The short answer is no; you don’t need a formal voice acting degree to get started as a voice actor. Don’t get us wrong, there is a certain standard you must meet if you want to succeed as a voice actor, but having a degree is not the only way to get there.
As a voice actor, you have several options as to where and how you can learn. These include:
- Getting a voice acting degree
- Hiring a voice coach or trainer
- Teaching yourself
We will discuss each of these options in length.
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This post has been updated in October 2021.
When To Get a Voice Acting Degree
Contrary to popular opinion, getting a voice acting degree is not always a bad idea.
If you are going to take this route, choose a good school, and know what to expect from the course.
Here are a few skills you might learn from a voice acting degree:
Remember that stage acting is not the same as voice acting. In as much as the two lend to each other, a voice actor has to perform without being seen.
They need to pack all the energy and emotion into the voice.
Any voice acting degree you enroll to, therefore, shouldn’t teach you stage acting, but the art of voice acting which entails perfecting your vocal range, tone, and flexibility.
It is important for voice actors to know how to market themselves.
The nature of the voice acting industry means you will wear many hats. As a freelance voice actor, you will be the talent, editor, producer, the intern that goes on coffee runs, the financial expert, the social media manager, and any other job that comes your way.
Can you balance all this without cracking under the pressure?
A voice acting degree should give you some insight into self-promotion and how to do it right. A degree may or may not work for you, but it’s one way to go if you want to start a voice acting career.
Why Most Voice Actors Don’t Have an Acting Degree
While there are benefits to getting a voice acting degree, a lot of professional voice actors did not take this route.
First, it is expensive to get a voice acting degree.
You may have to take on a few student loans just to get through school with no guarantee that you will get voice over jobs. And because it is so expensive, you might end up developing a tunnel vision in your career.
This means that a voice acting degree might blind you to how things actually work in the industry. This is why a lot of actors prefer to get training from voice coaches.
Voice actors are not hired on merit alone.
Clients need more than a certification to hire you. They look for hands-on experience, actors who are confident in their craft and confident in the booth.
Sure, a voice acting degree might get your foot in the door in some instances, but any success you have will depend on the other factors.
How good are your skills?
Vocal versatility? Check. Attention to detail? Check. And confidence is also part of the job. As a voice actor, you not only have to be good; you also have to believe you are good.
Good voice acting skills also constitute believability. Can you read, understand, and interpret a voice-over script so the message gets across to the target audience?
Remember, it takes time and experience to become a good voice actor.
How well do you market yourself?
Do you have a voice-over website?
To grow your voice acting career, look beyond the degree and start applying yourself in the real world. Once you get one or two clients, you can build a portfolio that will help you get even better clients.
Clients are the real mark of certification when it comes to voice acting.
Where Do Voice Actors Come From?
If not from voice acting degrees, then what makes good talents? The voice acting industry is as broad as they come. Professionals come from different backgrounds including:
Radio and TV
Radio personalities who are adept at performing live reads may choose to become voice actors. Influential TV and online personalities, like comedians, also build careers as voice actors.
Acting for film is not the same as voice acting, but a few techniques can be borrowed both ways.
Celebrities are hired to do voice-overs all the time. A familiar famous voice gets the audience to listen.
Learn more about celebrity voices here.
A lot of sports announcers are former players.
This is to show that you don’t need a voice acting degree to make it as a voice actor. Even writers go on to become voice actors. You do, however, need some formal training.
Teach Yourself Voice Acting
Even without a voice acting degree, you can still hone your craft with a little practice.
You can’t learn acting from books, and unfortunately, most voice acting degrees focus on theory instead of practical learning. If you must learn anything from books, learn about the voice acting industry in general; how it works and how to succeed.
Anything involving practical acting can only be learned by doing. So practice, practice, practice.
Find Your Path
If you ask any professional voice actor how they made it, chances are they will advise you to do the same thing they did.
But what works for one voice actor doesn’t always work for another.
If a voice acting degree is not for you, try private coaching. If that doesn’t work, jump into the deep end and teach yourself to swim.
There is no right way to become a voice actor. The industry is so versatile, it can accommodate talents at all levels and from all backgrounds.
However, there is a lot involved in becoming a voice actor.
You will invest a lot of time, money, and effort into learning the skills and getting clients. One underrated fact about degrees is that they come with a set timeline; which can motivate you to focus. If you are setting your own timeline, however, it’s easier to slip.
Voice Acting Degree vs Voice Over Training
Voice over has always adapted to new technological inventions. Today, trainers can interact with their students via skype, hence saving a lot of time on both ends.
If you are thinking about getting a voice acting degree, chances are you have come across the (better) option of hiring a voice coach instead.
Work on Specific Skills
One of the many advantages of having a voice over coach (as opposed to getting a voice acting degree) is that you can really zoom in on your weaknesses.
Voice acting is a specialized industry. This means that if you must learn from anyone, it should be a person who is active in the industry. Better yet, the trainer should be recommended by working voice actors.
School won’t give you the special attention you get from a one on one training session.
If you need to work on your vocal range, your coach will advise you on some exercises that could help. The same applies if you need to work on your breathing techniques.
A voice acting degree might offer some insight into the industry, but it is often generalized and outdated.
Group Sessions are not Worth It
Even when hiring a coach, we advise you not to depend too much on group sessions. Sure, they can be great for boosting confidence, but one on one training is better if you want your skills to improve.
You need a teacher that understands your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Furthermore, this trainer should guide you on how to use your skills to build a successful career as a voice actor.
Taking a voice acting degree will probably not get you as much attention, and trust us, you want attention.
When a trainer pays attention to you, your skills get better. If you have to pay, wouldn’t you rather choose the option that gives you the highest return on your investment?
Auditioning and Networking
The thing about voice acting is that you can only get better with time and practice. With a voice acting degree, chances are you won’t be exposed to how the industry really works.
The skills you need to make it as a voice actor can only be learned on the ground.
You can read all the articles on this subject, but in the end, it’s your job to suck it up and perform the read. The difference between a good and a bad voice actor often lies in their ability to sell themselves.
Depending on the education you get, this can either be very easy or very hard.
A voice actor that gets personal training is more confident in their abilities. They are certain of what the client wants and can deliver a voice over full of personality.
An actor with general knowledge of the industry, however, will be making a lot of guesses in the booth.
You don’t need a voice acting degree to start a career as a voice actor.
What you need is a good understanding of the industry, relevant voice acting skills, and knowledge on how to market yourself.
As a voice actor, you learn the most essential things along the way. However, private voice coaching classes can give you a lot of insight into the game before you get started.
You can do without a voice acting degree, but you could still benefit from formal training to become a voice actor; it will save you years of making the same mistakes.
And remember, just because it worked for other voice talents doesn’t mean it will work for you.
All the best.
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