An animator creates a large series of images that form 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 like 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.
Almost 69,000 people worked as multi-media artists and animators* in 2012. More than half are self-employed. Some work for movie, television and video game studios and software publishers. Animators typically work in offices, sometimes in their own homes. They spend a lot of time sitting in front of computer screens. Impending deadlines can mean working long hours which include weekends and evenings.
While an animator isn't required to have a college degree, most employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Animation, Computer Graphics or a related discipline. Some people who want to create animation for video games 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 he or she learns in an academic program, one needs 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 good time management skills. Without the ability to think creatively, one will not be able to generate ideas and bring them to fruition. Strong computer skills are necessary because much of an animator's work involves using complex computer software and sometimes even writing code.
While there will be an increased demand for skilled animators, their employment in the United States is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2022. This can be attributed to employers hiring people from overseas who are willing to work for lower pay than American workers.
In 2009 animators earned a median annual salary of $61,370 in the US. Hourly wages were $29.50.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much animators currently earn in your city.
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.
Bureau Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Multimedia Artists and Animators, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm (visited January 11, 2014)
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Multimedia Artists and Animators, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/27-1014.00 (visited January 11, 2014).
*Note: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics combines wage and employment data for Multimedia Artists and Animators.