The Qualifications and Training to Become an Actor

Updated February 21, 2017

While becoming an actor may seem glamorous and exciting to many, it's a gruelling, difficult profession in which consistent employment is achieved against nearly impossible odds. This is why it's so important for those who pursue a life of performing to do so because of their love for the craft, as well as why training for the acting profession is even more vital. The more skills an actor can offer, the more employable he will be.

Formal Training

There's no better way to start out an acting career than through the achievement of a formal degree in theatre. A university degree not only provides the actor with a foundation in a variety of theatrical skills, it also offers the value of a degree--and a basis for work--while seeking out performance opportunities. Many actors pursue a university degree (typically a Bachelor of Arts) in theatre and a minor degree in an associated area, such as dance, music or literature. Attaining a college degree in theatre also allows the actor to learn about all aspects of stagecraft, while college performances can be valuable additions to the beginning actor's resume.

Graduate Programmes

Several distinguished schools also offer high-profile MFA or Master of Fine Arts programs for students wishing to hone their skills further. Many especially acclaimed schools are located in New York City, Los Angeles or London--all popular hubs for performers and offering the added value of ongoing pursuit of work while attaining the degree. MFA programs offer the actor the opportunity for total immersion in his craft, along with valuable mentors, workshops and smaller classes. MFA productions are even occasionally scouted by agents, directors and others in the industry who are seeking out that next fresh face.

Specialised Programs and Teachers

Another option for the serious actor in search of training is to apply for training with a specialised school, teacher or studio. Costs for such admissions can be expensive but there are often scholarship programmes available. The most famous or high-profile studios have established actors and celebrities among their teachers, who can offer valuable insight into making it as a working actor. Training with a respected acting coach or teacher offers similar benefits, as well as the added value of small groups or one-on-one training and advice.

Special Skills

To achieve a career as a working actor, it's vital to master as many skills as possible in order to be a desirable asset to a production. Even those actors without natural singing or dancing ability should take classes either while in school or afterwards. Singing and dance lessons also offer valuable voice production and movement techniques. Other valuable skills that will make an actor versatile (and "castable") include stage combat, dialects, improvisation or specialised acting training for commercials, television or film, to name a few.

The Finishing Touches

After formal training, the actor will need to prepare a "toolkit" of items necessary for auditions. This toolkit should include a professionally created and accurate resume of acting training and career roles to date, a recent and professional-quality head shot (photograph) and an outfit that allows for movement and is not distracting. The actor will have committed to memory an arsenal of dramatic and comedic monologues to use in auditions, as well as a few songs if auditioning for musicals--one up-tempo (quick and bright) and a contrasting piece. Sheet music for the songs should be brought to every musical audition, kept in a notebook along with a schedule, monologue photocopies, extra resumes and head shots for easy access.

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About the Author

Angela Mitchell is a freelance writer, editor and playwright with more than 200 published features to her credit since 1993. Her articles have appeared in everything from "Writer's Digest," to "Computer Currents," "Markee," "ParentGuide," "Antique Trader Weekly," and more.