Salary and Career Info for a Visual Effects Technician

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a visual effects technician. Get a quick view of the requirements along with salary statistics and career information to find out if this is the job for you.

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Visual effects technicians create special effects and animation using computer software. They require advanced computer skill in the software used to create those effects and animation as well as design skills. These positions have an annual medial salary of about $64,000, though salaries vary by industry and location.

Essential Information

Visual effects technicians, sometimes referred to in the industry as special effects technicians, use computer software programs to create virtual worlds and characters for movies and television shows. These technicians need a fine eye for detail and the ability to follow a director's artistic ideas. Most technicians possess a bachelor's degree in art with a focus related to digital media.

Required Education Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation, Computer Graphics or Digital Media
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for all multimedia artists and animators)*
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $63,970 (for all multimedia artists and animators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places visual effects technicians under the category of multimedia artists (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, multimedia artists and animators earned an annual median salary of $63,970 in May 2015. Most visual effects technicians work in the motion picture and video industry. Multimedia artists in this industry earned an annual average salary of $73,270 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Location significantly affects salary. For example, multimedia artists and animators working in California made an average annual salary of $82,810 in May 2015, compared to those working in Georgia, who earned $53,460. BLS records from that same year showed California paid the highest annual average salaries for this field, especially in the following metropolitan regions:

  • San Francisco, $89,070
  • Los Angeles, $86,140
  • San Jose, $77,030

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Career Information

Creating animation effects for film, television, and the Internet, multimedia artists use computer software programs to produce computer generated imagery (CGI). These individuals use special computer applications to color, shade, and morph images as needed. Within the motion picture industry, visual effects technicians blend film segments of real actors with CGI elements to create the appearance of interaction between actors and a virtual world.

O*NET Online states that visual effects technicians, as multimedia artists, also draw storyboards that help the director position the actors to best interact with CGI elements that will be added in post-production editing (www.online.onetcenter.org). Technicians also meet with the director and film crew to discuss what CGI effects are needed and how they should look onscreen.

Most employers require multimedia artists to possess a bachelor's degree that focuses on animation and digital media, such as a fine arts degree. Coursework often includes several drawing classes, software and graphic design, motion design, 2-D and 3-D imagery, animation techniques, and digital illustration. These types of undergraduate degrees usually take four to five years to complete.

Visual effects technicians usually require a bachelor's degree in a related design, film or computer animation field. They must also possess skills in design, graphics, and illustration. The job growth outlook for these positions is about average.

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