Script Writer Salary and Job Outlook

Script writers are the secret behind many of the media we consume on a daily basis — not just TV, film, and theater, but also commercials, radio, and even video games. To succeed, script writers need strong creative writing skills and a clear vision.

What do these professionals earn, on average, per year?

Average Salary for Script Writers

The median annual salary for writers and authors in the United States is $67,120, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals. The 10 percent of writers and authors who make the least earn under $35,880 per year. The top-paid professionals in this field can, meanwhile, make over $133,460 annually.

Those writers who work in “performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries” have a median annual salary of $82,350 — one of the highest in the field. The broader category of script writers, which can include TV writers, movie writers, scriptwriters for video games, commercial writers, and stage play writers, would fall under this heading, too.

While the earning potential of a script writer is going to depend, among other factors, on the types of scripts they produce, many of the most popular salary-tracking platforms do supply average salary estimates for script writers as a whole:

  • According to Glassdoor, script writers earn an average yearly salary of $64,765. The platform adds that most script writers make between $23,000 and $71,000 annually.
  • PayScale’s data shows that script writers have an average yearly wage of $59,413, while elaborating that salaries ranging from $39,000 to $101,000 per year are typical in this field.
  • Data from ZipRecruiter indicates an average yearly wage of $60,722 for script writers. At the lower end of the salary scale, the platform says, script writers only earn $13,000 per year. The top earners can make in excess of $123,000 on a yearly basis.
  • estimates that script writers make, on average, $64,881 per year. Their data shows that ranges between $42,000 and $99,000 are most common for script writers.

Each of these platforms has its own unique data collection system, and the large ranges we see here are the result of the fact that script writers work with many different mediums. Screenwriters who produce movie scripts are, for instance, likely to earn much more than those script writers who craft scripts for local radio shows.

What Do Script Writers Make Per Hour?

PayScale suggests that script writers have an average hourly rate of $21.50, but ZipRecruiter offers a higher estimate of $29 per hour.

The hourly rate for any script writer depends on their annual salary, as well as the number of hours they work. This will vary from one industry to the next.

Some script writers are also self-employed professionals. They may produce scripts for projects as varied as online infomercials and stage plays. Freelance script writers are typically paid per project, with the hourly rate they can charge depending on their education and experience.

Script Writer Salary Based on Experience

Data from would suggest that:

  • Script writers who are new to the field earn an average of $61,029 in that first year.
  • Experienced script writers with five to six years of experience have a significantly higher average yearly salary of $64,530.
  • Industry veterans who have worked as script writers for at least 10 years can earn $71,684 per year, or even more.

Although these figures certainly will not reflect the salary all script writers earn as they gain more work experience, this data does show that experience matters a great deal in the field of script writing. As a script writer progresses in their career, they are likely to begin earning more money.

Script Writer Salary Based on Education

Script writing is primarily a creative field. As such, formal education is not a strict requirement for those skilled and talented individuals who can demonstrate that they have the right aptitudes.

Still, says that script writers who have a high school diploma or a certificate from a vocational school earn an average of $62,780, while script writers who hold an Associate’s degree make $63,130 per year on average.

With a Bachelor’s degree under their belts, the average salary for script writers rises even further, to $63,655. The trend continues for those with a Master’s degree or PhD, but as the numbers can be measured in the hundreds, rather than thousands, further education becomes less relevant.

Top Paying States for Script Writers

Nobody will be surprised that California, Massachusetts, Washington State, and New Jersey offer some of the highest paying jobs for script writers. This is largely due to the fact that TV writers and movie writers tend to earn more than other types of script writers.

However, career opportunities are available to script writers in all states, and increasingly, script writing jobs can even be done remotely.

Job Outlook for Script Writers

Jobs for writers and authors as a whole are projected to grow by nine percent between the present and the year 2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates. This growth rate is in line with the national average for all occupations.

Online jobs for writers are set to rise, on the other hand, and script writers may find opportunities in the digital realm as well. Some script writers produce scripts for commercials and radio shows, for instance. The demand for TV writers and movie writers will always exist, but rising to the top is difficult in these sectors.

Overall, the outlook for a script writer who has found their niche and is skilled at their job is likely to be positive.

What Exactly Does a Script Writer Do?

Script writers produce scripts for TV, film, commercials, radio, theater, and video games, among other areas. Because this profession is so diverse, each script writer has a unique job description as well.

As part of their daily jobs, script writers may:

  • Create plot lines.
  • Determine the setting of a plot.
  • Craft dialogue.
  • Describe the body language of a character.
  • Create backstories for characters.
  • Write informative content — such as script writers who produce lines for commercials.
  • Work with other team members, or clients, to revise and edit scripts.

Some script writers have a lot of creative freedom; some are even in complete control. Others produce scripts to client specifications. At heart, however, all are creative professionals who can transform raw ideas into scripts that will be executed to perfection.

How to Become a Script Writer?

Some aspiring script writers may have loved creative writing since they were very young, producing their own scripts through high school and even before. This early inclination may offer them an edge, since quality script writing depends in part on experience.

No formal qualifications are technically required to become a script writer, but many degree paths can help aspiring script writers gain the skills that will help them become successful later on. Because of this, completing a degree in a field related to writing would be recommended.

After college, aspiring script writers may attempt to sell their scripts, or work as freelancers who write scripts to client specifications. Aspiring TV or movie writers may want to try to land internships or jobs as writer’s assistants. Here, they can gain much-needed industry insights — and the attention of writers!

Qualifications to Be a Script Writer

Script writers are creative professionals who will need to have some level of innate talent. However, completing a degree in a related field may help. Depending on the niche an aspiring script writer is considering, relevant areas can include:

  • Creative writing
  • English
  • Communications
  • Film
  • Theater and drama
  • Marketing

A wider Liberal Arts degree can also be a good choice, as it allows aspiring script writers to choose their own courses.

Skills to Be a Script Writer

The skills that will help an aspiring script writer get their first job in the field, and become successful later, include:

  • Creative writing skills are a must for all script writers, regardless of their niche. This often includes character development, plot development, and world building.
  • Strong communication skills. Many script writers must be able to communicate their vision for the finished product by writing clear instructions that relate to setting and body language. All can be expected to work with others over the course of their jobs. Some script writers will work with clients as freelancers, while others will work with a whole team of writers.
  • Drive and ambition. Script writing is inevitably accompanied by rejection as well as successes.  Script writers need a thick skin and confidence in their abilities to succeed.

Can You Be a Script Writer Without a Degree?

Yes, it is possible to become a successful script writer without completing a degree. Many degrees can help aspiring script writers nurture their writing skills, but talented individuals may also succeed without going to college, or completing a degree.



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