The downsides to acting careers are obvious: There’s not much work, and you fight tooth and nail to get the work that is available. So rather than waiting in the wings for your big break, make the first move and create your own opportunities. Those with formal training from acting schools become experts in the field and make key connections with professionals who can open the doors to work and success.
Students pursuing acting degrees often take courses in radio and television broadcasting, communications, film, theater, drama, or dramatic literature. Many continue past the bachelor’s level and earn a master of fine arts degree, which may include courses in stage speech and movement, directing, playwriting, and design, as well as intensive acting workshops. Check with the National Association of Schools of Theatre to make sure your theater arts program is accredited.
But acting degrees are just the beginning — continuing education is a must as well. Actors need to research roles and sometimes even learn a foreign language or train with a dialect coach for a particular role. Actors may also need to learn other performance skills, such as singing, dancing, skating, juggling, miming, horseback riding, fencing, and stage combat.
After studying at acting schools, it’s time to find work. You’re certainly familiar with the acting careers in the spotlight (film, network television, and theater in New York City and Los Angeles), but there’s more to the field than what’s in the public eye. Many actors find fulfillment and make a living in local or regional television studios, theaters, film production companies, or even on the radio. You can also find talented actors in cabarets, nightclubs, theme parks, and commercials. And don’t forget about voiceover and narration work for advertisements, cartoons, books on tape, and video games. Little-known fact: Lara Jill Miller of the 1980s TV show “Gimme a Break!” now makes her living as the voice of Puppy Clifford on PBS Kids’ “Clifford’s Puppy Days.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, expanding cable and satellite television operations, increasing production and distribution of major studio and independent films, and continued growth and development of interactive media, such as direct-for-Web movies and videos, should increase demand for those in the performing arts. In addition, Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters, touring productions, repertory theaters, theme parks, and resorts are expected to offer plenty of jobs.
Train your eyes to see outside the spotlight, and you’ll find many opportunities to pursue within the performing arts. But then again, you never know — you may find yourself center stage after all.