Animation artists can expect to earn good salaries, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics citing a mean annual wage of $62,810 as of May 2009, with a total national employment of 28,800 in the field. Supervising animators may earn upward of $150,000 annually, according to the Animation Guild in its 2010 member wage survey. The BLS reports that the animation field is poised for growth, with a 14 percent increase in total employment projected for the 2008-2018 period.
The Competitive Edge
Most animation artists in entry-level jobs have a bachelor's degree in their specialty. Bachelor degree programs in animation provide training in the tools and techniques of the business, including specialized animation software. Job applicants provide samples of their work to prospective employers in this very competitive field. Animators with one to three years' experience are eligible for advancement to higher-paying jobs with more responsibility.
Average Salary by Job Title
The Animation Guild member wage survey of June 2010 breaks down average salaries by job title. The top earners were supervising animators with an average weekly salary of $2,265. Character animators were next in line with earning an average of $2,068 for a forty hour week. Assistant animators were at the lower end with weekly earnings of $1,339. The Animation Guild negotiates contracts on behalf members with leading animation studios such as Disney Feature Animation and Sony Pictures Animation.
Average Salary by Industry
Animators find work in a variety of industries. The motion picture and video industries employ 7,720 animators with an average salary of $70,960. The advertising and public relations field employs 3,710 animators earning an average of $57,630 yearly. The software publishing industry pays an average of $68,320 in salary to 2,710 workers. The BLS compiled this industry specific data in May 2009.
Average Salary by Region
Animators earn higher average salaries in some regions than others. The cost of living tends to be higher in the regions with the best pay. The area around San Jose and Sunnyvale, California, also known as Silicon Valley, offers the highest average annual salaries for animators at $83,610. Animators in the Los Angeles, California, area earn an average of $76,070, while the Seattle area average animator salary is $65,450. The BLS compiled these figures as of May 2009.
A significant number of animators are self-employed freelancers. The BLS does not track salary figures for the self-employed. According the the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook, freelance animators bill their services on a fee per second of animation basis. Fees may be as low as $120 per second for a small website client or as high as $2,000 per second for a major advertising client.
2016 Salary Information for Multimedia Artists and Animators
Multimedia artists and animators earned a median annual salary of $65,300 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, multimedia artists and animators earned a 25th percentile salary of $49,320, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $90,450, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 73,700 people were employed in the U.S. as multimedia artists and animators.