At the end of the holiday season, mall and department store Santas across the country rock around the money tree with their festive earnings. Some even get to rake in an impressive five-figure salary within the two months, which makes a Santa side hustle one the highest-paid holiday jobs around.
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The average hourly wage for an interactive Santa is around $30, according to data collected by compensation software PayScale in 2017. However, the study noted that a top-tier Santa could earn up to $75 per hour. That’s anywhere from $240 to $600 a day for eight hours of work depending on each Santa’s skill level and experience.
In contrast, job listings for a Mrs. Claus on Glassdoor and Indeed show that Santa’s wife can earn between $17 and $20 per hour. Christmas elves also have a variable pay rate that can be about $11 an hour, according to casting calls on Backstage, which heavily scales contingent on the region.
Since the role of Santa is regarded much like Christmas royalty, it’s a highly coveted position. As such, being the jolly St. Nick is more competitive than some would think. Some employers require an authentic white beard and plump figure, which knocks out a few candidates who can’t deliver on those fronts.
Aesthetics aside, PayScale noted that Santas who are the whole package or have unique abilities can advance their wages. For example, a Santa that knows more than one language or sign language adds value for venues hosting a Christmas event. Other prized skills include knowledge of Santa trivia whether it be reindeer-related or otherwise as well as pop culture references like seasonal toys or highly talked-about shows.
A select number of Santas pursue higher learning to be the best Kris Kringle they can be. The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, which was established in 1937, is the longest-running Santa school in the country. For $500 to $525, the Michigan-based “Harvard of Santa” school welcomes about 300 new and returning students.
Not so surprisingly, a brief yet intensive training at a Harvard-like Santa school is much cheaper than attending Harvard University – which costs between $46,340 and $67,580 in the 2018-to-2019 school year.
With Santa school or not, the highest-paid Santas make over $20,000 for about 40 days of work, according to PayScale.
For those who make the $600 per day as mentioned before, earnings could be as high as $24,000 if they work as Santa for a standard 40-hour workweek for eight weeks. The Santas that make the average $240 per day would take home up to $9,600 within that same timeframe.
That’s also not factoring in potential holiday pay that could be applied on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.