How to Become an Animator (With Skills and Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 19 January 2023

Published 25 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you enjoy playing video games and have artistic abilities, you may want to explore a career in animation. This interesting profession is continuously evolving and is in great demand among companies in the film and gaming industries. Understanding what the career path entails can help you determine if this is a suitable role for you. In this article, we discuss what an animator is, describe what an animator does, outline what skills you require for the role and answer how to become an animator.

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How to become an animator

Knowing how to become an animator is the first step towards attaining your goal. A passion for artistic expression, particularly in a multimedia capacity, is the starting point for a career in animation. Consider your overall career objectives and the alternatives available to you before taking the steps to acquire an education in this profession. Follow the steps below to become an animator:

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree

You can expect to pursue a bachelor's degree in animation for four years. Students can focus on specialisations in fields such as website visual or special effects, animation, video gaming and animation for media, such as video, cinematic films or web pages. You may study a range of fundamental courses to improve your creativity, such as multimedia, painting, drawing, 2D and 3D animation and graphics. Before beginning any upper-level classes, it's critical to investigate which specialism is best for your career objective so you can obtain appropriate training for the position you desire after graduation.

2. Build and curate your portfolio

Many art degrees require the creation of a portfolio. Make and maintain a digital art portfolio or demo reel that showcases your ability to produce outstanding animations. If you start while you're still in university, you may have an impressive portfolio by the time you graduate and start to apply for jobs. Once you complete your portfolio, you may wish to build a bespoke portfolio piece for each company based on the position you're applying for.

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3. Acquire work experience

Undergraduates generally work as assistants in entry-level animation roles until they get more experience and are able to progress to higher positions within the firm. You want to gain as much experience as possible making animations before graduating. Every bit of practical experience can help you improve your skill set. Because many organisations prefer graduates with animation experience, the time you spend on a student internship may be quite beneficial. Here are some methods to gain more experience:

  • find employment as a freelancer

  • shadow a professional in their role

  • volunteer for schools and non-profit groups

  • take part in an online animation contest

Related: How to Find Jobs in Animation and Build A Career in it

4. Enhance your abilities

Any technology-based job evolves. It's vital for you to continuously upgrade your abilities to stay competitive. It's important that you're proactive to learn about the newest industry developments once you've graduated in animation. While educational programmes lay the groundwork for a successful profession, it's up to you to hone your talents and remain up to date on the newest trends. Here are some ideas to help you improve your skills:

  • enrol in continuing education classes

  • read trade magazines and keep up with industry developments

  • expand your portfolio with fresh ideas

  • add new concepts to your portfolio

5. Consider pursuing a graduate degree

You may discover that you like a certain component of animation once you enter the workforce. In addition to the undergraduate degree, there are various master's degree programmes in animation that can help you further your understanding of the industry and prepare you for senior-level roles. Before enrolling in the programme, decide which aspect of animation you want to master and how it can benefit your present level of expertise.

What is an animator?

Animators are multimedia artists who use complex animation software and computer tools to design and draw a succession of images or models to generate movement. Animators generate a wide range of animations, from hand-drawn to digital two-dimensional and three-dimensional visualisations. You can see the works of animators on websites, video games, motion movies, television advertisements and other digital platforms. Most animators specialise in motion graphics and stop-motion animation. Animators generally come from a creative background, with great sketching and sculpting abilities that provide a personal touch to the animated technologies they develop.

Related: What Is a Motion Graphics Designer? Definition and Guide

What does an animator do?

Animators use their imagination and artistic abilities to produce a series of images or programmed models known as animations that can take form in a variety of media types. Some animators' works employ avatars for video games, storyboards for movies and other digital visuals. Most animators work as part of a creative team and specialise in one area. Animators are usually responsible for the following tasks:

  • using creativity to solve problems

  • creating high-quality motion titles, graphics and animation

  • developing initial design concepts and realising feedback from the creative team

  • producing mock-ups, prototypes and animations for visual concepts

  • coming up with facial expressions, motions and other personalised details for animation characters

  • having an understanding of UX and other social media platforms

  • being proficient in animation software and editing tools

  • choosing the shapes, artistic styles and colours for the story background and elements

  • developing game art

  • working closely with producers, directors, writers and other animators to come up with character traits, plot points, actions and other story elements making up the animation

  • giving comments and recommendations to fellow animators, designers and other creative professionals

  • meeting strict deadlines

  • receiving feedback from clients

These animation job duties may differ greatly depending on the job. Success is usually dependent on your general work ethic and amount of dedication to the task. Employers seek well-rounded individuals that have a good mix of hard and soft skills.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

What is the average salary of an animator?

The national average salary for an animator is $4,836 per month. This figure highly depends on your chosen specialisation, industry and job title. A 2D animator can expect to earn $2,598 per month, while a 3D animator can earn $3,786 per month. Be mindful that this figure varies greatly depending on your level of education, experience and industry expertise. It also depends on your organisation's size and type.

What skills do you need to become an animator?

As an animator, you require a comprehensive set of skills to succeed in your role. It's important that you possess strong professional skills and knowledge, but you've also got to consistently practise and improve your soft skills, such as communication and creative thinking. At frequent intervals, examine how your soft skills are influencing your performance, address any possible difficulties and find areas for development. Essential skills you may consider cultivating to perform better are below:

  • Excellent time management skills: Good time management allows you to work smarter, so you can get more done in less time. Excellent time management is especially important when time is limited in a high-pressure environment.

  • Detail orientation: Animating frequently entails making little modifications to visuals in order to give the appearance of movement. To accomplish this well, it's critical that you've got a keen eye for detail.

  • Creative thinking skills: It's essential that you're inventive to come up with fresh ideas and produce unique pictures and animations.

  • Ability to work collaboratively with a team: Teamwork skills are the characteristics and talents that enable you to work successfully with others during projects, meetings or other forms of cooperation. Teamwork skills rely on your capacity to actively listen, communicate effectively and be accountable and honest.

  • Flexible to change: Flexibility is a crucial talent to develop, whether it means being able to manage stress or simply adapting swiftly to changes.

  • Communication skills: Animators collaborate with a creative team and clients to create their work. As a result, good written and verbal communication skills are essential.

Related: Creative Skills in the Workplace

What is the work environment of an animator?

Animators commonly find employment in the entertainment business, which includes animation and special effects studios, film and television production firms and interactive media or video game companies. Some animators may work for a firm that produces their cartoons or for a third-party studio that does contract work for other entertainment companies or organisations that require animation projects. Other animators may operate as independent freelancers for a range of customers and businesses.

In the fast-paced entertainment sector, animators usually work full-time hours and frequently work long hours on evenings and weekends to fulfil deadlines. They often work in open-office areas, private workstations or separate rooms in studio office settings. The workstations of animators usually have all of the necessary computer gear and software and extra equipment like drawing tablets.

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Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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