What Actors Do
Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media.
Actors work in various settings, including production studios, theaters, and theme parks, or on location. Work assignments are usually short, ranging from 1 day to a few months.
How to Become an Actor
Many actors enhance their skills through formal dramatic education, and long-term training is common.
The median hourly wage for actors was $20.43 in May 2019.
Employment of actors is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth in the number of Internet-only platforms may lead to work for actors.
Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.
Actors typically do the following:
- Read scripts and meet with agents and other professionals before accepting a role
- Audition in front of directors, producers, and casting directors
- Research their character’s personal traits and circumstances to portray the characters more authentically to an audience
- Memorize their lines
- Rehearse their lines and performance, including on stage or in front of the camera, with other actors
- Discuss their role with the director, producer, 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 have no lines to deliver but are included in scenes to give a more realistic setting. Some actors 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 in order to make a living. Some actors teach acting classes as a second job.
Actors held about 70,100 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of actors were as follows:
|Theater companies and dinner theaters||13|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||5|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||5|
Work assignments are usually short, ranging from 1 day to a few months, and actors often hold another job in order to make a living. They are frequently under the stress of having to find their next job. Some actors in touring companies may be employed for several years.
Actors may perform in unpleasant conditions, such as outdoors in bad weather, under hot stage lights, or while wearing an uncomfortable costume or makeup.
Work hours for actors are extensive and irregular. Early morning, evening, weekend, and holiday work is common. Some actors work part time. Few actors work full time, and many have variable schedules. Those who work in theater may travel with a touring show across the country. Film and television actors may also travel to work on location.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of actors.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Announcers present music, news, and sports and may provide commentary or interview guests.
|See How to Become One||$39,790|
Dancers and Choreographers
Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories.
|See How to Become One||The annual wage is not available.|
Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
Film and video editors and camera operators manipulate moving images that entertain or inform an audience.
Multimedia Artists and Animators
Multimedia artists and animators create images that appear to move and visual effects for various forms of media and entertainment.
Musicians and Singers
Musicians and singers play instruments or sing for live audiences and in recording studios.
|No formal educational credential||The annual wage is not available.|
Producers and Directors
Producers and directors create motion pictures, television shows, live theater, commercials, and other performing arts productions.
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Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Actors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/actors.htm (visited ).