Actors

What Actors Do

Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrrnUDgW-gU

Work Environment

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.

Pay

The median hourly wage for actors was $20.43 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

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.

Duties

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:

Self-employed workers 24%
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 Schedules

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

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.

Bachelor’s degree $59,810

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators create images that appear to move and visual effects for various forms of media and entertainment.

Bachelor’s degree $75,270

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.

Bachelor’s degree $74,420

For more information about actors, visit

Actors’ Equity Association

National Endowment for the Arts

SAG-AFTRA

CareerOneStop

For a career video on actors, visit

Actors

O*NET

Actors


Suggested citation:

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 ).