From Vice Presidents and Deputy Chiefs of Staff to Executive Pastry Chefs and Chief Stenographers, the White House employs hundreds of staffers on a multi-million dollar payroll. Whether there's a Democrat or a Republican in office, the political machine keeps on running thanks to the men and women working behind the scenes — some in positions we never knew existed. Ranging from White House salaries of $30,000 to $400,000 per year based on June 2019's Annual Report to Congress on White House Office Personnel, the highest- (and lowest-) paid White House staff positions may surprise you.
Junior digital designers at the White House make $43,600 annually working on graphic design projects. This is over $10,000 lower than the average national salary for graphic designers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2018 wage estimates, which averaged a typical yearly salary for graphic designers at $54,680 per year. An AIGA interview with President Barack Obama’s Creative Director, who oversaw graphic design projects for the White House, cited White House budget covers, The State of the Union Page, the Taxpayer Receipt Tool, infographics, education initiatives, and projects like the Student Film Festival artwork as falling under their graphic design purview.
June 2019's annual wage report showed that research associates usually make $48,000 per year, but one research associate, Macy Mount, who is technically a detailee and not a White House employee, makes nearly $10,000 more than her co-workers with an annual salary of $57,510. This is not to be confused with entry-level research assistants: Hannah Robertson is the only "research assistant" currently on the White House payroll, and she brings home a yearly salary of $43,600.
Of the eight executive assistants working at the White House in June 2019, three received a yearly salary of $48,800, which is significantly less than May 2018's national average for executive assistants working outside of the White House, $61,550 per year. Two additional White House executive assistants received yearly salaries in the $50,000 range, which is still much lower than the typical executive assistant wage. On the other end of the spectrum, the president's executive assistant Molly Michael made double the national average with a salary of $120,000 per year at the time of the July report.
The two White House press assistants make $48,000 per year. That is if they stay that long. Former Disney star Caroline Sunshine of Shake It Up fame made headlines for her decision to join the Trump Administration as a White House press assistant in March 2018, as reported by Variety, but her name was nowhere to be found in the annual staffing report released only a year later. The Trump Administration is notorious for many reasons: its high staffing-turnaround being one.
Unlike White House junior digital designers and executive assistants, the West Wing receptionist makes more than their apolitical brethren with a salary of $48,800 per year. Receptionists outside of the White House average $30,350 per year, as of May 2018. In 2016, the Obama Administration hired the first deaf White House receptionist, Leah Katz-Hernandez, affectionately referred to as ROTUS by the president, ABC News reported at the time. Today, that position is held by a woman named Hannah Zakaria, but no West Wing receptionist could be more iconic that The West Wing's Deborah Fiderer, played by Lily Tomlin.
While not included in the annual report to Congress on White House office personnel, executive pastry chef Susan Morrison may have the most compelling job in the executive branch. Business Insider estimates her annual salary at $52,160. Susan's day-to-day activities include baking pies and miniature pastries. Still, her biggest project is the White House gingerbread house, which becomes her main responsibility in November but stays on her mind 365 days per year. Susan has been working for the White House since 1995, and she stepped into the executive pastry chef role in 2014.
Another White House position that requires a massive pay cut, operations managers in the White House earn between $53,000 and $72,700 per year, while the average yearly income for operations managers outside of the government lands around $123,880 per year. Typically, operations managers are upper-level managers who oversee HR, daily organization operations and oversee departmental budgets. The White House also has a Senior Operations Manager, Emily Eng, who makes $92,400 per year.
While the average income for travel agents and planners who work outside of the White House falls around $42,700 per year, the White House travel manager makes $58,200 annually. Two White House employees function solely as travel managers for the administration, while the White House management office has its travel manager and special projects employee, Grace McCaffrey, who earns $64,400 per year.
Current White House records management analysts make between $43,600 and $66,900 per year to analyze, scan, and index documents at the White House. The job description also calls for analysts to track documents as they travel to agencies and offices throughout the Executive Office of the President and the federal government, with an official starting salary of $41,200. There is also a senior records management analyst who earns $75,400 annually as of June 2019.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
The Director of Writers for Presidential Correspondence earns $72,700 per year for reading and responding to presidential fan (and hate) mail. President Obama's director of writers for presidential correspondence, Fiona Reeves, spoke to Slate about her day-to-day activities overseeing an office that reads thousands of letters each day, personally reading about 400 herself, selecting ten letters for the president's briefing book and occasionally responding to letters and emails in the president's singular voice. Today, this position is held by James Beley for the Trump administration.
Even the White House needs somebody that can use Final Cut Pro. The Director of Video Production at the White House makes $86,200 per year, which aligns with the national average for film and video editors that don't work for the White House, $86,830 per year. Salaries for producers and directors outside of the White House also fall in the $80,000-$90,000 range, with an average yearly salary of $89,840. Meanwhile, White House salaries for videographers fall into the $60,000-$70,000 range.
If the last time you heard about stenography was during a regional production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, you are not alone. To most, stenography is a thing of the past, but the White House keeps a staff of stenographers around to record everything the president says, then submit the recordings to the presidential archives. Trump's director of stenography earns $95,500 per year, but former Obama stenographer Beck Dorey-Stein told NPR that Trump barely uses his stenographers, doesn't understand what they're supposed to be doing, and has given them significantly less access in the White House.
Another old fashioned job in the White House, the president has a team of calligraphers on staff to handwrite special invitations, certificates, menus, place cards, documents, and letters, in addition to personalizing fonts and symbols for special guests. The calligraphy office has been around since the 1860s, and CNN reported in 2018 that the chief calligrapher has a higher clearance than White House adviser Jared Kushner. The chief calligrapher earns $99,400 annually, and his staff members make between $72,800 and $94,400.
Nicole Frazier, a special assistant to the president, was named the director of strategic partnerships and African-American outreach in June 2019 after the position was left vacant for months. Nicole makes $106,000 in the role and is the third African-American outreach director in only two years. Nicole replaced Henry Childs II, who himself filled the role after Omarosa Manigault Newman was fired in 2017. Omarosa wrote a critical tell-all, Unhinged, labelling Trump a "bigot" who uses racial slurs.
Most speechwriters in the current administration also serve as a special assistant to the president, a deputy assistant, or an adviser. Still, the average speechwriting White House salary is $120,000 per year. Speechwriters with fancy additional titles have earned as much as $168,000 annually, and the minimum speechwriter salary at the White House is currently $106,000. There's likely no White House speechwriter as well known as Jon Favreau (not to be confused with the MCU actor of the same name), President Obama's young, hot Director of Speechwriting who made $172,200 per year and was the second-youngest chief White House speechwriter on record.
The Director of Oval Office Operations and Special Assistant to the President makes $145,000 per year if they can stay in the position for that long. Madeleine Westerhout was known as one of Trump's chief gatekeepers until she was ousted in August 2019. At only 28 years old, Madeleine was one of the highest-paid White House staffers and outlasted three chiefs of staff during her two-and-a-half years in the position. CNN reported that her unexpected absence came after an off-the-record dinner with reporters.
The White House Office of the Executive Clerk was created in 1865 to collect signed presidential documents that constitute official public actions such as bills received from Congress, presidential communications to Congress, and delivering vetoes. The executive clerk also keeps watch on the time limit for vetoes and reviews congressional documents. This middleman between the executive and legislative branches of government makes a White Hosue salary of $165,417 per year. At the time of the June 2019 annual report, the executive clerk position was held by David Kalbaugh.
There are many, many policy advisors in the White House, with salaries that range from $50,510 to $166,500 per year. Of the 17 policy advisors listed in June 2019's annual report, Cynthia Kelly and Kelsey Kilgore had the lowest White House salaries for policy advisors with earnings in the $50,000 to $60,000 range, while 13 of the remaining 15 policy advisors made over $100,000 annually. Senior policy advisor Martin Dannenfesler made the most at $166,500, but other White House policy advisors with additional titles made as much as $183,000 per year.
There are multiple deputy chiefs of staff in the White House, with the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination Christopher Liddell making the lowest White House salary with only $30,000 per year. Still, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for the First Lady Stephanie Grisham (who later became the Press Secretary), Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Daniel Walsh, and Principal Deputy Chief of Staff Emma Doyle each earned $183,000 annually in the June 2019 report. Emma reports directly to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and is the fifth staffer to take on the Principal Deputy Chief of Staff role since 2017. Josh Lyman, pictured above, lasted six seasons as Deputy Chief of Staff on The West Wing, which is officially longer than any Trump appointment to the position will be.
Official White House Photo
Pasquale "Pat" Cipollone, or as the president refers to him, "Mr. Attorney," advises Trump on all legal matters for a White House salary of $183,000 per year. Although, with an impeachment inquiry looming and no shortage of presidential legal scandals to come, we wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Attorney received a fat raise. Pat assumed office in December 2018, following Emmet Flood and Don McGahn. This $183,000 White House salary is only a fraction of Pat's income. His financial disclosure for 2017 reported an income of $6.7 million. Pictured above is Samuel Rosenman, the first-ever official counsel to the President who coined the term "New Deal" during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency.
Kim Kardashian isn't the only prison reform activist with a foot in the door at the White House. Brooke Rollins is a prison reform activist working as the assistant to the president for strategic initiatives, a position vaguely described as applying private sector solutions to American problems. Brooke earns $183,000 per year with her White House salary, which is probably less than she was making in her previous position as the CEO and president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Trump invented the senior advisor for strategic communications role in late 2016 for Hope Hicks as an extension of her position during his campaign and transition into the presidency. The responsibilities were never clearly defined, but likely involved advising Trump on messaging, coordinating media appearances, and generally providing feedback on personnel and agenda. Mercedes Schlapp assumed the role upon Hope's departure, but when Mercedes stepped down in July 2019, the position was abolished entirely. The salary for this role was $183,000 in June 2019.
Stephen Miller is the only non-relative serving as a senior advisor to Trump, joining Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. While Jared and Ivanka do not receive a salary for their contributions, as stated in the June 2019 report, Stephen has an annual White House salary of $183,000. A better-known senior advisor in the public consciousness is the second-ever politician to assume the role, President Bill Clinton's Senior Advisor for Policy George Stephanopoulos. Before 1993, the title of "senior advisor" was used somewhat regularly throughout other departments and independent agencies for unrelated purposes.
Three were appointed, but only one remains. When Trump took office in 2017, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Johnny DeStefano were given the title of Counselor to the President (which has nothing to do with being White House Counsel). Created during Richard Nixon's administration, not all presidents choose to appoint counselors, such as Jimmy Carter, and many leave the position vacant for multiple years before deciding to bring counselors onboard. Kellyanne was the only counselor present in the June 2019 report, earning a White House salary of $183,000 per year.
Stephanie Grisham was promoted to White House press secretary and White House communications director from her position as the First Lady's deputy chief of staff for communications in July 2019 following Sarah Sanders departure from the role. Before Sarah, the press secretary title was held by Sean Spicer, but we prefer to associate the title with The West Wing's C.J. Cregg, played by the inimitable Allison Janney. As of the June 2018 annual report, the White House press secretary earns $183,000 per year.
Also known as the National Security Advisor, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs has been held by six men during Trump's presidency, but the position is most closely associated in the media with George W. Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. In June 2019, John R. Bolton was the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and earned a White House salary of $183,000 per year. This role acts as the chief in-house advisor to the President on national security issues and works closely with the National Security Council.
John Kelly left his role as the White House Chief of Staff just in time for June 2019's annual report, which shows Mick Mulvaney as the acting chief of staff, with no official replacement in the role. Mick makes $203,500, one of the highest White House salaries reported. His predecessor, Kelly, had replaced Reince Priebus as Chief, who lasted an entire six months before stepping down from the position. Mick also works as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, where he has served since 2017, which means he technically reports to himself.
The most well-known role in American politics following the President is the Vice President. Unlike your student government VPs who just had to sit there and smile, the American Vice President can preside over Senate deliberations and joint sessions of Congress, although they can only vote as a tie-breaker. The role is first in the presidential line of succession and is a position of power in both domestic and foreign policy. In June 2019, Mike Pence received $230,700 for his tenure as Vice President.
While the Vice President may be the president's number two in title, Mike Pence was not the second-highest earner in the White House. As Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff for Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement, John Czwartacki earned $239,595 per year according to the June 2019 annual report. CNN pointed out that both Mick Mulvaney and John's White House salaries are higher than the personnel cap instituted by Congress, but their designation as "detailees" instead of employees means they can skirt the rule. Technically, John is out-earning his own boss.
Despite inflation, the President's annual salary has stayed static since 2001 at $400,000 per year, but that doesn't tell the whole story. POTUS is also given a $50,000 expense allowance, a $19,000 entertainment account, and a $100,000 non-taxable travel account. Congressional Quarterly has tracked the President's salary changes since its establishment in 1789, when it began at just $25,000 (which, ironically, would be $709,000 today — $309,000 higher than today's Presidental pay-out). Before 2001, the last time POTUS' salary was increased was in 1969, when it doubled from $100,000 to $200,000.