How to Become an Animator

Updated June 23, 2023

If you're creative and love to draw, consider a career as an animator. It's an extremely versatile role as you can work in various industries, such as film, television, video games, education, and healthcare. In this article, we discuss what an animator does, how to become an animator, their working conditions, salary, and frequently asked questions you may have about following this career path.

What does an animator do?

An animator draws images and places them in a sequence that creates an illusion of movement called animation. Animators work with different media formats, such as drawing on physical paper or on a tablet. They work with a creative team to animate movies, television shows, video games, and other digital graphics. Here are some of their responsibilities:

  • Working closely with clients to create animations based on their concepts and needs

  • Developing storyboards to display ideas for scripts or narratives to their team

  • Delivering presentations to prospective investors to seek funding

  • Collaborating with a creative team and production team to produce excellent work

  • Using design software and technology to complete their work

  • Assisting with creating and adhering to a budget

  • Researching industry trends and incorporating them into their work

  • Listening to and implementing feedback from clients

Related: What Does an Animator Do?

How to become an animator

If you're considering becoming an animator, here are some of the steps you can follow to do so:

1. Pursue relevant education

One of the best things about being an animator is that you can easily exemplify your skills and knowledge through your work. Because of this, there are no strict educational requirements for animators. That being said, a college diploma, bachelor's degree, or even completion of animation courses can help you stand out over other candidates. Some employers may even require you to have a bachelor's degree in animation or a related field.

Many programs offer general training, allowing you to choose an area of specialization when you have a good foundation of knowledge. You can specialize in areas such as video games, visual or special effects, film animation, or website animation. Research schools that offer relevant training for the area of animation you're interested in.

Related: How To Become a Model

2. Develop your skills

While you're in school, work on developing other hard and soft skills that can aid you as an animator. You can do this by taking specific courses. For example, if you know your skills in a particular drawing style are weak, take art classes. Or you can develop skills in your personal life. Practice makes perfect, so take every opportunity you have to draw and animate new projects. This can help you determine what areas you excel in and what you need to work on before applying for animator roles.

Related: How to Improve Your Skill Set and Keep Skills Current

3. Create a portfolio

Again, while you're in school, you can work on a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of your work that you can show your teachers and prospective employers to demonstrate your abilities. Many programs even require animation students to create one. So, you can always add to your portfolio as you learn new skills and art styles.

You can create a physical portfolio with copies of your drawings, but a digital art portfolio is preferable for animators. It allows you to display the movement of your animations. You can bring a tablet or laptop to interviews to show your digital portfolio or send it to prospective employers ahead of time.

Related: How to Make a Portfolio

4. Gain work experience

With your portfolio and education, you'll be an asset to any company. But as you likely won't have any formal work experience as an animator already, you may need to pursue an entry-level position first. Consider becoming an animator's assistant. It's a great opportunity to learn more about the industry and work with an experienced animator.

You can even pursue entry-level roles or an internship while you're still in school. This gives you a better chance to obtain an animator role when you graduate. Another way to increase your experience level is to work as a freelancer and seek clients out on your own. This can be time-consuming at first as you build up a client base, but you have more freedom with your work.

Related: What Is a 2D Animator? (With Job Requirements and FAQs)

5. Consider pursuing a graduate program

The animation industry is constantly changing as technology does. So, after a few years in the workforce, you may want to consider pursuing a graduate degree or specialized training. It helps you expand your knowledge and makes you a more likely candidate for senior-level positions.

Average salary and working conditions

The national average salary for an animator is $65,248 per year, but it can vary depending on the type of animation you specialize in. For example, a 3D animator makes $84,804 per year on average while a 2D animator makes less at $79,380 per year. Your salary as an animator also depends on your location, experience, and technical skills.

As animators primarily use computers to complete animations, they can work from anywhere. Many animators work from home, while others work in well-lit studios or offices to collaborate with their team. Animators spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer or drawing board, so creating an ergonomic office setting is essential. They typically work regular office hours and have weekends off.

Related: How To Negotiate Salary (With Examples)

Frequently asked questions about becoming an animator

If you're interested in pursuing a career as an animator, here are some questions to consider:

What skills and attributes should an animator have?

To be a successful animator, you need the following skills or attributes:

  • Creativity: you must be imaginative to think of new concepts and create unique images and animations.

  • Patience: animation can take a long time and a lot of adjustment, so you must be patient when working.

  • Attention to detail: animating often consists of making small changes to images to create the illusion of movement. To do this successfully, you must have good attention to detail.

  • Communication: animators work with a creative team and clients to produce their work. So, excellent written and verbal communication skills are a must.

  • Computer literacy: some animators hand draw their images, but many use computers and relevant software. To keep up with technological advancements and utilize them in your work, computer literacy is important.

  • Confidence: you must give presentations to clients and team members frequently. Either to secure funding or present your animations and receive feedback. Presentation skills and confidence help you do this.

Related: Computer Literacy in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

What are the different types of animation?

Animators typically specialize in a specific type of animation. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • 2D drawn animation

  • 2D computer animation

  • 3D computer-generated animation

  • Stop motion animation

  • Clay animation

  • Typography animation

Related: How to Become a 3D Animator (With Skills and Average Salary)

What do I need to get started as an animator?

As many animators use technology to draw and animate, you may need some basic equipment to start working. A tablet and stylus are great for animators as you have the same freedom you would with a pen and paper, but it's more efficient. If you already have a computer, you can animate with a mouse or trackpad, but it's more restrictive. Try to download animation software to assist you.

What are job prospects like as an animator?

Job prospects as an animator vary depending on your location and specialty. According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank website, here are the job prospects for an animated films animator in each province and territory:

  • Alberta: fair

  • British Columbia: good

  • Manitoba: fair

  • New Brunswick: fair

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: limited

  • Northwest Territories: undetermined

  • Nova Scotia: limited

  • Nunavut: undetermined

  • Ontario: fair

  • Prince Edward Island: fair

  • Quebec: fair

  • Saskatchewan: fair

  • Yukon: fair

If you're willing to relocate for work, consider British Columbia. You'll have the best chance of finding a role as an animator. If you're a freelance animator, you can work from anywhere.

Related: 5 Types of Animation Styles and Top Careers in Animation

What cities pay the most for animators?

According to Indeed Salaries, Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta, Vancouver in British Columbia, London in Ontario, and Regina in Saskatchewan are the highest-paying cities for animators.

What can I do with an animation degree?

Here are some exciting career paths you can pursue with an animation degree:

  • Studio animator

  • Graphic designer

  • Producer

  • Animation director

  • Character developer

  • Creative director

  • Concept artist

  • Game developer

  • Illustrator

  • Web designer

  • Prop designer

  • Special effects technician

  • Advertising director

  • Film or photo editor

  • Background designer

  • Storyboard artist

  • Model maker

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles

  • Discover 9 ESL Online Teaching Jobs You Can Do from Home
  • Guide to a Career in Telehealth Nursing (And Average Salary)
  • What Is a Process Control Engineer? (With List of Duties)
  • How to Get an Automotive Warehouse Job (With Key Skills)
  • 22 Careers in Environmental Science (Plus Salary Info)
  • What Do Airplane Mechanics Do? (With Steps to Become One)
  • How to Become a System Security Analyst (With Duties)
  • How to Become a Visual Effects Artist (Plus Skills)
  • What Does an Equity Researcher Do? (With Qualifications)
  • 5 AWS Security Certification Courses You Can Pursue
  • What Is a Partner Manager? (With Tips to Succeed as One)
  • What Does a Web Designer Do? (With Requirements and FAQs)