Performing arts and media

Career outlook for actor

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would entertain people by performing as a character in a story, on stage before a live theatre audience or on film, television or radio.

You'd use your talent, empathy and imagination to bring the character to life. You'd memorise your lines and work with the director's instructions and other members of the cast to give your audience an enjoyable experience.

You'd use your voice and expression to show certain emotions. You'd work with the director to decide how the character will look and behave.

You would:

  • Research your role
  • Learn your lines
  • Rehearse the scenes to get the timing and stage positioning right
  • Attend fittings for costumes

You'd work with other professionals such as make-up artists, camera operators and directors.

For some roles you may work with the director to interpret the script. You will also need to very adaptable as you could be asked to play a number of different characters with different personalities.

You'd spend a lot of time preparing for and going to auditions and would probably need an agent to help you find the next job.

Working conditions


Hours may be irregular. Most theatre performances take place in the evenings. You may also perform in daytime shows, rehearsals and auditions. In film and television, days can be very long and involve a lot of waiting around between scenes


A lot of your work may take place in a studio or theatre although you could be asked to work outdoors on productions. This could include outdoor shoots in film and TV or site specific theatre productions, such as performances in forests or castles.


You would need to travel to jobs and auditions. You may spend long periods away from home if you are touring with a play, or filming on location.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Adaptability
  • Persevering
  • Cooperating
  • Networking
  • Verbal communication
  • Creative
  • Self esteem
  • Self awareness
  • Recalling

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


Although there are no formal entry requirements, most actors have studied a course in acting and performance many actors study performance at college or university.

To enter a relevant National Certificate or National Qualification courses (SCQF 2-6) is usually by audition but some courses ask for National 4/5 qualifications.  

You can enter Higher National Certificate (SCQF Level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF Level 8) with National 4/5 qualification and one to two Highers.

To enter a relevant degree (SCQF Level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of three Highers at C or above, or a relevant HNC/HND.

Useful subjects

  • English (required by many courses)
  • Drama (required by many courses)

You will also need

To work in the industry most jobs require you become an Equity member.

Helpful to have

Experience in amateur dramatics.

Check if Drama UK accredits or recognises the course. Courses approved by Drama UK can help when starting an acting career and also help towards membership of Equity.