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Performing arts

Actor

Actors use speech, movement and expression to bring characters to life in theatre, film, television and radio.

Annual Salary

variable

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 47 irregular

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; away from home

Day to day tasks

You could:

  • liaise with actors' agents regarding new roles and opportunities
  • prepare for and go to auditions
  • research roles
  • learn lines and attend rehearsals
  • attend fittings for costumes
  • support back stage activities such as costume or prop management
  • work as a voice over artist or as an extra

Working environment

You could work in a theatre, on a film set, at a recording studio or in the community.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding and you may spend nights away from home.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • volunteering
  • applying directly
  • a course at drama school
University

You could do a foundation degree, degree or postgraduate diploma in drama, or other relevant subject like:

  • performance studies
  • contemporary theatre and performance
  • acting
  • musical theatre

You could join your university drama or theatre society during your studies to help develop a network of contacts and gain performance experience.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • to pass an audition
  • at least 1 A level, or equivalent, for a foundation degree
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information
College

There is no set entry route to become an actor but it may be useful to do a relevant subject like:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Performing Arts
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performing Arts - Acting
  • A level in Drama and Theatre
  • Level 4 Diploma in Speech and Drama

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
  • 1 or 2 A levels, a level 3 diploma or relevant experience for a level 4 or level 5 course
For more information
Volunteering and work experience

Acting is very competitive and you'll need to develop your skills by getting as much practical experience of acting as possible. You could do this through:

  • amateur, community or youth theatre
  • college and university drama societies
  • student drama festivals and competitions
  • signing up to do work as an 'extra' through film and TV agencies

This can also help to put you in touch with people in the acting profession. It can be useful to have contacts when looking for work.

Direct application

You may be able to find work by applying directly for roles if you have a lot of experience and exceptional acting talent.

Other routes

You can study with a private drama school or conservatoire. Many offer full-time courses, as well as short courses and summer schools.

You'll need to pass an audition to get into a drama school. You may also need A levels or a Level 3 Diploma in Performing Arts, though this is not always essential if you can show enough talent and commitment.

You may be able to get funding to help with fees and living costs at a private drama school.

You could also take graded exams in acting, musical theatre and performance art through:

More information

Career tips

You'll need to get as much practical experience of acting as you can. You can provide showreels and headshots to agents and casting directors.

Professional and industry bodies

You can join Equity for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts. Membership of Equity is open to those who already have professional credits. Graduate and student memberships are also available.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming an actor through Get into Theatre and Discover Creative Careers.

Actors often have to work in other jobs alongside acting, to supplement their income. This can be whilst searching for acting roles or when they are 'resting' between acting jobs.

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During an acting career you may move between roles in theatre, TV, film or radio.

You could also work in community or theatre in education projects. There are also opportunities to work in new fields like online content production and computer games creation.

As an actor you're likely to work freelance through an agent who will put you forward for auditions and castings. Agents usually take a fee of about 10% to 25% from your earnings.

You could take further training and move into directing, scriptwriting, drama therapy or teaching.

The skills of an actor can be transferred to many other fields, especially where creativity, team working, communication and presentation skills are important.

Career tips

You'll need to get as much practical experience of acting as you can, and create a show-reel to demonstrate your acting skills to agents and casting directors.

Professional and industry bodies

You can join Equity for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming an actor through Creative Choices. You can also get extra support from organisations like Shape Arts, if you have a disability or special learning need.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • the ability to work well with others
  • persistence and determination
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • a good memory
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • knowledge of English language
  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • to enjoy working with other people
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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