Actor or Actress: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become an actor or actress. Learn about salary, career outlook and education requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Acting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Actor or Actress Do?

There's a lot more to acting than being a TV or movie star. Actors usually work long hours studying lines, rehearsing scenes and performing on stage or screen. Screen actors may work in areas like commercials for television, TV dramas and comedies, or movie productions. Professional stage actors can be found in every major city working major theaters, dinner theaters, and repertory groups. There are many traveling theater groups in states, regionally or nationally that help in the training of actors for larger roles in places like New York or Los Angeles.

Many actors and actresses start their careers by performing in plays or related performances. Formal training is optional, but often pursued. A summary of career information is provided in the table below.

Education Required Long-term training, but postsecondary classes or a bachelor's degree is suggested
Education Field of Study Acting, theater, film
Key Skills Public speaking, memorization, reading, physical stamina
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% (for all actors)*
Median Hourly Salary (2015) $18.80 (for all actors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of Actors and Actresses?

Actors and actresses bring characters to life to entertaining an audience. In this career, you must memorize lines and actions from a script and perform them in the manner of the character you're portraying. This job requires you to research characters, study script dialogue and rehearse performances so you may give an accurate character portrayal. You may confer with other actors and directors as to the emotions, gestures and facial expressions your character might display. Depending upon what is called for in the script, you may deliver comedic performances or be required to act, sing and dance in a production.

What is the Career Outlook?

Hiring of actors and actresses was expected to increase by approximately 10% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Acting jobs were expected to rise as interactive media and online movies become more mainstream. Many people enter this field seeking fame and fortune, but often they go on to other fields because of long work hours, sporadic acting jobs and meager wages. This trend may produce a steady stream of work for the most dedicated performers.

What Education Should I Attain?

While natural talents are important and are sometimes sufficient for acquiring acting jobs, preparing for an acting career may be done by obtaining formal education. You can enroll in a bachelor's degree program in theater or radio and television broadcasting. A theater course load might cover topics such as voice and body improvisation, play analysis, technical aspects of the theater and acting for the camera. A radio and television program of study might include classes such as media production, electronic media management, mass communications and television production.

You may also consider acquiring an advanced degree, such as a Master of Fine Arts in Performing Arts, which may be beneficial if you'd like to become a stage actor. A typical curriculum might offer courses such as graduate studio, professional practice, costume design, scene design and sound production.

Education is helpful in some cases, but typically, experience is what will help you remain competitive when trying to land a job. You may consider building a portfolio, which allows you to show proof of your abilities to future producers, directors and casting agents. You may gain valuable acting experience and perfect your acting skills through performing in high school, university, and local theater productions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A lot of related careers in the acting field keep people in the general acting field as a whole. Announcers, voice actors, editors and camera operators are all areas where one can work directly within the acting field and require only an undergraduate degree. Other areas may include dancers, choreographers, musicians, and singers that don't always require a formal education and yet many students do go to school to study their craft. Producers and directors also require a degree, but their role will give them more control over the total production not just acting or actors.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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