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Are you a personality-plus, can-do kind of leader with a strong desire to control your career? If so, you might consider a career as an auctioneer. While it's a high-energy occupation, the rewards can be considerable. When earning a percentage of every item sold, an auctioneer's salary can top six figures. The field has been characterized as having an unusual concentration of first-generation millionaires.
On average, full-time auctioneers in the U.S. earn between $47,000 and $57,000 and charge a commission between 10 percent and 15 percent of gross sales.
What Do Auctioneers Do?
Auctioneers preside over auctions where merchandise is sold. The range of auctioned goods is wide and includes the sale of pedigreed racehorses, unclaimed storage unit contents, foreclosed homes and fine art. Auctioneers call out lot numbers while assistants display the items to be sold, and then they take bids from the audience. A good auctioneer gets the crowd excited and competitive, driving up the price and, as a result, the auctioneer's take. It is a high-powered, public position that is not for everyone, but if you enjoy the spotlight and thrive under pressure, this could be a lucrative career choice.
Auctioneer Personality Requirements
Auctioneers must be gregarious, excellent networkers and fast, graceful talkers. Being charming, funny and entertaining is a plus when it comes to the business of talking crowds into a frenzy of excited bidding. Usually, auctioneers have assistants who handle the clerical and bookkeeping duties, which means these skills are not as important as leadership, showmanship and salesmanship.
What Is an Auctioneer Salary?
Many people assume that auctioneers are paid an auctioneer commission percentage, but this is not always the case. While some are paid a flat auctioneer salary for a job, some auctioneers take a commission from the seller, and some take a commission from both the seller and the purchaser. Sometimes auctioneers buy lots of items outright and then sell them at auction, keeping the difference or net profit.
Auctioneer Education Requirements and Regulations
Some states have no regulations for qualifying auctioneers, while others require licensing, accredited specialized education and a GED or higher. There are plenty of auction schools around with courses that typically take a mere 10 days. If you decide to take a course, do your due diligence and pick the one that is right for you. Make sure you have all the other requirements that your state demands before paying for a course.
If you're going to work in a specialized field like art auctions, you need specific experience or education in that field. If you don't know anything about horses, Keeneland is not for you. Try county auctions or estate auctions instead. Even here, knowledge of antiques and collectibles pays off.
How Much Do Auctioneers Make?
Working on commission, an auctioneer can usually charge a commission of 10 to 15 percent in auction fees depending on reputation and expertise. That said, income varies widely depending on the specialization. For many, auctioneering is a part-time job or sideline; most auctioneers are not full-timers. Naturally, the top art auctioneers who sell seven-figure paintings pull in more than your friendly county auctioneer selling off great-grandma's Hummel collection at a monthly event. Toward the top of the earning spectrum lie real estate auctioneers, livestock auctioneers, art auctioneers and property auctioneers. Each of these specializations may require additional licensing such as real estate broker credentials to practice in a state.
On average, full-time auctioneers in the U.S. earn between $47,000 and $57,000 annually.
- National Auctioneers Association: Careers in the Auction Profession
- Mike Brandly Auctioneer Blog: No Auctioneer Licensing So Anything Goes?
- National Auctioneers Association: So You Want to Be an Auctioneer
- The Art Career Project: How to Become a Fine Arts Auctioneer
- CNN Money: Do I Hear 6 Figures? Sold!
- SalaryExpert: Salary Calculator
- The Princeton Review: Auctioneer
Lorraine Murphy has been writing on business, self-employment, and marketing since the turn of the 21st century. Her credits include Vanity Fair, the Guardian, Slate, Salon, Occupational Pursuit Magazine, the Daily Download, and Business in Vancouver. She has been a judge and mentor at Vancouver Startup Weekend multiple times, and is an in-demand keynote speaker.