Find a school near you!
Animation? Design? Game Art?
Key Animator - Career Profile
What does a Key Animator do? Where does a Key Animator work? ACR takes a look:
About Key Animators
A key animator or “senior animator” has worked as an animator for at least three years before being promoted to senior animator, and senior animator is not the last stop on this heavy-hitters career path. Becoming a successful senior animator is the final test before being promoted to animation director, supervisor, or director. Although higher ranking than an animator, the key animator still does his fair share of creative work, but this position requires more management and directing than an intermediate animation position.
Key Animator Jobs
In addition to helping develop main characters, key animators manage pre-production by determining how animation will be executed, by working with riggers and model makers to make sure model and puppets are rigged properly for action scenes, and they guide junior crew members through pre-production. Once pre-production is complete and production starts, the key animator helps manage the entire production by working with the director to complete the project on time and within budget.
Key animators work for animation studios, film and video production companies, gaming companies, and advertising agencies.
Key Animator Salaries
Key animator salaries vary by company type and size, geographic location, experience, and other factors. Because these are senior level positions, average salaries for key animators are much higher than salaries for other animators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report salaries for key animators. However, several job websites such as Glassdoor.com and Simply Hired offer salary information for senior animators working at a variety of companies. Based on reports from employees and employers, salaries may range anywhere from $84,000 up to $98,000+ per year.
Overall, animators earned a mean annual salary of $62,810 in 2009. The lowest paid animators earned $32,360 per year and the highest paid animators earned $99,130 per year. Animators working in California ($74,560), New York ($66,340), Oregon ($62,690), District of Columbia ($62,670), and Connecticut ($62,410) earn the highest average salaries in the country. At an average salary of $81,360 per year, animators living in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan area earn the highest averages salary in the nation.
Becoming a Key Animator
Employers prefer to hire key animators with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in animation, fine art, sculpture, graphics, or illustration. Three years professional experience in production is the minimum experience requirement, but most employers prefer 5-7 years’ professional experience in production. Key animators typically work their way up from animator to key animator, then to animation director.
Job Trends for Key Animators
Employment growth for animators is expected to average 14 percent for the 2008-2018 decade. This is higher than any other field in the artists and related workers category. Wage and salary employment in the motion picture and video industries (this includes directors) is also expected to average 14 percent between 2008 and 2018, compared with 11 percent growth projected for wage and salary employment in all industries combined.