How to Become a CGI Artist: Career & Degree

If creating entire worlds from scratch sounds like a cool career, being a CGI (computer-generated image) artist might be for you. Here's what you need to know to get started, including degree info, key skills, salary stats and the job outlook. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

CGI artists use technology to create visual effects and characters for film, television and video games. To get into the field you'll need a healthy dose of creativity, some artistic ability and a bachelor's degree in art, computer graphics or a related program. Take a quick glance at the table below for a bird's eye view of the profession.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer graphics, art, computer science
Key Skills Creativity, artistic talent, time-management
Job Growth (2016-2026) 8% (for multimedia artists and animators)*
Median Salary (2017) $70,530 per year (for multimedia artists and animators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do CGI Artists Do?

Using computer programs, CGI artists will new worlds into existence, create convincing characters and render scenes that spark the imagination. Without them, our Marvel superheroes would be a little less super, our Jedi wouldn't have the same eye-popping skills and Buzz Lightyear and Woody wouldn't come to life.

CGI artists sometimes create complete worlds, as is the case with video games and animated movies. But they also sweeten live-action TV shows and movies, adding an explosion, a hoard of zombies or an entire scene where before there was only a green screen.

Do You Need a Degree to Work as a CGI Artist?

With the highly complex nature of the work, it's not surprising that most professional CGI artists need a bachelor's degree to get hired. Some common degree programs include art, computer graphics, animation and computer science. While in school, aspiring artists might learn about sculpture, drawing and painting, plus go through courses on computer programs like Adobe Creative Suite, MAYA and UX wireframes.

What Skills Can Help Make You a Success?

Aside from the bachelor's degree, there are some inherent skills that will help you be a success in the business. A gift for creativity is important. After all, you'll be asked to imagine scenes, creatures and alien worlds. A good amount of artistic talent won't hurt, either. And, since CGI artists do much of their work alone on a computer (and face strict deadlines), having discipline and time-management skills is critical.

What's the Salary of a CGI Artist?

CGI artist salaries vary depending on the industry in which they work and the experience they have. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median salary for multimedia artists and animators (a field that includes CGI artists) of $70,530 a year. as of May 2017. Multimedia artists and animators working in the software publishing industry did a little better, earning a median annual salary of $80,850 that same year.

Will the Field Grow in the Coming Years?

If you're thinking about launching a career as a CGI artist, it's important to know if there will be jobs when you're ready to be hired. According to the BLS, employment for multimedia artists and animators will continue to grow between 2016 and 2026. It estimates an increase in employment of 8% during that time period.

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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