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Become an Actress: Education and Training Requirements

Research the requirements to become an actress. Learn about the job description and job duties, and learn the step-by-step process to start a career in acting. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become an Actress?
  • 1:05 Step 1: Take Acting Class
  • 2:25 Step 2: Consider…
  • 3:36 Step 3: Attend Auditions
  • 4:30 Step 4: Gain Experience
  • 5:20 Step 5: Continue…

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Video Transcript

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Acting
  • Artisanry and Craft Design
  • Playwriting and Screenwriting
  • Theatre Arts Management
  • Theatre Design and Technology
  • Theatre History, Literature and Criticism
  • Theatrical Production

Should I Become an Actress?

Education Level None; degree programs available
Degree Field Drama, theater, performing arts
Training Professional acting programs; continuing education and training
Key Skills Strong reading, speaking, memorization, and public speaking skills; creativity; persistence; physical stamina; ability to travel and flexible schedule
Salary $37.47 per hour (2015 average for all actors/actress)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Payscale.com

Actresses are female performers who work in film, theater and television. They memorize lines and portray characters from scripts and screenplays. In addition to acting, actresses may have to sing and dance depending on the role they're playing or the type of production.

An actress may be required to travel or relocate to work sites. Acting jobs are often part-time and sporadic. Many actresses struggle to find work, and may never find the 'big break' into this competitive industry. With that in mind, formal training in acting helps an actress improve her skills and career outlook. Acting classes can help actresses develop the required skill set, including:

  • Strong reading, speaking, and memorization skills
  • Creativity
  • Persistence
  • Physical stamina
  • Ability to travel
  • Flexible schedule

These professionals earn varying salaries according to industry and acting skill, but overall actors and actresses earned an average hourly wage of $37.47 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Take Acting Class

While not required to get started in this career, formal training can help an actress improve her skills while working alongside other performers and mentors. There are several routes for training: acting classes, workshops, and summer programs are commonly available through acting conservatories and community performing arts centers. Aspiring actresses may also attend acting schools which offer classes that range in length from one week to two years. In acting instruction, students learn how to memorize lines, let go of inhibitions, overcome stage fright, effectively convey emotions, get 'into character,' and analyze others' performances.

A longer program may benefit an aspiring actress most, since it provides more time and opportunities to develop new skills, hone techniques, and obtain feedback from fellow classmates and teachers.

Participate in Community Theater Productions

Aspiring actresses can audition for roles in community theater productions as lead characters, minor characters, or ensemble members. These roles allow actresses to gain experience working on set with a director, producer, and other actors. Having experience in small, community theater projects will give an actress credentials she can list on her resume and could eventually lead to larger roles.

Step 2: Consider Earning a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring actresses can benefit from earning a bachelor's degree in theater arts or drama, which provides actresses with in-depth training and analysis of the different elements found in film and theater. Courses may include theater fundamentals, vocal techniques, stage direction, stage movement, and auditioning. Students participate in both classroom-based education and practice, and they often work with other students to put on productions throughout the duration of the program.

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states, stage actresses with bachelor's degrees may experience better employment prospects. Depending on the school, an audition or previous acting experience of some kind may be required for admission. In fact, taking acting classes can prepare applicants for schools' audition and admission requirements.

During your training, be sure to begin building your resume. Actresses must have a professional resume, which exhibits previous acting and performing experience in order to land new jobs through auditions. A resume should also include a professional headshot of the actress's face. An actress can begin building her resume during college by recording her participation in any school classes or productions.

Step 3: Attend Auditions

Auditions are essentially the acting equivalent of job interviews. They allow an actress to showcase her skills in order to convince casting directors she's right for the role. For an audition, an actress prepares a monologue or reads directly from a script in front of casting directors. Actresses must diligently pursue auditions in order to find work in this field, and attending numerous auditions increases an actress's chance of acquiring more jobs.

Because of the importance of auditions, it is often wise to hire an agent. Talent agents are professionals who represent actors and actresses, help them get auditions, and in the event an audition leads to a casting offer, negotiates the contract. Agents take a percentage of actresses' earnings, so this may not be a realistic option for actresses just starting out in their careers. Actresses should look for licensed agents associated with a franchise.

Step 4: Gain Experience

A successful actress is one who finds steady work. Actresses may start gaining entry-level experience as extras in commercials or television shows before working their way up to small speaking roles. Small speaking roles can lead to minor character roles, which can then lead to leading roles. Not all actresses make it past working as extras in their careers. In fact, most actresses have to work a second job in order to support themselves while gaining experience in the industry.

As you continue to gain experience, it is important to constantly update your resume. Resumes should always be current in order to best highlight an actress' experience. Actresses should update resumes after each production to ensure all of her experience is registered. Additionally, new head shot photos should be taken regularly, so casting directors have a recent photographic reference of what the actress looks like.

Step 5: Continue Education for Advancement

During an actress's career, she may have to continue her education and training by enrolling in advanced acting workshops and seminars to gain further knowledge of the craft. After all, actresses are expected to learn new skills throughout their careers. For example, an actress may need to know how to play an instrument or read lines in a foreign language.

Join an Actors Guild

A wide variety of professional guilds are available to actresses such as the Screen Actors Guild for television and film actresses, or the Black Actors Guild for African-American actresses. A guild can provide an actress with access to union benefits, industry news, residual information, workshops, networking opportunities, annual award showcases, and audition guides.

Most actresses gain formal training by enrolling in acting classes or bachelor's degree programs. And, as they attend auditions and maintain their resumes, they may gain more experience and skill.

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