3-D animators use computer-aided design programs like 3ds Max, Blender and Maya to make animations for a variety of employers. Hollywood filmmakers are the best-known employers, but animators also produce films to advertise products for small companies. The salary for 3-D animators depends on several factors, including the years of experience an animator has and the location of the job.
National and State Estimates
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the salaries of 3-D animators showed they earned an average of $62,810 a year. The top 10 percent of animators earned $99,130 per year while the lowest paid 10 percent earned $32,360. California, the top paying state, paid animators $76,010. The lowest paying state, Kansas, offered an average salary of $34,170.
May 2009 data from the BLS ranks U.S. cities by salaries of 3-D animators. Los Angeles animators earned on average $83,610 per year. Other top-paying cities were San Francisco, California at $81,320; Bethesda, Maryland at $74,150; Grand Rapids, Michigan at $72,100; Austin, Texas at $68,400 and Little Rock, Arkansas at $68,250.
Most and Least
Scientific and technical service companies employed the most 3-D animators and paid them an average of $60,430. The next most frequent employers were motion picture and sound recording companies (with an average pay of $70,890), print publishers ($63,660), advertisers ($57,630) and computer design firms ($63,140). The fewest 3-D animators worked with equipment wholesalers, whose animators were paid an average of $53,250. Some others with few 3-D animators were religious organizations ($41,950) and hospitals ($61,000).
High and Low
3-D animators will find the best average pay in the motion picture, advertising and public relations, computer system design and software publishing industries. The industries paying the lowest annual salaries to 3-D animators were theater companies ($38,790), performing arts companies ($39,930), religious organizations ($41,950) and photographic services ($43,740).