Computer Artists: Career Info & Requirements

Learn about the job responsibilities of a computer artist. Discover what education and training are necessary, and check the salary and employment outlook figures to determine if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition for a Computer Artist

Computer artists often work as animators, graphic artists and multimedia artists creating visual content for video games, Web programming, commercials, cartoons, television shows and movies. They often start with a hand-drawn image and enhance it with computer technology, combining sound, visual effects, animation and three-dimensional modeling. Computer artists may be independent contractors or work as employees of film or animation studios, advertising agencies, special effects companies and video game developers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that, out of all artist and related worker occupations, the fields of multimedia and animation will experience the strongest growth over the next several years.

Education Associate, bachelor's and master's degrees available in visual arts, fine arts, or computer arts
Job Skills Knowledge of software, working under deadlines, communication, teamwork
Median Salary (2015) $63,970 for multimedia artists and animators
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% for multimedia artists and animators

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Many computer artists earn associate, bachelor's or master's degrees in visual or fine arts; however, some art and design schools offer degree programs in computer art. Coursework may include computer animation and graphics, visual effects, interactive media, game design, drawing and painting. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) lists accredited degree programs. Additionally, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) offers scholarships to students in fine arts, new media, cartooning and animation. Many students graduate from degree programs with a portfolio of computer artistry sample work, which is required by most employers.

Essential Skills

Computer artists must have strong technical skills in 2D and 3D computer graphics, 3D computer animation and modeling, a working knowledge of related software and multimedia tools and the ability to hand-draw images on paper. In addition to being visually creative, some employers may also require an understanding of script development and storytelling. Computer artists must have the ability to interpret client needs and work under deadline pressure. Strong communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team are also essential.

Economic Forecast and Career Outlook

The BLS predicts 6% job growth for multimedia artists and animators, which would include computer artists, throughout the 2014-2024 decade. In 2015, the BLS reported that median annual earnings for salaried multimedia artists and animators were $63,970.

Alternative Careers

You can also look into these options for artistic careers:

Graphic Designer

Somewhat similar to the work a computer artist performs, a graphic designer also utilizes computer software to create and manipulate images for commercial and marketing purposes. Graphic designers also determine the visual layout, format text, select colors and make sure the overall message of the design is clearly expressed. To enter this profession, a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field is normally required, and a professional portfolio showcasing quality work is necessary. According to the BLS, over 3,000 new jobs will be created in the field of graphic design during the 2014-2024 decade. These workers should expect to earn a median annual wage of $46,900, based on BLS figures from May of 2015.

Fine Artist

For those who possess artistic talent but who may not want to use computers to produce their artwork, a fine artist career may be the right option. Fine artists use mediums such as clay, paint, pencils, textiles, and metal to create a piece of art that expresses ideas and emotions. Formal education is not required, but many artists choose to enroll in college art courses to perfect their techniques and explore new avenues. As shown in BLS data from 2015, fines artists received a median income of $45,080, and these professionals are expected to experience job growth of 2% between 2014 and 2024.

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