Make-Up Artist Job Duties and Employment Outlook

Sep 09, 2019

Make-up artists can work in the entertainment, fashion or cosmetic service industries, and can work independently as freelancers or as part of a team. They typically receive some postsecondary training, such as completion of a cosmetology program. Here you can learn more about the requirements of make-up artists' different industries, and the salary and career outlook for this field.

Essential Information

Make-up artists visually transform peoples' appearance via make-up, paint, wigs and other accessories to prepare them for photo shoots, filming, live performances and special events. Make-up artists work in many different environments from spas and resorts to film and theater sets, and typically train both formally within a cosmetology program, and on-the-job. Job opportunities vary by industry and with individual work experience.

Required Education Some postsecondary training
Projected Job Growth* 7% between 2018 and 2028 (theatrical and performance make-up artists)
Median Wage (2018)* $30.89 per hour (theatrical and performance make-up artists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Make-Up Artist Job Duties

Working as a make-up artist can mean different things depending on an individual's position and the industry in which he or she works. Responsibilities are varied, and duties may involve selling products, applying cosmetics, styling hair or performing cosmetic procedures like facials and extractions.

Careers in the Entertainment Industry

Make-up artists working in entertainment apply make-up to actors on film sets and in television studios or to stage performers in theaters. They may be self-employed or work as part of a team. Their job duties involve consulting with other members of the crew to determine the desired effect and required look for the actors and performers. They may have to research the make-up, hairstyles and attire that were common in a certain period or place to determine what is needed. Depending on the project, they may use special effects to make a person appear sick, injured or older.

Make-up professionals in the film industry generally have irregular work schedules, working long hours for several months straight followed by months at a time without work. They often relocate temporarily for the duration of the project. Those working in a television studio may have regular schedules, but equally long hours averaging well over 40 hours a week. Television make-up artists attend to the needs of people on regularly scheduled programming, which may be anything from light make-up for news to special effects make-up for television shows. They often must remain available throughout filming for touch-ups, as well as helping actors remove make-up at the end of the day.

Careers in the Fashion Industry

Make-up artists working in fashion prepare models for photo shoots, runway shows and advertisements. They work independently or as part of a team for modeling agencies or magazines. Fashion jobs generally require a high artistic ability, keen eye for detail and knowledge of how lighting affects the appearance of make-up. Make-up artists working for magazines may also be involved in touching up photographs using airbrushing techniques and computer software programs.

Careers in the Service Industry

Many make-up artists work full-time in the cosmetic service industry. They sell products in stores and at cosmetic events. Some work in cosmetic sections of department stores answering customers' questions, giving makeovers and demonstrating application techniques. Others in the service industry work in salons and spas, building a dependable clientele over time. They perform facials, makeovers, skin consultations and recommend make-up products. Make-up artists typically need some formal training from a cosmetology program and a state license to qualify for jobs in salons and spas. Licensed make-up artists may also be called aestheticians.

Freelance Make-up Artists

Freelance make-up artists must be proactive in marketing and networking to build their business. Most freelance workers display their portfolio on a website, and they may attend cosmetic and fashion events to make contacts. Becoming a successful freelance make-up artist requires building an impressive portfolio and gaining the trust of clients, which can take several years.

Many freelancers get jobs helping people get ready for special occasions, such as weddings, dinner parties, awards ceremonies and beauty pageants. They may travel to a person's home or another remote location to get the job done, supplying all the products and equipment that is needed. Depending on the event and person, they may meet clients before the event to determine exactly what is required. Clients happy with an artist's work often use them for future events and refer them to family and friends, giving freelance make-up artists opportunities to quickly expand their business.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of make-up artists is likely to grow faster than the average for all jobs from 2018-2028. The number of new jobs in the entertainment industry will be concentrated to cities with the most media production companies. Licensed make-up artists generally have the best job opportunities, particularly in spas and salons.

In addition, as per the BLS, make-up artists in motion picture and video industries earned an hourly mean wage of $37.85, while those in personal care services earned an hourly mean wage of $21.24 as of May 2018. The attractiveness of the entertainment industry and higher earnings potential make jobs in this sector highly competitive. There are generally more make-up artists than available jobs in film, television and theater. Also, the growing popularity of computer-generated effects used in film and television is dampening job availability for make-up professionals. Candidates with an education in theater or the performing arts, years of experience and a unique qualification have advantages (

Make-up artists work in multiple industries, applying makeup, accessories and wigs. Depending on the industry, they will need training in specific skills, and may also need to be licensed. Make-up artists are in high demand, as the field is expected to grow by 7% through the year 2028.

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