Animators use cutting-edge animation and illustration technology, video, film, and computer software to develop 2D and 3D motion images for video games, animated movies, TV commercials, music videos and for a growing number of communication mediums. A few of the more common platforms and technologies employed by animators today include AutoDesk 3DS Max, Adobe, Ability Photopaint, and VectorDesigner. However, technology in this industry is constantly changing, and animators must adapt to an ever evolving landscape.
Animators are also artists, illustrators, and graphic designers. In addition to understanding and being able to use animation software and technologies, animators must be able to envision, design and create unique works of art and illustration, which are then brought to life using animation equipement, techniques and technology. Depending on the proejct, animators may also be required to create, develop, and script animated narratives, develop technical illustrations, design multimedia presentations, and assist with production coordination.
While animators work in a growing number of industries, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most animators work in one of the following industries:
- Motion Picture and Video
- Advertising and Public Relations
- Computer Systems Design
- Aerospace Manufacturing
- Specialized Design
- Higher Education
Within the industries listed above, animators work in many different environments such as film and video production facilities, game development, sotware development companies, advertising agencies, web design and development firms, engineering design, mobile technology companies, and graphic design firms, to name just a few.
Salaries and Earning Potential
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the mean annual wage for animators and multimedia artists is roughly $63,000 a year. The highest paid animators can in excess of $99,000 a year, while the lowest paid animtors and multimedia artists can earn less than $33,000 per year.
When considering earning potential, it’s important to take into account that compensation level will vary by industry where employed, location, position/responsibilities, company, experience and level of education. For example, a recent survey conducted by Glassdoor.com showed that a senior animator working for Blue Sky Studios in Greenwich, Connecticut could expect to earn roughly $60,000 to $85,000 a year, while the same animator working for Dreamworks Animation SKG in Glendale, California could earn as much as $120,000+ a year.
Animators working in California are some of the highest paid in the nation, earning an annual mean wage of nearly $75,000 a year. Other states that offer attractive salaries for animators and multimedia designers include New York at $67,000 a year, and Oregon, District of Columbia, and Connecticut at roughly $62,000 a year.
Animators may also work for themselves as developers or consultants. Self-employed animators have the ability to make more or less than the figures quoted above. However, their compensation will be dictated by many of the same factors that influence pay for animators nation wide.
The following are a few of the industries where the best employment opportunities can be found for animators and multimedia specialists:
- Motion Pictures and Film
- Software Development and Publishing
- Computer Systems Design
According to the BLS some of the top paying fields included:
- Motion pictures
- Design services
- Web search portals
- Employment services
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job growth in the arts and animation industry should grow by 16 percent through 2016. During the same period, graphic design should see 10 percent employment growth. Both animation and design are quite competitive fields. If you have an eye for detail and a creative mind, a career in animation or design may just be the choice for you. Either way, an animation degree can be a great way to start your career in the growing entertainment industry, design services, and more.
The good news for anyone looking to launch a career in animation or multimedia design is that there appears to be no end to the demand for these professionals. As consumers continue to demand more realistic video games, 3D animated movies, and movies and television with special effects, the need for trained animators will grow. The growing number of mobile technologies and consumer demand for the latest and greatest mobile devices will also provide a myriad of new job opportunities for animators with specialized skills in computer graphics and design.
According to the BLS, job growth in the arts and animation industry is estimated to grow by 16% over the next 4 years. During that same period, its estimated that graphic design will experience an average 10% employment growth. Notwithstanding a growing demand for skilled animators and designers, competition for top positions will be intense and only the most qualified job candidates will attain top positions.
Animation Degrees and Education Requirements
Most animators, multimedia designers and illustrators have a bachelor’s degree in animation, fine arts, visual effects, computer animation or a related discipline. Whatever the degree, skills in design, 2D and 3D animation, computer programming, and computer-aided design are essential. Animators are also required to take classes in human and animal anatomy, as much of their career will be spent making characters move and bringing inanimate objects to life on the screen.
In addition to a degree in animation, most employers are looking for candidates with at 2 years of related work experience and a well-developed skill set. Entry-level animation and multimedia design positions will require a degree and a little bit of relevant experience. Senior level positions typically require an additional 4 to 6 years of experience in the industry as well as an advanced degree or training.
Animation and Multimedia Degrees and Programs
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