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How to Become a Professional Actor in 5 Steps

Students who want to know how to become an actor can pursue education and training to prepare for an acting career. Here we break down the 5 steps to becoming an actor in detail.

How to Become an Actor

Those wondering 'what do you need to become an actor?' or 'how do I begin a career as an actor?' should know that there is no one set path for starting a career in the field. There are several different education options and a wide range of ways to get 'discovered' or have your career and reputation advance. In general, actors need some formal training and/or specialty training before auditioning for roles in hopes of further improving their acting abilities and advancing their careers. Below, we examine each of these steps in more detail.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

While actors are not typically required to have a formal degree, some college and postsecondary training is helpful and bachelor's degree programs are fairly common. Actors can pursue a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting or Drama. While some schools may offer online BFA degree programs, online acting degrees are rare, due to the hands-on nature of the field. However, some online theatre courses may be available.

Most bachelor's degree programs in acting or drama require an audition for admittance. Once in the program, students take coursework and often participate in department productions, internships, and/or practicum experiences for hands-on experience. Coursework in these programs may cover topics in areas like:

  • Acting
  • Theatre history
  • Production
  • Movement
  • Voice
  • Directing

Although it may be less common, students may choose to pursue a master's degree in acting. Master's programs in the field usually result in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Some of these programs can be completed in as little as 16 months, while others may take 3 years to complete.

Step 2: Participate in Additional Training

Additional training is not required, but some actors may pursue training in performance-related areas, such as singing or dancing, to increase their skills and abilities to apply for versatile roles. Some actors may need to pursue training after landing a role to learn a specific skill, like an accent or how to play a musical instrument. Overall, additional skill sets can help increase an actor's role options and make them more competitive in the field.

Step 3: Audition

Actors should consistently audition for new and varied roles to increase their likelihood of landing a part and working. Although they may be met with numerous rejections, each performance an actor participates in adds to his or her resume and can help them reach the next level of acting. Actors may commonly begin by participating in school or community productions and may work their way up to a regional, national, or even international stage. Many also get their start by starring in commercials.

Step 4: Further Develop Acting Skills

Participating in numerous performances can help advance an actor's acting abilities and further develop necessary skills for the field. Actors may also work to develop these skills by participating in acting workshops, classes, mentoring, or other educational opportunities throughout their career. These training opportunities may help develop skills in:

  • Creativity
  • Speaking
  • Script reading
  • Improvisation
  • Physical stamina

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Actors typically advance their acting career by taking on diverse roles and growing their reputation. Some actors may decide to take on more managerial positions in the field and pursue a career as a director or producer.

Professional Actor Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median hourly wage for actors in 2018 was $17.54. However, salary statistics in this field should be taken with a grain of salt; a small percentage of actors make millions for a single role while many others struggle to make a living wage. The BLS also reported that the job outlook for actors from 2018 to 2028 was 1%, which means little or no change in the field.