Animation Artist Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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Learn about an animation artist's job duties, responsibilities, salary and educational requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a animation artist career.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Animation Artist

Animation artists create computer graphics and animations using 2-D and 3-D models and specialized software. Read the following pros and cons to decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of Becoming an Animation Artist
Animation artists are able to be creative in their everyday work*
Many animators are able to work from home*
Employers usually do not require a postsecondary degree*
Most self-employed animators can set their own hours*

Cons of Becoming an Animation Artist
Slower job growth (6% between 2012 and 2022)*
High competition is expected for animator artist positions*
Animation artists often work 50 hours per week or more in order to meet deadlines*
They must often be able to work under demanding, high-stress work situations*

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

Essential Career Information

Job Duties and Description

Animation artists create moving graphics for use in films, television shows, video games and advertisements. They research how objects move in order to create lifelike motion. Animators also map out their key motions by compiling storyboards. Multiple animation methods are used in the field, including 2-D or 3-D computer animation, stop motion, rotoscoping, cel animation and other forms.

Salary Information and Job Growth for Animation Artists

The median hourly wage of animation artists in 2014 was $30.59. In that same year, the top 90% in the field earned $53.86 per hour and the lower 10% earned $17.07 per hour. With a strong portfolio, keen creativity and experience, you can increase your earning potential in the field.

The field of animation is expected to increase by 6%, which is slower than the national average of all occupations (11%) between 2012 and 2022. Because there are more interested candidates in the field than job openings, heavy competition is expected for animation positions. However, the need for animators in media is still prevalent in today's society, which should open more positions for qualified candidates.

What Are the Requirements?

Educational Requirements

Animators need to be highly creative and skilled in animation software. Employers do not typically require a bachelor's degree for animation positions, but you may benefit greatly from receiving technical or formal education in using animation software and equipment. Because of the steep competition in the field, many employers look for animation training in addition to an impressive work history. Some schools offer animation or multimedia degrees, which train students in subjects such as animation software, painting, sculpture, art history and other useful subjects for a career in animation.

In addition to training and talent, animators must have the following qualities and skills:

  • Ability to be part of a team environment
  • Communication skills
  • Computer skills
  • Mange time effectively
  • Self-motivated and able to work with little supervision
  • Problem-solving skills

What Do Employers of Animators Look for?

Animators must be able to complete projects within a set deadline, so they may need to able to work for long periods of time or during nights and weekends. Some employers may require animators to work with a specific medium, such as digital or traditional animation. Employers look for candidates with a varied and impressive portfolio of work that suits their needs as clients. The following animation job postings found in April 2012 illustrate several important characters that employers are looking for.

  • A manufacturing and research company in Georgia is looking for a staff animator candidate with 5 or more years of experience in animation or a related field who is skilled with Blender animation software.
  • Another employer in Georgia requires a 3-D gaming animator who can use AfterEffects and Studio Max animation software.
  • A game production company in Washington needs an animator who responds well to pressure and is capable of using constructive criticism.

How to Stand out in the Field

Because you will need an impressive portfolio and familiarity with animation processes, you would benefit from learning how to use a variety of animation software programs and creating samples to show to prospective employers. You may take software animation courses either in a formal setting or on your own time at home.

Animators often need to work in teams, so they need to have good communication skills. Additionally, some employers look for candidates with a background and understanding in other art and media, such as drawing, marketing, painting or graphic design, so you may benefit from sharpening your skills in these areas as well.

Alternative Career Choices

If you decide that you don't want to pursue a career as an animation artist, a similar career choice is a craft artist. Craft artists use their creativity and skill to work with a variety of mediums in order to create art for sale or display in a variety of settings. These positions do not typically require formal education outside of a high school degree, but workers generally receive training on-the-job and develop more skills as their career progresses. According to the BLS, craft artists made a median hourly wage of $13 per hour in May 2011. The field is expected to increase at a slower than the average rate (5%) between 2010 and 2020.

Another career similar to animation is a graphic designer. Graphic designers create visual ads, brochures, pamphlets, banners, displays and signs for clients in many settings. The BLS predicts an average job growth for this field, at 13% during the 2010-2020 decade. A bachelor's degree is typically required for graphic designers. In 2011, graphic designers made a median hourly wage of $21 per hour.

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