In 2004, he began appearing as a recurring character in the first season of the WB series Summerland.
For the show’s second season, which aired in 2005, he was promoted to the main cast.
He also appeared in some films, including the Lifetime television film Miracle Run (2004), for which he earned a Young Artist Award nomination for his performance as one of two autistic twins.
The film, which has been described as a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, saw Efron playing the male lead Troy Bolton, a high school basketball player who feels conflicted when he finds himself interested in participating in the school musical with Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens), a girl from the scholastic decathlon team.The film, which also starred Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, and Monique Coleman in pivotal roles, became a major success and helped Efron gain recognition among teenage audiences.The film’s soundtrack was certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA, making it one of the best-selling albums of the year in the United States. He began acting professionally in the early 2000s, and rose to prominence in the late 2000s for his leading role in the High School Musical franchise (2006–08).During this time, he also starred in the musical film Hairspray (2007) and the comedy film 17 Again (2009).
He has since appeared in films like New Year's Eve (2011), The Lucky One (2012), Neighbors (2014), Dirty Grandpa (2016), and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016).He performed in shows such as Gypsy; Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up; Little Shop of Horrors; and The Music Man.He was recommended to an agent in Los Angeles by his drama teacher, Robyn Metchik (the mother of actors Aaron Michael Metchik and Asher Metchik).and was then accepted into the University of Southern California, but has deferred his enrollment to work on film projects.He also attended Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, a community college located in Santa Maria, California, which provided him with the opportunity to perform as a "young player" during the years of 20.Efron began acting in the early 2000s with guest roles on several television series including Firefly, ER, and The Guardian.