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Become an Actress: Education and Training Requirements

Research the requirements to become an actress. Learn about the job description and job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in acting.

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Do I Want to Be an Actress?

Actresses are female performers who work in film, theater and television. They memorize lines and portray characters from scripts and screenplays. They may also perform other talents depending on the role they are playing. For example, actresses in Broadway musical productions typically sing and dance in addition to acting. Travel or even relocation to work sites may be required. Acting jobs are often part-time and sporadic. Many actresses struggle to find work and may never find a 'big break' into this competitive industry.

Job Requirements

Formal training in acting may help an actress improve her skills and career outlook. The following table outlines common requirements to become an actress as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Common Requirements
Degree Level A degree isn't required, but attending an acting program can improve skills and career outlook
Degree Field Drama, theater arts, performing arts
Key Skills Strong reading and speaking skills, memorization skills, creativity, persistence, comfortable speaking in front of audiences,
Additional Requirements Physical stamina, ability to travel, flexible schedule

Step 1: Take Acting Classes

While formal training isn't required to get started in this career, it can help an actress improve her skills while working alongside other performers and mentors. Acting classes, workshops and summer programs are commonly available through acting conservatories and community performing arts centers. Acting schools also exist and offer classes that range in length from 1 week to 2 years. Acting classes can help aspiring actresses learn how to memorize lines, let go of inhibitions, overcome stage fright, effectively convey emotions, get 'into character' and analyze performances by other actors and actresses.

A longer program may benefit an aspiring actress most, since it will provide her with more time and opportunities to develop new skills, hone her techniques and obtain feedback on her performances from her fellow classmates and teachers. If an actress is interested in pursuing a degree in acting, acting classes may help her prepare for audition requirements and give her the necessary skills she needs for admission.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in community theater productions. Aspiring actresses can audition for roles in community theater productions as lead characters, minor characters or ensemble members in order to gain experience working on set with a director, producer and other actors. Having experience in small, community theater projects will give an actress experience to list on her resume and could eventually lead to larger roles.

Step 2: Consider Earning a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring actresses can benefit from earning a bachelor's degree in theater arts or drama. The BLS states that a stage actress with a bachelor's degree may have better employment opportunities. Depending on the school, an audition or previous acting experience of some kind may be required for admission. An undergraduate acting program will provide an actress with in-depth training and analysis of different elements of film and theater. Courses of study may include theater fundamentals, vocal techniques, stage direction, stage movement and auditioning. Students participate in both classroom-based education and practica and often work with other students to put on productions throughout the duration of the program.

Success Tip:

  • Begin building a resume. Actresses must have a professional resume listing their previous acting and performing experience in order to land new jobs through auditions. A resume should also include a professional headshot of the actress's face. An actress can begin building her resume during college and can list any classes she has taken in addition to any productions she participates in throughout her schooling.

Step 3: Attend Auditions

Auditions are essentially the acting equivalent of job interviews; an actress prepares a monologue or reads directly from a script in front of casting directors for a production. During an audition, an actress showcases her skills in order to convince the casting directors to choose her for a role. Actresses must diligently pursue auditions in order to find work in this field. The more auditions an actress attends, the more jobs she can potentially obtain.

Success Tip:

  • Hire an agent. Talent agents are professionals who represent actors and actresses. They can assist actresses with obtaining auditions and negotiating contracts in the event an audition leads to a casting offer. Agents take a percentage of actresses' earnings, so this may not be a realistic option for actresses just starting out in their careers. Actresses should look for licensed agents associated with a franchise.

Step 4: Gain Experience

The more roles an actress can secure for herself, the better her career outlook will typically be. Actresses may start gaining experience as extras in commercials or television shows before working their way up to speaking roles. Small speaking roles can lead to minor characters, and minor characters can lead to leading roles. Not all actresses make it past working as extras in their careers. In fact, the BLS reports that most actresses have to work a second job in order to support themselves while gaining experience in the industry.

Success Tips:

  • Constantly update resume. Resumes should always be current in order to best showcase an actress's experience. As an actress gains experience in the field, she should update her resume after each production to ensure all of her experience is listed. Additionally, new head shot photos should be taken regularly to add to the resume so casting directors have a recent photographic reference of what the actress looks like.
  • Join an actors guild. A wide variety of professional guilds are available to actresses, such as the Screen Actors Guild for television and film actresses or the Black Actors Guild for African-American actresses. A guild can provide an actress with access to union benefits, industry news, residual information, workshops, networking opportunities, annual awards showcases and audition listings.

Step 5: Continue Education

Actresses continue their education through ongoing training throughout their careers, but can also attend advanced acting workshops and seminars to gain further knowledge of the craft. The BLS states that actresses can expect to be required to learn new skills throughout their careers depending on the roles they take on. For example, an actress may need to learn to play an instrument or read lines in a foreign language.

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    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
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