What Is Acting?

Of all the different types of performing arts, acting is probably one of the most popular. Acting has a long history, and it has been around for centuries. Before individual actors dominated the stage, several members of a chorus often sang and spoke to narrate a story. In ancient Greece, however, all of this changed when, one day, a single actor separated himself from the chorus and spoke lines as if he were the main character in the story. His name was Thespis, and to this day, some actors are still referred to as thespians.

Actors are the individuals that perform, or act, in certain performing arts productions.


Work Environment

Actors are the individuals that portray the different characters in a script. These are the individuals that help bring written scripts alive. Most experts agree that the skills and abilities of the actors will often determine whether or not a particular show is a success or not.

Generally, actors' primary duties are to act like the characters in a different scripts. This includes speaking and walking like the characters that they portray. Actors should also be able to figure out their characters' mentality and drive in life, and they will often try to imitate their characters' mannerisms and attitude as well.

Being an actor often takes a great deal of research. Most actors will often study and scrutinize their characters carefully before truly getting a grasp on their roles. For instance, an actor playing the role of a historical figure, will often find himself pouring over newspaper clippings, biographies, movies, news stories, and interviews that focus on this figure. This research, although time consuming, is often a very important part of an acting career.

As a career, acting requires a great deal of patience and dedication. Actors will typically rehearse, or practice, before they are ready for their role. Actors are also responsible for memorizing their lines and stage cues. They must also work closely with other members of a production, including other actors, directors, producers, writers, makeup artists, costume directors, and lighting technicians.


Education Requirements

Most actors start their careers while they are still in school. They may perform in high school plays, for instance. A formal education is not usually necessary, however, and talent and dedication to the art are often perceived to be much more important.

Despite this fact, many actors will often try to develop their acting skills by attending acting schools. Some actors may also benefit from enrolling in a drama program at a university, college, or performing arts school.


Acting Salary and Job Outlook


Actor's salaries can vary drastically. Some actors will make next to nothing during their entire acting career, for instance, while others may make millions of dollars. Generally speaking, however, actors in 2017 made roughly $17.49 per hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Very famous actors that star in feature-length films will often earn much more. Overall, however, it is often quite difficult for an actor to find steady work. In fact, most actors usually hold other full or part-time jobs in order to earn a wage.

Job Outlook

Although acting classes or a drama degree may help hone your skills, this type of education will not always guarantee you work as an actor. Education will not always guarantee you work as an actor. This is often a very difficult field to break into, and generally speaking, only the most talented actors are able to have a successful career. In fact, the majority of actors will often need to seek employment in a more traditional workplace. To start an acting career, you will usually be required to participate in several auditions. During these auditions, you will be required to show off your acting skills. You will also usually be competing with several other actors for the same part, and only the best one will be picked. If you are chosen for a role and prove that you have exceptional acting skills, you may be able to work your way up to larger roles or productions. Some actors may also be able to secure employment with theme parks, historical museums, and could even begin a career in ventriloquism. If you choose to get Master's degree in drama or theater, you may also be able to work as an acting coach or drama teacher.


2016 Median Pay

$17.49 per hour

Recommended Level of Education

Some college, no degree

Number of Jobs in 2014


Expected % Change in Employment (2014-2024)

12% (Faster than average)

Expected 10 Year Employment Growth (2014-2024)


Source: BLS - Occupational Outlook Handbook

Actors Salaries by Industry


Motion Picture and Video Industries


Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers


Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services


Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services


Amusement Parks and Arcades

Source: BLS OES - Industry Profile
Mean Hourly Wage

Helpful Resources

Acting Jobs