What Education Is Needed to Be an Actor?


If you want to be an actor, you must prepare yourself for an erratic lifestyle. You could be subject to long stretches of time where you are not working in the field, and you must deal with constant competition and rejection, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While many actors receive formal education and training, many actors can land jobs based on talent alone.


  • The best preparation to become an actor is to get a bachelor’s degree in drama, according to the BLS. People can get formal training through a university or an acting conservatory. Some typical courses students take to get their degree in drama are radio and television broadcasting, communications, film, theater, drama and dramatic literature. Students can also find accredited schools of theater through The National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST).

    Hiring a drama coach or talent agency is another option. For example, in the Atlanta area, talent agent Joy Pervis discovered Dakota Fanning, Kyle Massey, Raven-Simone and Justin Martin, who landed roles in "The Soloist" and "High School Musical 3." Check in your area for reputable drama coaches and talent agencies. Look to see whom they have represented or worked for to get an idea of their legitimacy.

    Each university offers different acting programs. At Yale University, for example, the acting department looks for people who have acting ability and have a commitment to succeed in acting. People with strong imaginations, and who can use their body and voice as an instrument, are ideal. The program at Yale combines classroom study with production work where actors learn to work with directors and playwrights to create theater pieces.

    State universities often provide reputable acting and theater programs too. At California State University—Fullerton, for example, students interested in acting can enroll in the Department of Theatre and Dance program. Students will study acting, dance, directing, musical theatre, playwriting, technical production and design, which prepare students for the skills and knowledge needed for work in the theatrical arts profession. Their program is accredited by NAST.


  • If you want to be an actor, you'll also need experience by participating in high school and college plays, working at college radio or TV stations, or performing with a community theater. Some people get experience by acting in independent movie productions. These kinds of experiences will give you something to put on your resume to show that you are serious about working in the field. Experience in any related field will show you've learned aspects of acting on the job.

Other Skills

  • Since actors need to portray many characters, creativity and versatility is necessary. If you have other performing arts skills, they can be assets that put you ahead of the competition. Skills such as singing, dancing, comedy, modeling and acrobatics can help you get acting jobs.

    Actors also must learn how to take direction and criticism. When a director points out areas of improvement, thank him for his help and do what he says. This shows you are serious about honing your craft. A good reputation as someone who is easy to work with and eager to learn could land you more jobs.


  • Because the competition is expected to remain high for acting jobs through 2018, according to the BLS, actors must be prepared to work other jobs when they do not have an acting role. A double major may come in handy while you pursue acting; it will give you another skill to fall back on when the acting jobs are scarce.

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