Computer animators create 3D motion graphics and visual effects.
These creative professionals design visually stunning animations for a range of mediums, including film, television, video games, mobile apps, and websites. As the title suggests, computer animators use computer software and hardware to ply their trade (as opposed to the hand-drawn designs of traditional animators). Recent advances in animation technology, along with the increased popularity and diversity of devices used to access entertainment have made computer animator one of the most exciting and lucrative career paths for technically inclined artists. This career path is also ideal for those who want to be their own boss; 63% of multimedia animators are self-employed, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Explore high-quality online training programs in computer animation and related fields.
Specializing in one of the aforementioned mediums – or better yet a specific skill set within that medium – is one of the best ways to advance your career in computer animation. For example, an animator who works solely on video game animation (and concentrates on the software and techniques used therein) can raise his or her proficiency faster than one who works across multiple platforms, and by focusing on 3D level design in video games he will improve and advance even quicker – and find himself that much closer to reaping the rewards that come with being a true expert in his niche. Discovering your ideal niche (where your passion and talent meet industry demand) will likely occur during the computer animation training process, or at least upon joining the workforce and gaining exposure to different types of animation.
Accredited colleges and private design schools offer a range of training programs that will prepare you for a career in computer animation. Compare some of the top-reviewed computer animation courses and degrees online and in your area.
a.k.a. Motion Graphics Designer | Multimedia Animator | Visual Effects Supervisor | Special Effects Artist
Computer Animator Skills & Responsibilities
Computer animators need a range of creative, technical and communication skills to perform effectively in this role. Here are some common day-to-day duties and marketable computer animation skill sets. Computer animators:
- Are proficient in the leading animation software, such as Autodesk Maya, Mari, and a variety of programs from Adobe’s Creative Suite (notably Character Animator, Animate, Photoshop, and After Effects).
- Wield cutting-edge digital animation techniques, such as motion capture, character rigging, 3D modeling and texture development, to make their on-screen creations come to life.
- Benefit from a working knowledge of physics and anatomy, as a deeper understanding of how and why things move will help you develop the most realistic animations.
- Usually work as part of a team to create large-scale effects and productions. This team setting is another reason why career-minded animators should focus on a computer animation specialty.
- Utilize storyboarding to plan complex scenes and visualize sustained animation sequences.
- May be called upon to collaborate with talent in the entertainment industry, e.g., actors and directors.
- Possess strong knowledge of traditional art concepts, such as color, shading, composition and perspective.
- Can work 50+ hours per week and even pull all-nighters when deadlines are approaching or work is past due.
Computer Animator Salary
The median annual wage for computer animators is $98,950, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here are the average salaries for popular computer animation roles:
|Computer Animation Career||Average Salary|
|Autodesk Maya Animator||$68,000|
|Computer Animation Instructor||$70,000|
|Visual Effects Artist||$77,000|
|Motion Graphics Designer||$78,000|
|Video Game Animator||$88,000|
|Computer Animation Manager||$106,000|
These are the top-paying cities for computer animators:
|City or Metro Area||Computer Animation Salary|
|San Jose, CA||$139,000|
|Los Angeles, CA||$137,000|
|San Francisco, CA||$137,000|
|San Diego, CA||$116,000|
|NYC Metro Area||$102,000|
|Washington DC Metro||$96,000|
Computer Animator Education Requirements
Positions in this space typically require applicants with a bachelor’s degree in computer animation, multimedia design, fine arts, graphic design, or a related field of study. As is the case with many creative design positions, your demo reel and portfolio will have a huge impact on your job prospects and starting salary in computer animation. You should start building a reel as soon as possible and continue to grow it with your best work throughout the training process and your career. I've hired dozens of animators and design pros over the years and can attest that a brilliant portfolio speaks volumes when comparing candidates, much more so than your educational background.
Sought-after creative and technical skills to look for in a computer animation degree program include popular animation programs (such as Maya, 3ds Max, and Mari) as well as fluency in relevant Adobe programs (such as Flash, Photoshop and After Effects), graphic/multimedia design, motion capture, character rigging, 3D modeling, storyboarding, creative writing, physics, mathematics, and knowledge of fine arts concepts like color, composition, life drawing, texture, and lighting. You also want a program that will teach you how to assemble and promote a professional demo reel/portfolio.
Marketable communication skills (a.k.a. soft skills) for computer animators include time management, effective verbal/written communication, active listening, and creative problem-solving.
Computer animation training works very well in distance learning formats. Compare online training programs that align with computer animators' education requirements.
Computer Animation Training
Browse degrees, certificates, and online courses matching the computer animator career path.
- 3D Computer Animation
- Training in Autodesk Maya
- Character and World Design
- Mentorship from Top Animators
Computer Animator Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 8% job growth for computer animators from 2022 to 2032, faster than the 3% average for all occupations. Despite increases in overall animation production and the diversity of delivery methods for animated content, such as web apps and mobile devices, domestic job growth in this area will be tempered by fierce global competition -- a great deal of the animation we consume is produced overseas, due to the lower costs of manpower and infrastructure.
Animators with an adventurous spirit can take the outsourcing trend as an opportunity to seek employment across the globe, but when it comes to improving your computer animation job prospects stateside, the name of the game is specialization. Meaning, for the best chance of getting hired (or promoted) you should focus your computer animation training, experience and portfolio projects on mastering a niche skill set, as employers will pay top dollar for a true expert and thought leader in the skills they need. For example, if you want to work in film, concentrate your learning plan on the animation tools and techniques used in movie studios. Or take specialization to the next level by focusing on a specific subset of film animation, such as character sculpting and texturing. Specializing allows you to hone your skill set in a way that’s simply not possible with generalization, thus making you more visible and valuable to employers seeking those skills.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Frequently Asked Questions
Technology and design insiders answer common questions from people considering the Computer Animator career path.
Which computer course is best for animation?
The best courses in computer animation cover the platforms you need to succeed in this role, such as Autodesk Maya, Mari, Unreal Engine, and Adobe programs like Animate, After Effects & Character Animator, as well as multimedia skills like 3D animation, life art, game design, shading and lighting, and compositing.
Which fields use computer animation?
The top industries that employ computer animators include film and television, gaming, software production, and marketing & advertising.
Is computer animation a good career?
Computer animator is a great career path for the right person, i.e., someone who's creative, detail-oriented, patient, and works well on a team. Computer animators earn a median salary of $99,000 (much higher than the $46,000 average for all occupations) and job growth in this field is projected at 8% over the next decade (versus the 3% average for all occupations).
Is computer animation hard to learn?
For those with creative chops and a good learning plan, it’s not especially difficult to learn the basics of computer animation, but achieving a high level of proficiency in any niche of animation takes a great deal of time, effort, and persistence.