Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media.
What they do
Actors interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.
Actors typically do the following:
- Read scripts and meet with agents and other professionals before accepting a role
- Audition in front of directors, producers, and casting directors
- Research their character’s personal traits and circumstances to portray the characters more authentically to an audience
- Memorize their lines
- Rehearse their lines and performance, including on stage or in front of the camera, with other actors
- Discuss their role with the director, producer, and other actors to improve the overall performance of the show
- Perform the role, following the director’s directions
Work assignments are usually short, ranging from 1 day to a few months, and actors often hold another job in order to make a living. They are frequently under the stress of having to find their next job. Some actors in touring companies may be employed for several years.
Actors may perform in unpleasant conditions, such as outdoors in bad weather, under hot stage lights, or while wearing an uncomfortable costume or makeup.
How to become an Actor
Many actors enhance their skills through formal dramatic education, and long-term training is common.
Many actors enhance their skills through formal dramatic education. Many who specialize in theater have bachelor’s degrees, but a degree is not required.
Although some people succeed in acting without getting a formal education, most actors acquire some formal preparation through a theater company’s acting conservatory or a university drama or theater arts program. Students can take college classes in drama or filmmaking to prepare for a career as an actor. Classes in dance or music may help as well.
Actors who do not have a college degree may take acting or film classes to learn their craft. Community colleges, acting conservatories, and private film schools typically offer these classes. Many theater companies also have education programs.
The median hourly wage for actors was $20.43 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.52, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60.41.
Employment of actors is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The number of Internet-only platforms, such as streaming services, is likely to increase, along with the number of shows produced for these platforms. This growth may lead to more work for actors.
Similar Job Titles
Actor, Actress, Comedian, Comic, Community Theater Actor, Ensemble Member, Narrator, Performer, Tour Actor, Voice-Over Artist
Self-Enrichment Education Teacher, Singer, Concierges, Tour Guides and Escorts, Retail Salesperson
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Actors' Equity Association - This organization is the labor union representing American actors and stage managers in the theatre.
- Network of Ensemble Theaters - ‘NET’ links a diverse array of ensembles and practitioners to one another and the performing arts field, encouraging collaborations and knowledge building/dissemination.
- Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists - This organization represents over 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, student performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals.
Actors are entertainers. They bring a writer's words to life by portraying characters on stage, screen and radio. Though the career can be glamorous, the road to success is often long and difficult. Most actors have to compete for parts through auditions. They need to be able to handle criticism and rejection. Once hired, actors spend hours memorizing lines and rehearsing. The workdays can be very long, especially on film shoots. In addition to reciting lines, actors need to be able to impersonate a real or fictional character, often right down to particular mannerisms…even regional accents. Stage productions usually require work in the evenings, on weekends and holidays. Besides roles in movies, TV programs, and on stage, actors are employed in commercials, theme parks, and even teaching. Some roles call for singing and dancing. No formal education is required, although training at a university or dramatic arts school can refine important skills such as diction and movement. Actors can get performing experience in school or community productions, as well as in summer stock shows. Many actors struggle for years to make a living. Often they need to find other part-time work to supplement their acting income. It can be helpful to have an agent. Working on commission, talent agents promote their clients to directors and producers and may have an edge in getting an actor audition. Although few actors ever achieve stardom, this can certainly be an exciting and financially rewarding career …what Shakespeare called the "passion to play."
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop, O*Net Online