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What Kind Of Jobs Can An Animator Have

By David Krug 9 minute read

Animation jobs have the potential to earn some of the highest salaries in the digital art world. Animated entertainment and technology have a significant impact on consumer preferences. Jobs can be found in a variety of industries such as advertising, web design, mobile apps, television, and feature films, to name just a few.

What Is Animation, and What Is It Used For?

You must first understand how the artist creates animation, which is a rapid succession of static and sequential images or drawings. The photos or stills move at a predetermined rate of frames per second, which creates the illusion of movement or continuous movement.

Walt Disney was one of the pioneers of animation, introducing Steamboat Willie (1928) with sound in the 1920s. In fact, animation has been around since the 1800s when Simon von Stampfer experimented with rotating gears. Disney, however, was not the first. In 1833, he demonstrated his optical magic discs or Stroboscope, which simulated movement by spinning.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of animation, you should read this article from The Atlantic. There is a wealth of information to be gleaned about the contributions made by those who came before you during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of the earliest examples of what would later grow into a multibillion dollar industry include Émile Cohl’s 1908 film Fantasmagorie, French filmmaker Georges Méliès’ 1902 film The Prolific Egg and cartoonist Winsor McCay’s 1911 work Little Nemo.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney’s first full-length film, followed by Pinocchio in 1940. As of March 2021, Disney Animation Studios had produced 59 feature films, with the addition of the 2006 acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar had a $7.4 billion market value at the time of the acquisition!

Artist in Charge of Conceptualization

It’s a dream come true for a visual development artist to have complete creative control over the look and feel of an animated project. The artist creates the characters, settings, landscapes, buildings, and scenes needed to tell the story once the producer and writers have agreed on a plot. With the help of 2D and 3D programs they can create everything from buildings to landscapes to furniture to lighting to people to clothing to props. The concept artist and the visual development artist are often considered to be one and the same. An artist who creates concepts for video games, television shows and feature films can also design characters and vehicles for these projects.

Both of these terms are used interchangeably by some people in the animation industry. To name a few of their many talents, they both sketch and paint in a variety of mediums. For the most part, concept artists focus on creating characters for films and video games, whereas animators are more focused on creating visuals for the screen. Concept artists create detailed drawings, whereas video development artists use real-world props.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Special Effects Artists and Animators earned an average annual salary of $77,700 in 202. There were 62,400 people employed in the field, and that number was expected to rise by 16%, or 9,900 positions, over the next decade. Over 8,220 of these people work in the film and video industries, followed by the software publishers (5,300). The state of California has the most workers in this field, with 11,460, while the state of New York has only 2,000.

Comparably compiles data on companies, employees, and employers, including salaries. Visual development artists make an average of $90,691 per year, with 60% of those earning $91,000 or more.

DreamWorks Animation’s visual development artists make an average salary of $99,023, according to data from online employment site Glassdoor. The price ranges from $78,715 to $205,542 for this vehicle. Based on the most recent job postings on ZipRecruiter’s website, the median wage is only $57,447. Difference of $40,000 is huge!

To be a successful visual development artist, you need to have a strong foundation in animation, graphic design, illustration, and painting. Fluency in both 2D and 3D software is also required.

Technical Director for Characters

For video games and films, this professional uses complex software to supply the physical characteristics of people, creatures, and mechanical objects. Skin, muscle, hair, clothing, and props are all examples. Rigging is at the heart of this position, which is also known as a technical animator or creature technical director. 3D models can be animated using this process, which creates the bones and framework of their joints. People and objects can move around freely thanks to this technique, which is frequently seen in films, television shows, and video games alike.

Camera shots are taken as the motion is sequenced on a timeline by the technician. Rigging must be precise and natural in order for characters to exhibit realistic behavior. Facial composition is one of the trickiest.

There you have it, folks. The rest is administrative, aimed at making the rigging crew’s job easier. The director, for example, solves skeletal physics issues. Using an ongoing research process, they select the best software for modeling and rigging, and they train their staff to use it effectively. As a result, the position necessitates knowledge of 3D modeling and animation programs like Maya, 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, and Houdini. The use of 3D animation and special effects in television, video games, and movies is common.

This is not a profession that is included in the BLS statistics. The average salary for a Character Technical Director in the United States is $104,000, according to SalaryList. DreamWorks Animation employees can expect to earn anywhere from $87,092 to $189,142 per year. Employers in the video game development industry typically seek candidates who have worked on commercially successful games, preferably AAA titles, meaning productions from large studios.

Digital Artist and 3D Sculptor

Architecture, interior design, furniture design, construction site layout, video games, special effects (film), advertising and the medical field all benefit from 3D modeling. It is easier to imagine, for example, a 3D rendering of an interior design thanks to the use of animation.

A 3D modeler may design scenery in video games and feature films, including adjusting lighting, shadows, and brightness. Following this, the modeler adjusts the camera’s position to get the best possible view. Animators can work their magic on static images and give them the illusion of movement.

3D modelers are the backbone of film and television productions, as well as video games, and as a result, they must have extensive computer knowledge. For 3D modeling, the ability to use specific software is required. Modeling applications such as Blender 3D and Maya have already been mentioned.

According to the source, salaries can be abysmal. According to and ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary is $53,042. While Wisconsin pays the least at $43,483, California ranks highest at $78,707, Computer Careers has the median salary of $65,640.

Director of Animated Graphics

The art director is the person in charge of determining the overall look and feel of all media images. To get a full picture of the project before meeting with the director and art department staff, read the script first. Investors (customers) may also be invited to attend the director’s and producers’ meetings. It’s also up to them to decide which artwork makes the final cut. Before signing off, the director double-checks that all of the visual effects, motion graphics, textures, and lighting have been adjusted to their optimal state.

The art director is in charge of supervising the animators and other members of the animation team. The work is fast-paced and deadline-driven. As a result, the director devises workflows and timelines to keep his or her employees on task. Other duties include budget management, hiring and training staff, and ensuring compliance with regulations. Directors must be proficient in animation software such as KeyShot, Blender, Animaker, Cinema 4D and Houdini despite the fact that much of their work involves delegating tasks to others.

It’s not uncommon for art directors to start out as illustrators or visual development artists, like Patrick O’Keefe, who’s done commercial work for McDonald’s and film work based on Marvel Comics.

According to the New York Film Academy, an actor can expect to make between $70,000 and $80,000 per year. As of August 2021, the average salary on Salary ranged from $83,088 to $104,398. As a technical director at Pixar Animation Studios, you could earn up to $459,000 a year!

Artist specializing in forensic animation

When used in law enforcement and criminal justice, forensic animation brings a crime or accident scene to life through audio and visual representation. This expert analyst, a master at simulating accidents, crimes, and human tragedies like suicides and building collapses, assists investigators in putting together evidence. When there are no survivors or witnesses, such as in a car accident, their knowledge is critical. In regulatory hearings, arbitration and court trials, forensic simulations are used to facilitate legal action.

Substantive animation is used to depict automobile collisions. A reconstruction can only begin after a thorough investigation by the animators, who consult with witnesses, forensic scientists and engineers, as well as doctors and engineers. An auto collision case would have a number of variables, such as the vehicle’s performance and the road’s condition at impact, as well as the conditions of the day.

In order to simulate the movement of objects, the animator organizes the notable criteria. Once the 3D models are created, they must be animated with the aid of virtual cameras positioned at various points around the scene. Finally, the forensic artist creates a copy for the client to view on a DVD or other media.

The Crash Animation Studios in Newberry, Florida, for example, specializes in forensic animation, re-creating traffic accidents, collisions with pedestrians and bicycles, as well as slip-and-falls. A bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering, for example, might be required for a position as an Accident Reconstructionist & Forensic Engineer on Indeed.

New York Film Academy estimates that an experienced and qualified forensic animator can expect to earn between $20 and $100 per hour. Police departments, legal firms and insurance companies don’t have the need for full-time animators.

Designer of the Background

People with little or no experience in this field can get a job as an environment artist. The designer, as the name suggests, creates the environment in which the animation will play out, whether it’s above, below, or in the middle of it all. This is a demanding position that requires a high level of drawing skill and attention to detail, color, light, and texture. A realistic scene necessitates that they are well-versed in architecture, landscapes, and urban settings.

There’s no doubt about it: the median salary is $101,400, with a range of $85,280 to $114,400, according to SalaryList.


To get a job at one of the most prestigious animation studios, one must have a lot of experience and a good education. Visual development artists, character technical directors, 3D modelers, and animation art directors all have roles in animation production, but there’s also the animator. The top animators at studios like Disney, such as Frozen and Mulan, can earn up to $125,000 per year, working on feature films like these.

Consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the fine arts, with an emphasis on animation. Master of Fine Arts degree programs in animation are available at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD), a Denver-based institution of higher learning. There is a lot of emphasis on character design and line of action in the courses. For high school students, the RMCAD Dual Enrollment Credits program allows them to begin learning before they enter college.

Additionally, National University has over twenty locations in California that offer both online and on-campus classes. For example, students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media Design degree will learn about everything from camera and lighting to digital audio and game scripting. As a result of their studies, students will be proficient in a wide range of multimedia software.

Every single one of the aforementioned jobs requires a degree in animation, special effects, or motion graphics. As a forensic animator, it is best to have certification from the International Association for Identification. If you’re a full-time college student enrolled in forensic science or law enforcement, you can join the IAI for just $45 per year. Credentials that are appropriate include the following:

  • Video Forensics Training
  • Certification in Forensic Art
  • Certification of a crime scene
  • Certified Forensic Photographer

Obtaining these certifications requires extensive training, experience, and an understanding of the subject matter. Forensics is a highly specialized field, and as a result, your income can vary greatly depending on whether you work on a long-term or short-term contract basis. In addition, factors such as studio revenue, location, and the economy all play a role in pay scales.

An animated film is both an art and a science, regardless of its level of complexity. At an early age, those who want to work in this field should show off their artistic abilities by drawing and sketching. Because animation relies so heavily on software, your artistic sensibilities will need to mesh with your technical skills. Learn both and you could land a lucrative and rewarding job in the animation industry.

David Krug