How to Become a Film Animator



Career Path Guide

If you have an artistic and mechanical mind and you enjoy work that let’s you sink into your own world for a while, you might be a good fit for a career as a film animator. If you have a talent for art, don’t like putting your name on bad work, and are willing to continuously hone your craft, then you’ll be an even better fit.


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 film animator. We’ve even included actual “film animator" job postings, as well as a list of scholarships that are relevant to a future film animator’s education.



Experience Needed to Become a Film Animator

Employers typically hire film animators based on proof of their ability, which is generally demonstrated through their portfolio and showreels. 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: Getting an apprenticeship or internship with a design or production studio is a great way to get your foot in the door with an employer, and to continue to hone your skills and gain valuable industry experience.



Education You’ll Need

Although educational requirements for entering this field can vary, and in some cases a formal education may not be needed at all, film 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 and showreel will give you a much stronger chance of getting hired.





What Does a Film Animator Do?

General Job Description


Film animators produce multiple images, also known as frames, which when sequenced together rapidly create an illusion of movement known as animation. The images can be made up using different mediums, such as digital or hand-drawn pictures, models or puppets.


For the medium of film, animators often use computer aided design programs and tend to work in 2D animation, 3D model-making animation, stop frame or computer-generated animation. 



Typical Job Duties

Film animators are generally responsible performing for the following duties:


• Depending on the size of the company they work for or own, may be involved in sourcing funding

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

• Working within tight project deadlines to meet client or project requirements

• Developing timing and pace of frames to ensure they match with soundtrack and audio requirements

• Liaising with clients and developing animation based on their concepts

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

• Using technical software packages, such as Flash, 3D Studio Max, Cinema 4D and others

• Hand drawing in 2D to create rough sketches

• Building up accurate, frame by frame visuals

• Creating of storyboards to depict the script and narrative

• Possibly taking direction from supervisors or managers



Getting Your Start in This Profession

A good way to break into a career as a film animator is to contact design studios and production companies, and ask if there have any film or digital animation jobs, apprenticeship or internship positions, or even volunteer jobs. This is a great way to tap into the hidden job market, as they may have positions open that aren’t even posted. 


You may want to keep your search as broad as possible also, contact any studio that has anything to do with digital animation, not just in film. However don’t be discouraged if they only have entry-level positions available, many film animators must work their way into their desired role.


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.





Is This Career a Good Fit For You?

Earning the necessary education, and putting in enough work to earn a job as a film animator takes a lot of sacrifice, patience and persistence. Before investing too much effort and resources into pursuing a career in this field, it’s best to make sure it’s a good fit for your personality, as well as your professional goals.


Below are a few questions designed to make you reflect on whether or not you could see yourself working in this field. They are not designed to be a perfect assessment, they’re simply meant to present you with some points to consider.


• Are you willing to move on a temporary or permanent basis to the location of the job, if required?

• Are you interested in work that will often involve collaboration with other stakeholders, such as clients, producers, directors, supervisors and managers?

• Animation projects take much longer than is generally perceived; do you have the patience and persistence to see a project through?

• Do you have a mind that is a mixture of artistic and mechanical? Animation involves breaking down the mechanics of movements and making them artful.

• Do you have enough passion for the field to continuously learn and develop your skills?

• Are you capable of, and willing to learn to use specialized software programs and learn specialized skills, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Indesign, Adobe Illustrator, creating UX wireframes, Prototyping, JavaScript, MAYA and 3D modeling?



What is the Salary in This Field?

As with any other career field, the level of pay film animators earn can vary, and typically depends on the following factors:


• The size, type and budget of their employer

• The region in which they work

• The specific responsibilities of their job

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

• Their education, skill and experience level, as well as their professional reputation (if applicable)


Film Animation Instructor Salary - Canada: According to the 2015 Wage and Salary Survey of the Government of Alberta (the latest figures available at the time of writing), the average salary level of Albertans working in the Animators occupational group is $58,099 per year. At the time of writing, similar statistics were not available for other provinces or territories, or the whole of Canada (July 13, 2019).


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 occupational group is $70,530 per year.



Current Job Openings

Our job below board has "film animator" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "film animator", as they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities.


Animation Instructor

• Animator

• Fashion Illustrator

• Film Critic

• Film Director 

• Graphic Designer

• Layout Designer

• Visual Effects Artist



References for This Career Guide

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


• Careers: “Animator.” (March 31, 2017). Government of Alberta - Alberta Learning and Information Service. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2018.

• Occupational Employment and Wages: "Multimedia Artists and Animators.” (May, 2017). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2018.

• Education Research: “BFI Film Academy: How do I become an animator?” (March 2, 2018). BFI Film Academy. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2018.

• Design Degrees Blog: “Do You Have What it Takes for a Career in Animation?” Brianna Flavin (March 14, 2017). Rasmussen College. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2018.



Scholarships for Becoming a Film Animator

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to this profession. You can find scholarships matched to those fields of study on our Film Studies Scholarships and Graphic Design Scholarships pages.


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



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for becoming a Film Animator. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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