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Digital Animation Careers: Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a digital animator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Digital animation professionals may work for television and film companies, advertising agencies, the video game industry or many other industries that utilize the skills of digital animators. Digital animators create images that move, such an animated characters in commercials and films, or characters in video games. Some postsecondary training is required to break into this field.

Essential Information

Digital animators create moving images for advertising agencies, the movie industry or video companies. A bachelor's degree is typically required for a career in digital animation; however, some entry-level positions may be filled by candidates who have only earned a certificate. Prospective animators can enroll in digital art programs that allow students to develop technical skills as well as artistic abilities.

Required Education Bachelor's typically required; certificate may be sufficient for some entry-level positions
Other Requirements Work experience generally necessary for high-level positions
Projected Job Growth (2014 - 2024)* 6% for multimedia artists and animators
Mean Salary (2015)* $70,300 annually for multimedia artists and animators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Options in Digital Animation

Digital animators translate concepts into collections of images in motion. They also create the setting and work on the lighting, color scheme and overall composition. These professionals draw or manipulate images using animation software and other media tools to create videos, video games, animated features, and television or Web advertisements. A career in digital animation offers several possibilities for both freelancers and full-time professionals. Digital animators work for individual clients or for companies in a variety of fields.

Animated Advertisements

Animators can work for advertising agencies creating realistically drawn moving images of products. This entails careful attention to the details of the object, which are drawn to scale from numerous vantage points. An advertisement shown in 3-D animation, for example, may depict machinery in motion from various angles, so the potential client sees a more accurate image of the product.

Educational Videos

Digital animators may work for educational companies creating animated videos for instructional purposes. These short videos depict narratives that teach lessons or skills to school-age audiences as well as company employees. The animator may be responsible for the entire production, from the script to the digital editing.

Video Games

The digital animator may work for a gaming company creating animated characters and scenarios. This industry is constantly evolving in terms of realism and special effects, requiring highly skilled animators. Some animators excel in all aspects of game production, including rule-making and storytelling.

Movie and Television Films

Those who aspire to make feature films can find work in a production house creating animated sequences for television and movie scripts. The popularity of high-quality animation in full-length children's movies is high. Demand for digital animators in this industry is also propelled by the economic advantage of incorporating animation to create realistic scenes, such as battle scenes, in non-animated feature films for adults. Animators work on a production team, often spending months on a project. Positions in the movie industry are both lucrative and prestigious; they're usually only available to those with tremendous creative output and years of experience.

Digital Animator Education Requirements

Students who plan to pursue a career in digital animation must have a degree that demonstrates mastery of technical knowledge. Depending on the field, employers may require that the student have a B.F.A. degree from a college or university in computer animation, digital design, or integrated media arts. Coursework for these majors include a variety of related courses, such as mathematical modeling, storyboarding, photo imaging and interactive flash design. Degree requirements allow the student to combine an academic program with studies in both traditional and experimental technical areas. Some college programs emphasize integrated learning by offering cross-disciplinary courses.

Employers of high-level animation positions may require that prospective animators have substantial specialized knowledge as well as experience with design elements. A combined program from an art school with a strong digital animation department can provide this background. This type of school offers extensive coursework in a variety of animation skills, coursework in the fine arts, and ample production experience. Studies include foundation art classes, 3-D imagery, tools of production, electronic design and other highly skill-oriented courses. Students in this setting can also benefit from the use of advanced equipment and technical facilities.

Those who want to enter the work force early can receive basic training through a certificate program from an art school or online program in Web design or visual merchandising. Associate's degree programs in visual communication, video and animation production or graphic design provide other options for prospective digital animators. Those who complete basic training in digital animation may have sufficient skills for entry-level jobs in advertising or Web design.

Career and Salary Info for Digital Animators

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 6% increase in employment for multimedia artists and animators for the 2014-2024 decade. This is about average, but growth may be slowed due to outsourcing to animators in other countries. People in this category made an average of $70,300 per year in 2015; the top-paying industry was travel arrangement and reservation services, whose workers drew in an average of $85,750 that year.

Digital animators are required to have a degree in a relevant field, such as digital design or computer animation. Those who have a bachelor's degree in design and animation will be prepared to compete for jobs in this field, but a certificate or associate's degree may be sufficient for many entry-level jobs in digital animation.

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