Animation: Become a Computer Animator in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a computer animator. Learn about education and training requirements, job duties and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is An Animation Artist?

Animation artists use their artistic and computer skills to create animation for things such as video games, movies, commercials or cartoons. Their work may involve research to ensure that the characters or settings they create are realistic. Animation artists will prepare storyboards of their proposed projects and may meet with other artists, directors or clients to discuss their proposals and get feedback on their work. They'll need to be ready to revise their animations based on feedback, and they often work on a deadline. Find out what's needed to enter this career field from the table below.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer animation, art, design
Key Skills Eye for color and detail, sense of balance and proportion, creativity
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Average Salary (2015) $70,300*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Computer Animator Do?

As a computer animator, you'll get to use your natural creativity to create moving images in 2-D and 3-D, as well as special effects for computer games, movies and TV. On the creative side, you may get to assist in story development, directing, cinematography and editing. You use storyboards to depict the animation and key scenes. You may also script, plan and create the narrative sequence within tight deadlines. On the business side, you may participate in budgeting, scheduling and production. In additional to using computers, the tools of your trade include graphic tablets, digital pens and digital cameras.

Step 1: Research Career Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for animators and multimedia artists is expected to grow 6% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This employment growth, which is about average for all occupations, will be impacted by companies choosing to outsource animation jobs. However, animators will be in demand to create visual effects in television, video games and movies. The BLS also noted that more than half of animators work for themselves. If you prefer to work for someone, employers usually look for animators with formal training from a program offered at a technical school, community college or university.

Step 2: Obtain Formal Training

You need to have excellent computer skills, an eye for color and detail, a sense of balance and proportion and the ability to be creative. Employers typically expect candidates to hold a bachelor's degree. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs in computer animation, art and design. You may also enroll in a graphic design or a digital media program with a specialization in computer animation. Make sure that the program you choose fulfills your career aspirations.

Step 3: Develop a Portfolio

In order to obtain a paying position, you generally need a portfolio. Potential employees need the abilities to communicate clearly through their work by effectively showing thoughts and feelings in their characters. Video game companies may look at your skills as an artist. A potential employer may ask that your portfolio includes a reel or URL of your work in a stipulated format.

Step 4: Apply for an Internship or Co-op

To gain experience, look for internship opportunities in your preferred industry. Prerequisites for obtaining an internship or co-op vary depending on the company. Requirements may include being enrolled in a college program or in your junior year, along with submitting a portfolio or reel of your work that shows creativity and mastery of animation technology.

Step 5: Find a Job

Working in an animation studio as an intern doesn't guarantee a position when your term is completed. Freelance job websites may help you find work. Research other options and continue developing your portfolio and gaining experience. A good portfolio and experience factor into finding a position if you decide to become self-employed.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several other bachelor's-level jobs in the art and design field. Art directors focus on developing a design for things like magazines, product packaging and newspapers. Graphic designers primarily work with computers to develop a layout for materials such as brochures or magazines. Craft and fine artists use their artistic skills to create art that may be displayed or sold.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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