Careers in Computer Animation

Your animation degree can lead to one of these top careers in computer animation.

computer animator with video disks

Skilled computer animators are needed in a range of industries, from video games to movies, and television to software publishing.

But being an animator isn't just about programming the most impressive 3D graphics for the latest science fiction flick—there are also animation jobs in science, architecture and medicine.

What do you need to become an animator, and what kinds of jobs are available today? How can a computer animation degree help you break into the industry? Keep reading to find out.

Required Skills

Although the specific day-to-day job duties of a layout artist or colorist may vary from those of a 3D renderer or a character animator, most careers in computer animation require a similar skill set:

  • Storytelling and scriptwriting fundamentals
  • Character design
  • Storyboarding
  • Drawing, design and imaging for animation
  • Filmmaking techniques (camera, lighting, etc.)
  • Audio and video editing
  • 3D animation and motion graphics software

Many animators specialize in one or more of these areas, or in pre-production (design and storyboarding), production (animation, modeling, visual effects) or post-production (compositing, scanning, editing).

Top Industries for Careers

When most people think of animators, the motion picture and video game design industries immediately leap to mind. However, careers in computer animation span a variety of other industries besides film and video game studios:

  • Architectural rendering and interior design with CAD programs
  • Computer simulation and training program design
  • Entertainment design for amusement park rides
  • Mechanical animation for manufacturing and production
  • Medical imaging, medical software and virtual surgery
  • Software, CD-ROM and interactive media design
  • Television production, graphics and special effects
  • Web design and Internet-based games

Computer Animation Job Titles

Job titles in the animation field generally reflect the role of the animator in pre-production, production or post-production activities. While job titles may vary from company to company, here's a sampling of typical careers in computer animation:

  • Pre-Production: Concept artist, character designer, environments designer, production designer, layout artist, storyboard assistant
  • Production: Modeler, character animator, rendering supervisor, effects artist
  • Post-Production: Editing assistant, compositor, scanner

Breaking Into a Career in Computer Animation

Technical expertise is a must for anyone seeking work in the animation industry, so a degree from a computer animation school—usually at the bachelor's level—is an important prerequisite. Degrees and in-depth certificate programs in animation generally teach artistic basics as well as standard software and hardware skills.

Besides a degree, you'll also need the following to break into a career:

  • An impressive portfolio and demo reel to show potential employers that you have experience with different types of projects and highlight your best work
  • A professional résumé and cover letter
  • Great interview skills

And, last but not least, you must do your research when it comes to the job market. Stay abreast of industry trends by visiting computer animation resources, and investigate what your potential employers are looking for in an employee.