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Career Profile: Special Effects Artists and Animators

Create special effects or animations using film, video, computers, or other electronic tools and media for use in products, such as computer games, movies, music videos, and commercials.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 62,400 people employed as special effects artists and animators in the United States. The median annual salary is $77,700. Entry level employees earn approximately $42,390 per year and senior employees earn approximately $142,750 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Design complex graphics and animation, using independent judgment, creativity, and computer equipment.
  • Participate in design and production of multimedia campaigns, handling budgeting and scheduling, and assisting with such responsibilities as production coordination, background design, and progress tracking.
  • Create two-dimensional and three-dimensional images depicting objects in motion or illustrating a process, using computer animation or modeling programs.
  • Make objects or characters appear lifelike by manipulating light, color, texture, shadow, and transparency, or manipulating static images to give the illusion of motion.
  • Apply story development, directing, cinematography, and editing to animation to create storyboards that show the flow of the animation and map out key scenes and characters.
  • Implement and maintain configuration control systems.
  • Script, plan, and create animated narrative sequences under tight deadlines, using computer software and hand drawing techniques.
  • Develop briefings, brochures, multimedia presentations, web pages, promotional products, technical illustrations, and computer artwork for use in products, technical manuals, literature, newsletters, and slide shows.
  • Create and install special effects as required by the script, mixing chemicals and fabricating needed parts from wood, metal, plaster, and clay.
  • Assemble, typeset, scan, and produce digital camera-ready art or film negatives and printer's proofs.
  • Convert real objects to animated objects through modeling, using techniques such as optical scanning.
  • Create pen-and-paper images to be scanned, edited, colored, textured, or animated by computer.
  • Use models to simulate the behavior of animated objects in the finished sequence.
  • Create basic designs, drawings, and illustrations for product labels, cartons, direct mail, or television.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
62,400
Annual Openings:
7,800
Increase in Openings by 2030:
16%
Annual Salary Range:
$42,390 - $142,750
Education Requirements:
Bachelor's degree