Computer Animator Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
Get a realistic view of the education requirements, job duties and salary information of a computer animator. Read about career paths and skills needed in the field to see if this is the right job for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Being a Computer Animator

Computer animators have the opportunity to foster their creativity while developing animated content for a variety of industries. Check out these pros and cons to decide if the career is right for you.

Pros of Being a Computer Animator
Mean annual wage of $69,410 in 2014*
Potential flexible schedule; many computer animators are self-employed (57% in 2012)*
Work in a comfortable environment*
Opportunities for specialization in areas like video gaming or animated film*

Cons of Being a Computer Animator
Slower than average employment growth (6% growth between 2012-2022)*
Nights and weekend work expected during deadlines*
Competition for jobs is high*
Technical work can be monotonous at times*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Computer Animator Career Information

Job Duties

The job responsibilities of a computer animator include developing animated content for movies, visual effects or video games. You may work individually or as a part of a team. Some animators work for a company; however, the BLS reports that many are self-employed. Opportunities are also available to specialize in movies or TV shows, where you will be involved in creating computer generated images (CGI) to improve the looks and aesthetics of a shot.

Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2014, the mean annual wage for multimedia artists and animators was approximately $69,000, and the five highest employing states were California, New York, Washington, Texas and Georgia (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that California was the highest paying state in the nation for the occupation with a mean annual wage of about $82,000.

Career Skills and Requirements

To work as a computer animator, you will need good design, arts and communications skills. Reading comprehension, time management, decision-making and active listening skills are also helpful in this career. Any experience, degree or training in animation and the tools used in the industry will also help you gain employment.

Although the BLS states that a degree is not required for employment, companies do prefer applicants who have completed a formal training program. As an animator, you should have strong skills in graphics and art, and a portfolio showcasing your skills is helpful in pursuing a position.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers tend to want applicants to be proficient in numerous graphic design and editing programs. Experience in the field is also important, and employers often want to see examples of an applicant's work. The following job postings are from April 2012 and can give you an idea of what employers are looking for in applicants.

  • An Ohio Internet service company is hiring an animator to work on its marketing team. Candidates should have skills in visualizing, developing and executing all areas of digital video production. Knowledge of HD and SD frame rates, Web encoding and multiple file formats is required and experience with After Effects, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Flash is preferred. Applicants must have samples of work and at least two years of experience with some college coursework.
  • A New Jersey employer is seeking a Flash animator and graphic designer with AS2 and AS3 development skills. Adobe Photoshop skills are also required and the salary is between $35,000 and $60,000 per year, or a contract is negotiable. Experience in 3-D modeling and animation, Adobe After Effects and GUI design are helpful.
  • A California company is hiring a manager for forensic animation with experience in 3D Max rendering, modeling, keyframing and lighting. Applicants must have knowledge in Adobe Photoshop, Premiere and AfterFX, Microsoft Office and AutoCAD. This position offers between $50,000 and $70,000 a year with benefits and requires at least five years of experience with some college coursework.

How to Make Your Skills Stand out

Getting an education in computer animation is a great way to stand out from other applicants in the industry. Many colleges offer degree programs in computer animation and related disciplines. Portfolio design is often a portion of these programs. Creating a portfolio offers you a chance to demonstrate your skills and creativity to potential employers. Colleges can also teach you to work with the latest technology in the field, providing you with a higher possibility for employment or advancement. Some of the areas of focus in these programs include technical direction, project management, story development, lighting, design concepts, art and 3-D modeling.

What Other Careers Are Available?

If you find you enjoy the editing-related tasks of a computer animator, you could also pursue a career as a film and video editor. Film and video editors work in post-production and are responsible for finding the clips, editing a story together and adding color and sound to frames. While not required, editors often need to pursue a formal training program to learn about different software programs. The BLS reported that there were about 21,000 employed in this occupation earning an average of approximately $67,000 annually in May 2011. From 2010-2020, job growth in this field was expected to grow about four percent, according to the BLS.

Another possible option is a career as a computer programmer. This occupation focuses more on the coding and scripting that makes computer applications function. For example, computer programmers create codes that allow computer applicants to function. To work as a computer programmer, you will need to earn at least a bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, computer programmers earned a mean annual wage of $76,000 in May 2011 and there were approximately 320,000 employed in the field nationally. The BLS also reported employment opportunities were expected to increase 12% from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
      • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Simulation and Visualization (Campus)
      • BS - Game Design (Campus)
      • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
      • B.S. - Computer Animation
      • B.S. - Graphic Design
  • Online Programs Available
    2. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Web Design & Dev
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Government - Political Communication
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Communication Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Communication
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Digital Communication
      • BS Human Communications
      • B.S. General Studies - Communication
      • B.S. Communications
    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Communications
    Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Communications

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
  • BS - Simulation and Visualization (Campus)
  • BS - Game Design (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

ECPI University

  • Web Design & Dev

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

  • Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication
  • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management

What is your highest level of education?