Computer animators work with specialized software to create classic cartoon animation, 3D animation and multimedia animation. Many have bachelor's degrees and all must demonstrate expertise by showing animation samples to potential employers. They work in a range of industries, from advertising to motion pictures. Benefits and pay vary for computer animators depending on factors such as employer and geographic area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual wage for multimedia artists and animators was $62,810 as of May 2009.
Salary by Industry
Salaries for computer animators vary according to the industry in which they work. The software publishing industry not only manufactures animation software, but also employs 2,710 animators at an average pay of $68,320 per year. The advertising and public relations industry employs 3,710 computer animators with the average salary at $57,630. The 7,720 computer animators working in the motion picture industry earn a bit more with an average salary of $70,960. Salary figures are from the BLS as of May 2009.
Salary by Location
The San Jose-Santa Clara-Sunnyvale area in California, also known as Silicon Valley, enjoys the highest pay for computer animators with 650 jobs at an annual mean wage at $83,610. The cost of living is high in Silicon Valley. In the greater Los Angeles area, animators can expect $76,070 in average annual pay with employment at 4,920 jobs. Greater Seattle-area computer animators earn at a rate of $65,450 per year, with those in the state of New York bringing home $62,150 per year. Salary figures are from the BLS as of May 2009.
Animation Guild Salary
The Animation Guild negotiates collective bargaining agreements with motion picture studios on behalf of their members in order to secure decent wages and benefits. Under the current master collective bargaining agreement, computer animators' starting weekly pay is $1,504.92, with experienced journeyman animators earning $1,596.64 per week. The agreement calls for increases to $1,535.00 and $1,628.56, respectively, as of July 31, 2011. The agreement expires as of July 31, 2012. Guild members are required to pay dues.
Benefits for computer animators vary. Animation Guild members are eligible to participate in a 401K retirement plan, and members with sufficient hours to their credit are eligible for employer-paid health plans. Computer animator benefits are often defined by the employer. For example, the software company Adobe, which makes animation software, offers employees exemplary benefits including a choice of medical plans from Aetna or Kaiser Permanente, as well as a dental care plan. Self-employed computer animators are responsible for their own medical insurance and retirement, and should consider these expenses in their fees.