Cartoon Animator: Career and Salary Facts

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

What Does A Cartoon Animator Do?

A cartoon animator provides moving images and visual effects specifically for cartoons, whether they are to be shown online, on television shows or as part of a film. Animators use their artistic knowledge and advanced technology to give motion to drawings, requiring them to have a good understanding of the computer programs needed to produce animated images. The process of animating longer projects like full-length television shows and films requires a large team of animators, as each part of the animation process requires careful attention to detail. In order to keep track of the finished product while still in the design stages, most animators will work from a storyboard, giving them an idea of how to focus their work.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree recommended
Education Field of Study Art or computer animation
Key Responsibilities Creating graphics and animation, creating storyboards, generating ideas for future projects
Average Salary (2018) $78,230 (for all multi-media artists and animators)*
Job Growth (2018-2028) 4% growth (for all multi-media artists and animators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Job Duties Be as a Cartoon Animator?

An animator is a type of artist who creates moving images out of individual drawings. If you are interested in working as a cartoon animator, you will be responsible for creating multiple images of cartoon characters and putting them together in rapid succession so that they appear to be moving on film. Although the first cartoon animators to work in the field drew out each image by hand, many artists working in the industry today take advantage of computer technologies to create cartoon images. It still takes a large group of animators and artists to put together just one half-hour television cartoon, and even more individuals to put together an entire animated cartoon movie.

What Education Will I Need?

If you are interested in becoming a cartoon animator, you might consider enrolling in a 4-year degree program in animation at a public university or private arts school. Most such degree programs will require you to complete courses in art, drawing and color theory. They will also focus on new technologies in the field and will often require you to spend time working in a computer laboratory or design studio.

While you are enrolled in a degree program in animation, you will also learn how to conceptualize, model and construct animated characters. Some examples of specific courses include storyboarding, cartooning and life drawing. Many degree programs will also teach you the basics of digital cinematography, digital art and post-production.

How Can I Specialize in the Field?

Cartoon animation is a broad field that can encompass many specific job titles. You can specialize as a storyboard artist, and be responsible for laying out each scene in a cartoon movie as a series of panels. You can also specialize as a layout artist who is responsible for staging and designing each particular scene in a cartoon. You can also choose to be a character animator and focus just on bringing individual cartoon characters to life.

What Will My Salary be Like?

Multi-media artists and animators held about 28,560 jobs in the United States in May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported ( Professionals in the field earned a median annual salary of about $72,520 in that year. The motion picture and video industries employed the greatest number of animators in 2018.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you have completed the educational and training requirements to become a cartoon animator, there are other career paths that you may choose to take. You may also want to consider becoming a video game animator, which requires a different set of skills and artistic speciality than as a cartoon animator. Another option is to look into becoming a graphic designer, producing visual layouts and images for private clients according to their needs and specifications. Most graphic design positions require a bachelor's degree in an area such as art or computer design. If the artistic side of cartoon animation is appealing, you may want to try your hand at becoming a professional artist. While can be a very competitive industry, professional artists are able to make creative decisions about their own work, while cartoon animators and graphic designers may be limited by the desires of their clients.

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