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Visual Effects Artist: Salary, Duties, Outlook and Requirements

Visual effects artists require some formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties, and necessary skills to see if this is the right career for you.

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While visual effects artists are not required to hold a degree, it's typical for them to earn a bachelor's degree in computer animation or visual effects. They need to have technical software skills in order to create designs and showcase their abilities to potential employers.

Essential Information

Visual effects artists are responsible for creating computer-generated animations and special effects on screens at home and in theaters. Specific technical knowledge is required to enter this field. It's possible to gain the necessary training to work as a visual effects artist through a degree or certificate program in a field like computer animation, and many artists in this field hold a bachelor's degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree is common; certificate and other degree programs available
Other Requirements Technical skills; knowledge of industry-standard software programs like Autodesk Maya, Adobe and RenderMan
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for all multimedia artists and animators
Median Salary (2015)* $63,970

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary

Salary information for visual effects artists varies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), visual effects artists who create special effects and animation using technological tools can be grouped into the category of multimedia artists and animators, for whom the median annual wage was reported as $63,970 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Those working in travel arrangement and reservation services earned the highest annual salary, making an average of $85,750 in 2015. In the same year, the lowest-paid ten percent of earners reported by the BLS made an annual wage of $36,930 or less, while the highest-earning ten percent earned a wage of $113,600 per year or more.

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Duties

Visual effects artists create imagery that is either impractical or impossible to film. The majority of this work is currently done via computer; other kinds of effects are now largely relegated to niche and specialty situations. According to The Wall Street Journal, visual effects artists are responsible for creating special effects using computerized technology. This work can include creating animations or fixing up details for television shows, commercials, feature films, and other film media.

Visual effects artists often work on tight deadlines due to theatrical release dates and other constraints related to working in the film industry. The job usually involves following instructions from a client or supervisor and may not allow for the possibility of much personalized input. However, some professionals in this field may gain satisfaction in knowing that their work contributed to the completion of a major media project.

Outlook

According to the BLS, the demand for multimedia artists and animators was expected to grow about six percent, which is as fast as average for all professions, from 2024-2024. This anticipated growth was attributed to an expected increase in demands for special effects in the film industry and graphics for mobile technologies. Incidentally, the film industry was the largest and best-paying employer of visual effects artists in 2015. The creation of computer-generated animation in the scientific research and design was also expected to add opportunities for visual effects artists.

Requirements

Students need to have a firm understanding of standard software tools of the industry, such as Houdini, Nuke, RenderMan, Adobe CS5, mental ray, and Autodesk Maya. Although a degree is not necessarily required for jobs in this field, a bachelor's degree is standard, and completing a certificate or degree program can help signify qualification to work as a visual effects artist. Associate's, bachelor's, and graduate degree programs are available in relevant fields of study, including computer animation and visual effects.

Visual effects artists produce computer-generated animation and effects for films, television shows, and other media. Degrees range from certificate programs to master's degrees, and knowledge of industry software and the ability to work on a deadline are advantageous in this field. Multimedia artists and animators can expect to see average job growth through the year 2024.

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