How to become an actor

What does an actor do?

Actors use speech and body language to portray characters and situations. This is usually based on a script created by an author, but may sometimes involve improvisation. Acting work varies widely, as it may involve performing in a wide range of settings. Some actors combine their acting skills with singing and dancing, especially within musical theatre.

Actors also spend a lot of time studying their roles, learning lines and rehearsing. In order to secure roles, they need to prepare for and attend auditions. These include roles in live theatre, television plays and series, films, radio and advertisements. Actors usually work as part of a team, under the instruction and support of a director.

What's the working environment like working as an actor?

Hours can be long and irregular, often including evenings and weekends. Actors in touring companies often spend long periods away from home. You'll be working with a team that usually consists of make up artists, camera operators and directors. 

Work can take place both indoors and outdoors. Some locations include:

  • theatres
  • street theatres
  • film or television studios
  • on location for film and television projects

Some roles may involve wearing uncomfortable costumes for long periods.

What does it take to become an actor?

Actors will spend some time on a training course either at university or at a drama school. You can also study related subjects like performance studies, contemporary theatre or musical theatre. There are different qualifications you can gain in acting or these related subjects like a diploma, foundation degree, a degree or postgraduate diploma. 

To be an actor you should:

  • be talented and determined
  • be able to express emotion or character through body, voice, or both
  • be creative
  • have stamina, resilience and a good level of physical fitness
  • be adaptable and versatile, in order to be able to assume a variety of roles
  • be prepared to work at other jobs and endure periods of unemployment between roles
  • have a good memory in order to learn lines quickly

Acting is a hugely competitive area. Practical experience and a portfolio of work is an absolute must in order to help you get ahead. 

Actor Career Opportunities

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Actor that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

National Council for Drama Training
1-7 Woburn Walk
Tel: 020 7387 3650

Conference of Drama Schools
PO Box 34252

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 0800 093 0444

Shape UK (disability arts organisation)
LVS Resource Centre
356 Holloway Road
N7 6PA
Tel: 020 7619 6160
Minicom: 020 7619 6161

Guild House
Upper St Martin’s Lane
Tel: 020 7379 6000

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900

The Spotlight

Dance and Drama Awards

Creative and Cultural Skills
11 Southwark St


Facts and Stats:

  • The first time cinema audiences were treated to a flushing toilet was in Alfred Hitchcock''s Pyscho in 1959
  • So far, the Arts Council has awarded 2164 arts projects £1,016,119,046 of Lottery money
  • Rock legends Led Zeppelin are the most bootlegged artists in the UK. 414 different titles by the band have been seized as bootlegs, compared with 320 of the Beatles and 317 of the Rolling Stones''

  • In 1998, album sales were at an all time high of £1.118 billion in the UK

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