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How to Become an Animation Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an animation designer. Research the education, skills, certification and experience required for starting a career as an animation designer. View article »

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  • 0:00 Become an Animation Designer
  • 0:37 Career Requirements
  • 1:24 Learn to Draw
  • 2:18 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 3:23 Put Together a Demo Reel
  • 4:17 Consider Industry…

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Video Transcript

Become an Animation Designer

Animation designers, also referred to as animators, create the visual effects and animation featured in video games, movies and TV shows, as well as on websites. Created from computer software programs, 2-D or 3-D animations are used to replicate the features and movements of people, animals, places and things to tell a story or advertise a product. Animators often work long weeks and nights. Working weekends might also be necessary to meet deadlines.

Career Requirements

A bachelor's degree in animation, computer graphics, fine art or a related field is required. No experience is required for entry-level jobs; however, 2 to 5 years of experience may be required for more advanced roles. Voluntary certification from software developers is available.

Key skills include artistic ability; creativity; communication, coordination, critical thinking and time-management skills; and the ability to visualize artistic concepts and use computer imaging and editing software.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all multimedia artists and animators was $63,970, as of May 2015.

Let's take a look at the steps needed to become an animation designer.

Step 1: Learn to Draw

Animation is based on traditional drawing skills, so aspiring animators will want to develop observational drawing skills, especially the use and control of line. Figure drawing is also important for practice in drawing shapes and accurate proportions. Solid drawing skills could help secure acceptance into an animation degree program since these programs are typically competitive and require submission of a drawing portfolio.

Success Tip:

  • Carry a sketchbook. Drawing practice outside the classroom is an opportunity to work with diverse subjects and learn observation skills. Having a sketchbook available also provides the means to practice drawing as often and as much as possible.

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Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Earning a bachelor's degree in animation can prepare students for a career in media arts, illustration, Web design, film and television. Students take fundamental courses in drawing, graphics, storyboarding, character motion and art design. Students build on these skills with practice in conceptualization, texturing and digital cinematography. Advanced training includes the use of animation computer software programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, After Effects and Maya.

Success Tip:

  • Consider an internship. Internships may boost chances for employment by providing opportunities for work experience and networking. Interns may be able to learn under the supervision of an experienced animation designer. Internships may be offered through the school, typically when students are in their last two years of study. Some employers may also offer internships for recent graduates.

Step 3: Put Together a Demo Reel

While in school, students usually create a portfolio, DVD or website to showcase their best work. Some educational programs feature a senior project for students to demonstrate their creativity, artistry and proficiency in various software programs. A portfolio or demo reel can also incorporate independent work done outside of school. When looking for employment opportunities, recent graduates will submit their demo reel for open positions.

Success Tip:

  • Focus on a main interest. An animation designer can work in many different industries, so it's best to gear demo reels and portfolios to the career of choice. For example, a demo reel for cartoon animation could contain entertaining characters and creative stories.

Step 4: Consider Industry Certification

Earning a certification can be a good way to stand out, as only a bachelor's degree is required for senior animator positions, according to job postings. Certifications in this career field are typically offered by software publishers, such as Adobe. Professionals can validate their proficiency in using animation technology by becoming an Adobe Certified Expert. Applicable software programs that animation designers can become certified in include Adobe Flash, Illustrator and After Effects.

Animation designers should have a bachelor's degree in animation, must learn to draw and put together a demo reel in order to find employment.

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