Express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media. They also work at theme parks or for other live events. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.
This is what you may be doing
  • Read scripts and meet with agents and other professionals before accepting a role
  • Audition in front of directors and producers
  • Research their character’s personal traits and circumstances to better portray them to an audience
  • Memorize and rehearse their lines with other actors
  • Discuss their role with the director and other actors to improve the overall performance of the show
  • Perform the role, following the director’s directions

Most actors struggle to find steady work, and few achieve recognition as stars. Some work as “extras,” actors who appear on screen with no lines to deliver. Some do voiceover or narration work for animated features, audiobooks, or other electronic media.

In some stage or film productions, actors sing, dance, or play a musical instrument. For some roles, an actor must learn a new skill, such as horseback riding or stage fighting. Most actors have long periods of unemployment between roles and often hold other jobs to make a living. Some actors teach acting classes in high schools, university drama departments, or community programs as a second job.


Although some people succeed in acting without getting a formal education, most actors acquire some formal training through an 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. Actors who do not get a college degree may take acting or film classes to learn their craft. Community colleges, acting conservatories, and private film schools offer these classes. Many community theaters also have education programs. A bachelor’s of arts degree in theater is becoming more common among stage actors.


It takes many years of practice to develop the skills needed to be successful, and actors never truly finish training. They work to improve their acting skills throughout their career. Many actors continue to train through workshops or mentoring by a drama coach.

Every role is different, and an actor may need to learn something new each time. For example, a role may require learning how to sing or dance, or an actor may have to learn a foreign accent or how to play an instrument or a sport.

Many aspiring actors participate in high school, college, and local community plays. In television and film, actors usually start out in smaller roles or independent movies and work their way up to bigger productions.


As an actor’s reputation grows, he or she may work on bigger projects or in more prestigious venues. Some actors become producers or directors.