Actor

Actor stands on set in front of an outdoor movie set with a clapper board syncing the time

What you need to know

Overview

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.

What does an actor do?

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

Watch this video to learn more from our actor role models:

What skills are needed?
  • 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.

Watch this video to learn more from our actor role models:

What is the pay?

The average pay for actors in the United States ranges from $11.16 an hour to more than $61.98 an hour as of May 2021.

The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

Employment of actors is projected to grow 32 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020 and is likely to occur early in the decade.

While many theaters and production companies stopped performances during the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for actors is expected to recover as these establishments resume operations.

Streaming services and other online-only platforms are expected to drive employment demand for actors as the number of shows produced and the volume of content increases.

What education is required to become an actor?

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.

Watch this video to learn more from our actor role models: