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Career Center


Of the students surveyed who participate in the Orange County Animation Project, over 80% state that they plan to attend college upon graduating from high school. Many of those students express interest in exploring careers in animation, video game design, graphic design and other areas of multimedia. Some may not be so sure and may need more information on what it takes to become an animator, pursue a career in animation, or even learn what an animator’s wages may be. Some may also want to know which schools have animation courses, certificates or degree programs. Since this can be an overwhelming task, we have started the research for you.

Animation is as diverse as the techniques involved. That also goes for the careers and industry segments that use animation skills. To assist in your exploration for the perfect career fit, we have put together a list of skills you’ll need, along with some of the tasks performed by animators and what you might expect to earn in your chosen field. You may also wish to check out Animation School Review for more information.


Everyday Tasks in an Animation Career



What skills do you need to be an animator?

Artistic Ability: Creative thinking, understanding of composition, and the ability to draw are cornerstones of an animation career.

Storytelling Ability: You need to be a good storyteller, with an excellent sense of timing and pacing along with an understanding of character development.

Technical Skill / Software Knowledge: To say that animation is becoming more technical is an understatement. You will need training in various software programs including computer generated imagery (CGI). You will also find a general knowledge of math and physics helpful.

Teamwork and Communication: The ability to work well with others is essential. Animation projects are team driven. You must be able to meet deadlines, communicate clearly and effectively with others. You must also have excellent verbal, visual and written skills.

Professional Occupations in Multimedia

California Occupational Guide Report

The use of computers to bring together text, graphic art, sound, animation and video to educate, inform and entertain is essential. Specialized occupations are emerging that require specific knowledge and skills. Multimedia has recently become recognized as a rapidly growing new industry, creating many career and job opportunities for skilled, knowledgeable workers. For descriptions of the following occupations, visit California Occupational Guide Report. There is also a list of resources, certificate programs, books and periodicals.

Executive Producer Scriptwriter Video Producer
Producer Editor/Moderator Videographer
2D Animator 3D Animator Technical Lead
Programmer Visual Designer Lighting, Props, Sets
Sound Producer Sound Engineer/Editor Creative Director
Voice Artist/Vocalist Performer/Actor Composter/Musician
Effects Specialist Test Manager Tester
Game Designer Designer Customer Support
Financial Consultant Lawyer Content Expert
Agent Recruiter

Another useful website, Animation Arena provides descriptions of the following occupations:

  1. Broadcast Design
  2. CD-ROM Design
  3. Web Design
  4. Simulations
  5. CD-ROMs
  6. Film Effects, Characters & Props
  7. Television Effects, Characters & Props
  8. Location Based Entertainment (Disneyland, Knott’s, etc.)
  9. Game Design



Many animation companies offer internships. Although these positions are generally unpaid, they do provide students the opportunity to work in their chosen area while attending school, obtaining valuable work experience along with a potential "foot in the door".

Many websites list jobs, both paid and unpaid, however, because salary is based on education, skill and experience, specifics are not included. You may want to check out an interesting web site from England, Skillset, which cites the required skills for a long list of animation positions that include job profiles describing what the job is, the typical career route for that position, knowledge and skills needed, along with training and required qualifications.

Another area to explore is " Runners in Animation". Runners are interns or apprentices. Runners often enter the industry as Production Assistants and are usually required to have some skill in drawing, digital imaging or model making. Some of the larger studios offer on-the-job training to runners.

Other Sites to Search


DreamWorks/PDI - Look under Studio, A Day in the Life, Department Technical Directors

Sony Pictures Imageworks - Contains a list of recommended colleges, schools, and reading resources

Rhythm & Hues

Digital Domain - Look under Careers, Schools

Pixar for New Graduates

Pixar for Interns



The Animation World Network is chock full of information on careers, events, competitions and much more.

3D World Magazine

VFX World

Animation Industry Database: Use this database and free downloadable directories to find animation, visual effects and related companies located throughout the world.

Animation and Cartooning Careers

Careers in Animation: More than Just Pen and Paper

Walt Disney Feature Animation: Careers

Moven - Inertial Motion Capture

UCLA Anderson - School of Management - Entertainment and Media Management Institute

Over 800 UCLA Anderson alumni have found unique paths to various areas of the Entertainment and Media businesses. The list below is just a sample of companies where UCLA Anderson School of Management Alumni are employed and the types of positions they hold.

Bloomberg News, West Coast Editor
Cablevision Systems, VP Financial Planning
Classic Media, CEO

Disney: SVP Treasurer, President, Walt Disney Internet Group, President, Buena Vista International, CFO, Disney Kids Publishing, SVP Walt Disney Productions, VP, Publicity Walt Disney Studios, VP, ABC Family World Wide

Sony Pictures: SVP, Sony Pictures Entertainment, SVP Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, VP Business Development, VP Corporate Development, VP, Columbia Television, VP, Operations Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment

Time Warner: EVP, Warner Bros. International Theaters, SVP Marketing Services, Castle Rock Entertainment, VP/GM Cartoon Network New Media, VP, Marketing, VP The WB Television Network, VP, Business Development

A more complete list can be viewed at

What Can an Animator Earn?

Many factors will influence your salary as an animator, including:

  1. The company you work for
  2. How much experience you have
  3. Your education level
  4. Where you live
  5. Whether you work on contract, are freelance or are a full-time, permanent employee

Starting salaries, as you begin your career, will be in the range of $700 - $800 per week. Once you have some experience, you can expect to earn $2,000 – $4,000 per week.

Video game design is a rapidly growing industry, generating over $7 Billion in revenue annually. According to Game Makers Salary Survey, the following wages are what you can expect.

Beginning 3-6 years Over 6
Programmers and Engineers $50,000.00 $66,000.00 $ 88,000.00
Lead Programmers 56,000.00 83,000.00 90,000.00
Video Game Technical Dir. 60,000.00 73,000.00 110,000.00
Artist & Animators 41,500.00 53,300.00 66,700.00
Video Game Animators 46,700.00 67,000.00 75,000.00
Lead Artist/Animator 64,000.00 80,000.00 215,000.00
Video Game Designer 46,000.00 55,600.00 70,000.00
Creative Director or Lead Designer 45,000.00 81,000.00 180,000.00
Producers No figures 62,000.00 80,000.00
Executive Producers No figures 50,000.00 200,000.00
Quality Assurance 32,000.00
Lead Quality Assurance 40,000.00 60,000.00 215,000.00
Sound Design or Engineers 50,000.00 66,000.00 74,000.00
Musicians or Composers 55,000.00 62,000.00 90,000.00

The wages listed above were compiled from a survey and adequately reflect the average salaries for each position described.

Source: Animation Arena


I’m interested in teaching animation. How do I get started? Review the Orange County Animation Project website, particularly Getting Started and Teacher Resources. For additional information, contact Vivian Goldschmidt.

What equipment do I need in my classroom? The basics include a light box and Pencil Test System along with software such as Toon Boom or Macromedia Flash. For more information, please contact Vivian Goldschmidt at

I’ve taken animation in high school and am considering pursuing it further. Any suggestions? Check out our list of community colleges, colleges and universities. We also provide a list of skills you’ll need, professional occupations, and some wage information.

I have been animating in class and/or on my own. Where can I get some exposure and feedback on my work? If your class is involved in the Orange County Animation Project, you may have access to ACME Animation’s online network of peers, college students, instructors and professional animators who provide critiques and feedback to students. Once you are satisfied with your animation, there are a number of competitions you can enter. There are also lots of events in Southern California you might want to attend to see what others are doing, meet professionals and more.