What Are the Skills Needed to Work in Acting?

There are a variety of acting skills, such as memorization and speaking, that must be developed in order to make a good actor. Here we explore some of these skills and discuss how to become an actor in detail. Schools offering Acting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Acting Skills

Actors must be able to effectively portray characters, ideas, emotions to an audience through a range of media. These professionals must become skilled in a wide range of areas to build a career in a competitive field. While some acting techniques are taught, some acting skills may come more naturally. In the table below, explore some of the more common acting skills that may be required for a successful career in the field.

Skill What the Skill is Needed For
MemorizationRemembering lines, stage directions
CreativityDeveloping characters, conveying emotion
ReadingUnderstanding and interpreting scripts
SpeakingProjection and pronunciation for audience
TeamworkWorking closely with cast and crew for a production
ImprovisationProblem-solving when something goes wrong, adjusting to different situations
CommitmentSeeing a project through, persisting through rejection
Physical staminaWorking long hours, acting out high energy scenes

What Makes a Good Actor?

While everyone has an opinion about what makes a good actor, there are several factors that are beneficial in the field. There are different types of acting, such as theatre, movies, and television, and it is helpful for actors to be versatile in their skills and abilities in order to meet the demands of various kinds of roles. Actors with additional skills, like singing and dancing, may be preferred over other actors without those skills.

Actors with an ability to learn quickly and adjust to an audience's reactions, a director's instructions, or other factors in their performance may also be especially good at their craft. These professionals may be able to help the audience relate better with their character by using different acting techniques and bringing a unique interpretation of the character to life.

How to Become an Actor

Formal education is not required for actors, but many do pursue postsecondary education and long-term training after high school. Most commonly, actors will pursue bachelor's and/or master's degree programs in acting or a related field.

Typically, these degree programs are offered as Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees. While some schools may offer some BFA degree programs online or MFA programs online, acting is not usually available in online formats, due to the hands-on nature of the field. Students pursuing a degree in acting may take courses in topics like:

  • Acting techniques
  • Movement
  • Audition techniques
  • Voice and speech
  • Scene study

Outside of formal education, aspiring actors may pursue acting courses or coursework in additional skill areas, like dance or singing. Actors will also continue to improve their skills and abilities by participating in local theatre and other acting opportunities as they come along until their reputation grows.

Career Overview

Degree RequiredNone required; Acting courses may be helpful
Other RequirementsTraining
Median Pay (2018)*$17.54 per hour
Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)*1% (Little or no change)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Actors usually work odd hours for productions and may work short- or long-term stints, depending on the project. Most commonly, actors are self-employed and must attend numerous auditions before landing a part. The field is highly competitive and actors must typically be ready to work in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings.

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