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Actor/Actress Career Guide

If you have always loved to entertain and consider yourself born to perform, then a career in acting may be just the thing for you.

Actors and actresses are responsible for expressing the ideas of producers and directors and portraying characters. There are a wide range of acting opportunities available, including theatre, commercials, television, and movies. However, despite there being lots of opportunities, it is a fiercely competitive market with lots of talent.

 

Everything you do as an actor ends up taking you somewhere else. All of the emotions that you have to go through whether it’s loving a girl or laughing outrageously in something hilarious. Everything I’ve ever done in a film, it requires this getting to some sort of emotional reality that is contrary to the actual setting that you’re in.

Tom Hanks

Actor/Actress Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Actor/Actress Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Actor/Actress field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33835 Actress Female 32 $75,000 Beacon, NY 01/01/2010
33269 Mo-Cap Actress Female 27 $40,000 Astoria, NY 01/01/2010

Overview

What an actor or actress actually does

You see them on your television screen. They star in your favorite movies, and you may even be their biggest fan. Actors and actresses are idolized in our society, but do you really know whats behind the glitz and the glamour?

Well, we have both good and bad news. The road for each actor looks very different. Of course, we are familiar with the celebrities like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie. They star in the biggest films, make plenty of money, and live extremely lavish lifestyles. Unfortunately, the vast majority of actors and actresses do not end up as ‘big time’ as these two, but that definitely doesn’t mean that you cannot make a living pursuing your dream.

There are a wide range of acting opportunities available, including theatre, commercials, television, and movies. Regardless of where an actor or actress works, and regardless of how famous they are, their job is to express ideas and portray characters. They do this by interpreting a script to entertain or inform an audience. The typical duties and responsibilities of an actor and actress include:

  • Reading scripts and meeting with agents and other professionals before accepting a role
  • Auditioning for roles in front of directors, producers, and casting directors
  • Researching their character to portray the characters more authentically to an audience
  • Memorizing their lines
  • Rehearsing their lines and performance
  • Discussing their role with the director, producer, and other actors to improve the overall performance of the show
  • Performing the role and following the director’s directions

Why they are needed

‘An actor at their very core are story tellers. Art, acting and performance are an expression of life – our cultures, our worries, our love, our strengths, our weaknesses and our existential curiosity. It is political and spiritual in equal measure. It can stimulate debate, educate, dissect life or rise up against oppression. It is relevant because our culture and our art is our defining characteristic from the other animals we share the world with,’ explained Neil Rawlinson, a Creative Projects Manager.

In the present time, there is a huge amounts of political and social changes which bring a lot of uncertainty to our lives. We need actors and actresses to act as storytellers and create work which allows us all to be better connected and better understood.

Pros and cons of a career as an actor and actress:

Pros:

  • No college degree is required, making it an accessible career
  • Actors and actresses have to opportunity to travel
  • There is the potential to earn a high salary
  • When successful, actors a highly recognized worldwide
  • Actors and actresses get to display their creativity every day
  • The hours can be flexible and easy to work around

Cons:

  • Rejection is a constant factor for actors and actresses
  • There is little job security and the income is unstable
  • Many film projects require long hours, meaning that actors and actors often work weekends and holidays
  • It is a very competitive market and you have to be talented in order to survive
  • Often it can be a very short-lived career

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of actors and actresses is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029 about as fast as the average for all occupations. This employment growth is expected because the number of internet-only platforms is expected to increase over the coming years, creating a demand for more shows and thus a demand for m0re actors and actresses.

Small and medium-sized theaters may have difficulty getting funding and, as a result, actors and actresses will have a harder time finding work in this industry. Large theaters have a more stable source of funding and should therefore have more opportunities available.

As a whole, actors will face intense competition for jobs. Most acting roles, no matter how minor, have hundreds of actors auditioning for them!

Career paths

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

Although some actors and actresses can 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. 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.

In truth, it takes many years of practice to develop the skills needed to become a successful actor/actress and they are never truly finish training. As an actor/actress, you will constantly be working to improve your acting skills throughout their career and are likely to continue to train through workshops, rehearsals, or mentoring by a drama coach.

Example Job Titles for Actor/Actress

Below is a list of common job titles in the Actor/Actress field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for actors was $20.43 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.52, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60.41 per hour. The top paying industries were ‘college, universities and professional schools’, where the median hourly salary was $21.11. The second highest paying industry was professional, scientific and technical  services, where the median hourly wage was $19.27. Finally, theater companies and dinner theaters offered a median annual salary of $17.72.

The work hours for actors and actresses are extensive and irregular, and therefore the pay can be unstable. Actors and actress may have to travel a lot.

Autonomy and Flexibility

As a whole, autonomy and flexibility is likely to be low for actors and actresses. Competition is tough for roles, and actors may find themselves taking roles they wouldn’t have necessarily chosen. Furthermore, although actors and actresses can add a touch of their own creative flare, they must largely follow the script and the directors and producers instructions. Actors and actresses will also have little control over their schedule. In times when there is less work, actors may have a more flexible schedule. However, successful and thriving actors will spend a huge amount of time travelling from different sets, rehearsals and performances. Their schedule will mostly be determined by the show producer and/or director, and thus flexibility is low.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia the best states to be an actor and actress, based on average annual salary and number of jobs available, are:

  1. Rhode Island, where the average annual salary was $103,144
  2. Massachusetts, where the average annual salary was $103,184
  3. New Hampshire, where the average annual salary was $101,775
  4. New Jersey, where the average annual salary was $99,406
  5. Maine, where the average annual salary was $98,922

According to Zippia, the worst states to be an actor were South Dakota, Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

Work environment

24% of actor and actresses in the United States are self-employed workers. 13% of actors and actresses in the United States were employed by theater companies and dinner theaters, 5% were employed by colleges, universities and professional schools and 5% were employed by professional, scientific and technical services.

Work assignments are usually short, ranging from one day to a few months. Actors are often looking for another job to make a living and are frequently under the stress of having to find their next job. The conditions that actors and actresses perform in can be unpleasant. For example, they may have to perform outside in bad weather, under hot stage lights or whilst wearing uncomfortable costumes and/or make up.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Actor/Actress careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Actor/Actress career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Actor/Actress.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DISC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

Successful actors and actress are likely to be the ENFP personality type. Bubbly and fun-loving, the ENFP loves to connect with all sorts of people. ENTP’s are energetic, warm and passionate. As extroverts, they are agile and engaging communicators with a strong artistic side; they use this to promote enthusiasm for new ideas, people and activities and encourage others to do the same. All of these things are key qualities for successful actors and actresses.

Accomplishment and mastery

When actors or actress make it and become successful, they will undoubtable feel a high sense of accomplishment and mastery. However, the reality of the profession is that not many people make it as a hugely successful and famous actors/actress. A lot of the time, actors and actresses will be living from job to job. They might not always land the roles they want and may feel a lack of accomplishment or that they’ve not mastered the skills they need to truly thrive.

Meaning and contribution

We need actors and actresses to help connect us all together. They create stories that inspire, unite and entertain the masses. Albeit, the work of an actor or actress won’t help those who are truly in need. But, it does help to tell stories and bring us all just that little bit closer together!

Life fit

In general, the work hours for actors are extensive and irregular. Early morning, evening, weekend, and holiday work is common. Some actors work part time. Few actors work full time, and many have variable schedules. Those who work in theater may travel with a touring show across the country. Film and television actors may also travel to work on location. Overall, it is a career that can provide a difficult life fit.

Who will thrive in this career?

Acting is a cut throat industry. The number one thing that all actors and actresses need is to be talented at acting. You cannot thrive as an actor if you cannot act, perform and entertain. As well as this, in order to truly thrive, actors and actresses will need qualities such as:

  • The ability to not take themselves to seriously, as the best work comes from freedom and playfulness
  • The ability to be adaptable and flexible
  • The desire to take risks and live show to show
  • The desire to constantly be learning and updating your skills and knowledge throughout your entire career

Who will struggle in this career?

Obviously, those who are rubbish at acting will struggle to be a thriving actor/actress. Similarly, what really makes actors and actresses excel is their passion. Therefore, if you’re not passionate about films and entertainment then you are likely to struggle in this career.

Additionally, those seeking total financial stability and a job that is easy to fit around family life may struggle as an actor/actress. Lastly, if you’re not confident working with others and performing in front of large audiences, you are likely to struggle as an actor or actress.

Requirements

Skills and talents

It goes without saying that to become a successful actor/actress, you must be excellent at acting and have a true passion for performing. Without this, you will not survive in such a competitive and talented market. As well as this, actors and actresses will need skills and talents such as:

  • Creativity, as actors and actress need to be able to interpret their character’s feelings and motives in order to portray that character
  • Memory skills are essential as actors and actresses must learn their scripts word for work
  • Interpersonal skills, as actors and actresses will work with lots of different people (e.g., directors, producers, costume designers, scriptwriters) and need to be able to build trusting professional relations with them all
  • Reading skills, as actors/actresses need to be able to read, interpret and understand scrips
  • Speaking skills, as actors/actresses need to be able to project their voice clearly
  • Physical stamina, as actors and actresses are on their feet all day and need to be in good physical condition to endure the heat from stage lamps

Education

Although some actors and actresses can 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. 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.

Certifications

There are not specific certifications or licensure needed to be an actor or actress in the United States.

How to Become

Summary

You see them on your television screen. They star in your favorite movies, and you may even be their biggest fan. Actors and actresses are responsible for expressing the ideas of producers and directors and portraying characters. There are a wide range of acting opportunities available, including theatre, commercials, television, and movies. However, despite there being lots of opportunities, it is still a fiercely competitive market.

Immediate action

If you want to become an actor/actress then we recommend taking college classes in drama or filmmaking to prepare for a career as an actor. Classes in dance or music may help as well. The best thing to do is to just gather experience from a young age.

Education and learning

Although no formal education is required to become an actor, many actors will receive formal training through a theater company or college and/or university.

Skill development

It takes many years of practice to develop the skills needed to become a successful actor/actress and they are never truly finish training. An actor/actress, you will constantly be working to improve your acting skills throughout their career and are likely to continue to train through workshops, rehearsals, or mentoring by a drama coach.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Actor/Actress careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33835 Actress Female 32 $75,000 Beacon, NY 01/01/2010
33269 Mo-Cap Actress Female 27 $40,000 Astoria, NY 01/01/2010

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