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Actor Job Description

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Theater Major Careers

Theater Career Information





  • Stage
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Motion Picture
  • Video
  • Community theaters
  • Regional theaters
  • Commercial theaters
  • Summer stock theaters
  • Dinner theaters
  • Children’s theaters
  • Repertory companies
  • University theater groups
  • Touring companies
  • Industrial shows
  • Show groups
  • Amusement and theme parks
  • Television/film studios
  • Radio stations
  • Nightclubs
  • Cabarets
  • Cruise lines
  • Acting conservatories
  • Public or community programs
  • Participate in acting workshops, courses, and seminars to get advice and experience and to make contacts with others in the field.
  • Join unions, e.g. Actors Equity Union, or actors’ guilds to stay abreast of opportunities and developments in the field.
  • Get as much acting experience as possible. Perform in school productions, community theater, summer stock, etc. to hone acting skills.
  • Pursue training through acting conservatories or mentoring from a drama coach.
  • Develop a wide range of skills, such as singing, dancing, or acrobatics to be more versatile.
  • Gain related experience by working in a college radio or television station.
  • Consider getting modeling experience.
  • Learn a foreign language and train with a dialect coach.
  • Prepare a professional resume that lists your acting experience. Have your resume attached to or printed on the reverse side of an 8” x 10” photograph of yourself.
  • Be prepared to make the rounds. Distribute your resume to numerous agencies and offices. Follow up with several personal visits.
  • Secure an agent or manager to help find jobs.
  • Be aware that more opportunities exist in large cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
  • Learn about the entertainment industry as a whole.
  • Take courses on entertainment law, business, management, etc.
  • An extensive network of contacts is essential. Get to know people working in your field and related areas.
  • Consider whether you want to pursue acting as a fulltime job or as an avocational interest.


  • Direction
  • Technical Direction
  • Casting
  • Set Design
  • Stage Management
  • Support Staff
  • Theaters of varying types
  • Television and motion picture studios
  • Video production companies
  • Other performance venues
  • Seek formal training and experience in acting first.
  • Develop leadership skills through participation in campus and community organizations.
  • Gain both directing and technical experience by participating in college productions. Gain technical experiences in local theaters.
  • Participate in the Director’s Guild Training Program.
  • Volunteer with directors in local theaters to become familiar with the environment. Serving as an assistant is a great way to get started in this area.
  • Experience with fundraising is important. Volunteer to do this with local theaters and arts councils.
  • Learn what types of permits and insurance are needed to film or perform in certain areas.

Behind the Scenes

  • Stage Management
  • Stage Director
  • Set Design/Construction
  • Property Design
  • Lighting Design
  • Sound Design
  • Costume Design
  • Camera Operation
  • Hair/Make-up
  • Special Effects
  • Wardrobe
  • Prop Management
  • Broadcast Technology
  • Riggers
  • Electricians
  • Carpenter/Scenic Artist
  • Community theaters
  • Regional theaters
  • Commercial theaters
  • Summer stock theaters
  • Dinner theaters
  • Children’s theaters
  • Repertory companies
  • University theater groups
  • Touring companies
  • Industrial shows
  • Show groups
  • Amusement and theme parks
  • Television/film studios
  • Radio stations
  • Nightclubs
  • Cabarets
  • Cruise lines
  • Acting conservatories
  • Public or community programs
  • Learn to work well on a team.
  • Develop a sense of artistry and creativity.
  • Become involved in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). This organization can give you information about becoming an apprentice as well as help you make valuable contacts.
  • Get experience. Offer your services to school and local theaters.
  • Read industry magazines and books to learn about your area.
  • For sound design: Become familiar with computer technology as digital sound effects and electronic music replace traditional means of sound design.
  • Take courses in computers, math, and physics.
  • For costume design: Supplement your program with courses in art history and fashion design.
  • For set design: Take courses in architecture and design.
  • Learn about different eras in history in order to recreate on stage. A basic knowledge of history and architecture is helpful.


  • Scriptwriting
  • Playwriting
  • Screenwriting
  • Journalism
  • Publicity (Press Agents)
  • Research
  • Theaters
  • Television/film studios
  • Television stations
  • Radio stations
  • Video production companies
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Freelance
  • Take courses in English and journalism to hone writing skills.
  • Review plays, movies, and TV shows for school or local newspaper.
  • Get as much writing experience as possible. Write for the college newspaper, enter playwriting contests, etc.
  • See many different productions and shows. Read a variety of scripts to see how they are developed.
  • Gain experience as a freelance writer or editor in other employment settings.
  • Learn how to film shoot because screenwriters will typically “shoot script” in which a synopsis of a story is prepared so directors can make recommendations.
  • Theatrical press agents publicize and promote theatrical productions. They write press releases and arrange press conferences and other media events. Take courses in related areas such as public relations, advertising, and business to prepare for this field.
  • Reporters spend time on the set absorbing everything. They interview actors as well as craftspeople.
  • Researchers gather information for movie writers.
  • They may also track down photographs or historical documents to make the film more authentic.


  • Producing
  • Management
  • Agents
  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Fundraising and Development
  • Coordination of Volunteers
  • Administration of Arts Programs
  • Box Office Sales
  • Promotions
  • Theaters
  • Arts councils
  • Television/film studios
  • Broadway
  • Road company productions
  • Regional theaters
  • Stock productions
  • Dinner theaters
  • Cabarets
  • Secretarial/clerical positions in theaters and studios are often stepping-stones to other positions and a good way to make contacts.
  • Gain undergraduate training in business, public relations, communications, advertising, and theater.
  • Complete an internship in area of interest.
  • Develop skills in leadership, negotiation, budgeting, and fundraising.
  • Get as much experience on the college and local level as possible to develop a strong resume.


  • Private Instruction
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Public and private schools, K-12
  • Colleges and universities
  • Performing arts centers
  • Various types of theater
  • Freelance
  • For K-12, obtain certification for the state in which you wish to teach. Obtain dual certification for more teaching opportunities.
  • Get experience in various areas of theater and working with young people.
  • Obtain a graduate degree to teach on the college level.
  • Develop one or two areas of expertise within theater arts.
  • Join the National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts or the Association for Theater in Higher Education.

General Information and Strategies

  • Complete an internship or an apprenticeship with a local theater. Participate in summer stock. Gain as much experience as possible.
  • Network: Talk with people working in the field to find out about jobs and opportunities. Join professional groups to make contacts.
  • Read newspapers and periodicals related to the theater to keep up with new developments. Read the “trades”—magazines and newspapers that report events in the entertainment industry. Read the “Theater” section of daily newspapers to find out about upcoming productions.
  • Join a relevant union or guild to be eligible for work assignments.
  • Get your foot in the door and get involved with productions any way you can. Be prepared to do various tasks assigned by stage managers or producers.
  • Volunteer with fundraising efforts for the arts.
  • Be aware of scams. Check out the legitimacy of agencies and companies before paying any fees.
  • Be prepared to move to a metropolitan area where more opportunities exist.
  • A career in the arts takes patience, dedication, and luck!
  • Have a back-up plan. Be aware that actors and directors may face frequent and long periods of unemployment. Develop skills that qualify you for other jobs while you wait for opportunities. Consider pairing theater with another career interest or major to open up more career possibilities.
  • Theater helps students develop verbal and written communication, public speaking, and teamwork skills. These transferable skills are valued by many types of employers. In particular, positions in sales, marketing, management, and public relations may be open to students with theater degrees.
  • There are many ways to be involved in theater arts while working in another career field if you choose not to pursue theater as your way to make a living.


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