Special Effects Technician: Occupational Outlook and Career Summary

Sep 13, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a special effects technician. Get a quick view of the job duties as well as details about career outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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Special effects technicians cover a wide range of positions within the film and video industries. They are the ones who can create illusions such as explosions, strange make-up design, or even sound effects. Some positions they can take within this career path include a multimedia animator, a sound engineer, or a makeup artist.

Essential Information

Special effects technicians are primarily employed by the motion picture and video industries. The term 'special effects technician' can refer to a broad range of positions in both the production and post-production stages. Technicians might have specialized knowledge in one or more areas, including animation, effects makeup, lighting design and audio engineering.

Required Education Multimedia artists and animators Makeup artist Sound engineering technicians
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 4%* 7%* 2%*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $72,520* $64,250* $52,390*

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

Job Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment growth for the various types of special effects technicians will be below average for the decade 2018-2028 ( Anticipated rates of growth range from 4% for multimedia artists and animators to 2% for makeup artists, theatrical and performance..

Salaries for special effects technicians vary depending on job title and experience. In 2018, multimedia artists and animators earned a median annual salary of $72,520, followed by theatrical and performance makeup artists with $64,250 and sound engineering technicians at $52,390, according to BLS figures.

Career Summary

Special effects technicians can create illusions such as explosions, atmospheric lighting, gore effects makeup and sound effects. They might work during the production stage, when a film or video is shot, or during post-production, when a film is being edited.


An animator might use advanced computer graphics software to create the appearance of explosions or other effects in post-production. He or she also might create backgrounds, characters and other objects.

Sound Engineering Technician

Sound engineering technicians produce sound effects in post-production studios using instruments, recording equipment and software. They can alter voices, enhance prerecorded audio tracks to make them sound more realistic or create specialized effects tracks for film and video.

Effects Makeup Artist

Special effects makeup artists can alter a performer's appearance using a combination of specialty makeup and materials, such as wigs, latex and body paint. They can create the appearance of aging, gunshot wounds or other gore effects that enhance the realistic portrayal of a character.

Special effects technicians are the ones who create the visual and auditory illusions you see in movie, including but not exclusively in monster movies and super hero action scenes. Their roles can cover a variety of areas and titles include those of sound engineers, make-up artists and multimedia animators. These specific career paths can earn different levels of salaries, with makeup artists earning a median salary of $64,250 a year to $72,520 as a multimedia animator.

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