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Special Effects Animator: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for special effects animators. Get the facts about education requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you.

What is a Special Effects Animator?

Special effects animators create images for use in movies and television shows. They often utilize advanced computer programs to design graphics and effects, after hand-drawing and mapping out concepts. They usually specialize in a particular area and work with a team. They will edit their work based on the needs of their client. Read the chart below to learn more about this field.

Degree Required A bachelor's degree, but some advanced positions may require a master's
Education Field of Study Animation, graphic design, digital art
Key Skills Artistic ability, team collaboration
Job Growth (2018-2028) 4% growth (for multimedia artists and animators)*
Median Salary (2018) $72,520 (for multimedia artists and animators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Could I Have?

As a special effects animator, you'll create realistic effects by working with hand-drawn and computer-generated images,. You'll work on projects at every stage, from initial conception to the final phases of production. Your job duties might include meeting with clients, working with writers and directors, creating storyboards, collaborating with a design team and using advanced computer programming languages. Your work will likely involve extensive time in front of a computer and you may choose to focus on a particular branch of special effects, such as 2-D or 3-D animation.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that multimedia artists and animators, a category of artists that includes special effects animators, earned an median annual salary of $72,520 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reports that in the motion picture and video industry, which was the top employer for this field, the mean annual salary was $86,080. Connecticut is the highest paying state for special effects animators, followed by Washington and the District of Columbia.

The greater Los Angeles area ranked first among metropolitan areas in terms of annual salary. The New York-Jersey City and White Plains area ranked second. Silicon Valley is also home to many video game and other technology companies that employ special effects animators and other types of multimedia artists.

What Types of Degree Programs Are Available?

Employers may require that you hold only a bachelor's degree, although both bachelor's and master's degree programs are available in relevant fields, including animation, graphic design and digital art. Bachelor's degree programs often include instruction in animation, drawing, 3D animation and modeling. In addition to taking traditional classroom courses, you'd work in computer labs and design studios, honing your creative skills with computer applications and design software.

To complement your degree, you can demonstrate your artistic skills and technical expertise by developing a portfolio that compiles highlights from projects on which you've worked, including projects you worked on while you were a student, an intern or employed elsewhere in the field of special effects animation. Your degree could lead you to a career in the television, motion picture, gaming or web design industries.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers include art directors, computer programmers and graphic designers. Art directors oversee the usage of visual for things like magazines and newspapers. Computer programmers design and test the coding required for applications and software. Graphic designers create visual media for a variety of items, including brochures and publications.