Computer Animator Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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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.
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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.


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 ( 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.

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