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Become An Actor

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Working As An Actor

  • Coaching and Developing Others
  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Getting Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • $36,283

    Average Salary

What Does An Actor Do

Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media. They 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

Most actors struggle to find steady work, and few achieve recognition as stars. Some work as “extras”—actors who have no lines to deliver but are included in scenes to give a more realistic setting. Some actors do voiceover or narration work for animated features, audiobooks, or other electronic media.

In some stage or film productions, actors sing, dance, or play a musical instrument. For some roles, an actor must learn a new skill, such as horseback riding or stage fighting.

Most actors have long periods of unemployment between roles and often hold other jobs in order to make a living. Some actors teach acting classes as a second job.

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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.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Actors interpret their characters’ feelings and motives in order to portray the characters in the most compelling way.

Memorization skills. Actors memorize many lines before filming begins or a show opens. Television actors often appear on camera with little time to memorize scripts, and scripts frequently may be revised or even written just moments before filming.

Persistence. Actors may audition for many roles before getting a job. They must be able to accept rejection and keep going.

Physical stamina. Actors should be in good enough physical condition to endure the heat from stage or studio lights and the weight of heavy costumes or makeup. They may work many hours, including acting in more than one performance a day, and they must do so without getting overly tired.

Reading skills. Actors must read scripts and be able to interpret how a writer has developed their character.

Speaking skills. Actors—particularly stage actors—must be able to say their lines clearly, project their voice, and pronounce words so that audiences understand them.

In addition to these qualities, actors usually must be physically coordinated to perform predetermined, sometimes complex movements with other actors, such as dancing or stage fighting, in order to complete a scene.


It takes many years of practice to develop the skills needed to be successful as an actor, and actors never truly finish training. They work to improve their acting skills throughout their career. Many actors continue to train through workshops, rehearsals, or mentoring by a drama coach.

Every role is different, and an actor may need to learn something new for each one. For example, a role may require learning how to sing or dance, or an actor may have to learn to speak with an accent or to play a musical instrument or sport.

Many aspiring actors begin by participating in school plays or local theater productions. In television and film, actors usually start out in smaller roles or independent movies and work their way up to bigger productions.


As an actor’s reputation grows, he or she may work on bigger projects or in more prestigious venues. Some actors become producers and directors.

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Actor Demographics


  • Male

  • Female

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • Italian

  • German

  • Chinese

  • Russian

  • Japanese

  • Mandarin

  • Arabic

  • Portuguese

  • Swedish

  • Irish

  • Thai

  • Vietnamese

  • Korean

  • Turkish

  • Greek

  • Dutch

  • Hebrew

  • Hmong

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Actor Education


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Real Actor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Actor Second Team Productions Allen, TX Jan 15, 2011 $156,525 -
Actor Henderson Romeo Incorporated CA Oct 01, 2009 $104,350
Actor Second Team Productions Allen, TX Nov 15, 2010 $90,000
Actor 360 Casting CA Jun 29, 2011 $78,263
Actor Second Team Productions Allen, TX Feb 01, 2011 $70,000 -
Film Actors Sky Trading LLC OH Nov 04, 2013 $62,610
Actor D L White & Associates Los Angeles, CA Nov 15, 2009 $50,985
Actor D L White & Associates Los Angeles, CA Nov 01, 2009 $41,740
Actor D L White & Associates Los Angeles, CA Nov 01, 2009 $39,653
Actor D L White & Associates Los Angeles, CA Nov 01, 2009 $37,566
Actor The Wooster Group New York, NY Oct 01, 2014 $35,000
Actor George Street Playhouse New Brunswick, NJ Oct 01, 2010 $33,914
Actor Fusion Collective LLC Los Angeles, CA Sep 09, 2014 $32,000
Actor Fusion Collective LLC Los Angeles, CA Sep 11, 2014 $32,000

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Top Skills for An Actor


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Top Actor Skills

  1. Narrate Action
  2. Scare People
  3. Performances
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Read from scripts or books to narrate action or to inform or entertain audiences, utilizing few or no stage props.
  • Answer questions for costumers, scare people, help customers find their way around the park.
  • Listened to director's notes and incorporated feedback into performances.
  • Dress in comical scarecrow costumes and makeup, and perform horror routines to entertain audiences.
  • Work in entertainment industry as an actor in numerous movies and television series being filmed in and around Georgia.

Top Actor Employers

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Actor Videos

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