How to Become a Stuntperson: The Complete Guide

The ultimate job for the ultimate adrenaline rush.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to become a stuntperson

Let’s be honest: some professions are extremely boring. You clock in at 9am, sit at your desk, work for an hour, look at the clock, and it’s 9:15am. Though some people don’t mind that (boring jobs can still tick your boxes in other ways!), sitting in front of a screen all day or carrying out otherwise monotonous tasks is not for everyone.

Since you’re here, you’re probably looking for a career path that’s exciting, gets your heartrate up, and ensures that every day at work is unique. So, let’s talk about working as a stuntperson — what it entails, how dangerous it is, what it pays — and how to become one!

What is a stuntperson?

A stuntperson, also known as a stunt performer, is someone who works in the entertainment industry, performing daring acts for movies, TV shows and sometimes live performances. Most commonly, stunt performers are hired to work on action and adventure movies, two genres that require, on average, a total of 46 stunt professionals to be casted!

What does a stuntperson do?

Stunt performers’ duties go beyond what we see on screen. In fact, jumping out of flaming vehicles that are rolling down the side of a hill is just the tip of the iceberg. Typically, stunt performers:

  • Perform stunts on movie sets, including fight scenes, high falls, car chases and other action sequences
  • Ensure safety measures are in place before every stunt (this sometimes includes carrying out risk assessments)
  • Handle equipment and gear, like harnesses, pads and protective clothing to minimize the risk of injury
  • Train in various disciplines, including martial arts, horseback riding, rock climbing and scuba diving.
  • Collaborate with other performers, stunt coordinators and directors to ensure each move is carried out safely

How dangerous is their job?

Much like professionals in other fields, stunt performers often specialize in a particular aspect of their craft. Some may receive more training on high falls, vehicle stunts, fight choreography, fire and explosion stunts, or other specialty stunts. The long-term practice that specialization requires, plus the close collaboration between stunt performers and directors and stunt coordinators, help minimize the likelihood of injury.

Having said that, performing stunts is still a dangerous profession. Kirk Caouette, a film industry veteran who’s worked both as a stunt performer and stunt coordinator, has called his line of work “the only job in the world with a 100% injury rate”.

What are their schedules like?

Stunt performers typically have irregular working hours, depending on filming schedules. With early starts, late nights, and shifts that typically exceed 8 hours (with 10-, 12- and even 14-hour shifts being the norm), it’s a profession that’s just as challenging mentally as it is physically.

As Mike Massa, who’s worked as stuntman in films like Indiana Jones, Captain America and Blade Runner revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone, stunt performers “get abused on a lot of fronts” — with one of those being their working hours.

“They can run me 80, 90 hours and then give me a very short turnaround with no overtime, no meals,” he’s stated.

Is there a demand for stunt performers?

Stunt performers play an essential role in the film and TV industry. Without them, epic movie scenes wouldn’t be possible. Given that the action and adventure movie genres have been the most popular ones by far over the last two decades, both in Canada and the US, it is unlikely that the demand for stunt performers is going to decline soon.

Of course, like with many professions, there is a possibility that some stunt jobs might be lost to AI in the future, although the views on this are mixed. In the words of Jason Squire, professor of cinematics at USC: “The optimistic view is that AI joins the long list of fabulous tools that creators use. The pessimist would say that this is going to be disruptive to livelihoods.”

How much do they earn?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average hourly rate for a stuntperson in the US is $20.31, or $42,250 a year. Data from the job posting service also shows that, out of the top 10 highest-paying cities for stunt performers, 7 are in California. The remaining ones are in New Hampshire and Washington.

San Jose-based stunt performers receive the highest annual salaries in the country, making $53,188 on average. That’s followed by performers in Vallejo and Oakland, who earn $52,127 and $52,026 a year, respectively.

Stunt coordinators, on the other hand, who are experienced stunt performers hired to oversee the execution of stunts in film and TV productions, have an average annual salary of $50,890 across the country. If climbing up the ladder and eventually working as a coordinator is what you envision, therefore, your earnings should significantly rise.

What are the entry requirements?

It takes a certain kind of person to happily parachute off a motorbike that’s just come flying off the edge of a cliff. But a daring personality isn’t all you’re going to need to work as a stunt performer.


While not a formal requirement, there are a few stunt schools in the US that provide stunt training to aspiring performers so they can safely start their career. These include the Stunt Performers Academy, the Action Collective and the International Stunt School.

Skills and traits

Aspiring stunt doubles should be able to demonstrate various skills and personality traits, some of which can be acquired, and some of which might be inherent — such as having a daring disposition. These are:

  • Physical fitness
  • Verbal communication
  • Collaboration skills
  • Spatial awareness
  • Discipline
  • A sense of adventure

Licenses and certifications

There are no standard requirements for stunt performers in terms of licenses and certifications. However, aspiring stunt doubles looking to focus on vehicle stunts should, naturally, hold a valid driver’s license; doubles looking to specialize in underwater shots should get their scuba diving certification; and so forth.

Do you have what it takes?

Imagining what it’s like to work a specific job can differ immensely to the real thing. And because building the necessary skills to become a stuntperson requires significant effort, time and commitment, you’ll want to be as sure as possible that this is the right career path for you before you get started.

One of the best ways to do that is by identifying your strengths, interests and motivators, and considering whether they align with the nature and requirements of the role. Our career-matching platform, CareerHunter, comprises six psychometric tests that let you do just that, matching your profile against a database of over 250 types of career paths.

Try our Career Motivators Test for Free

How to become a stuntperson

Your mind has been made: performing stunts is your true calling. So, where and how do you start? Let’s look at five steps you can take to become a stuntperson.

Step 1: Get in shape

Working as a stuntperson requires strength, stamina and coordination, all of which can be developed with the right fitness regime. If you’re new to training, working with a personal fitness instructor and a nutritionist can help you progress faster — and do so safely.

Though each person is different, you might also benefit from observing how other professionals in the field approach their training and fitness. Stunt performer, rigger and coordinator Jade Amantea, perhaps best known for his work in Aquaman, shared the following insights into his fitness plan in an interview: “My general maintenance training involves various types of cardio like an exercise bike, push-bike riding, rowing machine, etc. I combine this cardio training with weight training and stretching sessions at the gym.”

Step 2: Master relevant skills

In his interview with Man of Many, Jade Amantea shares another word of advice: “As a performer, you want to have a skill base that is as large as possible to make you as employable as possible.”

Though this makes sense, it can take years of hard work to master several disciplines — and as an aspiring stuntperson, you could benefit more from focusing on just one or a few at a time. As it can be hard to choose when you’re first getting started, consider what types of scenes interest you most; is it fighting scenes, driving scenes, or something else?

Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can begin targeted training for each skill.

Step 3: Go to stunt school

Though the word “school” likely makes you think of a long-term commitment, stunt schools work a little differently: they provide workshops and courses that span a few days or weeks. Typically, these classes cover specific skills and disciplines, such as high falls, wirework, parkour, combat, stunt driving and weaponry.

Acting classes can also come in handy, especially if you have no prior experience performing in front of a large group of people. Building your confidence in this aspect will allow you to feel more relaxed on set when the time comes, which can play a big role in staying focused and performing stunts correctly and safely. Not to mention, taking classes can lead to some handy professional connections, too!

Step 4: Put together a stunt reel

Once you have mastered the main disciplines that interest you, the next step is to put together a video portfolio of your work. This step is crucial when it comes to landing your first job, as your portfolio will act as your signature; a testament to all the hard work and the amount of time you put into reaching your goal.

When putting it together, make sure to demonstrate a wide range of tricks, skills and moves. You’ll also want to ensure that your video is of excellent quality and edited professionally to maximize the impact your performance has on the viewer.

If you can, get a skilled videographer and video editor to help you.

Step 5: Network with people in the industry

Networking with people in the industry can help you land your first role on a filming set — even if it’s behind the scenes at first.

In fact, stuntwoman and coordinator Alicia Turner recommends that you gain work experience on filming sets — “take whatever role gets you to set,” she says — before attempting to kickstart your career.

“Your day on set may also allow you to meet stunt performers and ask them about their job, their background and their recommendations on how to proceed with your own career,” she adds. “Keep in mind [that] the stunt industry is quite competitive, so the stunt performer may resist giving you information. To minimize this, if you are a 5’11”, 170 lbs male, try not to ask a similar-sized male stunt performer how to get into the industry; find the 5’4” female and ask her.”

Key takeaways

Depending on your career goals and the lifestyle you want to lead, working as a stunt performer can be an exciting, rewarding profession — but it certainly is not for everyone!

To summarize what we talked about:

  • Stunt performers have a very dangerous, demanding profession that can even result in fatal injury.
  • The profession is one that requires you to stay in excellent physical shape, practicing several sports and abilities at once.
  • Attending stunt school doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get hired, but it can teach you precious skills.
  • In terms of career development, experienced stunt performers typically go on to work as stunt coordinators.

Can you see yourself thriving in this profession? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!