Contortionists are entertainers who earn a living by twisting their bodies into unusual positions and shapes. They often work in circuses, but may work in a variety of sectors. In general, these workers made roughly between $9 and $33 per hour, based on May 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The exact salary of a contortionist depends on a variety of factors such as skill, contract negotiation and terms, the number of jobs and his experience.
Classification and Data Availability
Data on what a contortionist makes is scarce, but the most reliable information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. The BLS does not provide contortionists with their own data category, instead lumping contortionists with other workers in the "Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers, All Other" category. Because this category is not exclusive to contortionists, the BLS figures serve as a rough guide for what contortionists earn. Additionally, contortionists usually are paid per gig in a fashion similar to musicians, actors or dancers. Because the number of these jobs is not consistent, and because each job may have a different pay rate, the BLS provides only hourly figures for the "Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers, All Other" group.
Typical Pay and Range
The BLS asserts that those in the "Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers, All Other" category earned an average of $18.60 per hour in May 2010. In the 10th percentile, contortionists and others in this group made $8.69 hourly. Earnings at the 25th percentile were $10.35 hourly, while pay at the median was $14.34 per hour. Contortionists in the 75th percentile earned $22.03 hourly. In the 90th percentile, contortionists made $33.27. A Kidzworld.com interview with Philippa Hayball, a performer with Cirque du Soleil, claims that contortionists featured in circuses make $40,000 to $70,000 per year.
Pay by Industry
Contortionists and other entertainers made the least money -- $13.93 per hour -- in amusement parks and arcades. Those in spectator sports made $17.09 hourly, while pay in colleges, universities and professional schools was $18.18 per hour. Contortionists in the motion picture and video industry made $18.83 per hour. In radio and television broadcasting, pay was $23.77 hourly, while pay in industries related to the promotion of performing arts, sports and similar events was $24.07 hourly. In traveler accommodations, the average was $25.49 per hour. The best pay -- $31.20 per hour -- was in advertising, public relations and related services. Many contortionists hop from industry to industry in order to ensure having work throughout the year, which makes calculating yearly salaries complex.
Pay by Region
According to the BLS, the best-paying region for contortionists and others in the "Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers, All Other" category in May 2010 was Illinois, where pay was $39.57 hourly. Massachusetts followed at $30.22 hourly, while the rate in New Jersey was $28.04 hourly. In Nevada and Maryland, rates were $27.55 and $24.89 per hour, respectively.
The lowest-paying region for contortionists in May 2010 was Utah, where pay was $11.77 per hour. Virginia averaged just one cent higher at $11.78 per hour. Rates in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Oregon were $12.36, $12.46 and $12.89 hourly, respectively.
Contortionists are not limited to one region. In fact, many contortionists accept a nomadic way of life, traveling wherever the work is.