How to Become a Digital Animator


Digital animators make ideas come to life by using specialized animation software, such 2D and 3D modeling software, for use in movies, video games, scientific expiation videos, advertisements and other purposes.


Some who get into this field are self-taught, while many others have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a field related to animation. Whatever path you take, you’ll need a strong demo reel/portfolio to get hired by big name clients and employers.


If you have a creative eye, an interest in seeing your characters come to life and are willing to keep up with technological and industry developments, you might be a good fit for a career as a digital animator.


If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to get into this field, read on below! We’ve prepared an overview of what it takes to set the foundation for a career as a digital animator. We’ve even included actual “Digital Animator" job postings, as well as a list of scholarships that are relevant for getting into this field.



Experience Needed to Become a Digital Animator

Employers typically hire digital animators based on proof of their ability, which is generally demonstrated by way of a portfolio and demo reels. These are typically assembled over the course of working on school projects as well as volunteer and paid full-time, part-time or freelance jobs.


Success Tip: You can start building your portfolio while you’re a student. You can also work freelancing jobs online using a talent-to-customer matching service.



Education You Might Need

Although educational requirements for entering this field can vary, digital animators typically have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fine art, computer graphics, animation, or a similar field.


Success Tip: Having a combination of a strong educational foundation and a strong portfolio will give you the best chance of getting hired.





General Job Description

Digital animators are responsible for taking an idea and making it come to life. A digital animator’s role will vary depending on the type of animation they are creating, however, it generally involves the creation of 2D and 3D models, which are adjusted slightly for each proceeding frame in the animation or film.

Although done in digital format, the animation still heavily depends on the Digital Animator’s artistic ability. In addition to a creativity and artistic skill, digital animators must be well-versed in the technical aspects of computer animation.



Typical Job Duties

Although the specific duties you would perform would vary from job to job, you would likely be responsible for fulfilling at least some, and possibly most, of the following duties:


• Delivering presentations to secure project or company funding

• Liaising with clients and developing animation for their concepts

• Creating storyboards that depict the script and narrative of the production

• Designing sets, backgrounds, characters, models and other elements of the animation environment

• Ensuring the animation is synchronized to the soundtrack and audio requirements of the production

• Using specialized computer aided design software

• Building up accurate frame-by-frame visuals

• Working within tight production deadlines

• Liaising with printers, copywriters, photographers, designers, account executives, marketing specialists and other professionals involved in the production



Getting into This Line of Work

A good way to get your career as a digital animator kick started is to contact design studios and production companies and inquire about any digital animation jobs they may have open. This is a great way to tap into the hidden job market, as they may have positions open that aren’t even posted.

A good way to further your work experience and increase your visibility within your field is to create animated films and enter them into competitions and festivals. This will lead to recognition of your abilities within the animation community, and may even lead to job offers. This can be accomplished while you’re still a student, which will help you gain experience before you have even graduated.

You can also speak with your instructors and career counselors to see if there may be internship opportunities you can take advantage of. To supplement your job search efforts, an online job search may reveal some job opportunities. The key is to be proactive in your job search.

Be sure to prepare and maintain a portfolio that contains samples of your best work. This will allow you to properly showcase your abilities to potential employers and clients.





Are You a Good Fit?

Just as important as a proper education is being a proper fit for the career itself. While each individual job and each employer may have their nuances, you’ll need the following skills, interests and personal traits to succeed as a digital animator:


• You can handle a career that’s at times frustrating, confusing and, above all, difficult
• You’re interested in the reward of getting to breathe life into your characters and make your ideas a reality for others to enjoy
• You have a creative eye
• You’re willing and able to learn the technical aspects of computer animation
• You’re keen to push the boundaries of digital animation software to create innovative new techniques and outcomes
• You’re willing to keep up with the latest developments in the industry, as well as relevant technologies as they evolve



Average Salary Level

As with any other career field, the level of pay you could earn as a digital animator can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• The size, type and budget of your future employer

• The geographic location in which you will be working

• The specific responsibilities that will be involved in your job

• The structure of your employment, such as if you’re self-employed, work full-time or part-time

• Your education, skill and experience level, as well as your professional reputation (if applicable)


Digital Animator Salary - Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2015 Wage and Salary Survey of the Government of Alberta, the average salary level of Albertans working in the Animators occupational group is $58,099 per year. At the time of writing (June 15'19), similar statistics were not available for other provinces or territories, or the whole of Canada.


Digital Animator Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Multimedia Artists and Animators group is $70,530 per year.



Who Employs Them?

Digital animators are often employed on a freelance basis, although they can also be employed as permanent employees. They can be employed with a wide variety of organizations, such as:


• Film and video production companies or post-production houses

• Independent filmmakers

• Television stations

• Advertising agencies

• Computer game developers

• Other computer-based multimedia developers or producers, such as those whom produce scientific and technical explanation videos

• Colleges and universities, as animation instructors



Job Opportunities

Check our job board below for digital animator job postings in your area!



Career Advancement Possibilities

While in entry-level positions, if you demonstrate competence, teamwork and time-management skills, you’ll likely have the opportunity to advance into supervisory and management positions, wherein you would over see the work of other animators.


With enough supervisory and management experience you could advance to become an art director, head producer or general manager for a design studio or production house.


Success Tip: If you’re comfortable with the idea of running a business, you could open your own design studio or production house.



Scholarships for Becoming a Digital Animator

The 'Applicable Majors' section below shows fields of study relevant to this profession. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to digital animator, in that they are either in the same field, or they involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities.


• Advertising Illustrator 

• Architectural illustrator 

• Animation Instructor

• Film Animator

• Scientific Illustrator

• Technical Illustrator

• Video Game Developer

• Visual Effects Artist

• Web Designer




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a digital animator:


Careers: “Animator.” (March 31, 2017). Government of Alberta - Alberta Learning and Information Service. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.

• Occupational Employment and Wages: "Multimedia Artists and Animators.” (May, 2017). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.

• Become: “How to Become a Computer Animator.” (n.d.). The Art Career Project. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.

• Film and Games Blog: “Becoming a 3D Animator: What it Takes and How to Get There.” (March 17, 2014). Pluralsight. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.

• Creative Design Jobs Database: “Animator/ Digital Artist.” (April 2, 2018). New Zealand Government: Careers NZ. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.

• Job Profiles: “Animator.” (July 12, 2018). Education and Skills Funding Agency - National Careers Service. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.



Applicable Majors

Pursuing a major in one of the below fields is an excellent starting point for getting into this line of work:


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