All You Need To Know About Being An Actor

Working as an actor can be really demanding.

However, it can also be a dream job for someone who is really passionate about this field and is also willing to put in the work it takes to become a famous actor.

In this article, I will show you the salary, career prospects, daily routines and educational requirements for becoming an actor.

I will also show you the character traits that make the most famous actors succeed in this fierce industry.

Moreover, at the end of this article, I will also provide you with an FAQ section where I answer various questions about becoming an actor you might have.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Table of Contents

What does an Actor do?

Actors play a major role in movies, theaters or live on stage.

Actors have to be quite flexible regarding the role they want to have in a specific movie since they will often be recruited according to what producers think will stick with the general public.

Hence, you may have to play an evil person in a movie even though you might be the kindest person in reality.

Duties of an Actor

  • Acting in movies or live performances
  • Acting in different roles and situations
  • Flexibility to travel
  • You have to play roles you don’t like
  • Learning lines and songs
  • Attending rehearsals
  • Costume fittings are on a daily basis
  • Working with other actors
  • You have to improve your acting skills
  • Getting out of your comfort zone
  • Dealing with stage fright
  • Making your audience happy
  • Accepting directions from choreographers

What a Typical Day looks like as an Actor?

It is pretty hard to describe a typical day of an actor since every day will be so different, depending on the movie and the character you might play.

However, if you work during the day, you will often get to work between 8 and 9 a.m.

After getting instructions and listening to producers and choreographers, you will have a little bit of time to let all the advice sit.

After that, you will often make several tries to make movie scenes as perfect as possible.

It is pretty common that only a few minutes of a movie will take you many hours to produce until it will be good enough.

You will usually finish your acting workday between 5 and 7 p.m.

However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do anything anymore.

Instead, you might have to study your script for the next day.

As you can see, being successful as an actor takes a lot of work, at least if you want to become really good at what you are doing and want to stay successful in this business for quite a long time.

Actor Salary 2021

Actor salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $140,000> $68
Top 25 %$65,000 – $105,000$32.10 – $50.20
Bottom 25 %$25,000 – $33,000$12.20 – $15.90
Bottom 10 %$12,000 – $18,000$5.70 – $8.80
Range$12,000 – $20,000,000$5.70 – $9,000
Average$41,000$19.70

Actor salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$12,000 – $42,000$5.70 – $20.19
Junior$18,000 – $56,000$8.67 – $27.41
Professional$38,000 – $84,000$18.11 – $41.67
Senior Professional$49,000 – $96,000$23.90 – $47.22
Expert$100,000 – $250,000$48.66 – $123.81
Top Expert$500,000 – $20,000,000$247.89 – $9,000

Actor salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$37,500$18.42
Alaska$39,800$19.29
Arizona$41,300$20.42
Arkansas$40,700$19.67
California$46,100$22.72
Colorado$42,300$20.76
Connecticut$39,400$19.22
Delaware$38,700$18.91
District of Columbia$41,200$20.14
Florida$44,700$21.69
Georgia$37,400$18.21
Hawaii$34,300$16.74
Idaho$37,800$18.45
Illinois$41,300$20.41
Indiana$42,700$20.79
Iowa$38,900$18.66
Kansas$41,500$20.77
Kentucky$37,100$18.23
Louisiana$38,800$18.83
Maine$39,400$19.29
Maryland$42,200$20.83
Massachusetts$41,600$20.31
Michigan$38,700$18.89
Minnesota$41,900$20.48
Mississippi$36,400$17.83
Missouri$37,200$18.45
Montana$39,100$19.21
Nebraska$41,100$20.36
Nevada$45,600$27.01
New Hampshire$42,100$20.58
New Jersey$43,400$21.37
New Mexico$39,100$19.42
New York$48,200$23.92
North Carolina$39,900$19.46
North Dakota$41,100$20.45
Ohio$40,600$19.42
Oklahoma$41,200$20.25
Oregon$38,500$18.48
Pennsylvania$40,500$19.39
Rhode Island$39,400$19.62
South Carolina$44,100$21.82
South Dakota$40,600$19.66
Tennessee$39,300$19.28
Texas$38,900$18.73
Utah$37,700$18.32
Vermont$38,200$18.52
Virginia$39,200$19.04
Washington$43,600$21.88
West Virginia$41,300$20.37
Wisconsin$39,800$19.48
Wyoming$38,700$18.92

Job Security of Actors

Actors have barely any job security at all. In fact, actors mostly have limited contracts and if they don’t perform well, they will get no future jobs anymore.

Consequently, actors have to deal with a high level of insecurity regarding how they can make money in the future and this will also translate into a high level of insecurity regarding how their future life will look like.

Thus, you need a pretty stable mental mindset so that you are able to deal with this significant insecurity in a healthy manner.

Future Job Prospects of Actors

While excellent actors will have decent job prospects in the future, newbies in this field will have a pretty hard time since many people want to become famous performers but only few of them will make it to the top.

Therefore, the majority of people who try to become famous actors will barely be able to make a living from what they are doing and this trend will likely continue in the future.

Working Hours of Actors

As an actor, you will have pretty irregular working hours.

While you will have barely anything to do during some days, you will have to work 10 hours + during others.

You will also often have to work in the evening or at nighttime and this can be really demanding in the long run.

You might also have to study scripts after the actual acting work has been done and this means that most actors will work significantly more than 40 hours per week.

Consequently, before becoming an actor, make sure that you are willing to put in the work that is needed to become successful in this field.

Job Satisfaction of Actors

While an acting career can be a dream job if you get to the top of the pyramid, the majority of actors is still pretty unsatisfied with what they are doing.

Even though they like acting, most actors are barely able to make a living from what they are doing and some even need a second job to survive.

Promotion Opportunities of Actors

There are no real promotion opportunities for actors.

However, the more famous you get, the higher your salary will be.

Consequently, it is pretty important to become known in this industry soon since you will barely make any money and may get stuck at entry level otherwise.

Career Levels of Actors

  • Uncredited actor
  • Background actor
  • Supporting actor
  • Seasoned actor
  • Actor with main roles in movies or theaters
  • Acting superstar

Fields and Types of Actors

  • Theater actors
  • Movie actors
  • Actors for live performances
  • TV actors
  • Sitcom actors
  • Voice-over acting
  • Commercials acting

Educational Requirements of Actors

You don’t need a college degree or other forms of fancy education for becoming an actor.

All you need is talent and passion for what you are doing and also a little bit of luck to be at the right place at the right time.

However, if you really want to maximize your chances of becoming a successful actor, you may consider going to a good theater school.

How to become an Actor

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being an actor
  2. Work as an intern in the acting industry and make important contacts
  3. Go to theater school
  4. Practice every day as hard as you can
  5. Watch movies and figure out what makes successful actors successful
  6. Create an acting résumé
  7. Get a good actor agent to get your first jobs
  8. Apply for acting vacancies and go to castings
  9. Master castings and interviews and start your acting career

Character Traits you need for working as an Actor

  • Courage to stand in front of a huge audience
  • Willingness to improve your skills every day
  • Willingness to compete in a merciless industry
  • Calm and composed appearance helps
  • Ability to switch to many different roles
  • You will have to accept small gigs at the beginning of your career
  • Persistence to push through difficult times
  • Resistance against certain substances that could make your acting life easier
  • Willingness to put in the work
  • Willingness to work long hours
  • Flexibility

Hard Skills for being an Actor

  • You need to express yourself well
  • Knowledge of foreign languages may help
  • You need to present yourself well
  • You have to work on your voice
  • Attention to detail is key
  • Good sense of what your audience wants to see
  • Willingness to travel

Soft Skills for being an Actor

  • Stress resistance is key in this industry
  • You have to be flexible regarding your role
  • Actors can’t be fancy at the beginning of their career
  • Conflict solving is important
  • You have to act well even during difficult periods of your life
  • Maintaining good relationships with directors and choreographers
  • You should build a strong business network
  • Stable mental mindset

Exit Options for Actors

Actors don’t have great exit options at all.

In fact, actors will not learn many hard skills apart from acting and this can become a real problem in case they want to work in a different field.

In fact, many actors will get stuck in this industry for quite a long time and may not get the chance to switch to a different industry.

Actor – Similar Careers

  • Announcer
  • Model
  • Dancer
  • Singer
  • Producer
  • Choreographer
  • Agent
  • Audio manager
  • Video instructor

Actor Career FAQs

Is working as an actor physically demanding?

Depending on the role you might have, working as an actor can be physically demanding.

However, most of the time, your acting job will not be that stressful from a physical perspective since the focus will be on your emotional performance and on your appearance in front of a camera instead of having to do serious physical work during your scenes.

Is working as an actor mentally demanding?

Working as an actor can be mentally and emotionally demanding.

In fact, you will have to learn lots of text by heart and this can really stress your brain.

Moreover, acting in front of a huge audience can also be emotionally demanding and you should therefore not underestimate the mental and emotional pressure that comes along with an acting career.

Is it dangerous to work as an actor?

Working as an actor is not that dangerous.

In fact, most of the time, you will have stuntmen do scenes that might be risky.

Consequently, you will not have to be exposed to too much risk most of the time and working as an actor will therefore be less risky than working as a fireman or police officer on average.

How long do actors stay in their jobs?

Since actors barely have any job security at all, they will switch jobs and employers fairly often.

In fact, you need to be quite flexible as an actor since you will often have to work for someone else every few months.

Consequently, it is also pretty hard to plan your future as an actor since you will never know where and in what way you will work a few months from now.

Is it easy for actors to find a new job?

How easy or difficult it is for actors to find new acting jobs greatly depends on your reputation in the industry.

While you are still a beginner and nobody knows you, it can be pretty difficult for you to find a new job.

However, once you are established in this industry and the general public knows who you are, it will get much easier to find well-paying jobs.

How hard is it to switch from being an actor to another field of work?

It is pretty difficult to switch from an acting career to working in a different field since actors often lack the necessary hard skills to do so and many employers will just not be willing to employ them.

Hence, make sure that you want to work in the acting industry for quite a long time since you might simply not have the option of working in a different field anytime soon.

Do actors have a high social status?

While famous actors have a pretty high social status, most actors who are not well-known by the general public will not have a high social status at all.

In fact, acting is not regarded as a real job by many people out there and this means that you might also have to deal with nasty comments in this regard from time to time.

Can you help out your family and friends as an actor?

While you might not learn many practical skills as an actor, you may be able to support your loved ones in case they want to work in the acting industry as well since you can teach them important skills and also introduce them to managers and producers who might be willing to employ them.

Can actors work remotely?

Since actors have to be present at work in person, you will not be able to work remotely as an actor.

In fact, you will have to be present at work in person all day long and this will take away lots of flexibility from you since it will be harder for you to manage your professional and your private life compared to someone who can work from home frequently.

Is it easy to find a partner as an actor?

If you become famous, you will have a pretty easy time finding a partner as an actor since fame always attracts people into your life.

However, if you don’t get to this stage like most actors out there, it can be pretty tough to find a partner to start a family with since potential partners may not trust you to be able to support the family financially.

Do actors have to work on weekends?

Actors frequently have to work on weekends.

In fact, once you decide for an acting career, you should be willing to work all the time and to prioritize your acting career over everything else you might like to do, at least if you want to maximize your chances of becoming successful in this field.

Do I have to work at nighttime as an actor?

Depending on the scenes you play a role in, you may have to work during the evening or even at nighttime quite often.

In fact, actors have to be quite flexible regarding their working hours and have to prioritize work over everything else to stay in this game in the long run.

Do you have to travel as an actor?

Actors have to travel quite a lot. In fact, you will always be on the road to search for new gigs and once you become more famous, you will often get offers to work in movies that are produced abroad.

Hence, you should be willing to travel quite a lot and to be away from home quite often if you aspire to a real acting career.

Are actor pensions good?

Since actors will often have huge swings in income and most actors are barely able to make a living from what they are doing, they will often not be able to save and invest enough money for retirement.

Consequently, actor pensions are often pretty poor and old-age poverty may become a real problem for actors.

Are actor salaries going up?

While actor salaries for the most famous people in this industry have gone up dramatically over the past decade, this is not true for the vast majority of actors.

In fact, most unknown actors really struggle to make a living from what they are doing and this trend will likely continue in the future.

Can you have a positive effect on society as an actor?

While you can provide a good experience for your audience, you will still not be able to make a real positive impact on society as an actor.

You will rather do some entertainment work while other people like doctors, train drivers or craftsmen really keep our system running.

How long does it take to become an actor?

Since you will not need to go to college, you can become an actor pretty soon.

However, it will still take many years to get to a stage where people will recognize you when you walk down the streets and most actors will even never get to this stage.

Is it difficult to become an actor?

While it is not difficult to become an actor, it will be pretty difficult to become a successful actor and to stay in the game for a long time.

In fact, many actors are not able to make a living from their gigs and quit their acting careers pretty soon.

Do you need to be smart to work as an actor?

While you will not need to be a genius for working as an actor, you still need to remember lots of text.

Consequently, you should also not be dumb if you want to succeed in the acting business in the long run.

Do actors have a good work-life balance?

Actors don’t have a good work-life balance at all.

Instead, they often have to work long hours and also have to be quite flexible regarding when they need to work.

Moreover, plans may change and you always have to adapt to new circumstances.

You will also be away from home quite often and may not see your loved ones for quite a long time.

Do actors have to work on holidays?

While you might not have to work on holidays most of the time, some actors still learn their scripts during those holidays.

Hence, while working on holidays is not a necessity, it may still be helpful if you want to do a really good job.

How many hours do actors have to work?

How many hours you have to work as an actor greatly depends on the ambition you might have.

For instance, if you want to become a world-class actor, you should work on your career every waking hour.

However, if acting should only become a part-time job for you, you will not have to put in the same level of effort and may not have to work that long.

Do actors have to work many extra hours?

Since you will often get a fixed salary that is independent of the hours you have to work on a specific movie, chances are that you will have to work many extra hours and that producers will require you to repeat performances until you do a job that is close to perfection.

How to maximize your chances of becoming an actor?

The more you work on your skills, the higher the chances of becoming a successful actor.

Hence, if this is really what you want to do for a living, you should use every hour of your leisure to become better at acting.

Moreover, it can also help to do internships in this field and to make important connections that could help you with getting acting jobs later in your life.

Do actors work indoors or outdoors?

Whether you have to work indoors or outdoors as an actor greatly depends on the scene you are responsible for.

Thus, you should not be afraid of working outdoors during heavy rain or even snow if you really want to succeed in this business.

Job alternatives to becoming an actor

If you decide against an acting career, you could still work in a similar job.

For instance, many actors who don’t make it still work as producers, audio managers, singers, dancers or models.

What does the workplace of an actor look like?

If you work as an actor for the production of movies, you will work at many different sets and knowing how your workplace will look like will almost be impossible since you will have to work with many different sceneries and in many different locations as well.

Do you have to look good for working as an actor?

Good looks certainly help for becoming successful as an actor.

In fact, most famous actors look pretty good and this is no surprise since the general public will be more likely to watch movies in which good-looking people play their part.

However, this doesn’t mean that you will not be able to succeed as an actor if you are ugly.

It just means that you will have a harder time and that you have to work even more for long-term success in this field.

Is an actor career beneficial for your private life?

Working as an actor will not be beneficial for your private life most of the time.

Instead, it can really be harmful to your relationships since you will be away from home quite often and your spouse may also get envious in the long run.

Do you need a college degree for becoming an actor?

You don’t need a college degree for becoming an actor.

Instead, you will need to work hard on your acting skills and you also need to be an outgoing person since you will most likely not make it in the acting industry otherwise.

Do you need to be certified to work as an actor?

While you don’t need official certifications for working as an actor, it can still help to go to acting school and to learn some important skills.

Not only will this be good for your résumé, but you may also get a head start compared to people who want to start out acting right after finishing high school.

How much does it cost to become an actor?

You can become an actor at virtually no cost since you don’t need to get any fancy education.

The most important thing you have to do is working on your acting skills as best as possible and it can also help to do some internships to build a strong network.

Is being an actor a good career?

An acting career can be great for you in case you love to talk and act in front of a huge audience and also need the attention of other people.

However, it would still take a lot of work and also luck to succeed in this industry and you should also not underestimate the mental and emotional pressure that comes along with working in this field.

Can you provide for your family by working as an actor?

While some famous actors make really good money and can easily provide for their families, most actors out there barely make a living from what they are doing and you will therefore most likely need a second job if you really want to feed your family consistently.

Will actors suffer from old-age poverty?

Since most actors don’t make good money from what they are doing, many of them will experience serious financial problems once they get older since they will just not be able to save and invest enough money for retirement age.

Can you get rich as an actor?

While a very small fraction of actors get rich, most others don’t and you should not think that you are one of the very lucky ones since chances are that you will financially struggle like the majority of actors out there.

Do you get continuous training as an actor?

While you may get some training from time to time, it is on you to really work hard on your skills during your leisure.

In fact, most famous actors spend almost all of their time on getting better at acting and if you are not willing to pay this price, you might rather want to go for a different career instead.

Are actors organized in unions?

Yes, actors are organized in union-like organizations.

However, this doesn’t mean that actors are protected from getting paid poor wages.

In fact, the one main factor that determines your salary will be your reputation and your level of fame and unions will barely make any difference at all.

Do you get paid when you are sick as an actor?

Most actors don’t get sick pay. Instead, they will not get any money and may even lose their jobs in case they are sick for too long since they may get replaced by another actor who will be fitter and more reliable.

Do actors have a high level of responsibility?

Actors usually don’t have a high level of responsibility.

Quite often, they only have to learn their scripts and will also be pretty confined regarding the things they are allowed to do in the respective movie.

Actors can also not take away the lives of people in the way doctors and firefighters may do by making mistakes and their overall level of responsibility is much lower.

Can you work abroad as an actor?

Many actors work abroad and have to travel quite a lot for working in different movies and different scenes.

However, working abroad will not necessarily be a good thing since you will be away from your loved ones at home quite often and your family life may suffer due to that.

Is it stressful to work as an actor?

Working as an actor can be emotionally and mentally stressful.

In fact, there is a huge emotional burden that comes along with an acting career and the high level of insecurity regarding how your future will look like can also lead to serious mental issues.

Is it boring to work as an actor?

Since you will play in many different roles and sceneries, chances are that you will never get bored of being an actor.

In fact, most actors are fascinated with what they are doing for a living and can barely imagine doing anything else.

Is being an actor hard?

While working as an actor will not be hard from a physical standpoint, it can still be hard from a mental and emotional perspective and you should not underestimate the pressure that comes along with an acting career.

Is there a dress code for actors?

There is not one specific dress code you have to comply with as an actor.

Instead, you will have to wear different sets of clothes depending on the role you play in a specific movie and you will therefore also be quite flexible in this regard.

What kind of actors are paid the most?

Famous movie actors usually make the most money by far.

In fact, the main factor that determines how much you will make will be your popularity as an actor and the more people of the general public know you, the more you will be able to charge for your performances.

What percentage of actors are women?

There are many women working in the acting industry.

In fact, it is almost 50:50 between men and women and you should therefore not be afraid of entering the acting industry if you are a woman since you will have the same chances to succeed as your male competitors.

Do I need a mentor to succeed in the acting industry?

Mentors can help you quite a lot to succeed in the acting world since contacts are pretty important for getting new jobs.

Hence, if you have a seasoned actor on your side as a mentor, chances are that you can really benefit from his or her connections.

Do actors have a high life expectancy?

Actors have a pretty poor life expectancy.

In fact, many actors pass away at a relatively young age.

However, the actual work as an actor is not that dangerous.

It is rather the lifestyle actors usually have that makes this career pretty unhealthy and risky.

What states are best for working as an actor?

If you really want to become a famous actor, California is usually the best place to start since there are many actors and jobs in this region and you will also have the famous Hollywood quarter where many famous actors have started out their careers.

What are the pros and cons of working as an actor?

If you want to get even more information on what it really looks like to work as an actor, you should also check out all the pros and cons of an actor career.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/451516/best-paid-actors/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/692465/distribution-lead-actors-gender/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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