How to Become an


The complete career guide to be an Animator: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $70,300
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 6.1%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Animators use hand-drawing or—more commonly—specialized computer programs to design animations for movies, video games, TV shows, and other media. In general, they specialize in designing a specific type of animation, working in character animation, scene animation, or 3D animations.

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What is an Animator?

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

  • Design 2D animations using hand-drawing or 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

Animators are responsible for creating some of the most beloved entertainment of our time—animated movies, cartoon television shows, and video games of all genres. They are artists—and sometimes programmers—who translate their artistic talents into computer code in order to create moving pictures using designed animations. These skills may lead them to work for major publishers like Pixar and Disney, or they may work for some of the largest gaming studios like Nintendo or Sony.

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. Some also specialize in 3D animations, which require taking the recorded movements of real actors and applying them to character designs and movements. While some animators still create animations the old way by producing thousands of hand-drawn pictures, most these days use computer programs to create animations.

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, animators must be effective team players as well as skilled animators because disconnects could lead to disjointed final projects. Additionally, animators who work on video games also commonly work with developers to transform animations to code.

Typical Work Schedule

Animators usually have a flexible schedule that is more target oriented with total working hours of around 35 to 40 hours per week. Some animators may choose to work as a part-time job or based on temporary contracts. Working as a freelancer allows you to set your own schedule and work from home or choose your workplace. However, you may still have to work longer hours which may include working during evenings or weekends because the work will often be tied to strict deadlines.

Projected Job Growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for animators and other multimedia artists is expected to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029. This is almost the same as the average expected growth for all other occupations. The demand for animation and other visual effects will be particularly obvious in the fields of video games, movies, social networking and digital marketing. Since animators can work remotely, companies may prefer hiring overseas animators to reduce the costs which may decrease the demand for the job in the country.

In recent years, more advanced technologies in animation whether in the hardware or the software as well as the professional animators will be a necessity to handle the consumers’ continuous requests for more realistic video games, movies and television special effects. In addition, the increasing demand for modern graphics for smart phones and other mobile devices will provide more job opportunities for animators in this new field. The job has recently become more popular which increased the competition in the job market. This requires building your skills in addition to having a professional portfolio. You may need to decide to specialize in a specific form of animation to get better job opportunities.

Animator Specializations

  • 2D animators specialize in producing flat animations for cartoon movies and TV shows.
  • 3D animators specialize in producing three-dimensional animations using real actor models.
  • Video game animators focus on designing backgrounds, characters, and levels for video games.

Typical Employers

Working as a freelancer is a popular choice among animators which is a more flexible and financially rewarding choice. Statistics show that around 50% of animators work from home as self-employed. You can also find various opportunities in the software industry as well as working with computer systems design where animators design various aspects of the user interface. In addition, digital marketing, advertisment or public relations are valid options for animators.

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How To Become an Animator

The starting point for finding work as an animator is earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, computer graphics, or animation. If choosing to pursue a degree in fine arts, it’s important for aspiring animators to make sure they take courses in computer design as well as most major animation studios use computer programs for animation design. Additionally, coursework in both 2D and 3D design are beneficial. While you’ll likely end up specializing in one or the other, it’s good to be familiar with both.

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. Animators can earn some money from ad revenue on YouTube-hosted animations. Additionally, a portfolio will be required when applying for open positions after college, and 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 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.

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 Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Animator salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, 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

Programs and Degrees

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

Highest Education Among Animators

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

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does 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

What Companies Employ The Most 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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