It used to be that you could don a red suit, put on a fake beard, stuff a pillow under your jacket and you'd be Santa Claus.

Not today! Today there are schools that teach "Santa's helpers" how to portray the jolly old gent.

Santa schools estimate a person can make between $20,000 and $60,000 over the Christmas season as portraying Santa through mall and corporate party appearances. Mall work pays about $20 an hour but parties can earn Santa $100 an hour.

It can pay the bills, but our focus is on having good Santas and that starts with the ability to have a twinkle in the eye and the desire to good, said Jennifer Andrews who runs the Calgary-based Victor Nevada School. I don't think profit is a dirty word, but it shouldn't be the primary focus. Can they make money? Absolutely, she said. But they have to spend time honing their craft. You can't do it well by getting a beard, shoving on a red jacket and saying, Ho, ho ho!

Here is the breakdown; a good suit costs about $800, boots more than $300 and beard bleaching can run $700 a season, and that doesn't include dry cleaning.

You need to be really good to put one over a kid today.

You do need a twinkle in your eye, and sincerity in your heart.

Even if you can pass the background check, most wanna be Santas can't hack the 54 hours of rigorous training -- five days from 8:30 a.m. to as late as 1 a.m.

Santas are taught how to answer the impossible questions: Mommy and Daddy moved out of the house and Daddy doesn't have a job -- can you help Daddy? Or Grandma died and the only thing I want is to see her at Christmas dinner.

Santa can't promise kids anything -- Santa has to be optimistic, but he can't lie.

(From ABC News)