Actor: Job Description, Duties and Salary Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an actor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and salary expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

Postsecondary education isn't required to be an actor, although many actors do have some formal training. Actors perform in movies, TV shows, commercials and plays. They must compete for roles, and may be required to work irregular hours that involve travel.

Essential Information

Actors portray characters in movies, television and live performances. There are no education requirements, although many theater actors hold bachelor's degrees in their field. Most actors do refine their skills through university classes or conservatory programs. Acting work is often sporadic, and hours can be long and irregular. Competition for roles can also be intense.

Required Education No specific requirements, but most actors have some formal training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10%
Mean Hourly Wage (2015)* $37.47

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Actors

Actors depict characters in stories using their voices, appearances, bodies and gestures. They can work in movies, television, commercials, theater, theme parks and clubs. While working as an actor, they perform for entertainment and informational purposes. Actors can play main characters or supporting roles, and they must audition for casting directors to land a part.

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After securing a role, the actor studies the script to learn about the character and memorize the speaking parts. Sometimes scripts change during rehearsals, and actors may find themselves memorizing new lines. Some parts may require actors to sing, dance or perform stunts.

Actors work under the director who advises them on how to portray the characters. To bring the character to life, actors change their voices, dialects, facial expressions and other traits. In addition to wearing costumes, actors use props, which they must learn to use appropriately.

Actors rehearse often, especially for live events where there is little room for error. Long and variable working hours are sometimes required, as well as travel. Actors sometimes have to endure unpleasant working conditions, such as bad weather, harsh stage lights, heavy costuming and little preparation time.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the national mean hourly income for actors as of May 2015 was $37.47. However, work isn't always steady, and some actors have second jobs to supplement their income. Additionally, actors' salaries are not created equal. The highest-paid and most successful actors make significantly more than most actors.

Unionized actors belong to organizations that negotiate minimum wages for actors. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) represents actors working in film, television, commercials and other media forms. SAG members meet certain eligibility requirements and pay an initiation fee and monthly dues in exchange for collective bargaining and residual payment on qualifying work. SAG members can also take advantage of benefits like contributions to health and retirement plans, professional workshops and job opportunities.

Live theater actors can join the Actor's Equity Association (AEA) to receive unionized collective bargaining benefits. AEA also provides its members with other benefits, such as tax assistance, discounts and employer-paid health insurance.

Actors portray characters on film or in plays. From 2014 to 2024 actors can expect a 10% rate of job growth, which is faster than average when compared to all occupations. Aspiring actors can consider formal training in theater arts to help develop their skills.

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