Actors/actresses play roles and parts on live stage performances, TV, radio, video, motion picture productions, or other settings for entertainment or instruction. They use body language (gestures and dancing) and voice (speech and singing) in order to present the character or story according to the script, following the guidelines of a director.

Here are some typical duties of actors and actresses:

  • Study scripts and develop a deep understanding of the characters they will portray, their motivations, emotions, and relationships within the story.
  • Rehearse scenes and work with directors and fellow cast members to refine performances and create cohesive storytelling.
  • Memorize lines and deliver dialogue convincingly, capturing the nuances of language and accents when required.
  • Express emotions, both verbally and non-verbally, to convey the character’s thoughts and feelings effectively.
  • Adapt acting techniques and styles to fit various genres, from drama to comedy, romance to action, and everything in between.
  • Develop physicality and gestures to embody characters convincingly, paying attention to body language and movement.
  • Prepare emotionally and mentally for intense or challenging scenes, ensuring a realistic and impactful performance.
  • Collaborate with directors and follow their guidance to fulfill the vision of the production and deliver the desired tone and atmosphere.
  • Continuously improve acting skills through workshops, classes, and self-study, exploring new methods and approaches.
  • Embrace feedback and constructive criticism to refine their craft and enhance performances.
  • Audition for roles in various productions, showcasing their talent and suitability for specific characters.
  • Work on multiple projects simultaneously, managing time and energy effectively to meet performance schedules.
  • Stay committed to character development throughout a production, maintaining consistency in performances across different scenes.
  • Work with a variety of production teams, adapting to different working environments and creative dynamics.
  • Perform in front of live audiences in theaters or on television/film sets under the pressure of real-time performance.
  • Engage in promotional activities, interviews, and press events to promote projects and interact with the public.
  • Act with professionalism and dedication, respecting fellow actors, crew members, and production schedules.
  • Embody the spirit of storytelling and entertain audiences while embracing the challenges and rewards of the acting profession.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to actor/actress:

film and theater actor
theatre and film actor
film & theatre actor
theater & film actress
theater and film actress
film & theater actor
theater performer
musical theater actress
theatre & film actress
film and theatre actor
extra performer
musical theater performer
theater & film actor
marionette performer
pantomime actor
theatre perfomer
musical theatre actress
drama actor
film actor
musical theatre actor
film & theater actress
musical theater actor
theater and film actor
film actress
theatre and film actress
film and theatre actress
musical theatre performer
film & theatre actress
theatre & film actor
film and theater actress

Working conditions

Actors and actresses work in diverse settings, including theaters, film studios, television studios, and on location for outdoor shoots. They may experience irregular working hours, long days on set, and periods of intense focus during rehearsals and performances. The entertainment industry can be competitive and demanding, but it also offers opportunities for artistic expression and creativity.

Minimum qualifications

Many actors and actresses pursue formal education in performing arts, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in acting, theater, or drama. However, talent and experience are equally vital in this profession. Aspiring actors often participate in acting classes, workshops, and community theater to gain practical experience and build their portfolios. Some actors also start their careers in small roles or as extras to gain exposure and establish connections in the industry.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Actor/actress is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Actor/actress career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to actor/actress.

voice-over artist
stand-up comedian
variety artist
street performer

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of actor/actress.

  • Be in touch with your body: The key aspects of applied anatomy, psychology, nutrition, physiology, and psychosocial studies and how they relate to the self-awareness of one’s body. 

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of actor/actress.

  • Create solutions to problems: Solve problems which arise in planning, prioritising, organising, directing/facilitating action and evaluating performance. Use systematic processes of collecting, analysing, and synthesising information to evaluate current practice and generate new understandings about practice.
  • Perform live: Perform in front of live audiences.
  • Rehearse role: Study lines and actions. Practise them before recording or shooting to find the best way to perform them.
  • Accept feedback on artistic performance: Accept feedback, proposed discussions and avenues of exploration about the precision of movements, rhythm, musicality, precision of the performance, interaction with peers and stage elements, areas requiring improvement. Take feedback into account to develop the potential as performer. Note the choreographers/repetiteur/dance master instructions, the instructions of other collaborators (dramaturge, performers/dancers peers, musicians, etc.) assuring being in the same page with direction team.
  • Analyse theatre texts: Understand and analyse theatre texts; take an active part in the interpretation of the artistic project; conduct thorough personal research in textual material and dramaturgy.
  • Study roles from scripts: Study and rehearse roles from scripts; interpret, learn and memorise lines, stunts, and cues as directed.
  • Attend rehearsals: Attend rehearsals in order to adapt sets, costumes, make-up, lighting, camera set up, etc.
  • Interpret performance concepts in the creative process: Learn and research a part, in personal and collective research and rehearsal, build an acting performance respecting the concept of the show.
  • Rehearse with fellow actors: Rehearse lines and acting with fellow actors to be attuned to each other.
  • Engage the audience emotionally: Create an emotional connection with the audience through your performance. Engage the audience with sadness, humour, anger, any other emotion, or a combination thereof, and let them share your experience.
  • Interact with fellow actors: Perform together with other actors. Anticipate their moves. React to their actions.
  • Promote yourself: Market one’s own strengths in terms of skills and knowledge.
  • Study relationships between characters: Study characters in scripts and their relationships to each other.
  • Analyse own performance: Understand, analyse and describe your own performance. Contextualize your work in one or various styles, trends, evolution, etc. Self-evaluate your work in rehearsals and performances.
  • Interact with an audience: Convey the artistic values of the art form(s). Respond to the reactions of your audience and involve them.
  • Memorise lines: Memorise your role in a performance or broadcast, whether it is text, movement, or music.
  • Follow directions of the artistic director: Follow the instructions of the director while understanding his creative vision.
  • Work with respect for own safety: Apply the safety rules according to training and instruction and based on a solid understanding of the prevention measures and risks to your own personal health and safety.
  • Act for an audience: Act in front of an audience, according to an artistic concept.
  • Declaim: Speak for an audience with the expression of rhythm and vocal technique. Take care that articulation and voice projection are appropriate to the character or text. Make sure that you are heard without compromising your health: prevent fatigue and vocal strain, breathing problems and vocal cord problems.
  • Work with an artistic team: Work closely with directors, fellow actors and playwrights to find the ideal interpretation to a role.
  • Adapt to different roles: Adapt to different roles in a play, regarding the styles, ways of acting and aesthetics.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of actor/actress. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Literary theory: The different genres of literature and the way they fit into specific scenes.
  • Photography: Art and practice of creating aesthetically appealing images by recording light or electromagnetic radiation.
  • Breathing techniques: The various techniques to control the voice, body, and nerves by breathing.
  • Acting techniques: The different acting techniques for developing lifelike performances, such as method acting, classical acting, and Meisner technique.
  • Vocal techniques: The various techniques for using your voice correctly without exhausting or damaging it when changing voice in tone and volume.
  • Pronunciation techniques: The pronunciation techniques to properly and understandably pronounce words.
  • Music literature: Literature about music theory, specific music styles, periods, composers or musicians, or specific pieces. This includes a variety of materials such as magazines, journals, books and academic literature.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of actor/actress. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Organise rehearsals: Manage, schedule and run rehearsals for the performance.
  • Work in an international environment: Guide your career to an international level which often requires the ability to interact, relate and communicate with individuals from different cultures.
  • Perform stunts: Execute various physical movements concerning the technical realisation of difficult acting performances.
  • Speak different languages: Master foreign languages to be able to communicate in one or more foreign languages.
  • Study music: Study original pieces of music to get well acquainted with music theory and history.
  • Practice dance moves: Study and practice dance moves required in artistic productions.
  • Communicate during show: Efficient communication during live performance, anticipate any possible malfunctioning.
  • Perform improvisation: Perform dialogues or actions spontaneously or without preparation.
  • Attend read-through: Attend the organised reading of the script, where the actors, director, producers, and scriptwriters read the script thoroughly.
  • Perform with motion capture equipment: Wear motion capture equipment while performing in order to provide multimedia artists with live material so that their animated creations resemble real movements, facial expressions, dance movements, or sports movements.
  • Show professional responsibility: Ensure that other workers and clients are treated with respect and that appropriate civil liability insurance is in place at all times of instructing.
  • Show confidence: Demonstrate degrees of maturity by fully understanding one’s own qualities and abilities which can serve as sources of confidence in different situations.
  • Deal with public: To adopt a pleasant, professional and positive manner with all customers, anticipating their needs and passing customer complaints to a member of the management team (if necessary) in a calm, professional and non confrontational manner.
  • Assess progress with the artistic team: Evaluating the quality of the performers’ work and that of the collaborators. Develop recommendations concerning productions in progress. Aim to ensure smooth relationships and communications within the artistic team.
  • Show intercultural awareness: Show sensibility towards cultural differences by taking actions which facilitate positive interaction between international organisations, between groups or individuals of different cultures, and to promote integration in a community.
  • Lead cast and crew: Lead a film or theatre cast and crew. Brief them about the creative vision, what they need to do and where they need to be. Manage day-to-day production activities to ensure things run smoothly.
  • Participate in tourism events: Take part in tourism fairs and exhibitions in order to promote, distribute and negotiate tourism services and packages.
  • Perform for young audiences: Perform on a level accessible to children and young adults, whilst also censoring unadvisable content.
  • Direct an artistic team: Lead and instruct a complete team with the required cultural expertise and experience.
  • Organise an exhibition: Organise and structure an exhibition in a strategic way, making the artworks more accessible to public.
  • Perform in a public space: Use bodily actions to interrupt and interact with the structure of the public space.
  • Develop puppet shows: Develop shows with puppets.
  • Study media sources: Study various media sources such as broadcasts, print media, and online media in order to gather inspiration for the development of creative concepts.
  • Perform music solo: Perform music individually.
  • Perform scripted dialogue: Perform the lines, as written in the script, with animation. Make the character come to life.
  • Sing: Use the voice to produce musical sounds, marked by tone and rhythm.
  • Conduct background research for plays: Research historical backgrounds and artistic concepts of plays.
  • Practise singing: Study and practise lyrics, melody, and rhythm of songs.
  • Organise cultural events: Arrange events in cooperation with local stakeholders which promote local culture and heritage.
  • Perform for multiple takes: Perform the same scene several times in a row independently from the plot until the shot is deemed satisfactory.
  • Work with a voice coach: Receive advice and training from a voice coach. Learn how to use one’s voice correctly, how to properly pronounce and articulate words, and use the right intonation. Get trained in breathing techniques.
  • Plan choreographic improvisation: Establish improvisation parameters of a physical, spatial or morphological nature. Clarify goals and uses of improvisation.
  • Develop magic show concepts: Develop the different components (e.g. musical, visual, lighting, magic content etc.) of a magic show.

ISCO group and title

2655 – Actors

  1. Actor/actress – ESCO
  2. Actor or Actress: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements –
  3. How to Be an Actor: Getting Started and Building a Career | Backstage
  4. Featured image: Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay
Last updated on January 13, 2024