How to Become a Computer Animator in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for computer animators. Get the facts about degree requirements, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Animator?

Computer animators create animation for a variety of media forms. This includes creating animated graphics for animated motion pictures and television, designing characters and backgrounds for video games, and creating special effects using CGI (computer-generated images) for films and television with live actors. Animators meet and work with clients to help make their visions come to life. Through the table below, you can learn about the education and skills you'll need, as well as employment and salary projections.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer animation, art, computer graphics
Key Skills Creativity, artistic talent, time management, attention to detail
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all multimedia artists and animators)*
Median Salary (2015) $63,970 (for all multimedia artists and animators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Computer Animator Do?

Computer animators use computers to create animated figures and stories. You may work as a computer animator in various industries like video game design, graphic design and motion picture production. Common duties you may perform include cartoon animation, special effects design and storyboard creation.

Step 1: Research Computer Animation Career Duties and Education

As a computer animator, you must possess strong artistic skills and technical abilities. These skills and abilities may include being able to sketch by hand and understand software to create two-dimensional and three-dimensional animations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you will need at least a bachelor's degree to work as a computer animator ( Completing a bachelor's degree program is necessary due to the high-level of technical expertise required for this career.

Step 2: Earn Your Degree

A common degree you may earn for this career is a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Animation. Completing courses in this degree program can help you learn more about digital art, drawing and storyboarding.

If you would like to specialize in a segment of computer animation, such as game design, you may earn a Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Development. This degree program can offer you the skills needed to design video games for entertainment as well as training simulations for educational purposes.

Step 2: Work as an Intern

Participating in an internship program can help you gain practical experience and enhance your hiring potential. You may participate in an internship program offered through your college or university. Minimum eligibility requirements may include completion of your junior year and technical knowledge.

You may also apply for an internship with a related organization on your own. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation is one organization that offers internship opportunities at the beginning of each year.

Step 4: Develop Your Portfolio

A good animation portfolio should demonstrate your skills in two primary areas -- illustrative drawing and observational drawing. In addition, your portfolio should display a range of work that may include character and concept sketches, paintings and storyboards. For character sketches, your goal is to depict a character's personality or intent.

Step 5: Become a Member of a Professional Association

Becoming a member of an industry association like the Computer Graphics Society (CG Society) can offer you many benefits, including a platform where you can get your work published, share your portfolio with other animators and participate in workshops to develop your skills. You may also find computer animation jobs through the CG Society website.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of related careers for individuals who like working with computers and/or are interested in design. Graphic design is a similar career that involves designing layouts and graphics for websites, print media, and applications. Some individuals may be interested in becoming art directors for a TV show, movie, or magazine. This role involves making all the artistic decisions involving layout and design.

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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