How to Become an Actress

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

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When All Your World's a Stage

According to Shakespeare, "all the world's a stage," but if this quote applies particularly to your life, you may be dreaming of an acting career. It's a good idea to get started before you have kids, since in the early years, actresses often have to support themselves by working more than one job at a time and burning the candle at both ends. An extended education is not necessary and not even helpful in many cases, but you'll need both wide experience and some good luck to make it into the big time.

Job Description

Acting is a career in which a person portrays a fictional role to entertain an audience. An actress acts, but not always in movies. Actresses can act almost anywhere, including on the stage, on television shows, in commercials or in theme parks.

Breaking into acting is not easy. Unless you know someone who knows someone, you'll have to audition repeatedly to get a role. Persistence is critical since you'll usually find people lined up around the block to read at auditions, sometimes even into the thousands. One option is to accept non-speaking "extra" roles that are much easier to get than speaking roles. You'll probably also have to take small roles before you are considered for larger ones. The ability to memorize lines while stepping into the character you are playing is critical. You may have to change your appearance (e.g., gain or lose weight or dye your hair) to play a part believably.

Education Requirements

Unlike many careers, you won't need formal education to become an actress. You don't even need a high school diploma. On the other hand, you do need experience, including practice in technical skills. Some people find that earning a bachelor's degree in theater arts, drama, acting or performing arts brings them the skills and experience to get better, higher-paying roles.

You don't have to major in theater arts to pick up the skills to become an actress. Any classes that help you increase your creativity, communication and diction skills will help. Likewise, dancing or sports classes can help you acquire the physical stamina, grace and persistence the career calls for.

The median salary for an actress is $49,363, or a little more than $18 an hour. This means that half of all actresses earn more than this, and half earn less. While you may earn more with more experience, no statistics indicate that an actress with a bachelor's or master's degree will earn more than one without a college education.


Actresses generally work in the entertainment industry. They often work for movie studios, production studios, theaters and, sometimes, theme parks. If shooting a movie, television shot or commercial, they may be sent "on location" to shoot in a different state, region or country. Work assignments can be very short, a day or two to a month or two.

Years of Experience

Actresses earn a broad range of salaries and can also get bonuses. Generally, the total pay range runs from $19,336 to $256,936. While the national average is $47,000, entry-level actresses can earn 6 percent more, while mid-career performers can earn 6 percent less. Actresses with years of experience may earn 19 percent more, while those who have been working as actresses for decades may receive 52 percent more money. Of course, those who hit the big time as movie actresses earn much much more than average.

Job Growth Trend

The job growth outlook for this career is positive. Jobs are expected to grow by 12 percent over the next decade, a higher growth rate than for the average career choice.