Becoming an Animator: It All Starts with an Animation Degree

From Wall-E to the beloved Mickey Mouse, our favorite animated characters are complex creatures that require significant skill and talent to create. An animation degree equips you with the artistic and technological knowledge necessary to create memorable characters that capture the hearts and minds of many. Animators create animation, special effects, and other visual images that are used in movies, computer games, commercials, and music videos. In addition to possessing strong artistic ability, animators must have storytelling ability, technical skills, a knack for timing and composition, and the ability to work well as part of a team.

From traditional hand-drawn animation to computer animation, animators use various techniques to bring ideas to life. The day to day tasks of animators include drawing storyboards, creating models, developing characters, working directly with clients, using computer software, designing an animated environment, and creating frames.

Animation Courses and Education Requirements

Animation degree programs are available at art schools, trade schools, and four-year colleges and universities. Although some animators are able to secure employment with an associate’s degree or professional certification, most animators possess a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (BFA), animation or graphic design. While studying to become an animator, students typically take animation courses in drawing, painting, and sculpting. Aspiring animators are also encouraged to study theater, staging, choreography, and the principles of music. Having broad knowledge in various fields is also important to a career in animation, so taking courses in the life sciences, history, and geography is recommended.

Animation courses are the primary focus of most animation degree programs, but as animation becomes more technologically based, an increasing number of animation schools are incorporating math, physics, and computer technology courses into their curriculum. Many of today’s animators have to know how to use various software programs, have knowledge of computer operating systems, and understand digital asset management.

Animator Salary and Job Outlook

The salaries of animators are slightly lower than the salaries of those in other IT careers, but animators are still well-compensated. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of animators was $60,830 in May 2011. The top paying industries for animators are the motion picture and video industries. States that employ the most animators are California, New York, Washington, Texas, and Illinois.

The BLS also reveals that the employment of animators is expected to grow 8% through 2020, which is slower than average for all occupations. Job opportunities for animators will continue to increase as the demand for more realistic video games and 3D animated films grows. There is also a growing need for animated graphics in areas like mobile technology, design, and scientific research. Nevertheless, competition for animation jobs will be keen, because the number of creative, talented people interested in a career in animation is expected to exceed the number of available openings, and companies will outsource to animators overseas in order to cut costs.

There are many paths that lead to an animation career, but all of them demand hard work and discipline. The animation field is a competitive one, so in addition to obtaining an animation degree, you should hone your drawing skills and master the latest animation software. With some patience and perseverance, it is possible to reach your goal of becoming a professional animator. Explore animation programs today!