There is no specific educational path to follow in order to become an actor, although many of the better professional actors did major in theatrical arts in college or receivee intensive training in schools dedicated to the art of acting. It is still possible, however, for a person to be discovered while pursuing another career, especially modeling or singing. If someone appears to be an ideal match for a particular acting role, directors and producers will often employ acting coaches in order to get the level of performance they need from a non-professional actor.
An actor should have a broad range of personal interests and experiences, so an ideal early education would be fairly liberal, with a concentration on English and literature classes in order to understand the source material of many plays. Some high schools or college preparatory schools may offer structured classes in theater, or at least have a formal drama club or annual school play. These early experiences on stage can help a person become an actor with some experience before he or she attempts to audition for more advanced studies.
Some would-be actors may move directly to places like New York City or Los Angeles in order to pursue professional opportunities. This can be a very difficult path to follow for a young, unestablished actor. This particular career path calls for numerous auditions for small roles in television productions or commercials, and the competition for these roles is notoriously fierce. A union actor can expect to earn at least the minimum scale wage for a performance, but many actors only work a few days a month or even less. They must supplement their acting income with other types of employment.
The preferred way to become an actor is to study the craft in college and then seek out professional acting classes after graduation. Certain colleges such as Julliard in New York City are renowned for their intensive training programs and list of successful graduates. Many trained actors first earn either a Bachelor's of Fine Arts or a Master's of Fine Arts degree while in college, then seek out a reputable talent agency to represent them in the professional acting world. This career path calls for a number of performances in college theatrical productions, often followed by entry-level roles in professional television and motion picture productions.
Some actors, especially those who want to learn the essential craft, pursue work on what many call the legitimate stage. This could mean auditioning for a major Broadway theater production, but it could also mean working for a local dinner theater or improvisational comedy troupe. Many cities also have amateur or even semi-professional theater companies. In order to become an actor on the stage, some specialized training in musical performance or dance may prove useful. While previous acting experience is always helpful, sometimes an actor's performance at an audition will be the key to getting the role.
While some people may want to become actors because of their perceived glamorous lifestyles and multi-million dollar salaries, in reality the majority of working actors face long periods of unemployment and work in almost complete anonymity. There can be a great deal of personal and creative satisfaction for performing a challenging role well, but professional acting is not a good career choice for those who prefer a steady paycheck and a sense of job security. Those who are willing to learn the craft, demonstrate a solid work ethic and have the self-discipline to survive the lean times, however, may find professional acting to be a very rewarding career indeed.