animator career

What you need to know


Animators and special effects artists create two- and three-dimensional models, images that appear to move, and visual effects for television, movies, video games, and other forms of media.

What does an animator do?

Many animators and special effects artists work in offices; others work from home.

Animators and special effects artists often work in teams to develop a movie, a visual effect, or an electronic game. Each animator works on a portion of the project, and then the pieces are put together to create one cohesive animation.

Some of the things an animator or special effects artist might do:

  • Use computer programs and illustrations to create graphics and animation
  • Work with a team of animators and artists to create a movie, game, or visual effect
  • Research upcoming projects to help create realistic designs or animations
  • Develop storyboards that map out key scenes in animations
  • Edit animations and effects on the basis of feedback from directors, other animators, game designers, or clients
  • Meet with clients, other animators, games designers, directors, and other staff (which may include actors) to review deadlines and development timelines
What skills are needed?
  • Artistic talent: Animators and special effects should have artistic ability and a good understanding of color, texture, and light. However, they may be able to compensate for artistic shortcomings with better technical skills.
  • Communication skills: Animators and special effects artists need to work as part of a complex team and respond well to criticism and feedback.
  • Computer skills: Many animators and special effects artists use computer programs or write programming code to do most of their work.
  • Creativity: Animators and special effects artists must be able to think creatively to develop original ideas and make them come to life.
  • Time-management skills: The hours required by most studio and game design companies can be long, particularly when there are tight deadlines. Animators and special effects artists need to be able to manage their time effectively when a deadline approaches.

Watch this video to learn more from our animator role models:

What is the pay?

The average pay for animators and special effects artists in the United States ranges from $46,000 to $131,370 as of May 2021.

The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

Employment of animators and special effects artists is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Projected growth will be due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television.

Further, an increased demand for computer graphics for mobile devices, such as smart phones, will lead to more job opportunities. Special effects artists will be needed to create animation for games and applications for mobile devices.

What education is required to become an animator?

Employers typically require a bachelor’s degree, and they look for workers who have a good portfolio of work and strong technical skills. Animators and special effects artists typically have a bachelor’s degree in fine art, computer graphics, animation, or a related field. Programs in computer graphics often include courses in computer science in addition to art courses.

Bachelor’s degree programs in art include courses in painting, drawing, and sculpture. Degrees in animation often require classes in drawing, animation, and film. Many schools have specialized degrees in topics such as interactive media or game design.

Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Fine ArtsGraphic Design or Animation.

Watch this video to learn more from our animator role models: