The possibility of becoming an actor is exciting to many who dream of seeing their names on Broadway or on the silver screen. Heck, a lot of them would take the copper or bronze screen. Being an actor is tough, and finding jobs in the field is tougher still.
Part of this is because the path to "professional actor" is rarely a straight one, and as a result, it can be difficult to find precisely the right way to break into the field.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Theatre Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as a Theatre Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
1. Skills for Theatre Majors
Actors need a lot of creativity in order to work -- they have to be able to read and interpret a character based often on little more than a series of lines and, if they're lucky, a rough outline of that character's motivations and goals.
But creativity isn't all that it takes to be an actor. You also need a high degree of skills related to speaking, interpreting, in addition to body and muscle control.
Let's take a closer look at what some of these Theatre skills look like:
Before an actor can be on stage or in film, they'll need to memorize dozens or more pages of lines. The ability to quickly read and memorize lines is a necessary skill for actors of any kind, with the possible exception of voice acting (where the lines an actor is supposed to read is typically in front of them at all times).
Actors and dancers need to be in excellent physical condition in order to deal with the heat from heavy costumes, makeup, and stage lights, not to mention the hours and hours of performances and rehearsals.
Actors need excellent communication skills in order to properly project themselves and be understood in whatever format they're acting within. In addition to public speaking skills, they'll also need to know how to communicate with individual for networking purposes, as much of getting jobs in the acting world has to do with personal and professional connections.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting a Theatre Degree
Theatre internships are an excellent way to gain directing, organizing, or backstage experience in theatre productions, not to mention afford you the opportunity to connect with actors and directors who might be able to offer you more work down the line.
Interns aren't always given the opportunity to act in a production, and the better the internship the more likely that competition for roles will be too fierce for an intern to have any hope of being in a show itself. But the chance to see in concrete terms how a professional theatre production is put on is some of the best experience you can get when it comes to building your resume as a Theatre Major.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
3. Available Jobs For Theatre Majors
Throughout their time in college, Theatre Majors learn about the various ways that humans communicate, the nature of relationships, and how ideas and emotions are conveyed through both speech as well as body language. While all essential for acting, these kind of skills are also applicable to a variety of other industries and careers.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Theatre Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Unsurprisingly, one of the top jobs for those with Theatre Majors is acting. Actors read, memorize, and interpret the roles written for them, and may need to adapt their acting skills based on the medium in which they are working.
A Stage Manager is someone who coordinates and runs a theatre production by planning, organizing, and coordinating with the various actors, directors, and backstage crew who are employed by the production.
A Costume Designer is tasked with creating costumes and outfits that, in addition to being stylish and fitting to both individual people and the characters that they play, also need to meet the unique needs of their medium. For example, Costume Designers for a live theatre production need to bear in mind that actors will need to get in and out of their costumes quickly, something that film or TV productions don't need to concern themselves with.
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for Theatre Majors
Get Experience Wherever You Can
With theatre, the most important thing is always to keep getting experience in your chosen role by participating in productions both on and off campus. Performance skills are developed over a long period of time, and you need to make sure you have as many opportunities to practice as you can find.
Summers are an excellent time to get creative or technical experience, provided you aren't busy with internships or classes. Your school's theatre program may be putting on summer productions, but if they're not, there may be other non-college-affiliated theatre troupes who are putting on productions themselves. It helps to be in a town or city with a sizable arts community, so if the college you attend has a larger population than the town it's located in, you may need to shop around a bit.
If nothing else, you can spend your summer studying monologues, or even try your hand at writing your own plays.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in Theatre
Pursuing an advanced degree
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Graduate degrees in Theatre can often be very useful even for those trying to gain more practical experience as opposed to necessarily academic experience. Many theatre programs afford various on- and off-stage roles in productions for their graduate students, which help students better understand the realities of participating in theatre productions within a relatively lower-stakes college setting.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with Theatre degree normally consider:
Master's in Theatre
- Often geared towards teaching theatre specifically, Master's programs are excellent for those looking to pick up a few extra skills or certifications in particular aspects of theatre without spending too much longer in academia
MFA (Master of Fine Arts in Theatre)
- An MFA in Theatre will give you the opportunity to specifically get creative experience in directing, acting, and producing theatrical performances
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Theatre)
- PhDs in Theatre work closely with the theatre programs offered by their school, engaging with theatre from a theoretical perspective while also approaching the way that theatre is taught at the college level and beyond.
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
Actors Equity Association (Equity)
Equity is a union organization for actors who work in live theatre which helps to negotiate salaries and working conditions. In order to join, a non-Equity actor must participate in a certain number of Equity affiliated plays.
Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
Another union organization for actors, SAG-AFTRA negotiates working conditions for any actors whose work is recorded for film, TV, voiceover, or broadcast journalism.
Enter "Theatre" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.