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How to Become an Actor

Working as an actor is a career that everyone is aware of, and many aspire to, but only some actively work towards. If you’re one of those people, working out how to become an actor can often seem like an impossible task. As a highly creative career in a very competitive industry, with various routes to success, it can be difficult to decide what your best choices are as a graduate of drama or another subject. 

In this guide, we’ll outline everything you’ll need to know about how to get into acting as a graduate student – what the benefits are, the entry requirements for acting postgraduate courses, and how to get acting jobs are just some of the things we’ll cover. 


Why become an actor? 

It’s not excessive to say that acting is one of the most well-respected careers in today’s society. Some of the world’s biggest celebrities and highest earners are actors, building brands and gaining millions of fans due to their artistic flair and talent for drama. 

Even for those who don’t go to Hollywood or become actors on the big or little screens, acting is a deeply creative career path that allows its members to earn a living through self-expression and the exploration of characters in a way that almost no other career paths can. 

Students of acting will be tasked with understanding, adopting and expressing unique and interesting characters created by writers and directors, communicating and connecting with audiences everywhere from theatres to cinemas, TV studios to interactive experience venues. 

While it can be a competitive and challenging career path, actor salaries can rise to astronomical levels for some. At any level, it’s a highly rewarding career that stands uniquely as one of the creative arts. 

How do I become an actor? 

There are a few ways to get into acting and make your start as an actor. It’s one career where higher education qualifications are not formally required to get roles and develop your career—but it always helps. While certificates are not necessarily needed, extensive training (usually over many years) and a strong portfolio are essential to success. 

Completing an undergraduate degree or Higher National Diploma (HND) in acting or drama is a great way to study the art of acting, get instruction on techniques and attitudes to drama from trained staff and industry members, and build your experience on screen or stage. 

Postgraduate theatre and drama degrees, like a master’s in theatre, are likewise not essential but will be incredibly useful in helping you hone your craft and develop career prospects. The skills, network connections and experience in certain sub-disciplines you’ll build during an acting master’s course will allow you to stand out against the crowd and leverage useful contacts for graduate opportunities. 

Getting involved in student productions or other work experience options during your studies will always be helpful. Once you graduate, it’ll be about finding work opportunities, building up your portfolio, making a name for yourself and demonstrating your abilities in the industry. 

What are the entry requirements? 

The entry requirements for theatre master’s and other acting courses at postgraduate level may differ depending on the course you’re applying to and the university that offers it. 

Most postgraduate programmes are in the form of a taught MA. Applicants for this type of course will typically be expected to have a 2:1 degree at undergraduate honours level, or professional experience deemed equivalent to this. Applicants don’t need to have a drama-related degree, or any degree at all, but will need to demonstrate the alternative means through which they’ve built their skills and experience. 

Most courses will ask applicants to audition, though in many cases this will be through submission of a showreel of video audition material, as well as a supporting statement.  

What skills do I need to become an actor? 

When it comes to working out how to become an actor, your personal attributes and professional skills should be your primary concern. While it’s a career that benefits from a natural talent for role playing, imagination, confidence in front of audiences and a deep understanding of different perspectives, these skills can be learned by a dedicated student. 

To succeed in your studies and the career that follows, you’ll need to have excellent listening skills; understanding the vision and the brief of your director is the root from which all of your other successes will grow. Further still, being reliable, working well with others, and being able to take criticism and detailed instructions are all essential characteristics to gain before you consider the expression of a character. 

In acting itself, being able to interpret the details of a character, analyse their motives and context, memorise lines, express emotions both verbally and non-verbally, and commit to inhabiting another person for the duration of your performance are key skills. 

Professionally, being able to network and market yourself will be helpful to accessing new roles and growing in reputation. Personally, you’ll need to be determined, resilient and confident to deal with the unique challenges and obstacles that aspiring actors typically face. 

What universities offer acting courses? 

There are over 50 different acting postgraduate courses and theatre degrees, on offer at more than 20 different UK universities. Our university search tool is a great way to browse different study options, check entry requirements and curricula for courses you’re interested in, and start your application process. 

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