Many aspiring actors wonder if they can make it in Hollywood or on Broadway without having prestigious acting school credentials. The good news is that while formal training helps, you absolutely can become a successful actor without it.
If you’re short on time, the quick answer is: yes, you can become an actor and build a career without going to acting school.
This article will dive into the various paths actors take to break into the business, the pros and cons of acting schools, and the most critical skills you need to develop with or without an acting degree.
The Different Roads That Lead to Acting
Acting is a profession that has no one-size-fits-all approach. While some aspiring actors choose to pursue formal training at acting schools, many successful actors have achieved their dreams through alternative paths. Here are some different roads that can lead to a career in acting:
No formal training
Believe it or not, there are actors who have made it big without any formal training. They rely on their natural talent, passion, and dedication to succeed in the industry. These individuals may have innate acting abilities and are able to learn and grow through on-the-job experience.
Without the constraints of structured training, they can develop their own unique style and approach to their craft.
Some acting classes
For those who want to improve their skills and gain some knowledge of the craft, taking acting classes can be a great option. While not attending a full-time acting school, these individuals can still benefit from workshops, community theater programs, or part-time acting courses.
This allows them to learn from experienced instructors and collaborate with fellow actors, providing valuable networking opportunities.
Degree in another field
Surprisingly, having a degree in a field unrelated to acting doesn’t necessarily exclude someone from pursuing an acting career. In fact, many successful actors have backgrounds in fields like business, science, or law.
These individuals bring a unique perspective and life experience to their roles, which can set them apart from others in the industry. It’s never too late to pursue a passion for acting, regardless of previous academic pursuits.
Directly out of high school
Some aspiring actors choose to start their journey right after high school. They may have participated in school plays or local theater productions, gaining valuable experience and building their confidence.
By entering the industry at a young age, they have the advantage of time to learn and grow as actors. While it can be a challenging path, with perseverance and dedication, these individuals can make their mark in the acting world.
It’s important to note that while formal training can provide a strong foundation and open doors to opportunities, it is not the only way to become a successful actor. Each path has its own advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately, it is up to the individual to choose the route that aligns with their goals and aspirations.
What matters most in the world of acting is talent, passion, and a willingness to continuously learn and improve.
The Benefits of Formal Acting Education
While it is possible to become an actor without attending acting school, there are numerous benefits to pursuing formal education in this field. Here are some of the advantages that come with receiving a professional acting education:
Training with industry veterans
One of the significant benefits of attending acting school is the opportunity to train with industry veterans. These experienced professionals have years of practical knowledge and can provide valuable insights into the world of acting.
Learning from those who have succeeded in the industry can give aspiring actors a competitive edge and help them refine their skills.
According to a study conducted by Backstage, actors who have received formal training are more likely to have successful careers compared to those who haven’t. The study found that 78% of actors with professional training had booked paid acting work within three years, while only 45% of actors without training had similar success.
Building your network
Another advantage of attending acting school is the opportunity to build a network of contacts within the industry. Acting schools often have connections to casting directors, agents, and other professionals who can help actors kick-start their careers.
These connections can lead to auditions, job opportunities, and invaluable mentorship.
According to a report by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), networking is crucial for actors trying to establish themselves in the industry. Many actors get their first big break through referrals and recommendations from people they have met during their training.
Developing your craft
Formal acting education provides the opportunity to develop and refine acting skills. Through structured classes and workshops, aspiring actors can learn various techniques, such as method acting or improvisation, and gain a deeper understanding of the craft.
This training helps actors build a versatile skill set and prepares them for a wide range of acting opportunities.
In a survey conducted by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, 94% of actors who received formal training reported that it significantly improved their acting abilities. The survey also revealed that actors who had formal education were more likely to be considered for challenging and diverse roles.
Succeeding Without Acting School
While attending acting school can provide valuable training and networking opportunities, it is not the only path to success in the acting industry. Many actors have achieved great success without formal training, relying instead on their natural talent, determination, and a strategic approach to gaining experience and improving their skills.
Here are some ways to succeed as an actor without going to acting school:
Getting experience through smaller roles
One way to gain valuable experience as an actor is by starting with smaller roles. This could involve auditioning for community theater productions, independent films, or student films. These opportunities allow you to learn on the job, gain exposure, and build your resume.
Additionally, participating in local theater groups or joining an improv troupe can help you develop your acting skills and gain confidence on stage.
Taking acting classes a la carte
While attending a full-time acting school may not be feasible for everyone, taking acting classes on a part-time or individual basis can still be beneficial. Many acting studios offer a variety of classes that allow you to focus on specific areas of interest, such as scene study, voice training, or improvisation.
By selecting the classes that align with your goals and budget, you can still receive valuable training from experienced instructors.
Learning from free online resources
In today’s digital age, there is a wealth of free online resources available to aspiring actors. Websites, such as Backstage and Actor Studio, offer articles, tutorials, and videos on various acting techniques, audition tips, and industry insights.
Additionally, platforms like YouTube and Udemy provide access to a wide range of acting classes and workshops. While self-study requires discipline and self-motivation, it can be a cost-effective way to learn and improve your skills.
Practicing your craft constantly
One of the most important aspects of becoming a successful actor is to constantly practice your craft. This involves honing your acting skills by regularly rehearsing scenes, monologues, or improvisation exercises.
Additionally, seeking feedback from trusted peers or industry professionals can help you identify areas for improvement and refine your performances. Remember, practice makes perfect, so make it a habit to consistently work on your acting skills.
While acting school can provide a structured learning environment and valuable connections, it is not the only path to success as an actor. By gaining experience through smaller roles, taking acting classes a la carte, utilizing free online resources, and practicing your craft constantly, you can develop your skills and increase your chances of succeeding in the acting industry.
Key Skills Every Actor Needs
Confidence and Mental Toughness
One of the key skills that every actor needs is confidence. Acting requires performers to step out of their comfort zone and portray characters with conviction. Without confidence, it can be challenging to deliver believable performances.
Additionally, actors need to develop mental toughness to handle rejection and criticism. This industry can be tough, and actors often face numerous auditions and rejections before landing a role. Building resilience and a strong mindset is essential for success.
Networking and Self-Promotion Abilities
In the world of acting, networking and self-promotion play crucial roles in advancing one’s career. Actors need to develop strong connections within the industry to increase their chances of getting auditions and securing roles.
Attending industry events, joining acting associations, and building relationships with casting directors and agents are all important steps in building a successful acting career. Additionally, actors should have the ability to effectively promote themselves, whether it’s through creating a compelling acting resume, maintaining an active presence on social media, or showcasing their skills through demo reels.
A Resilient, Optimistic Attitude
Acting can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions, with highs and lows throughout a career. Therefore, having a resilient and optimistic attitude is vital for actors. They need to be able to bounce back from rejection, stay positive during difficult times, and maintain a strong belief in their abilities.
This positive mindset can help actors stay motivated and continue pursuing their dreams, even when faced with obstacles.
Business and Financial Savvy
While the creative aspect of acting is essential, actors also need to be business-savvy to navigate the industry successfully. Understanding contracts, negotiating deals, and managing finances are crucial skills for actors. They may also need to handle their own marketing, branding, and accounting.
Having a basic understanding of the business side of the industry can help actors make informed decisions and protect their interests.
According to Backstage, these key skills are essential for actors looking to succeed without going to acting school. While formal training can provide a solid foundation, developing these skills through experience and practice is equally valuable.
At the end of the day, your talent, determination and willingness to put in the hard work matter far more than where or whether you went to acting school. If you are truly passionate about acting and commit fully to honing your skills, you can absolutely carve out a successful career without a prestigious degree.
While formal training provides helpful structure, connections and expertise, it is not the only path forwards. Believe in yourself, be smart about gaining experience and never stop learning, and you can achieve your acting dreams.