National Avg. Salary

$70,300 More Salary Data →

Job Growth Rate

6.1% More Growth Data →

Recommended Degree

Bachelor's Programs & Degrees →


  • Creativity Focused
  • Dependable Daily Workload
  • Skill-Based Work

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Unlike 2D animators who may create hand-drawn animations, 3D animators use specialized computer programs to design realistic animations for movies, video games, TV shows, and other media. They generally specialize in designing specific animations: characters, scenes, or special effects.

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Job Description

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in 3D animator roles:

  • Design 3D animations using specialized computer animation programs
  • Convert recorded actor movements into 3D renderings using designed characters
  • Design animated movies, video games, and TV shows, and add animations to other forms of media
  • Work with a team of animators, designers, and developers to turn animations into a fully functional product
  • Revise animations based on feedback

A Day in the Life

3D animators work to design realistic, three-dimensional animations for movies, television shows, and video games. They are artists who specialize in translating art into computer code to create moving pictures, special effects, 3D characters, landscapes, and game levels. These skills may lead them to work for major movie producers like Pixar and Disney, for some of the largest video game development studios like Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony, or for multiple companies as a freelance 3D animator.

3D animators usually specialize in designing a specific type of animations. They may focus on animating characters, or they may focus on animating backgrounds and scenery. Those that work on characters may do a specific type of animation that requires taking the recorded movements of real actors and applying them to character movements. This allows them to create character movements that are realistic because they mimic the gestures and reactions of real actors playing the role.

3D animators almost always work with a team and divvy up responsibilities for projects. Each animator works on their specific portion of the project, and then at the end, all pieces are merged together to create a cohesive whole. For this reason, 3D animators must be effective team players as well as skilled animators because disconnects could lead to disjointed final projects. Additionally, 3D animators who work on video games also commonly work with developers to transform animations to code.

Typical Work Schedule

For the most part, 3D animators work full-time schedules during normal business hours. However, they may occasionally need to work overtime to meet project deadlines.

Projected Job Growth

Animated movies, television shows, video games, and mobile games and applications are among the most popular entertainment mediums of our time, so demand for skilled 3D animators is expected to increase in the coming decade to enable businesses to continue producing these forms of media.

Typical Employers

Many 3D animators are self-employed and provide animations on a freelance basis. Others work for movie, television, and video game producers like Disney, Pixar, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.

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3D Animator Salary Data

We've provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Annual Salary

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National Hourly Wage

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How do 3D Animator salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, 3D Animator's can make an average annual salary of $70,300, or $34 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $47,660 or $23 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #196 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

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How To Become

The starting point for finding work as a 3D animator is earning a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics or animation. Some may also choose to pursue a degree in fine arts, but while this degree teaches students the best practices and skills required of artists, it may lack coursework in computer design. If pursuing a fine arts degree, make sure you also take courses in computer design—most major animation studios use computer programs for animation design.

While in college, you’ll need to start building a portfolio of work. You can do this as part of class projects, or you might choose to self-develop animations and cartoons on your own time and publish them to social media sites like YouTube. 3D animators can earn some money from ad revenue on YouTube-hosted animations, and a portfolio will be required when applying for open positions after college. Having published pieces with positive feedback received will be beneficial for getting hired.

While having a bachelor’s degree is generally required for finding work with a production company, self-employed 3D animators may be able to secure work without having a degree. If you’re able to teach yourself how to animate and have the talent, a striking portfolio may hold more weight than having a degree. However, taking college courses in business administration can be helpful for self-employed animators as they’ll need business acumen, negotiation skills, and bookkeeping abilities.

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Quick Summary

  • Optional

    Most production studios require 3D animators to have a bachelor’s degree, but talented animators with promising portfolios may be able to find freelance work without a degree.

  • Recommended Min. Degree


Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a 3D Animator. a Bachelor's is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among 3D Animator

  • 1.9%   Doctorate
  • 12%   Masters
  • 45%   Bachelors
  • 9%   Associates
  • 18.4%   College
  • 10.7%   High School
  • 3%   Less than High School

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Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does 3D Animator job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 3,900 jobs for a total of 68,300 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 6.1% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #368 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

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What Companies Employ The Most 3D Animators

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 35,300 300 0%
Computer systems design and related services 3,800 800 1%
Software publishers 3,200 900 1%

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