What does an Animator do? Where does an Animator work? ACR takes a look:
Animators create animation and visual effects for films, video games, television, mobile devices, and other forms of media using illustrations and software programs. Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere, Autodesk3ds Max, and Autodesk Maya are just a few leading software programs for animators. Animators also create graphics and develop storyboards, drawings and illustrations. They create, plan, and script animated narrative sequences, and assist with background design and production coordination.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics combines multimedia artists and animators into one career group. According to the Bureau, “multimedia artists and animators often work in a specific medium. Some focus on creating animated movies or video games. Others create visual effects for movies and television shows. Creating computer-generated images (CGI) may include taking images of an actor’s movements, which are then animated into three-dimensional characters. Other animators design scenery or backgrounds for locations.”
The Bureau reports that multimedia artists and animators work primarily in the following industries:
- Motion Picture and Video Industries
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services
- Software Publishers
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
- Specialized Design Services
The Bureau also mentions that a staggering 57 percent of animators were self-employed in 2012. This is the most current figure for self-employed animators. These professionals, not just the self-employed, often work from home. Others work at film, animation or video game production studios, cartoon networks, advertising agencies, web design firms, graphic design firms, and mobile technology companies. Some work in office settings.
Programs to Consider:
At the end of 2014, the median annual wage for multimedia artists and animators was $61,370 per year. The lowest paid multimedia artists and animators earned less than $34,860. The highest paid earned $113,470 per year. At $72,680, multimedia artists and animators working in the motion picture and video industries earned the highest median annual wage of the top five industries for this profession.
It is important to keep in mind that salaries for multimedia artist and animators may vary by experience, type and size of company, and even geographic location. For example, California-based multimedia artists and animators average $88,150 per year—the nation’s highest average salary for this profession, while Arkansas-based artists average $40,890—one of the lowest.
The top five highest paying states for multimedia artists and animators were California ($88,150 per year), Washington State ($76,900), District of Columbia ($76,110), New York ($72,530), and New Mexico ($70,310).
Becoming an Animator
There are so many paths to becoming an animator today you'll lose count. Just a few options include a Bachelor of Art (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) and/or a Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) in Animation, Animation & Digital Arts, Media Arts & Animation, Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Media Arts & Science, Fine Art, and even Computer Science (with an Emphasis in Animation). Courses common to these degree paths and other related programs include Drawing, 2-D Animation Production, 3-D Animation Production, and Stop Motion. Animators also study anatomy to study how animals and humans move in order to make character movements more realistic.
In addition to a 4-year degree, many employers look for at least two years’ experience in the industry, and advanced technology skills. Entry-level positions may require only a degree and experience through an internship or other support position. Senior level positions may require at least five to seven years’ professional experience in the industry and possibly an advanced degree. In fact, more schools than ever before now offer Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in Animation, Animation & Visual Effects, Animation & Digital Arts, and more. Some schools in the U.S. (and many in Europe and Asia) even offer PhD programs in Digital Arts & Animation, Multimedia & Animation, Computer Science with an Animation Emphasis and more.
Job Trends for Animators
Employment for this group is expected to grow six percent from 2012 to 2022. Projected employment growth for animators and multimedia artists will be the result of increased demand for animation and more realistic visual effects in video games, films, and television. However, job growth may be slowed by companies hiring artists and animators who work overseas for lower wages. The increasing demand for computer graphics for mobile devices may counter slow growth by creating more job opportunities in the massive mobile industry.
Despite slow job growth, competition for job opportunities in animation will remain strong. The Bureau says, “Opportunities should be best for those who have a wide range of skills or who specialize in a highly specific type of animation or effect.” Still, in 2014, the U.S. was home to an impressive population of 68,900 multimedia artists and animators, making it the third largest career field in the world of Art and Design. At 259,500, graphic designers represent the largest group.
Job opportunities for animators and multimedia artists can be found all over the U.S. However, five states have the highest employment levels. California has the highest, followed by New York, Washington, Texas, and Illinois.
Awesome Animation Fact: Animation has been around for a lot longer than you think. According to Computer Science for Fun (published by Queen Mary, University of London), a 5,200-year old bowl found in Iran features an early precursor of animation. Along the bowl's side are five drawings that, when viewed in a sequence, depict a wild goat leaping up to eat leaves off a tree.