Animator Job Description and Information

Career Information

An animator works in a studio
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An animator creates an extensive series of images that forms the animation seen in movies, commercials, television programs or video games. He or she typically specializes in one of these media and may further concentrate on a very specific area, for example, characters, scenery or background design.  Animators typically use computer software to do their work. The animator is a member of a team that consists of other animators and artists who collaborate on projects.

Quick Facts

  • Animators earned a median annual salary of $63,630 and hourly wages of $30.59 in 2014 (U.S.).
  • Just over 64,000 people were employed as animators (U.S., 2014).
  • According to Animation Review, the top four cities in North America for animation careers are San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver, Canada.
  • About half of all animators are self-employed.
  • Job are concentrated in the motion picture and video industries.
  • Expect to work late hours, weekends and holidays when deadlines are approaching.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment growth to be as fast as the average for all occupations through 2024. If more employers choose to save money by hiring animators from overseas, the job outlook in the United States may worsen.

A Day in an Animator's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for animator positions found on Indeed.com:

  • "Create expressive character animation that portrays a wide range of emotions"
  • "Recommend the best approaches to integrate 3-D components into final commercial quality products"
  • "Create high-quality animations by utilizing both hand key animation and motion capture data"
  • "Give and receive constructive and creative feedback across involved teams"
  • "Collaborate with other animators, clients and producers"
  • "Create prototypes and mock-ups of new types of products"
  • "Brainstorm and conceptualize ideas, with ability to produce concept sketches and quick concept edits"
  • "Comprehend and execute direction from Lead Animator or Animation Supervisor"

How to Become an Animator

While an animator isn't required to have a college degree, most employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a Bachelor's degree in Animation, Computer Graphics or a related discipline. If you want to create animation for video games, you should earn a degree in video game design or interactive media.

An animator needs more than artistic talent to work in this occupation. In addition to the technical skills you will learn in an academic program, you must have certain soft skills to be successful. Because animators must function as part of a team, good communication skills, including strong listening and speaking skills, are extremely important. Tight deadlines call for excellent time management skills. Without the ability to think creatively, you will not be able to generate ideas and bring them to fruition. Strong computer skills are necessary because much your work will involve using sophisticated computer software and you may also have to write code.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

What do employers look for when they hire animators? Here are some requirements from actual job announcements we found on Indeed.com:

  • "Must be able to take direction, communicate with other artists (and external contractors) and work with engineers to ensure that art and animations are properly implemented in the game"
  • "Ability to illustrate and storyboard"
  • "Outstanding work ethic, character, integrity, and professionalism"
  • "Must be able to prioritize, multitask, and meet tight deadlines"
  • "Strong design, communication, and project management skills are required"
  • "Must have a positive attitude and be a team player"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

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    Fashion DesignerCreates clothing and accessories

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    Associate or Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Design (preferred)
    Graphic DesignerCommunicates messages using visual elements$45,900Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design
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    Fine ArtistCreates art to sell or exhibit$43,890Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts

    Sources:
    Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited April 6, 2016 ).
    Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited April 6, 2016).

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