By the time Frank Mankiewicz went to work for Democratic Sen. George S. McGovern's presidential campaign in 1972, he had worked as a Beverly Hills lawyer, a regional director for the Peace Corps and a syndicated columnist.

As national political director for the McGovern effort, however, Mankiewicz barely made $40,000 a year, far less than his credentials would have earned him in the private sector.

This year, Vice President Bush's campaign manager is Lee Atwater, a well-known Republican political strategist and Washington insider who is earning $120,000 a year. Atwater said that he too could be earning twice as much if he were not committed to Bush's presidential campaign.

Still, Mankiewicz and others characterized the $100,000-plus salaries being paid to some strategists this year as nothing short of "amazing."

"I saw some campaign salary figures the other day and it blew me out of the water," Mankiewicz said.

Higher salaries are just part of the story of who runs the 1988 campaigns. Most campaigns had more than 100 paid staffers on board fully a year before the 1988 general election. And a common feature of the 1988 race is that almost all the campaigns already maintain a full complement of specialized consultants -- pollsters, direct-mail experts, fund-raisers and even payroll managers -- who are responsible for the smooth operation of what are now -- with a couple of exceptions -- supposed to be businesslike, computer-driven operations.

Charles Black, the unsalaried head of Rep. Jack Kemp's (R-N.Y.) effort, even has a title to indicate the growing private sector-type insularity of today's campaign: CEO.

"Presidential campaigns are now bigger and longer," said Edward J. Rollins, who ran President Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign and is Kemp's unpaid campaign chairman this year. "One of the things that has happened is that political consultants as a rule don't like volunteers. You've got to create work for volunteers."

Unlike political professionals like Rollins and Black, most volunteers work out of the regional offices of candidates. Often young, mostly inexperienced in the ways of national politics, they often work phone banks and arrange campaign events, or help with mailings.

Often, Rollins said, it is a more efficient use of time and money to hire specialized experts who can be entrusted with sophisticated tasks like buying media time and filing campaign expense reports than to find tasks for volunteers.

A Washington Post review of Federal Election Commission records shows that even though Atwater and a few others are setting new records for campaign compensation, most top managers earn substantially less. Several, such as Rollins, Black and William E. Brock, chairman for Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), take no salary.

But the majority are paid, and for those, continued employment is a risk. Whether they receive a paycheck often depends on the success of fund-raising or on other indirect factors that could end a campaign abruptly.

Robert G. Beckel, who ran 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walter F. Mondale's ultimately unsuccessful campaign, was paid the equivalent of $60,000 annually at a rate of $5,000 a month. But Beckel noted that even though he was the highest-paid person in the campaign, his salary declined significantly after Gary Hart surprised the field by winning the New Hampshire primary, a setback for Mondale that effectively cut off his flow of campaign contributions.

"It was not one of the years where you could put away for retirement," Beckel observed.

But he defends the fees some campaign managers are earning this year, saying they have unique responsibility for running a "very complicated management exercise."

"You can't leave presidential campaigns in inexperienced hands," Beckel said. "To pay a guy $120,000 to keep you out of trouble is better than paying a guy $40,000 who {makes a mistake that} costs you $2 million in fund-raising."

In 1984, Atwater recalls that he earned less than $70,000 as Rollins' deputy on the Reagan campaign. This year, he estimates that his Bush consulting fee is one-third of what he could be earning in a year.

"I did not come to work for George Bush to make any money at all," he said.

Political professionals point out that their colleagues who take what they call cuts in salary -- or no salary -- to run campaigns often reap great benefit later. When they return to nonpresidential political consulting or to some of the plum political jobs in Washington, playing a major role in a presidential campaign ups their value considerably.

Numerous outside consultants -- pollsters, media advisers, law firms and others -- will earn $100,000- plus from various campaigns. But such a salary remains relatively rare. Joining Atwater and his deputy, Rich Bond, on the top tier of $100,000-plus salaries this campaign cycle is Marc Nuttle, the manager of evangelist Pat Robertson's bid for the Republican nomination.

Nuttle, an Oklahoma attorney who has run state campaigns, has acquired a reputation as an expert in campaign finance laws and a backer of conservative-leaning causes, according to a Robertson campaign spokesman.

The second tier of campaign compensation includes top campaign officials who are paid in the $70,000-to-$80,000-a-year range: Alan Hubbard, manager for Republican Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV, Jeff Bell with Kemp, Fred Martin with Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) and Brian Lunde with Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.).

Campaign managers for the poorest campaigns, logically, are often the poorest paid. Jesse L. Jackson's Gerald Austin makes $48,000; and Babbitt's Fred DuVal, $47,000. Neither has managed a presidential campaign before.

Other campaigns are likely to have managers in that salary range -- some would not release the data, and they were hired after the latest FEC report, so their salaries are not yet public.

In several cases, press secretaries, field directors, finance directors and speechwriters earned nearly as much as the campaign managers. Robertson communications director Constance Snapp, for instance, earns more than all but a handful of campaign chiefs.

Gary, Ind., Mayor Richard Hatcher, who ran Jackson's campaign until Austin took over last month, attracted controversy when it was revealed in campaign finance reports that he was being paid a rate of $94,000 a year in salary and expenses to be "chief executive officer" of the Jackson effort at the same time that he was drawing his $52,497-a-year municipal salary.

Austin said he is now the campaign's top-paid official and that Hatcher, who serves as mayor until Dec. 21, has since had his contract with Jackson "renegotiated."

"In most contemporary presidential campaigns, you are bidding for a relatively small number of people who have the ability, the insight, the communications skills to play a role in the campaign," said Terry Michael, who left his post with the Democratic National Committee earlier this year to act as Simon's chief campaign spokesman.

Working for a 1988 presidential campaign, Michaels and others maintain, is not really as lucrative as it seems.

"The salary may be high, but there's no guarantee," Michael said. "There's no contract. The salary could disappear in weeks. Some know very well that with the volatility of presidential politics, that salary could end."

Most of the people who run America's presidential campaigns say money doesn't matter. They say they work for the love of their candidate.

In many cases -- the efforts of Bruce Babbitt and Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, for example -- national campaign staffers worked first in local races for their candidates or as aides in their administrations.

One exception is Rep. Richard A. Gephardt's (D-Mo.) lieutenant Joe Trippi, a 1984 Mondale staffer who worked first for Hart's aborted presidential bid this year, flirted briefly with Dukakis, according to campaign finance records, and then signed on as Gephardt's deputy campaign manager for $48,000 a year.

"You drive for a balance between organizational efficiency and what the best way to describe it would be a college newspaper atmosphere," said Mark Johnson, who is earning $48,000 a year as Gephardt's campaign spokesman.

Even Atwater, who has leapfrogged from one Republican campaign to another over the years and is described as a "hired gun" by his counterparts in other campaigns, said that profound commitment to a candidate is the best reason for getting involved in a presidential campaign.

"The challenge is a turn-on," former corporate executive Austin of Jackson's campaign. "That makes up for the money."

Others willingly join in the career crapshoot that a campaign job embodies for the chance to build a campaign professional's resume or with the hope that backing the right horse will land them a White House job.

Bush, Dole and Dukakis, with at least 250 paid staffers each, currently lead the field in the number of people they have hired to work out of their national headquarters, in early primary and caucus states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, and in key fund-raising states such as California and New York.

Until Hart's reentry in the race the past week, Alexander M. Haig Jr. and Jackson, with fewer than 45 workers each, had the smallest paid staffs.

Although some top-tier salaries seem lucrative in relative terms, the FEC reports show that for most nuts-and-bolts campaign staffers -- especially for those outside of Washington -- money is no substitute for the challenge.

Bart Gellman, the issues director of Babbitt's Arizona-based campaign, earns about $25,000. In the Haig campaign, Iowa coordinator Jay Semarad and deputy press secretary Leslie Milsten make less than $20,000 each, according to records.

Unlike the Babbitt effort, however, the Haig campaign is not a cut-rate operation. According to FEC filings, the campaign spent more than $13,000 during the summer months on lodging and meals at Washington's luxury Madison Hotel across the street from its national headquarters.

Many of those involved this year say that as campaign marketing and strategy becomes a full-time career choice for more people, the real lure has become the chance to play the game at its most sophisticated level: presidential politics.

Said Beckel: "You've got to understand that over a two-year period of time {during the 1983-84 Mondale campaign}, I hired or fired 2,000 people and spent close to $80 million, and that is a big business."