How Much Do Computer Animators Get Paid

3D animation has become a standard technique in the motion picture industry.

With the explosion of electronic media in the past several years, computer animation has been identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as a growing job category. The full range of animation techniques can be executed on computer, from multi-media interactive web graphics to 3D animation and classic line art animation. Computer animators are adept at delivering a visual story or message over time. Those with proper education, training and experience have the best chance of being hired in this well paying, intensely competitive field. According to the BLS, the average salary for computer animators is $62,810.

Education and Training

Computer animators must master the tools and techniques of their trade. They work with specialized software such as Flash for interactive web animation and Autodesk Maya for 3D animation. They learn key skills such as character design, lighting and storytelling. Many computer animators have a bachelor’s degree in the field, from schools such as Expression College for the Digital Arts in Emeryville, California, or the many college and university art departments offering study in computer animation, such as the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Career Categories

Computer animators work in several different industries, each demanding a unique set of problem-solving skills. The video game industry employs animators using special techniques such as texture mapping. The motion picture and video industry employs large numbers of computer animators, with 3D animation techniques prevalent. Web animators typically use Flash software to create web site animation with interactive features. The advertising and public relations industry employs animators to craft messages for their clients.

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Pay by Industry

It is no surprise that the motion picture and video industry enjoys the highest employment of computer animators with 7,720 jobs earning an average of $34.12 per hour. The advertising and public relations industry also employs many animators with 3,710 jobs at an average hourly wage of $27.71. The software publishing industry employs 2,710 animators at an average pay of $32.85 per hour. Technical and trade schools employ only 200 animators, but at the high hourly wage of $35.01. These figures are from a BLS survey of May 2009.

Pay by Geographic Area

Computer animator pay varies according to state and metropolitan area, as do living expenses. There are only 860 animator jobs in Minnesota, but the average yearly pay of $51,010 can deliver a good standard of living there. California multi-media artists and animators enjoy an average annual salary of $76,010 with employment at 9,440 jobs. Pay is even higher in the greater San Francisco area at $81,320 per year. In the Los Angeles area, seat of the motion picture industry, computer animators average $76,070 per year in pay with total employment of 4,920. Salary figures are from the May 2009 BLS survey.