Around this time of year, Santa may be one of the hardest working figures around. Not only is he up at the North Pole getting ready for December 24, he's also in malls and department stores, appearing in parades and holiday plays, and don't even get him started on all of the posing for Christmas decorations with his picture on them. If you're looking to be among the 500,000 seasonal workers for this holiday season, this job just might be for you. (Learn how some of world's richest people spread holiday cheer year-round. Check out The Christmas Saints Of Wall Street.)

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The Top Santas
The ideal Santa candidate will love spending time with children and have a "ho-ho-ho" that brings more smiles than tears from the young visitors to the workshop. Top employers will require a real beard and don't think about stuffing a pillow under your shirt – you'll have to have the whole look going for you in this competitive job market. Of course, you can't be averse to having your picture taken. Even if you work private Christmas parties, you'll likely have to pose for at least a few holiday shots.

If you really want to be in top shape for the holiday season, be sure to check out Amerevents's Professional Santa Claus School in Denver, Colorado, which has been training, outfitting and contracting over 1,500 Santas since 1983, according to their website.

Santa's Salary
According to Payscale.com, a new Santa can earn $100 per hour, but a Santa with some experience can pull in $175 to $200 per hour. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, that rate can jump as high as $200 for the first hour and $300 for each hour after that. According to Dr. Al Lee of Payscale, Santas who work 40 days around the end of the year can earn $8,000 to $10,000.

To put that in perspective, if Santa worked full time at the low end of that hourly rate, he'd be looking at an annual salary of $208,000. Working at $300 per hour would net Mr. Claus $624,000. According to CNBC.com, that hourly wage of $100 or more per hour is on par with anesthesiologists, commercial pilots, orthodontists, experienced tattoo artists, interior designers and hand models, along with the more traditional jobs of doctors, CEOs and lawyers.

On the flip side, other season workers such as extra retail staff brought on to help with the Christmas rush make between $7.92 and $16.10 per hour. (You don't have to go into debt to have a happy and memorable holiday season. Use these tips for a bountiful Yuletide on a Scrooge-like budget. See Tips For Avoiding A Holiday Spending Hangover.)

Before You Apply
Working as Santa isn't just about sitting in a nice chair and having your picture taken with smiling kids. Would-be Santas should have a strong immune system and not be offended by sniffling children wiping their noses on your sleeve. You should also be prepared to spend long hours in a crowded mall and to deal with parents who have been waiting in a very long line so that their child can sit on your lap.

You can apply directly to job postings for Santa positions, but you can also be represented by talent agencies such as SantaForHire.com, which provides "real bearded Santas for hire nationwide."

If you are looking to freelance rather than rely on a service or work for a single employer, be aware that a quality Santa suit can run you anywhere from $100 to $500, according to SantaPlanet.com.

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The Bottom Line
If you're looking for work around the holidays, there are definite perks to working in the red suit. Though some children may not understand what is going on, most will be thrilled to see you – and their parents will definitely be happy that you helped to create a special memory for them. Just make sure you factor in cold medication and dry cleaning bills when you collect your check. (Here's our investing adaptation of an old holiday classic. Read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.)

For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: FBI Insider-Trading Bust.

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