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Surprising Salaries of Cable Political Commentators

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It can be difficult to get a steady gig as a political commentator, but if you manage to carve out a niche and appear regularly on news or talk shows, you can earn quite a bit of money. Most political commentators have advanced degrees in either political science or journalism but it's unlikely that you'll land a job as a political commentator right out of college. First, you'll need to build a reputation, either as a reporter, political professor or political analyst with a government or private organization.

The salaries of political commentators run the gamut, depending on a variety of factors. There are famous commentators like Rachel Maddow or Tucker Carlson who have gone on to host their own shows and earn annual salaries in the millions. Then there are professors or analysts who occasionally are called on to comment and may not be paid at all, depending on the cable network.

News Analysts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't have a specific category for political commentators. This job is a blend of broadcast news analyst and political scientist. Broadcast news analysts or commentators dissect and interpret news stories and offer opinions. Some news commentators are hired on a contract basis to provide opinions on specific subjects and may come from fields outside of journalism, such as business or medicine.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for broadcast news analysts was $49,300 in May 2020. The highest 10 percent earned more than $127,370, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,510. These salaries encompass all broadcast news analysts and commentators, not just political commentators.

Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $127,370 ($61.24/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $49,300 ($23.70/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $25,510 ($12.26/hour)

Political Scientists

All political scientists are not political commentators, but some are, and a degree in political science is worth considering if you hope to one day present commentary on MSNBC or The PBS News Hour, for example. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual wage for political scientists at $125,350 in May of 2020. The highest 10 percent earned more than $170,800, and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,840.

Political Scientists salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $170,800 ($82.12/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $125,350 ($60.26/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $62,840 ($30.21/hour)

Well-Known Political Commentators

Celebrity Net Worth uses publicly available financial information and accounts for taxes and other likely expenses in order to estimate the earnings or net worth of celebrities, including famous political commentators. While net worth is not the same as salary, it can give you a sense of what a famous political commentator can amass during a career. Here are a few examples:

  • Cokie Roberts is a reporter and commentator for National Public Radio as well as a regular roundtable analyst for "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" on ABC. Estimated net worth = $5 million.
  • Tucker Carlson stepped in to fill Bill O'Reilly's shoes on Fox, so his net worth and salary are both likely on the rise. Estimated net worth = $16 million.
  • Rachel Maddow hosts her own political show on MSNBC and is an author. Estimated net worth = $20 million.
  • Sean Hannity: Fox News host and talk-radio host. Estimated net worth = $80 million.

Heather Skyler is a journalist and novelist who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek, The New York Times and SKY magazine.

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