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How do I Become an Actor?

Michael Pollick
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There is no specific educational path to follow in order to become an actor, although many of the better professional actors did major in theatrical arts in college or receivee intensive training in schools dedicated to the art of acting. It is still possible, however, for a person to be discovered while pursuing another career, especially modeling or singing. If someone appears to be an ideal match for a particular acting role, directors and producers will often employ acting coaches in order to get the level of performance they need from a non-professional actor.

An actor should have a broad range of personal interests and experiences, so an ideal early education would be fairly liberal, with a concentration on English and literature classes in order to understand the source material of many plays. Some high schools or college preparatory schools may offer structured classes in theater, or at least have a formal drama club or annual school play. These early experiences on stage can help a person become an actor with some experience before he or she attempts to audition for more advanced studies.

Some would-be actors may move directly to places like New York City or Los Angeles in order to pursue professional opportunities. This can be a very difficult path to follow for a young, unestablished actor. This particular career path calls for numerous auditions for small roles in television productions or commercials, and the competition for these roles is notoriously fierce. A union actor can expect to earn at least the minimum scale wage for a performance, but many actors only work a few days a month or even less. They must supplement their acting income with other types of employment.

The preferred way to become an actor is to study the craft in college and then seek out professional acting classes after graduation. Certain colleges such as Julliard in New York City are renowned for their intensive training programs and list of successful graduates. Many trained actors first earn either a Bachelor's of Fine Arts or a Master's of Fine Arts degree while in college, then seek out a reputable talent agency to represent them in the professional acting world. This career path calls for a number of performances in college theatrical productions, often followed by entry-level roles in professional television and motion picture productions.

Some actors, especially those who want to learn the essential craft, pursue work on what many call the legitimate stage. This could mean auditioning for a major Broadway theater production, but it could also mean working for a local dinner theater or improvisational comedy troupe. Many cities also have amateur or even semi-professional theater companies. In order to become an actor on the stage, some specialized training in musical performance or dance may prove useful. While previous acting experience is always helpful, sometimes an actor's performance at an audition will be the key to getting the role.

While some people may want to become actors because of their perceived glamorous lifestyles and multi-million dollar salaries, in reality the majority of working actors face long periods of unemployment and work in almost complete anonymity. There can be a great deal of personal and creative satisfaction for performing a challenging role well, but professional acting is not a good career choice for those who prefer a steady paycheck and a sense of job security. Those who are willing to learn the craft, demonstrate a solid work ethic and have the self-discipline to survive the lean times, however, may find professional acting to be a very rewarding career indeed.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to Practical Adult Insights, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By Feryll — On Jan 13, 2015

I have a friend who was in the drama club in high school. He like being the center of attention. He was by far the best actor at our school, but of course the competition at our school was not the best. After high school, my friend did summer theater in some of the small towns in the area that had community theater groups.

By doing this for several summers, he was able to keep acting and get some valuable experience. He still hasn't become a successful professional actor, but he says the main thing is to keep doing some type of acting, so that he can hone his skills until he finally gets his big chance to become an actor who actually does nothing but act to make his money.

By Laotionne — On Jan 12, 2015

@mobilian33 - I partly agree with what you say about some TV actors not being good actors. I watch soap operas. Some of the actors on these programs are really bad. However this is understandable since many young actors get their starts on soap operas.

Once a soap opera actor gets to be an effective actor he or she moves on to a better job. So soap operas are performed by actors who are not good enough to get better jobs and young actors who are just learning the profession.

By mobilian33 — On Jan 11, 2015

Getting your foot in the door has to be the hardest part of becoming an actor. There are plenty of women and men on television who are earning livings acting, but they are not very good. I firmly believe that the average person can learn to act as well as the average professional TV actor.

Editing and the chance to take an almost endless number of takes can make anyone look like a better actor. Sometimes people confuse popularity with good acting. There are plenty of popular and rich actors who can't act very well.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to Practical Adult Insights, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to...
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