Careers in Digital Media

Learn about some common digital media jobs and the duties performed by these workers. Find out about educational options for these positions, and get information about salary ranges in the field. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Jobs Incorporate Digital Media?

It used to be that if you liked to draw, you took pencil to paper or paint to canvas and created art. Some people worked in graphics, others may become comic book artists. Today, digital artists are still in demand creating web pages, video games or animation for multimedia. Web pages often times need original art or flash animation. Video games need lots of artist creating original designs of characters and backgrounds. Animation artists can find work in television programs like Saturday morning cartoons to night time network or cable animation programs. Today's graphic artist needs to know a variety of software programs, how digital animation works as well as programming.

The Occupational Information Network (O*NET OnLine) states that digital media careers include animation and multimedia artistry, video game designers and graphic artists. These jobs all use computer programs, such as Adobe Illustrator or other Creative Suite programs and computer-aided design (CAD) programs, and require some understanding of technology. Below, the table provides some additional details about careers in this field:

Multimedia Artists & AnimatorsVideo Game DesignersGraphic Designers
Degree Required Bachelor'sBachelor'sBachelor's
Education Field of Study Graphic Arts, Animation Game DesignGraphic Design
Key Responsibilities Create characters, dry images by hand and using computersCreate storylines, create game layouts, design characters, manage deadlinesCreate images for ads, websites, and magazines using various colors, typefaces, and shapes
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% 6% (for all multimedia artists and animators) 1%
Median Salary $63,970 (2015)*$58,754 (2017)**$46,900 (2015)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Might My Duties Be?

As an animator, you could work on movies, video games or television shows and commercials. You would draw images freehand and use computer programs to create characters and give them the ability to move. You would use artistic properties, including light, shadow and texture, to make your characters or other creations stand out.

If your dream is to design video games, you should know that this job requires several steps. As a game designer, you would be responsible for some aspect of every step in the production process. You would create storylines and characters, and create layouts of each scene, including all visual aspects, from the walls to the floor and even the sky. You would work with artists to ensure their drawings fit with your vision for the game. You would even work with production staff to ensure that the design process is on schedule.

Graphic artists create images for advertising, print and electronic newspapers, magazines and websites. As a graphic designer, your duties could include combining different elements of drawing and art, such as shapes, typeface, lines and color, to grab maximum attention. You would use computers to create the images in your advertisements and graphics. You may even be responsible for directing others in creating the final product - your advertisement or Web page. You would also be responsible for creating an archive of your previous work.

How Much Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 30,240 multimedia artists and animators working in the United States in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Industries with the highest employment of these individuals were the movie and video industry with 9,930 employees and computer system design, with 4,050 multimedia artists and animators, also according to the BLS.

The online salary database PayScale.com noted that respondents to a 2016 survey on video game designer salary reported earnings in the 25th-75th percentile of $48,000-$76,000. The site noted that in different locations, video game designers' salaries varied. For example, in Los Angeles, video game designers reported earnings a median salary of $64,986.

The BLS reported that of the 204,850 graphic designers working in the United States in 2015, those in the 25th-75th percentile earned anywhere from $16.91-$30.12 per hour, with a median hourly wage of $22.55 per hour. The site also noted that in 2015 the states with highest employment of graphic designers were California, with 28,940, New York, with 20,510 and Florida, with 12,110.

What Degrees Could Help Me Find a Job?

The BLS reported that a common requirement for a career in graphic arts, animation or video game design is a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs usually include general education requirements in addition to major-specific coursework. These programs may be available in traditional classrooms or through distance learning.

A degree in graphic design includes classes in 2-D and 3-D design, photography and drawing. You may have to complete an internship, and will likely be required to create a portfolio of your work throughout your studies. You may find a degree program that puts graphic and Web design concentrations together. These programs include classes in Web design and programming tools, such as CSS and HTML. You may also learn about marketing campaigns.

A video game design degree includes courses on creation of bodies and vehicles, three-dimensional character creation, interactive design and creating environments and special effects. In these programs, you may have to work with others to design a game in response to class projects. You'll take classes on game engine creation, artificial intelligence and creating for multiple game platforms, such as smartphones or traditional game systems.

In a degree program focusing on animation, you'll first build a foundation of drawing and use of color while learning about art history, animation principles and painting. You may be required to take studio courses where you'll learn by doing. You'll create animation projects and start a portfolio of your work. You may also take classes that teach you how to use specific computer programs.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related career fields with an associate's degree could have you working as a web developer. These jobs have you building websites, designing pages, layouts and artwork for companies or individuals. You will need a bachelor's degree to find employment as an graphic designer, computer programmer and art director. Art directors work in various media outlets like magazines, newspapers, film and television or digital video. Their projects could have them creating digital art, layouts and animation. Graphic designers today use computer programs almost exclusively to create digital designs. Computer programmers will write and create code, test programs and software, or create instructions based on the program of other coders.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:

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