Television Actor: Job Duties & Career Information

Mar 05, 2019

See what it takes to become a television actor or actress. Learn about training options, career data and potential salary figures. Also, read about alternative career paths.

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Career Information for a Television Actor

Television actors play roles and perform in different functions in the diverse field that is television today. They typically put in long hours working on television sets or on location. Though television shows are shot throughout the country and internationally, many television actors live in Los Angeles or New York City, where the business of television is conducted and where most casting agents hold auditions.

Field of Education Theater or Television & Film
Job Skills Skilled in acting techniques, persistence in pursuing roles, physical appearance
Median Wage (2017)* $17.49 an hour (for all actors)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 12% growth (for all actors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Some successful television actors have completed degrees in theater; others have degrees in television and film studies; and still others have achieved success based purely on their talent and perseverance. Associate's and bachelor's programs in theater provide aspiring television actors with knowledge of the theory, history, and techniques of acting in addition to the technical and support fields associated with live productions. These programs may require anywhere from two to four years to complete. Associate's and bachelor's programs in television and film studies provide strong backgrounds in all of the elements involved in producing a television show and a survey of courses about the history and business of film and television.

Job Skills

A career in television acting requires talent, knowledge, and practice of acting techniques, persistence in pursuing roles, and luck. The Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) also lists physical appearance as an important aspect of television acting due to the height, age, weight, and other physical characteristics specified for roles. However, due to the diversity of television programs and the need for supporting characters, television acting opportunities exist for professionals of all shapes and sizes.

Career and Economic Outlook

The first roles a television actor accepts might not pay at all. Gradually, actors gain experience and increase the number of credits on their resume, allowing them to earn more income. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that many actors have second jobs in other fields.

The BLS projected that jobs for actors, including television actors, will grow by about 12% between 2016 and 2026. Consumers are demanding more television shows and movies, but enough jobs to fulfill that demand are not expected.

Most of the casting for television roles occurs in Los Angeles and New York City, making these two cities the best locations for finding television acting work. Unlike television acting, which pays a more modest amount per hour, the BLS reports that the national mean earnings for actors working in the industry were $32.89 per hour in 2017.

Alternative Career Options

Other career choices in the world of public entertainment include:

Producer and Director

A bachelor's degree is typically needed in order to become a producer or director. According to the BLS, a 12% rise in jobs was predicted for these professionals between 2016 and 2026. On average, producers and directors earned $90,770 per year (or $43.64 per hour) as of May 2017, per the BLS.

Film and Video Editor

For these workers, faster-than-average employment growth of 17% was projected for the 2016-2026 reporting period. The education requirements for film and video editors vary, but most of these professionals have some formal training. In 2017, the mean salary among film and video editors was $83,950, ($40.36 per hour) based on BLS data.

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