Circus performers are professional entertainers and there is a lot of different talents in the circus ranging from acrobats who perform on a tightrope high above the ground to the clown mingling with the audience.
Circus life is demanding because a touring circus often gives over 300 performances in a year. Performers rarely stay in the same city for more than a few days and might not get back to their homes for months or even a year.
Salaries for circus performers depend on many factors, including experience, the act and the reputation of the circus company. The average circus performer in the U.S. makes between $21,000 and $55,000 with the average being $38,595.
In the past, elephants, lions and tigers were the stars of the circus, but in recent years some circus companies have begun shifting their focus away from animal acts and developing other acts. Bello Nock, a circus clown with foot-high red hair, became very popular performing for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus and according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was paid a salary of $600,000 per year. His job benefits included a personal assistant and a driver for his 78-foot custom RV.
For most circus performers that kind of pay is out of reach; entry-level performers make about $300 per week plus they also get room and board.
Circus pay also varies according to the performer’s act. Because it's physically more difficult an acrobat will be paid more than a juggler. Trapeze artists generally earn between $40,000 and $70,000 per year.
It's tough to make a living as a clown. Some people are afraid of them. Refer to the Guardian article HERE. A Connecticut school district is banning clown costumes and other “symbols of terror.”
So the demand for clowns is shrinking and clown salary is not going provide you a luxurious lifestyle. The World Clown Association membership has plummeted by about one-third, to 2,500 members, down from 3,500 a decade ago.
Anyone insisting on being a clown would probably do best to be a rodeo clown. They have the dangerous job of distracting bulls sway from so fallen riders and so they make about $51,000 per year.
How do you get into the circus business? Acrobats, clowns, jugglers and other artists can prepare for a career in the circus by attending a circus school. Circus Center in San Francisco offers an aerial arts program and a clown conservatory. Students at the Center receive help in creating an act or repertoire. Circus companies hold auditions where aspiring performers demonstrate their acts. Circus performers generally enter into employment contracts for one or two years. Some performers work with an agent to find a job with the circus and the agent can help them negotiate salary terms.