The characters on your favorite television shows rarely seem to worry about their finances. They are often dressed to impress, live in nice homes and are able to afford whatever they want without much thought. But how much would these popular characters actually be making, based on their careers and location? (For a related reading, see Why Networks Love Reality TV.)
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Grey's Anatomy - Surgical Interns
Salary in Seattle: $48,000
National Average: $47,000
The original characters have moved up the food chain (or the actors have moved on), but the show was originally based on the surgical interns finding their place in the big bad hospital. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), to become a surgeon one would typically need to spend four years earning an undergraduate degree, four years in medical school and three to eight years as an intern and resident. At least we know Grey's won't run out of time in the near future! So what would a surgical intern be making in Seattle, WA? According to PayScale.com, $48,000 per year. Hopefully those student loans haven't come due yet!
The Big Bang Theory - Theoretical Physicist
Salary in Pasadena: $86,000
National Average: $84,500
The brilliant mind of Dr. Sheldon Cooper has won actor Jim Parsons a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. If physics is your passion, be prepared to spend a lot of time in school to make it your career – a PhD is typically required for research positions like Sheldon holds. If you were planning to be a theoretical physicist in Pasadena, California, you could expect to make $86,000 providing you hold a PhD and have about six years experience. However, if Sheldon is in fact a postdoctoral research associate, that yearly salary drops to $44,000, with a national average of $42,000.
CSI: Las Vegas - Crime Scene Investigators
Salary in Las Vegas: $51,000
National Average: $44,570
The gritty CSIs seem to be a mix of lab geeks and detectives. CSIs often hold a degree in Criminal Justice or have a background in science. Their jobs include assessing and processing crime scenes and evidence to try and determine what really happened. They may be called upon to testify concerning their findings in court. In Las Vegas, all of that dirty work would be rewarded by an annual salary of $51,000 – quite a bit higher than the national average of $44,570.
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How I Met Your Mother - Architect
Salary in New York City: $59,400
National Average: $52,500
Ted Mosby has big dreams when it comes to love, and his aspirations for his career are almost as lofty. Architects design buildings for clients on a project basis. According to the BLS, architects must be licensed to practice, just as a lawyer or doctor would. And like those professions, architects must complete a degree and internship before sitting for the licensing exam. A successful architect working in Manhattan might be taking home $59,400. This is above the national average of $52,500.
Criminal Minds - FBI Agents
Salary in Quantico: $77,250
National Average: $70,400
A component of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC), the Behavioral Analysis Unit really does use a mix of psychology and social sciences to better understand and apprehend criminals. So what could you make if you signed up as an FBI agent in Quantico, VA? The national average is $70,400. But if you're in Quantico, you could expect to pull in a bit more, with the average being $77,250.
The Bottom Line
The focus of these kinds of shows is rarely financial. After all, if we're looking to kick back and relax watching some TV, it's unlikely that we'd like to see our favorite characters balancing their budgets. However, when you see them jump into a Lexus and drive out of a fancy Los Angeles property, now you might have a better understanding of if that's likely or just more TV magic. (For more, check out Financial Careers According To Hollywood.)
Salary figures are provided by online salary database PayScale.com.
For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: Rising Markets And Buffett's Successor.