Animation Careers: 2023 Guide to Career Path, Options & Salary

Animation Careers: 2023 Guide to Career Path, Options & Salary

Animators are highly talented individuals. They possess creative minds and technical expertise, enabling them to craft beautiful digital renderings or manually crafted models of objects and characters. At the same time, they demonstrate organizational skills in managing their workloads and technology use to create top-notch animated pieces for various applications.

Students with animation degrees can expect to work in a wide variety of industries, including entertainment and art and design. Some jobs animation graduates can expect, for instance, include graphic designers, animators, production artists, and art directors.

This article explains what the animator career path is all about.

Animation Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in animation?
  2. Animation Career Outlook
  3. Required Skills for Animation
  4. How to Start Your Career in Animation
  5. How can I advance my career in animation?
  6. Alternative Options for Animation

Why pursue a career in animation?

Animation as a career continuously expands, and the number of professionals taking animation roles also rises. Better still, the field offers an extensive selection of career opportunities. For instance, art directors earn over $90,000 annually. At the same time, they love the creative side of their jobs, consistently using their imagination and witnessing the actualization of their designs and concepts.

animators presently employed in America

Animation Career Outlook 

People will continue to call for more realistic television and movie special effects, along with more capable video games and mobile device graphics, resulting in the insistence on more advanced computer software (College Grad, n.d.).

how much Americans spent on video games in 2019

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that there will be a 4% increase in multimedia artist and animator careers from 2018 to 2028. This increase is the same as the average increase rate for all occupations in the U.S. (Best Colleges, 2019).

The table below shows the animation job salary, number of job openings, and top locations.

5 Best Animator Jobs in 2021

Job TitleStarting SalaryJob OpeningsTop Locations
3D Artist$58,8564,871Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; San Francisco, CA
Production Assistant$37,79937,632New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL
3D Modeler$49,2532,029New York, NY; San Francisco, CA; Houston, TX
Storyboard Artist$66,0006,413Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; San Francisco, CA
Animator$58,619434New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA
Source: Zippia

Required Skills for Animation

Jobs in animation nurture raw artistic prowess and generate 2D and 3D computer application mastery. Other skills, like communication and teamwork, are also important to achieve your animator goals.

Essential Skills for Animation

  • Artistic Talent. The creation of a project normally begins on a storyboard. Computer applications breathe life into these storyboards' drawings and still images. On this note, an animation artist must have expertise in using color, light, and texture.
  • Computer Software. Computer applications help students animate their designs, making their characters, movements, and backgrounds realistic. 2D and 3D applications are implemented by using various software, and animators should be able to distinguish them from each other so that they can get their desired effects well.
  • Applied Math. Skills in applied math allow animators to devise more advanced animations. Trigonometry, for example, can move characters around, while algebra and integral calculus produce more stunning sceneries and special effects.
  • Knowledge of Anatomy, Body Mechanics, and Physics. Being adept at anatomy, body mechanics, and physics is also pivotal to animation, according to Angela Lepito's 2018 study "Where Animation and Science Meet." As seen in Integrative and Comparative Biology, the study details how an animation studio, such as DreamWorks Animation, incorporates scientific principles into films. "One of the unique components of an animator's skillset is the ability to take all this real-world information and craft a caricature of that information to create the performance. Animators take their understanding of anatomy, body mechanics, and physics to shape the character's movements and, more deeply, their acting. What separates animation from other mediums is its caricatured movement. Animators push and pull, squash, and stretch beyond real-world boundaries to bring forth the illusion of life."

General Skills for Animation

  • Communication. Strong communication skills are key to understanding client needs and sending necessary concerns about a project.
  • Teamwork. Animators often partner with designers to develop a project, and collaborations like this can bring many challenges. Thus, they need to navigate different personalities well, communicate clearly with each other, and tell their visions intelligibly.
  • Time Management. Working long hours is vital in most studio and game design firms, especially during strict deadlines.
  • Leadership. Leadership development is also crucial, especially as many animation career paths culminate in management positions such as art directors.

How to Start Your Career in Animation

How to get a job in animation then? Alongside a substantial portfolio and industry experience, a bachelor's degree or master's degree is a qualification for most jobs as an animator. An associate degree is usually not offered in this field, but schools may offer standalone courses to let students get ready for a full-time university program. Some programs also come with internship opportunities (Best Colleges, 2019).

What can I do with an associate's degree in animation?

Production Assistant

Production assistants are the people behind the camera or curtains supporting the television and radio crew. They may answer phones, collaborate with guests, hand out scripts, oversee a collection of digital images, and review schedules.

Median salary: $37,799

Web Developer

Web developers design, create, and maintain websites. They guarantee that sites work efficiently and hold heavy traffic. They may work as self-employed contractors or full-time employees for big companies.

Median salary: $61,706

What can I do with a bachelor's degree in animation?

Video Game Designer

Video game designers make video games for gaming systems and computers. Concentration in gaming is being offered in some bachelor's in animation, teaching students about conceptualizing and applying game mechanics and designing characters, sound, effects, and narrative. Students interested in this career path must note, however, that some universities offer a separate degree in video game design.

Median salary: $67,300

Multimedia Artist or Animator

Multimedia artists or animators make images and special effects for television, movies, mobile devices, video games, and other media. Students learn how to draw, paint, and write in a bachelor's degree.

Median salary: $58,619

Source: College Rank

Can you get an animation job with just a certificate?

A certificate does not assure an animation job, but it can result in greater animator salary, more professional opportunities, and staying updated with new technologies. Both traditional and online programs, even those at online community colleges, are now widely available to provide animation certifications (Best Colleges, 2019).

How can I advance my career in animation?

Animation-focused master's degree programs do not just lead to higher positions, they also enable professionals to specialize in a certain field. You may decide to specialize in 3D character animation or stop-motion, among others.

What can I do with a master's in animation?

Animation Producer or Director

Animation producers or directors employ and manage teams of animators. They facilitate during productions to administer budgets, schedules, and deliverables. At least three to five years of animation experience is required for these roles.

Median salary: $83,419

Stop-Motion Animator

Stop-motion animators create special rigs that include puppets, clay figures, and other props. One great example of exemplary stop-motion animations are The Wallace and Gromit films.

Median salary: $83,529

Which certification is best for animation?

Two of the most recognized certificates in animation are Adobe Animate and Final Cut Pro X. After completing a certificate program, individuals take exams to attest to their new competencies and improve their employability. (Best Colleges, 2019).

Source: Zippia

Alternative Career Options for Animation

Animation experts are not confined to a single career choice. Exploring other animation careers is always an option as the job outlook for animators is always on the rise and this field is an all-encompassing one (Edarabia, n.d.).

What else can an animator do?

Computer Network Architect

An animation degree is a field related to computers and connected networks. Computer network architects design and build data communication networks.

VFX Artist

VFX artists develop computer-assisted crowds, creatures, and stunt doubles. They primarily create illusions that the mentioned items are real.

Animation: Helping Make Our Lives a Little Less Complicated

From pencil and paper, animation has truly evolved in a number of ways. We no longer see odd-looking cartoon characters and extremely pixelated backgrounds while watching a television show or movie, playing a game, or browsing our phones or computers. We are at a time when new technology, software, and other tools are used altogether to create lifelike designs.

Yet, animators do more than just draw and sketch visuals. They help tell and understand stories that make our lives a little less complicated—even for just a few moments (Moran, n.d.).


  • Best Colleges Staff Writer. (2019, July 30). Animation Careers. Best Colleges.
  • College Grad. (n.d.). Special Effects Artists and Animators. College Grad.
  • Edarabia. (n.d.). What can you do with an Animation Degree? Edarabia.
  • Indeed Editorial Team. (2021, June 10). 13 Careers in Animation (With Job Duties and Salaries). Indeed.
  • Lepito, A. (2018, October). Where Animation and Science Meet. Integrative and Comparative Biology.
  • Moran, A. (n.d.). How to Become an Animator. Career Addict.
  • Pulse College. (n.d.). Career in Animation? Here's What You Need to Know. Pulse College.

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