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How to Become an Animation Director

Written by ACR StaffApril 17, 2017
Did You Know.....Full Sail University offers online degree programs in computer animation, game art, and game design? Learn more about Full Sail University's online programs.
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So you want to be an animation director, huh? Well, congratulations! You’ve chosen one of the coolest careers in the entertainment industry, and we’re not just talking about the creative part. Animation is a growing industry with expected employment growth of six percent for the 2014-2024 decade. Add “director” to the title and growth increases to nine percent over the same decade. This is faster than average for all occupations. 

Animators can expect to earn a very good living too. The mean annual wage for 2016 was $72,200, with a median of $65,300. Those at the higher end of the pay scale averaged $90,450-$115,960. Add “director” to the title and salaries increase to $93,840 (mean), $70,950 (median), and $112,820-$189,870 (higher end). Of course, individual salaries will depend on a number of factors ranging from education and the size of the studio to geographic location. For example, with an average salary of $82,680 for animators and $130,510 for directors and producers, California is the top paying state for animation directors. And Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Sony Pictures Animation are some of the top paying studios. 

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So what do you have to do to enjoy all of the benefits of being an animation director? The first step is to become an animator. Though there are some exceptions, most animators have a bachelor’s degree in animation, computer animation, film and animation, film and video, game art and animation, visual effects animation, or other related degree. Although animators with a diploma, certificate or associate’s degree may qualify for some entry-level positions, most employer’s require a bachelor’s degree or higher, a great portfolio, and experience. Just about every accredited animation program offers internship opportunities, so you will gain valuable hands-on experience before graduating from the program. Even better is some internships lead to full-time employment. 

While working your way up, there are a number of skills that need to be honed. Some of these skills have more to do with business than creativity. For this reason, some aspiring animation directors earn a second undergraduate degree or master’s degree in business, arts management, or nonprofit management. A certificate program or minor in these areas may be useful as well. 

Successful animation directors have excellent communication, time-management, decision- making, budgeting, and leadership skills. They manage deadlines well, they juggle multiple projects and teams with ease, and they know how to promote a project. Of course, animation directors have solid animation skills and a good eye too! 

These skills and qualities are crucial as animation directors have tremendous responsibilities. According to London-based Creative Skill Set, animation directors are responsible for the quality of the animation, keeping it on schedule and delivering consistent performances by assigning, or casting, the appropriate animators. They guide, supervise and review the work produced by the animators and assistant animators, and they understand the implications of continuity, performance, style, and quality, as well as technical, scheduling, and budgetary requirements. Animation directors work side by side with other directors and relevant departments and they keep the animation on model (in style) throughout the production. They often provide the main liaison between the animation department and those who are involved in the later stages of the production process. On longer format projects, animation directors “are usually responsible to the production department for delivering the required quota of animation, on time and on budget.” 

Besides the entertainment industry, animation directors work in advertising, marketing, public relations, game design and development, education, software publishing, and more. With the right education, skills, and experience, the possibilities are endless. Use our search tool to find an accredited animation school. 


"Animation Director or Supervisor." Creative Skillset. Creative Skillset London, UK, 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. 

"Multimedia Artists and Animators." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. 

"Producers and Directors." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. 

"27-1014 Multimedia Artists and Animators." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. 

"27-2012 Producers and Directors." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.