How Much Do NFL Cheerleaders Make?

Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders

Cheerleading is a big part of football culture in the United States. While most other sports lack a dedicated cheer squad, football has one at every level—high school, college and professional.

NFL cheerleaders in particular are known as the best of the best, and it’s a notoriously tough gig to qualify for. A 2007 issue of Cosmopolitan featured an article written by one of these cheerleaders, who said she went through multiple rounds of dancing, performing in a bikini, oral interviews, public-speaking evaluations, a football knowledge exam, drug testing and a physical—and that was just to start.

So what exactly does such an exclusive job pay to those few who make the cut? Here’s a look at NFL cheerleader salaries, and specifically, what Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders make.

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Do NFL cheerleaders get paid?

Like any other job, NFL cheerleaders are paid for their hard work. But it’s nowhere near the amount you might expect.

In a 2007 Cosmo article written by an NFL cheerleader, the anonymous author said she was paid $6 an hour for games and practice and $12 an hour for special events. That added up to a total of $3,000 for the whole 2006 football season (minus $300 for expenses like hair and manicures). “Some girls even wound up in the red after deducting things like plastic surgery as work-related expenses,” she added.

However, “The real motive of cheering isn't money anyway—most girls, myself included, become addicted to the pseudocelebrity status that comes with those pom-poms. I did get my 15 minutes of fame, and the contagious excitement of football season makes you feel like you're a part of something huge.”

While $6-$12 an hour isn’t glamorous by any means, we have to take inflation into account given that those were 2006 wages. These days, cheerleaders are earning a bit more.

How much money do NFL cheerleaders make?

According to Pro Football Network, cheerleaders today make an average of $150 per game and $50-$75 per public appearance. This is corroborated by CBS Sports Boston, which adds that for the year a cheerleader may be compensated around $22,500.

This would be more understandable if the only work cheerleaders did was at games; but they put in 30-40 hours a week in practice and are expected to show up five hours early to every game, of which there are at least 16 in the year (not counting practice games). As independent contractors, they make significantly less money than NFL mascots or even waterboys.

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Which NFL cheerleaders get paid the most?

Cheerleaders on well-known squads make more than others. And senior squad members and leaders can also expect to make more.

One of these lucrative squads is the Carolina TopCats, who cheer for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. They can make up to $75,000 a year, as reported by CBS Sports Boston, which is quite a leg up on the $22,500 average.

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are another popular, better-paid squad.

How much money does a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader make?

Like the Carolina TopCats, a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader can make up to $75,000 a year. Although this is more indicative of what a senior cheerleader makes and not the average salary.

Former Cowboys cheerleader Erica Wilkins is an example of this pay disparity, which she highlighted in her 2018 lawsuit against the team. According to the case details, during her time as a cheerleader from 2014 to 2017 the most she earned in a year was $16,500. The mascot, for comparison, earned $65,000.

In general, Cowboys cheerleaders are paid $400-$500 per game (sources differ on the exact amount) and may make an hourly rate of anywhere from $12-$20. But they can always earn more from public appearances and, of course, off-season work, which most cheerleaders likely need to do.

How much does an NFL cheerleader make per game?

NFL cheerleaders make an average of $150 per game. This wage, while low, can be boosted by working up to more senior positions within a squad or getting hired onto a more well-known squad.

Is NFL cheerleader a full-time job?

During football season cheerleaders work 30-40 hours a week in practice and at least eight hours on game days, showing up five hours early to prepare. This doesn’t include the extra time they may put in for public appearances and other special events, plus whatever they need to do to look the part. (Which, according to the 2007 Cosmo article, involves a lot of hair styling, manicuring and exercising.)

But, football season technically only lasts for four months. Five, if you count prep time. So when it ends, the cheerleaders are free to resume other jobs or even cheerlead for the NBA instead.

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