio managers aren’t as glamorous – or as highly paid. Starting salaries average $80,000 with a $10,000 or $15,000 bonus – and even great portfolio managers, if they don’t change gears, tend to top out at $700,000.
Traders run the gamut from the old-style, hairy-chested, towel-snapping, alpha-male cardiac cases to the egghead gnomes of Long-Term Capital who almost brought down the world financial system. Stereotypes aside, it’s a high-anxiety job, with concomitant high burnout rate. The entry points vary: Some sign on with a small shop and start off as a runner. Others apply for one of the coveted training programs run by firms like Merrill or Goldman. Base salaries start at $50,000 and go up to $200,000, depending on the firm or fund and the accounts and experience of the trader. Traders get a percentage of the profits they make trading other people’s money, often 18 to 25 percent. “Good equity traders can make between $1 million and $2 million,” says Michael Flood, a partner at Boyden. And their bosses make even more. Those handling trading management make at least $4 million and as much as $6.5 million. At that rate, who wouldn’t want to burn out young – and enjoy a very long retirement?
What’s love got to do with it?
Perhaps it’s only on The West Wing that women work their way through law school turning tricks. But here in New York, escorts can snag $100 to $1,000 an hour – or more – depending on how they look and how good they are. And who’s the judge? “They are,” says one industry insider. “There’s no Better Business Bureau on them.” Sure, the going rate for straight sex with a call girl – not a prostitute on the street – is $100, but a woman who develops a specialty will watch rates soar. S&M starts at $175 an hour for mild role-playing and bondage, jumps to $250 an hour for flogging and spanking, and tops out at $500 for the real kinky stuff that involves bodily fluids. (In all cases, the john picks up the tab for the room – or dungeon space.)
Public appearances cost more than just doing the deed. “If you just want to have her in bed at night and not worry about showing her off,” says our insider, “it’s $150 to $200. If you want someone you can take to the cocktail meeting with your boss and then take her home and fuck her brains out, it’s $500.”
What a hooker can make in a year is a function of the rate she can command and the amount she wants to work. “Some prostitutes work weekends; the ambitious ones work four nights a week for two or three hours a night. Depending on how skilled, well-known, and ambitious they are, they could take down $50,000 to $200,000 or $300,000,” says the insider.
The sex industry may be booming, but in New York, lap dancing is in decline. “Topless dancers work mainly on tips,” says our informant. “In New York City, they aren’t making money anymore. It’s not popular anymore. Dancers who work four nights a week who have a good personality, a nice body and face, will make $30,000 a year at a very good club. If they make less than $100 a night average in tips on top of the thirty grand, they’re in the wrong club – or business.”
Do-gooders do okay
The nonprofit world seems to be responding to competition from the business world’s biting at its employees’ well-worn heels. According to a survey performed by Ernst & Young, the talent at nonprofits in the metro New York area saw an average salary increase of 7.1 percent between 1998 and 1999. Foundations took the lead, paying their top executives an average of $224,000. CEO salaries for the whole sector averaged around $163,000 – half of what their profit-minded colleagues made. Deputy executives averaged $118,000; top financial officers, $96,000; head communications employees, $90,000; top-level administrators, $70,000. Human-resources department heads beat them out by an average of about $2,000, but they had to fend off minions of good-hearted applicants, so the money was well earned.
Your pay performance is site-specific
Suffice it to say that the so-called upside to working in the Internet sector isn’t what it used to be. “The employee pool is getting as good as venture capitalists are in asking questions about a company’s ability to succeed,” Andrew Rasiej, president and CEO of Digital Club Network, a live-music Internet channel, says with a laugh. “I just came out of an interview, and the person said to me, ‘What I want to know is, How is this company financed?’ “
On the tech side, you can start at anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000 as a software engineer or programmer, but you’ll need to know the more complicated coding languages. Manage a team of engineers and you’ll earn anywhere from $65,000 to more than $110,000. Specialize your coding skills and headhunters will beat a path to your door – security specialists and database programmers are making upwards of $150,000. Technical architects create the blueprint for the site, making $125,000 to $200,000 for fusing old and new technology. As the chief technical officer of the company, you can make anywhere from $150,000 to seven figures, depending on the size of your company (or its burn rate).
After Nasdaq’s April meltdown, stock options lost their luster, so Internet companies have increasingly reverted to the traditional pay structures of the business world. “Stocks will continue to be used as a performance incentive, but they are not necessarily an inducement to employment,” says Rasiej. “Cash is king now.”
Where less can be more
“The pay doesn’t always match the importance of the work we do,” observes Steven Rutter, associate director of social work at Elmhurst Hospital Center, with some understatement. “The trade-off is, you make a difference, by getting people a place to live, food, changing their lives, helping them with psychological problems.” M.S.W.’s at city hospitals – or “line workers,” those who work one-on-one with patients – get hired at $34,000. A top-level supervisor with eight years of experience caps at about $55,000. Other social workers on the front lines get paid about the same. At the Administration for Children’s Services, the salaries start at $30,000 and run to $56,000; supervisors make from $53,000 to $65,000. But “there are tremendous rewards in being a social worker,” Rutter is quick to point out. “Sometimes I can’t get social workers to go home at the end of the day.”
People who knead people
Massage therapists at health clubs and spas can command as much as $35 an hour. But at New York Sports Club, for instance, full time is fifteen hours a week of rubbing – three massages a day – which yields around $32,000 a year once you factor in the standard 10 to 15 percent tip. “We live by tips,” says NYSC massage coordinator Scott Douglas. Working privately, however, can be far more lucrative. Rubdown artists generally start at $55 an hour and work their way up to $100 an hour or more; book three sessions a day, five days a week, and you’re pulling in $62,500 a year. Different neighborhoods command different rates. Uptowners, for instance, “are not going for the bargain,” says Monique Jutila, a former massage therapist at NYSC. “They want to be pampered, they want convenience, they want to be able to call somebody at the drop of a hat.” This could mean $200 for an hour-and-a-half session, close to the cost of psychotherapy. But as Jutila explains,”It’s a very vulnerable place to be when someone’s working on your body.”
The long ladder to success
Firefighters earn roughly the same as cops: $32,724 for a rookie fighter who’s passed a physical training test. Says Chief Brian Dixon: “The test is job-specific, which for us includes raising ladders, stretching hose, dragging a dummy through a corridor, feeling your way through a darkened room. We’d like to know beforehand if he gets claustrophobic, because this would be the wrong job for him.” Uh, or her. Come the six-year anniversary, a firefighter is earning $49,023 for two nine-hour day tours and two fifteen-hour night tours each week. The 1,500 lieutenants who supervise fighters in action earn $57,623 ($62,857 after four years). The 306 battalion chiefs in New York City earn $74,906, which rises with seniority to $93,948, and the 53 deputy chiefs, who take over command from the battalion chief if a fire gets dangerously out of control, are paid $86,549 to $104,132. Yes, firemen get a pension after twenty years, based on a formula of the average of the best three of their last five years.
Count on long hours, partner
When you graduate from law school, you’re faced with a choice stark enough for a courtroom drama: profits or public service. The current standard for a first-year associate at the city’s 25 largest law firms is $125,000, but after the year-end bonus kicks in, total compensation can approach $160,000. Meanwhile, rookies in the city’s district-attorney’s office continue to make between $30,500 and $40,000, just as they did before the bull market began. A Legal Aid Society criminal-defense attorney starts at $35,000.
Once you get in the door at a firm, your salary rises in lockstep with class year; for instance, an eighth-year associate at any of the city’s top firms is currently making in the neighborhood of $225,000 plus bonus. The partner track is about eight to nine years. If you haven’t made partner by your ninth year, you probably never will; but as consolation you’ll still be bringing down well over $250,000, not counting bonus. If you do make partner, your annual earnings are equal to your share of the firm’s operating income – at least $250,000 at a small firm, $600,000 at an average firm, and, at the city’s most profitable firms, like Cravath, Davis Polk, and Cahill, more than $1 million. At Wachtel, the richest law firm in the city, partners rake in $3.1 million apiece.
The hours are deadly for associates, who are routinely putting in 70 and 100 hours a week. So it’s no surprise that after a few punishing years many decide to leave the white-shoe world for a position as an in-house lawyer for a corporation. The advantages of going corporate are that you get to have a life, stock options, and a terrific bonus if your company is still riding the bull market. The disadvantage is a moderate loss of glamour: “Working as a litigator at a firm, for a variety of clients in a variety of industries, will always be more interesting than working in-house for a single client,” says Penny Windle, a fourth-year associate at Cahill. However, a chief legal counsel at a blue-chip company makes about what a partner at a mid-range law firm would. The median salary for a chief legal officer is $737,000; $360,500 for a general counsel; $293,000 for a chief assistant; $167,000 for a senior counsel; $120,597 for a staff attorney.
Working for a corporation always meant getting paid better during good times, but in the past few years so many lawyers have left their firms for corporate-counsel jobs at one of the city’s Fortune 500 companies or at a Silicon Alley start-up that firms have had to start paying out “boom year” bonuses (ranging from $2,500 for a first-year lawyer to $30,000 for an eighth-year associate in 1999) to stem the attrition rate.
For those who take the road less traveled, the rewards are much less lucrative: A New York City Criminal Court judge makes $125,600, while at New York City law schools, professors’ salaries average $120,000.
Pump up those wallets
For personal trainers it’s specialization, not pumping iron, that inflates the earnings. A personal trainer (someone who has a national certification or an exercise-science degree or both) starts out at roughly $30,000 a year, reports Alma Largey, a professional trainer and yoga instructor. A pro trainer (who specializes in an area like prenatal fitness and has completed an advanced in-house training program) makes $50,000. The master trainer (for instance, someone who has advanced skills and certification) could make more than $60,000. Trainers who meet clients at their own gym can command $60 to $150 an hour – all going straight into the trainer’s pocket (many clubs charge an outside trainer a $15 to $25 fee, but the client usually pays that). Yes, private personal trainers can command $150 an hour or more, but if you can’t break into the big leagues, as one trainer puts it, “you’ve got to be okay with the simple life.”
The beat goes on … and on
To become a “recruit,” or first-year officer who takes home $31,305, you must be at least 22 years old, live in one of the five counties, have completed 60 college credits, and (what else?) be free from felony convictions. After five years, police officers get off probation and their salaries jump to $51,978. Not bad, but remarkably, they max out after twenty years on the force at $54,978 – unless you get promoted to sergeant ($59,299), lieutenant ($68,067), or captain ($83,543). Then there’s the chief of department, one notch below police commissioner, who makes $122,000. “He’s the No. 1 cop,” says Detective Walter Burns. “When you’re chief of department, you’re the guy.” The finest go out after twenty years on a pension that is half their last year’s pay.