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Actor

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Summary of occupation

Actors use speech and body language to play characters in live and filmed performances. They must do a lot of preparation before a performance. They must read scripts and research subject matter,memorise lines, perfect characterisation and hone acting techniques. Actors may perform in centuries-old tragedies for live theatre, contemporary drama in television and film, and much more. Many require other skills for their performances, such as singing or dancing. All actors work to entertain, engage and make people ‘think’ by using performance.

ANZSCO description: Entertains by portraying roles in film, television, radio and stage productions. This occupation requires high levels of creative talent or personal commitment and interest as well as, or in place of, formal qualifications or experience.
Alternative names:
Specialisations: Mime Artist, Voice-over Artist
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An actor needs:

  • talent and imagination
  • a strong speaking voice
  • stamina
  • a good memory to learn and retain lines
  • confidence
  • the determination to succeed in a competitive industry
  • to be reliable to meet rehearsal and performance times
  • to be able to follow directions
  • to be able to handle criticism
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Working conditions

Actors work in varying conditions, depending on the work they are doing. Some work in designated performance spaces like theatres, concert halls, and television or film studios. Others may work outside, sometimes in harsh weather conditions.  Rehearsals tend to be repetitive and multiple takes are often required in both television and film.  Contact with the public is necessary for actors who perform in front of live audiences.  Many are required to travel for work, and may be away from home for long periods of time. Work can often be stressful due to strict deadlines, and the high expectations of audiences and directors.

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Salary details

Earnings for actors can vary considerably depending on their level of experience, the type and duration of the project they work on, their negotiated contract, the company they work for, and the demand for their work. As an actor develops their skills and reputation, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Actors use stage and studio props, which can differ between performances.  These range from everyday objects, to other devices created specifically for a production. Sometimes they may use voice-amplifying equipment like microphones.  Actors are frequently required to wear costumes and make-up, which can completely change an actor’s appearance.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

It is possible to work as an actor without formal qualifications. However, you are more likely to improve your employment prospects if you have completed a formal qualification in acting or a related area. 

The Certificate IV in Aboriginal Theatre and Certificate IV in Musical Theatre are offered at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). 

You can also complete a university degree majoring in acting, performing arts, music theatre, theatre studies or a related field. Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses.

​Most courses require an audition. Contact the training provider you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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