There is no magical formula on how to become an actor: there are many possible paths to get there. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to move to New York City or Los Angeles to make it as an actor. You can get started through acting workshops and small community theaters.
Whether you attend a conservatory, an acting school, or get work just by auditioning, you can find an entry point into the entertainment industry. You might even be wondering how to become a voice actor, a popular genre of acting.
Below is a guide for what it means to be an actor and how to become one.
What is an Actor?
An actor portrays a specific character, either on stage or for film/TV. Actors must learn acting techniques to create consistent and believable characters in their work. They should be empathetic and observant people to better develop their characters.
What Does An Actor Do?
Actors are primarily focused on character development and rehearsing with fellow actors for specific projects. Many actors discover their interest in the art form in high school or in community theater as kids. Other aspiring actors don’t discover their interest or talent until later and might start their training in an acting workshop or with a private acting coach.
Most actors have to audition for acting jobs. Actors often access auditions through talent agents, casting calls, or student film programs. Creating a demo reel can help out with film or TV auditions.
Character Development and Rehearsal
Once they get the part, actors should focus on developing their character. Whether the project is with an ensemble cast or just a few other actors, there will be a rehearsal process. Rehearsal time varies from project-to-project but is especially important for stage productions like plays or musicals in theater companies.
All of this work leads up to the ultimate task that an actor carries out: performance. For theater actors, performance is on the traditional kind of stage. Film and TV actors perform during filming and have the flexibility to perform various takes, depending on time and location factors.
81% of participants stated they felt more confident about their tech job prospects after attending a bootcamp. Get matched to a bootcamp today.
The average bootcamp grad spent less than six months in career transition, from starting a bootcamp to finding their first job.
Essential Actor Skills
A Good Memory
Actors have to memorize hundreds upon thousands of words before they can even think about performing. Though memorizing lines doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult, it definitely requires a certain trick and is easier for some than others. A good memory will help actors memorize lines more easily so they can focus on more important things like character development.
You have to start somewhere to launch your acting career. A certain amount of flexibility will benefit you as you develop your acting resume. Generally, actors should be flexible and willing to try different things.
Technical and Musical Skills
Trained actors learn specific technical acting skills and methods like the most common modern technique, the Stanislavski Technique. Musical skills are essential for any actors wanting to work in musical theater. They are also useful, though not at all necessary, for actors looking to work in plays, film, and TV.
Actor Salaries and Job Outlook
Actor salaries range widely and vary greatly depending on project budget, length, and production value. According to PayScale, the average hourly rate for actors is $20. That said, this is an average rate, including highly paid A-list Hollywood actors and very low-paid, entry-level community theater actors.
Actor salaries are higher in certain places in the United States than in others. For example, salaries in places like Los Angeles and New York are much higher, on average, than those in states that are not centers of theater or film.
Actors should expect constant rejection when looking for work. It is simply part of the process. That said, once an actor has a break, the job outlook becomes more promising. The more you can develop your acting resume and point to past work, the more employable you will become.
The Bureau for Labor Statistics predicts a three percent increase in acting jobs in the next 10 years, pointing to the growth of online streaming platforms as a major source of opportunities.
- Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
- Get exclusive scholarships and prep courses
How Long Does it Take to Become an Actor?
There is no exact or straightforward way to become an actor other than simply starting out and getting experience. It can take a few days or many years to become a working actor.
For example, child actors often get discovered by scouts or talent agents and can be on sets and ready to work within days. On the other hand, some aspiring actors may seek work for years and face rejection after rejection. Often, it is up to chance, luck, and being in the right place at the right time.
If you take a traditional educational route to become an actor, your education can take anywhere from two to four years. Then, how long it takes to actually become a working actor will depend on auditioning and eventually getting cast. Working with a good talent agent at this point can really make the difference in helping actors land their first break.
How to Become an Actor: A Step by Step Guide
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to become an actor. Since there is no perfect formula, we will outline a few different options and possible pathways. These steps aren’t meant to be linear or chronological and can take shape in many different orders, depending on your circumstances and goals.
Step 1: Get Acting Experience in High School and Community Theatre
It’s never too early to start building up your acting resume. Aspiring young actors often get formative experience in their teen years through high school stage productions. If your high school doesn’t have an acting program, remember you can also seek out acting experience outside of school in community theaters or acting workshops in your area.
Step 2: Get an Acting Education
Getting quality technical training in acting as a craft can be really important in helping you develop as an actor. Though every successful actor does not get this formal training through a traditional university or conservatory education, many do.
An acting conservatory is an intensive program that focuses exclusively on acting as a craft. Conservatory programs typically range in length from one to two years.
You can also seek out a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) or a bachelor of arts (BA) in theater or acting if you want to receive a more well-rounded and inclusive education. A BFA or a BA will allow you to major in acting or theater and take conservatory-like courses while also taking liberal arts classes in core areas like humanities and social sciences. Students take four years of full-time study to complete these programs.
Step 3: Get an Agent and Audition
If your goal is to be a working actor, you have to put in the resources to find the opportunities that are right for you. A talent agent will work with you to alert you of casting calls and auditions that might fit your profile or your areas of expertise.
With an agent supporting you, you’ll need to go out and actually audition. It might be scary and intimidating at first, but it’s a crucial step in getting out there and eventually snagging a part.
Step 4: Be Persistent
Many famous actors recount their early days as struggling actors in interviews. They typically point to the turning point in their career when they got a part that led to their current success. The magic formula: be persistent. Keep at it and keep auditioning.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Should You Become an Actor in 2020?
Innovative theatre companies and production companies are currently working to adapt to the times amid the COVID-19 pandemic to create innovative virtual theatre experiences, for example.
If you want to become an actor, there is no time to waste. Though you may not be able to audition in person right now, you can work on creating a demo in your home studio (which can be your living room).
How do you become an actor with no experience?
You should watch a lot of films, read, and study. Then, you can start auditioning to build experience.
How hard is it to become an actor?
Becoming an actor isn’t difficult. It’s becoming a working, paid actor that takes immense determination and persistence.
Can anyone be an actor?
Though some are born with innate acting talent, others are able to achieve high levels through education and training. So yes, anyone can learn to act.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.