What does a Actor do?

Median Pay $17.49 per hour
Growth Rate 12%
Citation Retrieved from BLS.gov

An actor interprets and portrays characters to entertain an audience on television, film, theater, and other performing art venues. They work in several environments such as: theme parks, production studios, theaters, or at a specific filming location. Most actors have other employment in addition to acting consequently acting jobs can be far and few between, though some actors find jobs in a touring company that can last several years.

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How to Become an Actor

actor working

Though there is no formal education requirements, actors main gain some formal training or education. Students take college courses in filmmaking or drama and may take music or dance to further their talents. State colleges, universities, community colleges, acting conservatories, and private film classes usually offer these courses. Actors may also gain preparation through theater arts programs or theater companies.

Acting skills can take numerous years of training and many start at an early stage to develop these skills. Some actors even choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in drama or related fine arts program to enhance their abilities and credentials. According to O*NET OnLine, over 20% of actors surveyed held a bachelor’s degree.

Job Description of an Actor

An actor has the job of meeting agents or other professionals and reading scripts. They prepare to audition for a role in the presence of casting and film directors and producers. They must do research on a character and their personal traits and circumstances in order to portray the character as authentically as possible in a way that appeals to the audience. Actors working hours varies pending on whom they are employed by. At times they the hours can be irregular and extensive.

Actors must memorize lines sometimes at great length. Actors rehearse their lines and performances with others in front of a camera or on stage. They must follow a director’s directions and some actors may need to learn a new skill for a part like dancing, stage fighting, or horseback riding. Some actors do voiceover or narration work for animated features or audiobooks. An actor needs the skills of creativity, memorization, reading, and speaking. They should be persistent and have physical stamina.

Actor Career Video Transcript

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 auditions. Although few actors ever achieve stardom, this can certainly be an exciting and financially rewarding career. What Shakespeare called the “passion to play.”


National Center for O*NET Development. 27-2011.00. O*NET OnLine.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Actors.

The video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.