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, but 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. (Read more about how some of the world's richest people spread holiday cheer year-round.)

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 2,100 Santas (and Mrs. Clauses) since 1983, according to its website.

Santa's Salary

According to 2017 data from Payscale.com, the average hourly wage for a Santa can run about $30. But the site says a really good Santa can earn as much as $75 an hour. And, of course, that figure can go higher, depending on certain factors. The rate can jump higher on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And if you know more than one language, anything about seasonal toys or Christmas trivia, you may be able to command even more. Payscale said the highest earning Santas can rake in about $20,000 during the holiday rush, all for about 40 days or more during the year.

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 $62,400. Working at the high end, or $75 per hour, would net Mr. Claus $156,000.

On the flip side, other season workers such as extra retail sales associates brought on to help with the Christmas rush make an average of $10.97 per hour, according to estimates from Indeed.com. (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 – without the 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.

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. (Check out our investing adaptation of an old holiday classic.)