What Careers Are in Animation?

Image for our FAQ on careers in animation What is animation? The word comes from the Latin word anima, which means life, or breath. Animators give life to their art, and use their art to tell stories and connect with their audience. They may combine footage with animation to create visual effects in live-action movies. In animated films, digital animators are responsible for the scenery and other parts of the background, and character animators make the characters come to life. Game animators do the same in the video game industry. On the Internet, animators add visual interest to web pages. Animators also work in the advertising and software publishing sectors. If you are considering earning an associate’s degree in animation, and wondering what careers are in animation, here is a list of careers that could be for you if you decide to get that degree.

There are two main tracks that people with an associate’s degree in animation can take. The first option is to get hired to work for a particular company as an employee. This can come with a certain level of security and predictability. The second is to work as a freelance artist. This can give you more independence and variety. 

In this article, we discuss the benefits of earning an associate’s degree in animation rather than a degree that takes longer, such as a bachelor’s degree. Next, we provide an overview of courses that are often offered to people seeking an associate’s degree in animation. Following that is an evaluation of the job satisfaction of animators in general based on a survey by the organization Animation Mentor. We then list some of the skills and personality traits needed for professional animators. Finally, we offer a list of careers in animation. 

Associate’s Degree in Animation vs. Bachelor’s Degree in Animation

There are several benefits to getting an associate’s degree instead of immediately earning a bachelor’s degree. For one thing, it takes about half the time of a bachelor’s degree. This means you can stay focused while you study. It also means that the degree will cost less. Another benefit of the shorter time-frame is that you will be able to start working sooner. Also, getting an associate’s degree does not rule out getting a bachelor’s degree; it simply gets you started, and if you want to, you can go back later on and get a bachelor’s degree. 

Courses for an Associate’s Degree in Animation

An associate’s degree in animation will typically require around 60 credits. Some of the courses that might be offered are listed here. 

  • Game development: This includes mathematics and programming, as well as storyline concepts and character ideas. 
  • Animation techniques: This is where students learn the process of animation itself, from storytelling to character body mechanics. 
  • Color theory: The colors that animators choose are one of the most important parts of a project, because color can be very helpful in creating the mood of a particular scene. Saturation, value, and color harmonies are important concepts for animators to understand.
  • Web animation: Web animation shows up often on all sorts of web pages. Often, it is used to keep the attention of a person scrolling through a website. Some of the things that animators can use to do this are Canvas, CSS, JavaScript, SMIL, and Scalable Vector Graphics.
  • Image editing: Image editing is the process of altering images. This might be to remove something unwanted from the image, or it might be to add lighting or other effects. 
  • Modeling: Modeling helps character animators with their 3-D animation, which is very important for animators, given how much of animation is 3-D these days. 

Animation associate’s degrees also cover other topics related to animation (, Courses will focus on the technical side of animation, a big part of which is teaching students how to use computer programs. However, animators are artists and animation programs will also help develop the creative side of this discipline. According to animation professional James Chambers in an interview by, “Animation, like many creative endeavors, requires a lot of motivation. Class time is really just a touch point to keep you on the right path.” Also, says Chambers, the artistic side of animation means that the right way to go about a project can be very subjective. One of the skills that you learn in an animation degree is when to take someone’s advice and when to ignore it and do what you feel is right, since this is an artistic field. Often, in art, there is not just one “right way” to do things, and animation is no different. There can be many ways to accomplish your goals. 

Career Satisfaction for Animation Professionals

According to a survey by the organization Animation Mentor (described, animators are among the professionals who are most satisfied with their careers. The survey reports that 59 percent of the professional animators that participated in the survey “enjoyed their work and are proud of what they do.” Also, out of those surveyed, more than 50 percent consider animation a career that they would recommend to others and over 80 percent have plans to continue their work in this field. Compared with most careers, this is a very high rate of satisfaction. The co-founder and CEO of Animation Mentor, Bobby Beck, described it this way: “Most animators are following their passion in life so it’s not a big surprise that it’s one of the occupations where people are the happiest.” However, some things about animation can be difficult. Often, animators work long hours, according to, which states of animators that “Their work schedule can exceed 50 hours per week and when deadlines are approaching, night and weekend work often is required to meet a deadline.” Working under pressure is a skill that can be developed, but it’s not for everyone.

Skills Required to Be an Animator

Being an animator requires a special set of skills, talents, and personality traits. Kireet Khurana, a professional animator, says that it is important for animators to, “Nurture creativity and imagination . . . observe from life, learn the fundamentals of classical animation as they will hold you in good stead …. Above all be a psychologist – it will make you an adept storyteller and a master in creating indelible, identifiable characters.” (This quote was sourced from says that being an animator requires a great deal of creativity, as well as artistic talent. It is not absolutely necessary to be able to draw well, as most animators now work with computer software, but this is often helpful. In addition, someone who wants a career in animation has to be a good communicator. stresses the importance of being able to meet deadlines and work well under pressure, and also of being able to be part of a team, as animation professionals often work closely with other members of a creative team. Being comfortable using computers is an essential skill, as using computer software is a huge part of what animators do. An important personality trait for animators is a careful attention to detail. Animation is made up of many, many details put together to create a scene or even a world, so animators must notice those details in order to get them right. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, animators are storytellers. An animator must have a deep love for stories and a knack for telling them.

If you are someone who is creative, works well with others, is patient, pays close attention to detail, is comfortable around computers, willing to learn computer skills, and loves stories, then a career in animation may be right for you. Next, you may wonder what careers are in animation. Here is an alphabetical list of the top careers for people with an associate’s degree in animation.  

What Careers Are in Animation?


According to Nick White on, “a good ad is one that is written and designed to emotionally connect with its target audience.” For many businesses, animated characters are a big part of this emotional connection. Companies use unforgettable characters like Tony the Tiger, the GEICO gecko, and the Green Giant to get potential customers to pay attention, feel an emotional connection with the characters, and ultimately buy from the company. This is where animators who work in advertising come into play. If you have been wondering what careers are available in animation, consider this option. Advertising is often a reliable source of income, and it also offers the opportunity to use your creative skills. says that advertising artists make $43,017 a year on average, or around $20 per hour. The top 10 percent may earn $64,500 a year. This is not specific to animators, as it includes other artists that work in advertising. However, these numbers can be used to give an idea of what kind of salary animators who work in advertising can expect to make. 

Character Animation

“Character animators create and design characters using animation software, 3D modeling, 2D animations, and even puppetry,” according to This is an essential part of the film industry. Characters are what make audiences care about a story and keep coming back to watch it. Character animators work to make all kinds of characters relatable, believable, and appealing. From Disney/Pixar’s robot character WALL-E to DreamWorks’ Toothless, a dragon, to the many human heroes and villains that have become well-known through the film industry, characters are the heartbeat of a story, and character animators are the ones who bring them to life. According to, the average yearly salary for character animators in the United States is $78,432, which comes out to around $38 per hour. However, this varies greatly, as the lowest-earning 10 percent earned less than $47,000 per year and the highest-earning 10 percent earned over $128,000 per year.

Game Animation

Game animators are responsible for making video games seem real. The video game industry, already a big industry, has grown very quickly during the recent pandemic, says this article from “Global video game revenue is expected to surge 20% to $179.7 billion in 2020, according to IDC data, making the video game industry a bigger moneymaker than the global movie and North American sports industries combined.” Since video games combine aspects of storytelling and entertainment with competition and interaction, this could be an appealing field for many people who are wondering what careers are in animation. says that video game animators make an average of $74,795 annually, or about $36 per hour. 

Visual Effects (VFX)

Visual Effects is the combination of live-action footage with digitally created animation. It is used in situations when it would be too difficult or dangerous to get a live-action shot, or to portray things that are not found in the real world. Some of the roles of VFX artists, according to this article, are the art department, which comes up with concept illustrations; pre-visualization artists, who are the first to come up with a three-dimensional, low-quality version of what the final product will look like; animators, who control the moving parts of the project; and more, such as FX simulation, lighting, matte paint, rotoscoping, compositing, and production. Some of the skills required to be a VFX artist are an understanding of mechanics & movement, drawing, and visual aesthetics, as well as a deep interest in film and a talent for observing how the real world works. lists the yearly national average salary for visual effects artists as $75,529, which is about $36 per hour. This varies based on experience, education, and other factors, such as location. 


Image for our FAQ on careers in animation

Animation can be a rewarding field for those who have a passion for stories, characters, and making a scene or a world come alive. Animation is growing more and more prevalent; it seems that animation is everywhere you look. Since this is the case, animation has a tremendous impact on the world. Animators create scenes that people, especially children, often feel that they are a part of. Animators create characters that the audience identifies with. No matter what career they choose, animators tell stories, and stories connect with people in a way that nothing else can. 

Related Resources: 

By OAD Staff 
March 2021

This concludes our article on what careers are in animation.