Careers in Animation

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

What Do Animators Do?

Animators create computer-generated visuals and moving images for a wide range of purposes, such as for television shows, films and games. Working as an animator requires you to have strong creative and technological abilities, as much of the work of animation is facilitated by specific computer software and programs. Animation for large-scale projects such as films requires a team of many animators, many of whom will specialize in one specific area, such as creating scenery or visual effects. In order to keep track of the final product through the design stage, many animators will work from a storyboard.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Associate's degree, bachelor's degree preferred
Education Field of Study Fine art, computer graphics, animation
Key Skills Proficiency in animation software programs, specialized knowledge of film, computer animation and editing techniques, ability to perform tasks like modeling, rigging, texturing, shading, and creating a UV layout
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Average Salary (2015) $70,300*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Type of Degree Should I Get as an Animator?

Prospective animators can find educational and training programs at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree level. An associate degree program offers basic instruction in animation computer software, while the bachelor's degree program includes a broader introduction into the animation field.

Bachelor's degree programs require you to take more liberal arts courses involving art history and drawing. The program also tackles issues in writing for animation, narrative structure and design. In the 4-year degree program, you have an opportunity to develop an extensive portfolio of work, which is required for graduation.

A master's degree program in animation builds on your technical knowledge from the bachelor's degree program and gives you additional opportunities to develop your individual style as an animator. This is an ideal track if you are looking to write and animate your own work.

What Do Animators Do?

Animators create visual effects in a variety of industries from film to video games and commercials. As an animator, you are responsible for creating realistic effects for films and animate characters in 2D and 3D for websites, commercials and advertisements. This requires a specialized knowledge of film, computer animation and editing techniques.

What Skills Do I Need?

As an animator, you need excellent knowledge of animation software programs. Depending on the field you specialize in, you can expect to work with a number of animation programs, such as Nuke, After Effects, Adobe CS4/CS5, Maya, 3D StudioMax and MotionBuilder. These programs assist you in the technical production of animation and prepare you to perform tasks such as modeling, rigging, texturing, shading, and creating a UV layout.

You may also serve as a technical consultant for image processing and need to know how to upload animations onto a website, film, or into an existing animation file. It's imperative that you have a firm knowledge of the technical aspects of animation in order to convert 2D drawings into 3D stereoscopic animations.

What Do Employers Look For?

Employers look for animators who have a good knowledge of animation programs and a strong portfolio of work. It's often recommended that you create a website that houses your portfolio in order to demonstrate your technical abilities and showcase your knowledge and skills. While an advanced degree in animation is not necessary, it could make you more attractive to prospective employers and help develop your abilities in the field.

How Much Can I Expect to Earn as an Animator?

In 2015, animators and new media artists earned a median salary of $63,970 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Typically, animators who work in the travel arrangement and reservation services earn more than animators who work in other industries. The BLS also reports that animators in the top 10% earned a median annual salary of $113,600.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of careers that require similar skills to animation. You may want to become a graphic designer and provide artistic services to companies and organizations in need of visual products. Graphic designers make sure that a client's creative ideas are implemented into advertisements, logos and other commercial graphics while maintaining a coherent brand and image. A similar career path is to go into web development, maintaining and designing the entire online layout of a company's website. These careers are suitable for people who have earned an undergraduate degree in computer graphics or a related field.

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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