Special Effects Career Information and Education Requirements

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

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A bachelor's degree is typically required for those who wish to pursue a career in the special effects field. It is important to develop your skills prior to entering this field. Special effects jobs include puppetry, specialty photography and animation.

Essential Information

The special effects field involves the creation of specialty crafts and visuals for movies, television or websites. Special effects can include crafts like puppetry, pyrotechnics, modeling, make-up, stunts and animation, and job titles include special effects technician or multimedia artist. Though it is possible to obtain work in this field based on experience, there are formal education programs available that include special effects training. Most employers require a bachelor's degree in art or computer graphics.

Required Education Most employers require a 4-year degree
Projected Job Growth 6% from 2014-2024 for multimedia artists and animators*
Median Salary (2015) $63,970 annually for multimedia artists and animators*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

The motion picture and video industries employ the majority of special effects technicians. Most special effects professionals choose a specialty area, such as stunts, animation, modeling or specialty photography. Some big movie studios create their own special effects for movies and television; however, most of the work is typically done in smaller special effects studios that specialize in certain effects.

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Education Requirements

Special effects artists rely on talent and experience, as well as education, to help them refine their skills. Those who wish to have a career in special effects typically find it helpful to take plenty of art courses where a variety of materials and creativity can be explored.

Degree Programs

There are a variety of degree programs that students can use to start their career in special effects. The most general of these programs is a degree in art or fine art. Some schools allow students to specialize in animation or sculpture, which can lead to special effects careers in modeling and animation. Similarly, some students choose to focus their art degree in theater, in which students can learn a number of visual effects and techniques to apply to a special effects career.

Related degree and certificate programs are also available in computer animation, multimedia, special effects or visual effects. These programs are diverse and often focus specifically on one area of special effects. A special effects training program should include a focus on certain computer programs and techniques because a lot of visual effects are created in computer software programs such as Adobe After Effects. Courses in these programs might include 3-dimensional modeling, graphic design, storyboarding and audio editing.

With a growth rate of 6% expected through 2024, the job market for those in special effects is growing at an average rate. Those interested in pursuing a career in special effects should develop their skills and consider completing a four-year college degree program in a related field.

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