Inside Actor Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Networking Is Almost As Important As Acting Talent...
I was surprised at how close the acting community in Chicago was. Everybody knows everybody. So networking is important and maintaining a positive image of yourself is even more important. People will know, trust me." (Actor; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Drama at Second City Chicago in Illinois; completed Certificate degree in 2010

"Money Is Scarce And Competition Is Fierce...
I was surprised to see that, in my three years out of acting school, I made the most money from regional theater. This is interesting because stage is regarded as the place where you make the least amount of money. I have found it very difficult to make money from film and television. I thought booking commercials at least would be easy, but it's not at all. It's just as competitive as a booking a Spielberg film, the actors are just as trained and just as skilled. That surprised me as well." (Actor; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Acting at American Academy Of Dramatic Arts in California; completed Associate degree in 2011

"Develop Multiple Talents...
The most surprising aspect of this job was the level of competition. As a drama major, my focus was on dramatic acting. I personally was not skilled in vocals or dance. The coveted triple threat - an actor who can also sing and dance, is hefty competition for someone skilled in just one concentration. Many dramatic roles are enhanced through multiple disciplines. Many directors prefer the full package." (Actor; 2013)

Career: 20 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, female
School: Studied Drama at Northern Kentucky University in Kentucky; completed Bachelor degree in 1993

"An Acting Career Outside Of A Big City...
I am from the southeastern part of the USA. I went to college in California to get closer to the acting industry. At the moment, I am back in my home state, and I was surprised that an actor can actually have a career while living in this region of the country." (Actor; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Mississippi, female
School: Studied Drama at Chapman University in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2001

"Networking Is Important...
Acting is all about who you know. Choosing a school on prestige is important. People will not consider you for parts if you aren't in the room." (Actor; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in California, female
School: Studied Theater - Acting at UCLA Theater Program in California in 2010

"Networking Is Everything...
As an actor I've been most surprised by the amount of work opportunities that have presented themselves through acquaintances that I've met whilst networking. Obviously there are auditions to pay attention to, but I've learned it's also very important to keep yourself open to everyone you meet; as you never know what opportunities they might be able to present to you in the future." (Actor; 2013)

Career: 11 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Drama at Atlantic Acting School Conservatory in New York; completed Certificate degree in 2011

"Variety Of Opportunities...
I am surprised that I have actually booked many jobs and that there are many opportunities in acting other than Hollywood films. I am also surprised that I have been able to book jobs without an agent." (Actor; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Wisconsin, female
School: Studied Theatre Arts at UW-Milwaukee in Wisconsin; completed Bachelor degree in 2008

"Acting Ain't Easy...
What surprised me about my career is how hard it is to find paid work. What would surprise others is the hard work its not as everyone thinks." (Actor/Artist; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, female
School: Studied Theatre at Columbia C in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Headshots: It Pays To Look The Same For Years...
Being an actor is costly to personal expense. For instance you have to get a headshot, and the headshot needs to be updated every time that you change your look. So if you're someone who likes to change your hair often or get tattoos, you will spend a lot of money on a headshot." (Actor; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, female
School: Studied Drama at Bradley University in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2007

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Acting Instructor: "The best part of my job is when I see a student "get it." Bad acting is usually either from actors being embarrassed to make bold choices, or by actors who think acting is simply about being a show-off. When the students get the idea that they have enough inside themselves to play any character truthfully - that's a great moment. The worst part of my job probably has to do with grading - it's very difficult to give a letter grade to an acting student, because their work is tied up in their own self-worth." (2011)

Voiceover Artist: "The best part of the job is being able to work for myself. I don't have to report to a boss and if I wanted to, I could spend the day in my pajamas. My schedule is very flexible, and I have a lot of free time during the day. Conversely, the the worst part of the job is that I don't have a guaranteed salary. I audition for hundreds of jobs a week and may only get hired for a couple. Being self-motivated is often a difficult part of this job." (2011)

Actor/Writer: "The best part of this kind of work is that you are doing something you have a talent for and that is going to benefit others by entertaining them and making them think. It is a job that you can do for as long as you have something to contribute. The worst aspect of it is its unreliability as a source of money. And it requires great discipline. There is no back-up team. You are it." (2010)

Career Background


  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Artist Just Love It...
I would advice students to really go into acting loving it. If you don't like it you wont be successful. Keeping the love and positive attitude in mind, will get you the job." (Actor/Artist; 2014)

"Stay In It...
Keep doing projects, keep getting content out there. Have an actor website, have an actor page on Facebook as well as a regular page. Know the biggest commercial casting directors out there, the top three. Constantly check online casting websites and submit daily for opportunities. Always keep at it and make sure your talent gets seen. We have unlimited resources nowadays with the internet, use it. When you do a project and you have clips or footage from it, post it in many places! Be proud of your work whether you were paid or not paid. You will get where you want to be, just be patient and keep doing it." (Actor; 2014)

"Make Yourself Marketable...
To be a successful actor, you need to cultivate all aspects of performing. In an extremely competitive field, the more you have to offer, the greater your chances of landing a role." (Actor; 2013)

"Make Some Professional Connections...
If you really want to get as much work as possible as an actor (no matter what city you are in), try to make a lot of contacts. It will keep you on top on major and minor opportunities in your area." (Actor; 2013)

"Connections Are Important...
If you want to be a successful actor it is about making and keeping connections. Stay involved with your local film/theatre community." (Actor; 2013)

"Define Success On Your Own Terms...
If you wish to be a successful actor, first define what success is for yourself. It's unlikely that you'll achieve a perceived "level of success" immediately, so you have to be ready and willing to accept each minor achievement as a step in the right direction." (Actor; 2013)

"Get A Reel...
If you'd like to be a successful actor, start busting your butt. You need a headshot, resume and a reel. Reels are easier than ever to create with the accessibility of cameras and video sharing sites. Get a good scene, rehearse it with friends and shoot it." (Actor; 2013)

"Work For Anybody That Can Help You...
Take every bit of work that you can find and that doesn't demean you as an actor. Seriously. The work you do with the people of today will turn into the work you get with the people of tomorrow." (Actor; 2013)

"Actor's Skills In The Cooperate World...
Find ways that you can make money besides just acting, as it isn't a well-paying career. For instance, actors have trained themselves to speak well, so consider an additional job in public speaking. There are skills that you learn from acting that transfer well into the cooperate world, so find the ones you enjoy doing the most and market that." (Actor; 2013)

"MFA Usually Required To Teach...
You must get the most advanced degree possible to teach at most universities. The most advanced acting degree is the MFA - Master of Fine Arts. Beyond your degree, you must have professional experience as an actor. Professional experience usually means that you have auditioned and earned roles in union work - Screen Actors Guild, Actors Equity Association, or the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. Learn a specific technique of acting. The most popular techniques in the U.S. are named after the founder of the technique - Meisner, Adler, and Strasberg are the three biggest." (Acting Instructor; 2011)

"Perseverance Required...
First, be prepared for a lot of rejection. You may have to audition for hundreds of jobs before you land one. Secondly, have a side source of income for the first year or two. Until you build a large client base, money may be tight. And finally, work to continually improve yourself. Many voice websites offer webinars and CDs that can give you tips to improve. You should also have many different people listen to your demo and give you constructive criticism." (Voiceover Artist; 2011)

"Learn The Business Side...
Before you launch yourself into the entertainment business it is good to keep in mind that it's a business, and you should try to learn as much about the practical side of it as you can. Do anything you can just to let others know who you are and what you have to offer, regardless of the pay (or lack of it). Commercials and voice-overs can subsidize your artistic work. Keep them in mind, though they aren't easy to get either." (Actor/Writer; 2010)