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How to Become an Animator

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Animators are among the professionals behind animated movies, television shows and video games. They use their artistic ability, creative skills and animation software to create visual effects, design characters and draw storyboards for various scenes. To enter this career, you must hold a degree in computer animation and a strong portfolio of work.

Getting Started

Aspiring animators need to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer animation, digital art, computer graphics or a closely related field. Although these courses equip students with the knowledge and technical skills to handle animation tasks, employers prefer experienced individuals. Animation students often secure internships during their second or third year of study to acquire some experience and build an art portfolio. Portfolios give employers a quick snapshot of the skills of potential recruits.

Mastering the Skills

To thrive in animation, you need strong communication, computer, creative and time-management skills. When working on a movie project, for example, animators use their creativity to design characters with different personalities. Because animators often work in a team that includes game designers, directors and actors, they use communication and teamwork skills to collaborate productively. Time-management skills come in handy when working on projects with tight deadlines.

Obtaining Additional Credentials

To enhance their employment prospects, many animators often specialize in specific fields, such as web animation, computer modelling and 3D animation. To prove their competence in these specialties, animators often pursue programs offered by various colleges and universities, such as the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver or the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's 3D animation certificate.

Finding a Job

Although some animators work as freelancers, others find jobs in software publishing firms, motion picture and video companies, smart phone manufacturers, advertising agencies, animation studios and media houses. It's common for animators to be hired on a probationary basis. Those who demonstrate competence are then hired permanently. Animators can earn a master’s degree to become animation production managers or directors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of multimedia artists and animators will grow by 6 percent from 2012 through 2022, slower than the 11 percent average for all jobs.

Multimedia Artists and Animators salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $142,750 ($68.63/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $77,700 ($37.36/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $42,390 ($20.38/hour)

Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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