Model Career Guide

What is a model?

A model is a professional who advertises products, services, or concepts through various mediums, such as photos, videos, live demonstrations, and runways. By showcasing the attributes of the product or brand they represent, they significantly contribute to marketing efforts and, ultimately, the financial success of businesses in various industries. These professionals can work in diverse domains, including fashion, advertising, arts, and entertainment.

Their significance goes beyond glamor and aesthetics. They serve as a bridge between consumers and businesses, enabling prospective customers to visualize the use and appeal of products or services. Whether modeling for a high-fashion editorial, a car commercial, or an art installation, they play a paramount role in sculpting public perception of brands and influencing consumer behavior.

Duties and responsibilities

Models are responsible for various tasks that effectively portray products or brands to the target audience. This includes learning about the products they promote, understanding the concept of photo shoots or events, and following the instructions provided by the client or photography director.

They pose for photographers in studios or on location and perform in front of cameras for TV commercials or movies. They might walk the runway at fashion shows, showcasing the latest designs from fashion houses. These professionals are also asked to attend casting calls and auditions, presenting their portfolio to potential clients and impressing them with their professional attitude and versatile appeal.

Work environment

The work environment of a model is incredibly varied and largely depends on the type of modeling they engage in. They may work indoors in a photography studio or outdoors for location shoots. Some spend their time on fashion show runways, while others could be filming on a movie set for television commercials or music videos.

Regardless of the setting, their work can be physically demanding and requires adaptability. They might have to pose under challenging conditions, such as extreme weather. Traveling is often part of the job, as they may need to meet clients or attend photo shoots in different locations around the country or even abroad.

Typical work hours

The work hours for models are usually irregular and can extend beyond the typical nine-to-five job. Shoots, shows, or events could be scheduled early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends. This profession is not known for its consistent schedule as it depends on client requirements, event timings, and fashion seasons.

Preparation and downtime should also be considered. The time spent at fittings for designer clothes, makeup and hair sessions, travel to different locations, and waiting for shoots to start can all add to the work hours. Despite the unpredictable schedule, a successful model must maintain the highest level of professionalism regardless of the hour or circumstances.

How to become a model

This career guide section outlines how to become a model. This guide will take you through every step, starting from refining your persona and body image to gaining professional representation.

Step 1: Identify your market

Start by identifying the type of modeling you’re suited for, as the modeling industry encompasses different types. This could be fashion, runway, plus-size, petite, fitness, swimsuit, or commercial print modeling. Your looks, body type, and personal interests can all play a part in this decision.

Step 2: Keep up your physical appearance

Physical appearance is key in modeling. These professionals must maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, keep their skin clear, and have their hair in good condition. Good oral hygiene is also crucial in this profession.

Step 3: Boost your personal skills

Models must have a good sense of style, be comfortable in front of the camera, and walk confidently on the runway. Public speaking skills and a confident, outgoing personality can also be beneficial in this profession.

Step 4: Create a good portfolio

A strong portfolio is an essential tool. It should include a variety of professional shots that appeal to the type of market you’re aiming to work in. This portfolio will be one of the key factors agencies and clients consider when deciding to hire you.

Step 5: Contact modeling agencies

After creating a strong portfolio, it’s time to start contacting modeling agencies. Research agencies, submit your portfolio, and attend open casting calls. Applying to several agencies is generally recommended to increase your chances of getting signed.

Step 6: Sign with an agency

If an agency is interested in you, they will likely offer you a contract. Understanding fully what you’re agreeing to before signing any documents is essential. If necessary, seek advice from a lawyer or industry professional to make sure you’re making the best decision for your career.

Step 7: Start auditioning

Once you’re signed with an agency, you’ll start going on auditions or “go-sees,” as they are commonly called in the industry. These auditions are an opportunity to meet with potential clients and show them what you can bring to their brand. It’s important to always be professional, courteous, and leave a good impression.

How much do models make?

Model salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. The reputation and prestige of the organization hiring, the specific nature of the modeling job (runway, print, commercial), and their individual popularity and following can significantly impact compensation.

Highest paying industries

  • Motion Picture and Video Industries – $72,500
  • Advertising – $65,350
  • Spectator Sports – $62,660
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $61,800
  • Radio and Television Broadcasting – $60,870

Highest paying states

  • New York – $75,870
  • California – $72,480
  • Texas – $69,320
  • Florida – $67,400
  • Georgia – $66,430

Browse model salary data by market

Types of models

This career guide section highlights the various career types and areas of specialization for models. Below, we shed light on the distinct attributes and responsibilities of each job type.

Fashion model

Typically involved in displaying, promoting, and advertising fashion clothing or accessories, fashion models work with designers and fashion houses. They regularly feature in photography sessions, fashion shows, and commercials, often traveling internationally.

Commercial model

Commercial models have a wide spectrum of jobs. They can appear in ads for any product, from household items to clothing. Their work involves posing for photographers, appearing on television commercials, or as part of a marketing campaign.

Plus-size model

Plus-size models represent a larger, more realistic body type not typically found in traditional fashion modeling. They find work in various platforms such as advertising, editorial shoots, fashion shows, and catalog modeling, often promoting clothing brands and beauty products that focus on plus sizes.

Petite model

Petite models, who are typically shorter than mainstream fashion models, cater especially to a specific section of the fashion industry. They mostly model clothes designed for shorter people and may also find work in commercial modeling, including print advertisements and commercials.

Parts model

These models specialize in showcasing specific body parts such as hands, legs, or feet, often for close-up shots in advertisements or product photography. Their work revolves around maintaining the appearance of their specialized part to high standards, sometimes working with brands related to skincare or jewelry.

Promotional model

Promotional models play a crucial role in promoting a product, service, or event directly to consumers. Seen at trade shows, conventions, or store promotions, they interact directly with potential customers, explaining products, providing product samples, or distributing promotional material.

Mature model

Mature models, often aged over 30, symbolize older, sophisticated consumers and are hired for a variety of modeling jobs, including commercial product advertising, editorial modeling, and fashion. Despite popular perception, modeling isn’t a profession solely for the young; mature models have a significant market as well.

Top skills for models

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a model. A successful career in modeling requires a unique blend of physical attributes, personal traits, and industry-specific skills.

Physical attributes

Models are often required to meet certain physical standards set by clients or agencies. Attributes such as height, body proportions, skin condition, hair quality, and overall physical fitness can be vital. While it’s important to note that all body shapes and sizes are widely accepted and appreciated in certain modeling sectors, requirements typically vary across different modeling jobs.

Posing and walking skills

Effectively striking a pose or walking confidently on a runway involves a great deal of skill. These abilities allow them to present clothing and products in the most attractive ways possible and are often honed through practice and training.


Observing deadlines, respecting others on set, and being well-prepared for jobs are essential in modeling. A good reputation for professionalism can lead to referrals and a more sustainable and successful career.

Resilience and adaptability

The modeling industry can be hard to navigate due to its competitiveness and constant changes in trends and tastes. These professionals must be resilient in the face of rejection and adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances, such as last-minute job changes or travel requirements.

Maintaining a positive self-image

They often face scrutiny about their appearance and must maintain a positive self-image and healthy self-esteem. Developing ways to care for physical and mental health and knowing when to reject unrealistic expectations about appearance are valuable skills in this profession.

Model career path options

For models, career advancement often means transitioning to different types of modeling or branching out into related fields. They can start by focusing on one area, such as print or runway, before expanding their portfolio to include others. Higher-profile campaigns and participating in internationally recognized fashion events are definitive markers of success.

Increased visibility and experience often open the door to spokesperson roles for brands and charities. Many leverage their appearances in advertising campaigns and their social media following to secure such opportunities. Others move into acting or hosting roles in TV and film. Rocky transitions can be eased by honing skills in improv, public speaking, and on-camera presence in advance.

As models develop industry expertise, they may choose to step behind the camera, trying their hand at jobs such as fashion photography, fashion writing, or styling. Some use their industry knowledge and connections to break into agency roles, taking up positions as bookers or agents themselves.

Another viable career progression is launching their own venture. This might mean starting a model training agency, an e-commerce business, or a personal brand, utilizing their image and influence. Many also become fashion entrepreneurs, launching their own clothing lines or accessory collections.

Lastly, a good number of models become advocates for diverse body shapes, mental health, and eating disorder awareness. They can leverage their platform to speak on pertinent issues and make significant societal impacts.

The modeling industry has experienced significant changes over recent years. The rising dominance of social media has opened up new opportunities and platforms for models to showcase their work and talent. Instagram and YouTube, for instance, are now vital channels for them to connect with an international audience and potential clients. These digital platforms have democratized the profession, creating room for diverse body types, ethnicities, and age groups.

We are also witnessing increased emphasis on casting a wider net representationally. The call for diversity in the industry is louder than ever before, pushing for more inclusive definitions of beauty. Models breaking traditional beauty standards are now common on both the runway and in print. We are seeing the rise of plus-size models, models with disabilities, and models of all ages, making the industry more reflective of the human experience.

Sustainability and environmental consciousness have also become significant in the industry. Brands are increasingly moving toward sustainable fashion, and these professionals are using their platforms to advocate for sustainability. Consequently, we are also seeing the rise of virtual and digital models, reducing physical waste in the production process.

Employment projections

According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the overall employment of models is projected to show little or no change through 2032. Employment growth will largely depend on the demand from advertisers, designers, and photographers. Competition in this industry is expected to remain strong as many people are attracted to the occupation.

Model career tips

Understand the different types of modeling

To succeed in a modeling career, you must understand the various types of modeling. These include fashion, commercial, print, fitness, plus-size, and more. The requirements, expected skills, and level of competition vary from one type to another. By understanding the specific demands of each type, you can better tailor your approach to match and excel in your desired field.

Develop your unique look and style

It is important to stand out in a competitive industry like modeling. Having a look and style that is all your own can help capture the attention of photographers, fashion designers, and modeling agencies. Find a look that suits you and highlights your unique features, then consistently maintain and refine it.

Choose the right agency

Aligning yourself with the right agency can considerably impact your modeling career. The agency should not only have a strong reputation but also have connections that align with your career goals. Do thorough research, ask questions, and preferably select an agency that specializes in your area of modeling.

Build a professional network

Networking is essential in this field. Relationships with photographers, fashion designers, stylists, makeup artists, and other models will often lead to more opportunities. Here are relevant professional associations and networks to consider:

  • Model Management
  • International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA)
  • Fashion Group International (FGI)
  • Association of Model Agents (AMA)

Engage in continuous learning

Keep updating your knowledge about the latest trends in fashion, updated poses, and photography styles. You can subscribe to fashion magazines, follow fashion influencers on social media, or attend industry events and seminars. Other suggestions for continuous learning are:

  • Enroll in a modeling training program
  • Participate in fashion design workshops and seminars
  • Follow well-known fashion designers and photographers on social media to stay informed about the latest trends

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle is crucial in the modeling profession. Regular exercise and a balanced diet will help you maintain good shape, clear skin, and vibrant energy – all of which are essential for a model. Additionally, ensure adequate rest to prevent fatigue and preserve your overall health.

Handle criticism positively

Rejection and criticism are a part of this profession. Rather than taking it personally or becoming disheartened, use it as a learning experience. What doesn’t work for one casting director or client might work for another, so always be open to feedback and ready to adapt.

Where the model jobs are

Top employers

  • Elite Model Management
  • Ford Model Management
  • IMG Models
  • Wilhelmina Models
  • Marilyn Agency

Top states

  • New York
  • Florida
  • California
  • Texas
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • iStudio


What kind of physical health practices do models maintain?

Models typically prioritize physical fitness and healthy nutrition to maintain their physique. Regular exercises such as strength training, cardiovascular workouts, and yoga, along with balanced diets high in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are common. They also need to take care of their skin, hair, and teeth and get regular sleep. It’s a holistic approach to wellness.

How crucial is the ability to tolerate rejection in the modeling industry?

In modeling, facing rejection is an inherent part of the job. Models audition for many roles before they secure a part, and managing rejection with resilience is key to longevity in the industry. Developing thick skin, focusing on self-improvement rather than criticism, and maintaining self-confidence is essential for handling rejection effectively.

What are the educational requirements for becoming a model?

Formal education beyond a high school diploma is not usually required for modeling; however, specialized training in modeling schools or courses can be advantageous. These programs cover topics like runway walking, posing, and makeup application. In addition, those working in certain niches, such as fashion modeling, may benefit from studying arts or fashion-related subjects.

Do models generally need to be tall?

Height requirements can vary based on the type of modeling one is pursuing. High-fashion models often need to be taller, although there is no strict rule, and exceptions are made for exceptionally attractive or distinctive looks. Commercial, promotional, and parts modeling (hands, feet, etc.) have few height restrictions. The industry has become more diverse and inclusive, so opportunities exist for models of varying heights.

What is the standard working schedule for a model?

Models often work irregular hours, and their schedules can be unpredictable. They may have jobs during normal business hours, late evenings, or on weekends. Fashion shows and photo shoots often mean long days on set. Additionally, traveling for work is frequent, sometimes on short notice. Therefore, flexibility is a key attribute for success in this profession.

How do models deal with safety concerns in their profession?

Working as a model involves meeting new people and often traveling to different locations, which can present safety challenges. They are encouraged to be proactive about their safety by always researching a potential client or photographer before an appointment, always notifying someone of their whereabouts, and trusting their instincts if a situation feels unsafe. Many also maintain professional representation to help vet job opportunities.

How important are social skills for a successful modeling career?

Social skills are exceptionally important in a modeling career. Models interact with a multitude of individuals, from photographers and fashion designers to makeup artists and customers. Therefore, strong communication skills, a professional demeanor, and a friendly, cooperative attitude contribute greatly to a successful career. Additionally, networking abilities are very beneficial in this industry.

Do models need an agent or manager to succeed?

While not mandatory, having an agent or manager is usually beneficial for a modeling career. Agents have industry connections and know how to negotiate contracts, secure jobs, and manage paperwork. This allows models to focus on their craft and provides them professional protection. However, some forge successful careers as independents, though it generally requires more effort and business knowledge.

How do models handle stress and pressure, given their constantly under public scrutiny?

Models face high levels of stress and pressure due to the competitive nature of the industry and the level of public scrutiny they receive. Techniques to manage this include regular exercise, meditation, quality sleep, and maintaining a supportive network of friends and family. Additionally, maintaining a distinction between their professional and private lives can help them deal with public scrutiny and potential criticism.