If you are considering a career in professional animation, you may have many unanswered questions. Our easy to understand guide offers information on typical duties, skills, salary and more, helping you decide whether animation is the right career path for you.


The role

Using digital or hand-drawn images (or even puppets or models), an animator works to produce sequences that appears as though they are moving by capturing and editing multiple frames together. As an animator, your work would likely fit into one of the following categories: 2D, 3D, stop frame or computer-generated.

An animator will likely work closely with clients to develop concepts for animations before starting the creative process. From there, sequences will need to be storyboarded, as with any film or television show. Depending on which type of animation the animator is working on, their roles will vary; some will set to work on creating the 2D art for the animation, others will design models of characters and sets.

Animators will be in charge of movements as the sequence is captured and will use specialist software to bring all aspects of the animation together. They often work closely with editors to create layers, for example, adding special effect animations to live action recordings. Animators must ensure that they work to the deadlines they are provided with, as missing these deadlines can have a negative impact on the production schedule.


Skills and qualifications

There are many different subjects you can study at college or university that can help you secure a career in animation. You might want to consider one of the following:

  • Animation
  • Art and design
  • 3D design
  • Graphic design
  • Multimedia
  • Film
  • Electrical engineering

Securing a role in animation without a higher education is incredibly rare, though not completely unattainable. Besides obtaining relevant qualifications, you should also try to build on the following:

  • Storytelling ability
  • Artistic skillset (e.g. sketching, graphic design)
  • Confidence with software such as Flash, Maya, 3ds Max, and LightWave
  • Ability to work well with others

You could even consider specialising in a specific area related to animation, such as mathematical modelling or forensic animation.



According to data from payscale.com, the average animator earns just over £24,000. Typical starting salary lies at around £15,000. Their data also notes that people often progress to other roles after 10 years.


Career development and prospects

There are plenty of ways for you to learn animation skills, from attending short courses or evening classes to studying a degree programme, through to shadowing someone who works in the industry. Once you’ve secured a role, you may even be lucky enough to be offered training packages by your employer, giving you the opportunity to learn new skills and refine those you already have.

The majority of animators start at the very bottom of the career ladder as studio runners before working their way up through junior rankings. In 3D animation, it’s possible to work your way from junior to senior level in a few years, with the potential to progress to managerial or directorial level within another few years.

It’s a good idea to keep your skillset versatile, as the more diverse a work you can carry out, the more likely opportunities are to arise.