What you need to know
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 work in various settings, including production studios, theaters, and theme parks, or on location. Work assignments are usually short, ranging from 1 day to a few months.
Some of the things an actor might do:
- 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
- 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 say their lines clearly, project their voice, and pronounce words so that audiences understand them.
The average pay for actors in the United States ranges from $8.97 an hour to more than $89 an hour.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of actors is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.
Job growth in the motion picture industry will stem from continued strong demand for new movies and television shows. 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.
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.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Theatre.