Computer Animation: How to Be a Computer Animator

Jul 26, 2018

Research the requirements to become a computer animator. Learn about the job description and duties, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in computer animation. View article »

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Should I Become a Computer Animator?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field(s) Computer animation, fine arts, graphic arts
Experience 1 year for entry-level positions; 5 years for more advanced positions
Key Skills Art, illustration, design, and animation skills
Computer Skills Use of graphic and photo imaging software (Creative Suite), website design software (Dreamweaver), 2D and 3D animation software (Maya, After Effects, Flash)
Technical Skills Digital camera, digital paper and pen, and video compression encoding processes
Additional Requirements Knowledge of multiple computer platforms advantageous
Salary $70,300 (2015 average for multi-media animators and artists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and job postings (July 2012), O*Net OnLine

Computer animators design and create 2D and 3D motion graphics for diverse platforms, including videos, computer games, mobile devices, computer applications and websites. A great deal of animators work from their homes, and many animators are self-employed, working as freelance artists who must continually be on the hunt for new assignments. Work weeks for all animators may be long, with weekend and evening work being common.

The requirements for this career generally include a bachelor's degree in a computer animation-related field, though some employers will accept applicable experience in lieu of a formal education. Employers also take an artist's portfolio into consideration when hiring, so artistry and technical proficiency are important skills. Once trained and experienced, the earning potential is high for computer animators. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary for multi-media animators and artists was $70,300 as of May 2015. Now that we know more about computer animators, let's take a look at the steps along this career path.

Step 1: Obtain a Degree

The first step toward a career as a computer animator is a postsecondary education. An undergraduate degree program in computer animation provides students with the technical proficiency and artistic practice. This program generally includes studio courses in art, composition and design, combined with instruction in the technology used to create motion graphics. Keep in mind that an associate degree could suffice for an assistant or entry-level position. However, a bachelor's degree program will provide training in more complex art concepts and advanced technology and a 4-year degree may open up bigger and better opportunities.

During college, be sure to work on your portfolio, a collection of your best works that demonstrate your proficiency in a variety of technologies and platforms. Employers weigh applicants' animation portfolios very heavily. In fact, many programs offer resume development courses for just that reason.

Step 2: Gain Experience

The next step to becoming a computer animator is to gain experience. Employers tend to prefer computer animators with some experience in animation and with the software the company uses. There are multiple routes for gaining this experience. For instance, internships may provide valuable on-the-job experience working under the supervision of experienced computer animators. Others pursue freelance positions, which are contracted gigs that provide experience and samples for one's portfolio. The artist may have to start out in an assistant position to acquire the necessary experience assisting animators before advancing to an animator position.

Take on Volunteer Work

Some new artists offer free website design animation for charitable organizations, small businesses, or personal websites in exchange for a reference or recommendation. After all, non-paid professional work still counts as experience.

Step 3: Keep Up With Technology

After your career has kicked off, you must continue to keep up with technology. The technology that drives computer animation changes rapidly. Employers typically invest in the best technology and animators should be able to exploit that technology fully. Artists can maintain their proficiency by taking courses in the latest releases of computer animation technology. Such courses may be offered by colleges or by companies that produce software and hardware.

To enter a career as a computer animator, you generally need a degree in computer animation and entry-level or internship experience to get your foot in the door. Computer animators also need to stay up to day on new industry technology.

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