Get a Career in Animation: Bring Your Profession to Life

Jun 22, 2016

Cultural trends come and go – they develop, flourish and change with the times. But some things remain constant, and one of these things is the demand for skilled and visionary animators. For recent high school or university graduates with a love of art and creativity, a career in animation represents a fulfilling and potentially lucrative choice.

A career in animation industry is competitive – as of 2014, there were 64,400 active animation positions within the US. But it is also a rapidly growing field with the number of available positions expected to increase by 6% by 2024. For an animation enthusiast with the requisite skills, zeal and drive, the industry outlook is a positive one. So how can you go about putting your head above the parapet and getting noticed in this unique career path?

Choose Your Field

Ask people to describe what they think of when they hear the word ‘animation’ and you are likely to be met with misty-eyed memories of childhoods spent with Disney features, Simpsons cartoons or video games like Metal Gear Solid and Crash Bandicoot. While creating animation for TV dramas, movies, and computer software is still a major function of the animation industry, it is far from its only facet.

Modern animators work in fields as diverse as forensic animation – in which the animator must create a lifelike forensic model of a crime scene to assist legal teams in ascertaining what happened. Mathematical modelling is another exciting application in this field, putting the skill of the animator to the test as they solve complex scientific and industrial conundrums. The earning potential for both these positions is high, with freelance forensic animators receiving up to $100 per hour. Salaried mathematical modellers can take home around $80,000 each year.

Career in Animation lets you bring your job to life

Other animation positions include designing graphics for sophisticated commercial websites, simulating medical procedures, constructing virtual tours for architects or even modelling the outcome of a military training exercise.

With such an array of options at your disposal, selecting a field can be difficult. Animation undergraduates or young enthusiasts are recommended to get some experience through internships or freelance work. These experiences can help you discover what ignites your passion while providing a method to pursue your dream. That passion will be what drives you to success in your chosen career.

Hone Your Craft

At a fundamental level, an animator must display proficiency in drawing and artistic endeavors in general. Perhaps it is this passion for art and for communicating profound stories and messages through your work that drew you towards animation in the first place. Fueling this love and this desire to develop your skills will take you a long way in the industry.

However, a great animator needs more than just artistic skill. They must also be able to visualize effectively and must approach the world around them a little differently than the average person might. Kirsty Mize – an instructor in digital design and animation – explains that the key qualities of a successful animator are an inquisitive nature, strong observation skills and a keenly analytical brain.

A Career in Animation is about harnessing your creativity and marrying it to a knowledge of movement and interaction, something which is difficult to gain without casting a curious eye on the world around you. Take your sketchbook with you everywhere you go and let the inspiration you find propel you forward.

Certain aspects of animation will require certain skill sets as well as proficiency with certain techniques, technologies and software pieces. Gaining these abilities will instantly make you standout as an ideal candidate when you meet with potential employers. And the best way to achieve this is to enroll in an animation degree.

Step Up to a Career in Animation

Much like any specialized profession, it pays to have a degree in animation to help you pave a career path. Graduates looking to pursue a career in animation, or prospective undergraduates seeking out the ideal path into employment, are recommended to get qualified at degree level before setting out into the jobs market.

Not only does a degree in animation give you a demonstrable qualification that you can carry with you as your career develops, it delivers you the formal skills tools required to thrive in your chosen workplace. An example of a school whose students are accomplishing great things in this fascinating field is the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. The university’s School of Animation and Visual Effects gives its students a vital grounding in a range of techniques necessary for excellence in 3D animation. These techniques include the art of storyboarding, 3D modelling, visual effects, rigging, production and the animation itself, as well as training in the use of the software involved at each stage.

To see the products of such extensive vocational training in action, we need only look at the award-winning 3D short film Soar, written, animated and produced by Alyce Tzue. Alyce graduated from the Academy in 2014, and her debut short feature has already scooped numerous accolades from across the country. One of the most impressive of these accolades is winning the Best Animated Short Film category at the USA Film Festival in 2015.

Soar represents a remarkable achievement for its talented creator, and is a firm testament to the power of an animation degree in furthering young careers.

Learn from the Right People

As with any creative industry, to have a successful career in animation is about exposure. You need to get your work in front of the right eyes to raise your profile in the field, to get used to exhibiting and sharing the fruits of your labors, and to find mentors who can help you to take your career to the next level.

For an animator looking to work in film, television or another cultural medium, this can be achieved through bravery and self-belief. Once you’ve poured your heart into a project, it can feel a little awkward to turn that hard work over to a critical audience. However, this is a necessary stepping stone on the way to success.

Work, create and then show. Enter competitions and collaborate with filmmakers and artists as you garner the attention you need to progress to the next phase of your career. Most importantly, keep pressing forward even when you’re struggling.

Animators in all fields need input from a skilled, qualified and inspirational mentor. These individuals can be found in many places. In most cases, the first mentor you will encounter will be on your animation degree course. Your tutor, lecturer or dissertation advisor will give you the sort of critical analysis that it is impossible to implement by yourself.

Remember, this process of mentorship and advice never stops. The best animators continue to seek inspiration and guidance from co-workers, collaborators, employers, senior figures in the field and even freelance clients throughout your careers.

This is part and parcel of the artistic vision; never stop learning, never stop developing your skills, and put yourself on the path to success in one of the most varied and interesting professions on the planet.


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