How Can I Become an Actress or Actor?

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

What Is an Actor or Actress?

Actors and actresses portray roles in a variety of media including film, television, radio, and theater. In order to deliver an authentic performance, actors and actresses must research the context of the script and the specific character they will play, in addition to memorizing lines and blocking. To do this they must attend numerous rehearsals and take into account any suggestions and directions from the director of the production. Actors and actresses may have to audition for several roles before earning a spot in a production. Some may have an agent who helps schedule various auditions. See the table below for information on education requirements, job outlook, and salary for this career.

Education RequiredNone required, though a bachelor's degree is helpful
Education Field of StudyFilm, theater, dramatic literature, broadcasting or related field
Training Required Long-term on-the-job training
Job Growth (2014-2024)10%*
Mean Hourly Wage (May 2015) $37.47*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Exactly Do Actors and Actresses Do?

As an actress or actor, you'll deliver believable and effective performances based on the scripts you're given. Sometimes, you'll have to portray real-life people, and you'll need to research and study the person to deliver an accurate representation. Other times, you'll be called upon to bring life to a fictional character.

While most people think of actors who star in blockbuster films or actresses who perform on Broadway, few working actors reach this level of success. Small theatre productions, commercials and television work offer additional opportunities, if you're looking to make a living as an actor. You'll likely have to spend a lot of time auditioning in addition to the time you actually spend acting.

How Can I Break Into the Industry?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professional training is generally needed to start a career as an actor or actress, but it is possible to land jobs based solely on your natural talent ( Studying acting in high school or college can help improve your career prospects. You might want to consider earning a degree in film, theater, communications, dramatic literature or broadcasting.

According to the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, developing a network of industry contacts can help improve your career opportunities ( The more people you know in the industry, the more connected you'll be to what's going on, what's changing and what new projects are coming up. Additionally, you may want to find an acting or talent agent who will work to help you find more job opportunities.

How Can I Grow as an Actor or Actress?

Some actresses and actors are able to land big jobs with little to no experience, but the vast majority start with smaller roles. It's likely that you'll take on non-speaking roles as an extra or land minor parts on small projects early on in your career. To advance, however, these humble roles shouldn't be taken lightly. The more you work and gain experience in the field, no matter how big or small, the more you'll be prepared for larger opportunities when they present themselves. It's also a good idea to continue studying the craft of acting by taking classes or even hiring a private coach.

What Does the Future Hold?

According to the BLS, employment in the field was expected to increase by 1% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than average. With the growth of technology and expansion of media projects distributed through the Internet, cell phones and other electronics, new jobs are expected to become available for aspiring actresses and actors. Competition is expected to remain high. Salaries vary depending on project size, location and your experience. The BLS reported that the mean hourly wage for actors was $29.34 as of May 2018.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Musicians and singers are related professions that do not require any formal education. These artists may record or perform original music and songs that they have written or perfected on an instrument. Producers and directors are also similar positions, but require a bachelor's degree. These professionals manage all details of a production to create an original movie, television show, play and more.

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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