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Careers in 3D Computer Animation: Job Options and Requirements

3D computer animation careers require some formal education. Learn about the degrees, job duties and skills required to see if this is the right career for you.

3D computer animation is utilized by engineers to create models of their designs, and scientific labs use 3D computer animation to represent an organism's structure and movement. A career in 3D computer animation can also involve working in advertising, being an animation Web designer, or working in the video game industry.

Essential Information

3D computer animation is the art of creating animation, visual effects and other 3D images using computers and specialized software. A bachelor's degree usually prepares individuals for entry-level positions in 3D animation. Although master's programs are also available. Some positions may require an additional degree, such as animators for the medical industry. Employers usually prefer portfolio samples, which students often create while earning their degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree typically required, master's programs also available
Other Requirements Portfolio often required, additional degree may be needed for some specialized positions
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for multimedia artists and animators
Median Salary (2015)* $63,970 annually for multimedia artists and animators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Options

3D computer animation is used in a variety of careers in a number of industries, including media and advertising. Careers in 3D computer animation include 3D animator, multimedia artist, storyboard artist, animation Web designer, 3D modeler and other animation job titles. Specialty areas are also offered within these general career paths. For example, 3D animators may specialize in animating facial expressions or background scenes.

Computer animation can be used by 3D modelers to convert storyboards into 3D content for motion picture studios, as well as Web designers to create online content for advertising agencies. Scientific laboratories often use 3D animation to simulate the structure and movement of natural organisms, while the video gaming industry relies on 3D animation to create engaging content. Related career paths are also available for engineers who utilize computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D animation software to create 3D models, while computer systems administrators can work with 3D animators to help maintain and troubleshoot software.

Career Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), animators, graphic designers and multimedia artists generally need a bachelor's degree. The BLS notes that prospective medical illustrators may also need an undergraduate background in medicine.

Bachelor's degree programs, such as the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Computer Art, BFA in Animation and BFA in Digital Art, offer coursework specific to 3D animation. Common topics covered in these bachelor's degree programs include drawing, literature and writing, film and animation history, 3D animation, visual effects (VFX), motion graphics and 3D modeling.

Electives in computer programming, scripting, game design and interactive media can also help students specialize their skills and develop portfolio samples. Students may also consider graduate degree programs to develop their 3D computer animation skills, such as the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in 3D Sculpture, MFA in 3D Studio Art, MFA in Animation or MFA in Computer Art.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), multimedia artists and animators earned an annual median salary of $63,970 in 2015. The BLS predicted average employment growth of 6% for this field in general from 2014-2024.

3D computer animators need a bachelor's degree. Programs in computer art, digital art and digital animation include 3D animation coursework. Those interested in 3D computer animation should also take classes in game design, interactive media, and computer programming.


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