Voice-Over Actor: Job Description & Qualifications

Find out what exactly a voice-over actor does and how to become one. Read about the common duties, necessary training, skills, and education to see if this career is the right one for you. Schools offering Acting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Voice-Over Acting at a Glance

Voice-over actors, sometimes called just voice actors, provide vocal talent for a project without their faces ever being seen. Many industries use the work of voice-over actors, including commercials, radio, movie trailers, sports broadcasts, documentaries, and animated movies. The table below lays out some details for this career.

Education Required College-level coursework
Education Field of Study Voice, acting/theater
Training Required Voice lessons, acting lessons
Key Skills Smoothly read out loud from a script, convey tone and emotion through the voice, speak in a pleasant-sounding voice
Median Hourly Wage (2019) $39.87 (voice-over talent)**
Job Growth (2016-2026) 12% (all actors)*

Sources:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com

How Do I Become a Voice-Over Actor?

Because there is no formal degree requirement to become a voice-over actor, people pursuing this highly competitive career path may find employment through talent agencies or open auditions. These aspiring actors have often completed college-level courses in acting and voice, as well. To find work in the field, many voice-over actors record a professional demo CD and distribute it to agencies or potential clients. Some voice actors may also partner with a recording studio to keep their recordings on file for future clients. Taking on a variety of jobs and building a vocal portfolio will help improve expertise and skills in the field.

Where Do Voice-Over Actors Work?

Most voice-over work is done in a recording studio. The actor will typically read from a script into a microphone to create an audio recording. The recording will then be edited by audio or sound technicians for future use.

Typically, larger cities will have more recording studios for voice-over work. Cities like Los Angeles and New York will likely have a greater need for voice-over actors, for example. However, with higher-quality recording equipment becoming more affordable, a growing number of voice-over actors record their work from home and send it to clients online.

What Skills Do I Need to Be Successful?

As noted above, voice-over actors don't need a formal degree as long as they have a talent with their voices. Some actors may choose to pursue degrees in acting, theater, or voice studies, but oftentimes, taking regular voice or acting lessons or courses is enough when combined with practical experience.

Aside from being able to skillfully control the voice, the ability to read eloquently from a script is also important. A voice-over actor may be asked to read a script several times in different ways, emphasizing different words and using different emotions or accents. Being flexible with last-minute adjustments is also important.

How Much Do Voice-Over Actors Make?

Because voice-over acting is based largely on experience, the salary range for this career could be quite wide. Payscale.com reports a median hourly wage of $39.87 in 2019 for voice-over talent. For actors in general, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed an hourly median figure of $17.49 in 2017.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Stage and screen actors also use their skills to convey emotions and information. These careers use the whole range of facial and body movements to express themselves, so vocal emphasis is less important than overall stage presence.

News reporters and broadcasters also convey information through their voices, but they combine skills like interviewing and research to cover a news story. This career field requires good interpersonal communication when conducting interviews, and broadcasters must be able to read from a teleprompter during live broadcasts.

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