How to Become a Puppeteer
By Eric Hammer
Anyone who enjoyed the Muppets or Sesame Street as a child
has probably at one time or another dreamed of being a puppeteer.
Puppeteers make children laugh and they get to act out all kinds
of interesting stories for people when they go out to do their
So what does it take to be a puppeteer anyway? Well, it turns
out that the skills you might initially assume you need aren't
necessarily the ones that are most important. Most people assume
you need to know how to make a puppet, but that is relatively
easy to do and in any event, puppets can be purchased readymade.
Many people also assume that a puppeteer needs to know how
to manipulate the puppets to make them seem lifelike. While that
is true enough, the reality is that for most puppets, it's pretty
simply to do that as well and virtually anyone can learn how
to do it in just a few minutes (unless you work with marionettes,
in which case there is a serious amount of skill involved, however
that is a different kind of work entirely and only tangentially
related to being a puppeteer).
The skills that you do need however in order to do this job
professionally are story telling skills and acting skills. You
need to know how to do multiple voices and keep a story moving
along quickly. In essence, you are something of an actor, a writer
and a puppet master all rolled into one. It is these skills that
will take time to master and which you need to focus on however
if you want to do this for a living.
How Much Can You Make?
According to Simply Hired, the average salary for a professional
puppeteer is just $28,000 per year, so it's not a well paid job.
However, those who land projects with major productions, such
as working on a Muppets revival or working with a show like Sesame
Street can potentially earn much more as can those working for
large stage puppet shows. And of course, you could start your
own business as well where it's mostly a matter of you doing
what you need to do in order to earn a good living.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Remember that puppeteers come in all shapes and sizes. While
most people thing of puppeteers as being those who work with
hand controlled puppets, related jobs include working with marionettes
or working with wooden dummies. The difference of course is that
marionettes are a highly specialized field best suited to adult
entertainment while working with wooden dummies means working
in front of a stage rather than being behind the scenes handling
Keep in mind as well that puppet shows primarily appeal to
very young children so you'll likely be working on entertaining
children in the 3-6 year old range. If you don't absolutely love
working with children that young, this job may not be for you.
Finally, remember that many, many people want to be puppeteers,
but there are only so many jobs to go around for them. Therefore,
if you are not really, really good, consider doing something
else for a living and do this part time or as a hobby.
Qualifications / Requirements
While no formal training is required for becoming a puppeteer,
most professionals take one of two routes. They either apprentice
with a master puppeteer who teaches them the profession and with
whom they work for a year or several years before striking out
on their own, or they attend one of the handful of colleges that
offer a bachelor's degree in puppetry arts.
Start by purchasing or making a few simple puppets and practicing.
Try offering puppet shows for younger relatives or children of
friends and hone your craft. Once you are sure you want to do
this for a living, contact professional puppet shows and ask
to speak to the puppeteer. Ask them about the industry and what
they recommend. While some will simply tell you to go to school,
others may offer to take you under their wing and teach you the
art of puppetry, which would be an ideal way to get into the
Check out these helpful resources to find out more about becoming
WiseGeek: How to Become a Puppeteer - A good
basic introduction to how to get into this amazing field.
- This organization is "dedicated to the art of puppetry.
They report on events like the National Puppetry Festival, and
you can join in order to get in their Membership Directory and
receive other servcies.