Simply defined, animators are artists who draw animated or cartoon images. These images can be completed on a series of frames to create the illusion of movement; can be 2- or 3- dimensional, or can be a single frame intended to communicate an idea. Individuals who become animators generally possess artistic talent and creative abilities. Successful animators will not be able to rely solely on these skills, though. The animation field is a competitive industry. Individuals will need to possess technical skills in order to utilize their talent artistic talent in any of the industries requiring the services of an animator. Animators will need to know how to manipulate images with computer software and be capable of working with the various types of multimedia in use today.

There are a vast number of job opportunities for animators in a range of employment settings. Animators work in advertising; creating a series of images to explain a campaign idea. Animators work in the film industries; creating the images to depict the various characters and the special effects in the movies. Animators work in television; creating the storyboards for cartoon shows. Animators also work in the game industry; creating the images in the video and computer games. The consistent public interest in animated films and television programs has resulted in an increasing number of occupational opportunities for professionals in the industry and the billion dollar game industry requires the skills of animators to assist with the game development process.

According to the United States Department of Labor, though employment rates may not increase exponentially, job growth in the field of animation will occur. In order to keep up with consumer demands and interests, job openings are expected to increase at the average rate of the majority of occupations over the next ten years. Many animators are self employed and work in private studios or offices. These individuals offer their services on a contractual basis. A number of other professional animators are employed by advertising agencies, publishing companies and design firms. These businesses need skilled animation professionals to develop and implement their animated creations and story boards.

High School

Preparation for any career begins in high school. High school provides a basis in the essential skills needed to succeed in college, advanced technical schools and the professional job market. High school courses educate students in elemental and advanced subject matters; English, writing, science, mathematics, history and social studies. These subject areas provide the foundational basis students need to be able to build upon. Studies in these areas provide knowledge, but also help students develop skills in analytical and critical thinking, written and verbal communication and effective problem solving. Developing the studying and research skills most students acquire during their high school years is also important to future success in college and beyond.

Taking art courses during high school will provide the opportunity to advance artistic abilities and learn new techniques. Understanding basic art concepts is an integral aspect of becoming an art professional in the future. Art students need to understand art terminology, theory and practice. Students also need to be able to implement theory and ideas into tangible projects. Art courses offered to high school students accomplish this purpose; teaching students the basics of the art field. High school art courses generally provide opportunities to participate in art shows and, usually, contests. The projects completed for submission into contests or shows can be compiled into a rudimentary portfolio. Most colleges expect applicants for their art programs to have a simple portfolio of work to present as evidence of their abilities.

In order to improve and sharpen existing skills, even with natural talents and abilities, practice is required. Take advantage of any opportunity presented; enter contests, participate in special projects, join school clubs or community groups or organizations. Create opportunities for yourself, also. Take the initiative and contact agencies and/or organizations which may require the services of a person with artistic abilities. Offer your services without charge in return for the experience. Ask if the company may require the services of an unpaid intern in exchange for the opportunity to learn about the business. The experience will provide invaluable insight into how businesses function as well as providing the opportunity to learn new skills. Create images and projects independently just for the experience. Use available software and tools to develop your ideas.


Locating a college with an animation program is not as simple as finding one for a more traditional major. Animation is not offered at every institution of higher learning. Choosing a college can be a challenging process. Once you locate the colleges which do offer programs in animation, the next step is determining whether the program provides all of the relevant areas of study requisite to the field and offers the latest technologies on which to learn. Though artistic talent is a principal requirement for a person in the field, professionals in the animation field need to be proficient using the latest technological tools and software to develop their creations and ideas. Choose a college which provides students with the most prevalent industry technologies.

The quality of the animation degree program is a principal concern. Programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design must meet stringent program qualifications to earn accreditation. Selecting a college with NASAD accreditation will provide assurance the program provides training in all relevant and necessary areas. Animation students will need a program which encompasses a range of subject areas relevant to the various career paths an animation professional can follow. Generally, these areas of study include graphic art, advertising, marketing, business, art, technology and communication. Courses in areas of specialization are also helpful. Many colleges will offer students the opportunity to select an area of focus. These focused courses can ensure students receive the specialized training necessary for certain careers.

In addition to reviewing the curriculum of the colleges to determine if the courses offered include the areas in which you are most interested in working, check how often the programs are reviewed for relevant industry updates. Colleges offering degree programs in fields which experience rapid advancement should regularly update their curriculum to ensure their students receive the most current training. Every field reliant on technology, especially computer technology, will need to include new software and technology tools in their program. Another concern should be the availability of computer resources. If the number of students who require the use of the computer laboratories and studios possessing the needed resources outnumber the available stations, students will not have sufficient time or access to these tools to ensure they will have occasions enough to develop proficiency with using them.

Competition for employment positions can be significant. Education is one of the central factors considered by industry professionals charged with the task of hiring new employees. When deciding which type of degree program to pursue or which college to attend, this should be considered. Certificate programs are offered at independent art and design career schools. These specialized programs do provide general studio and technology training. Associate and bachelor degree programs are also offered at many of these types of institutions. Considering that most employers prefer to hire individuals with associate or bachelor degrees, it is the recommended educational path to take. Some college offer graduate degree programs in animation. The decision to pursue a graduate degree should be considered carefully. Most animation professionals earn an annual salary between $45,000 and $60,000. Some can earn upwards of $80,000 per year, but it is uncommon. Weigh the benefits against the cost.

Internships and Portfolio

Internships are a part of the curriculum at the majority of colleges. Colleges generally develop affiliations with companies willing to offer students the opportunity to intern. Usually these affiliations are developed with notable and highly regarded companies. Participating in an internship offers substantial benefits. Considering the fact that the majority of companies prefer to hire individuals with experience, an internship is a sensible method of obtaining the requisite experience. Employers and clients will be more likely to hire someone with internship experience than take a chance on a person with solely an education in the animation field. Internships provide valuable networking connections which could result in job placement assistance at a later time. Interns are able to observe, firsthand, how the industry functions and to acquire practical experience in the field. Some companies may allow their interns to actively participate in project collaboration or development. Others may limit the interns to solely an observation position. The terms of internships can vary based on the company policies; rules limiting what tasks an intern is permitted to perform. Regardless of the limitations of the internship, take advantage of the opportunity to participate in an internship if it is offered.

Professional portfolios are required of any individuals seeking employment in the creative fields. The portfolios provide tangible evidence of the applicants’ artistic and creative abilities. Employers want to know the individual they choose to hire will be capable of performing the duties associated with the position being offered and will be a productive, contributing member of their organization. In order for an aspiring animation professional to produce a portfolio which conveys this impression, it is important that only their best work is included. Projects completed during college, for any extracurricular activities, while interning or specifically for portfolio purposes should be added to the portfolio. The majority of colleges offer their students and graduates assistance with developing portfolios. Take advantage of the opportunity if it is offered. If you participate in an internship, ask other professional animators for their opinions and advice. In the creative fields, the portfolio tends to speak louder than a resume.

Continuing Education

Though employment in the animation field is not contingent on attaining continuing education credits as is the case with many other professions, it is important to stay current on changes and advancements in the field. Participating in life enduring continuing education will ensure you remain competitive in your field. Taking individual courses will guarantee you stay abreast of recent developments and changes in popular methodologies or technologies. Think back to animation twenty years ago, ten years ago, even five years back. The difference in the graphics is astoundingly significant. Animation professionals need to be familiar and proficient with the most recent advancements to be able to successfully perform their job duties.

Advance your career or take it in an entirely different direction by completing certificate programs in any of the multiple specialization areas. Animators can learn to work in web development and advertising, films and television, advertising or as illustrators. Certificate programs in any of these areas can augment your credentials and make you more viable in the job market. Earning a certificate in another aspect of the animation field will broaden the employment choices offered. You can choose to find employment in another segment of the animation field. You can remain with your current employer, but with the opportunity to obtain a higher position within the company. Having multiple skills in a range of areas will make you more valuable to employers. Any company or organization will prefer to promote an individual knowledgeable in multiple areas with a comprehensive perspective to perform various tasks familiar with their company rather than be forced to hire an outside professional. You can also consider self employment, working on a contractual basis with multiple clients. Having extensive knowledge in a range of areas will make the possibility of working for you a viable option.