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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

South Dakota Animation Careers: Employment & Salary Trends, Job Opportunities, & Colleges Offering Animation Programs in South Dakota

Written by Michelle BurtonApril 19, 2016
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South Dakota is home to more than 5,000 salaried professionals working in Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (ADESM) occupations. While many of these individuals work in graphic design, public relations, photography, floral design, merchandise display, and broadcasting, the state has its fair share of animators and multimedia artists. These artists typically settle in Sioux Falls—the state’s largest city, where they work in the film and video industry, advertising, public relations, graphic design, technology, and education, to name a few.

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In Sioux Falls and Rapid City alone you will find dozens of creative agencies and production and design studios, as well as an active technology sector, and 25 Title IV degree-granting institutions that offer opportunities to teach art and design. Just a few include the College of Fine Arts at the University of South Dakota (USD), the Department of Visual Arts at South Dakota State University (SDSU) and the Department of Arts at Mount Marty College.

Besides the opportunity to work in a variety of industries, South Dakota is home to a large number of festivals and film offices that help support the animation industry. Just a few include:

  • South Dakota State University (SDSU) Animation Film Festival
  • South Dakota Animation Festival (SoDak Animation)
  • South Dakota Film Office
  • South Dakota Film Festival
  • Black Hills Film Festival
  • The Sioux City International Film Festival
  • Sioux Empire Film Festival
  • Cinema Falls Film Festival

Employment and Salary Trends for South Dakota Animators

South Dakota is home to 5,440 professionals working in ADESM occupations. According to the most recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (March 30, 2016), around 50 are salaried multimedia artists and animators and they average around $38,960 per year. Nationwide, the median annual wage for animators and multimedia artists was $63,970 as of March 30, 2016 and overall employment for this group is expected to increase by six percent for the 2014-2024 decade. This is as fast as average for all occupations.

It is important to note that many animators and multimedia artists are self-employed. In fact, according to the Bureau, "Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers” has the second highest concentration of employment (not highest employment level) in the nation for animators and multimedia artists. This means, it’s safe to assume that the population of animators and multimedia artists in South Dakota is much higher. These individuals typically to earn more as well. According to the Bureau, the average salary for this group is $70,080 per year.

The top five highest paying states for animators and multimedia artists are:

  • California ($82,810)
  • Washington ($80,460)
  • Connecticut ($77,860)
  • Massachusetts ($74,440)
  • District of Columbia ($74,230)

The industries with the highest concentration of employment for animators and multimedia artists are:

  • Motion Picture and Video industries
  • Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers
  • Software Publishers
  • Cable and Other Subscription Programming
  • Specialized Design Services

The industries with the highest levels of employment are:

  • Motion Picture and Video industries
  • Computer Systems Design and Related Services
  • Software Publishers
  • Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
  • Other Information Services

The top paying industries for animators and multimedia artists are:

  • Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services ($85,750)
  • Other Information Services ($82,940)
  • Software Publishers ($76,920)
  • Professional Commercial Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers ($75,540)
  • Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers ($74,960)

The states with the highest employment levels for animators and multimedia artists are California, Georgia, New York, Texas, and Washington.

Animation Career Opportunities in South Dakota

As mentioned earlier, South Dakota is home to dozens of production studios, creative agencies, technology firms, and more. Just a few companies to look into include:

  • ADwerks, Sioux Falls
  • Dakota Video and Post, Sioux Falls
  • Digital Designs, Spearfish
  • Epicosity, Sioux Falls
  • HenkinSchultz, Sioux Falls
  • Keyframe, Brookings
  • Lawrence & Schiller, Sioux Falls
  • Passenger Productions, Sioux Falls
  • Robert Sharp & Associates, Rapid City
  • Spore Creative, Rapid City
  • Steam Digital, Inc., Sioux Falls
  • TDG Communications, Deadwood

Although it is certainly possible to find employment opportunities in many South Dakota cities, as mentioned, most are available in two major cities—Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Aberdeen, Brookings, and Watertown are worth exploring as well.

South Dakota Animation Training Programs

Besides USD, SDSU, and Mount Marty College, aspiring animators may find a variety of art and design programs at the following schools:

  • Dakota State University, Madison
  • Black Hills State University, Spearfish
  • University of Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls
  • Northern State University, Aberdeen
  • Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU), Mitchell
  • Augustana University, Sioux Falls

More Animation related programs to consider:  

Awesome Animation Fact: French cartoonist and animator Émile Cohl is often referred to as "the father of the animated cartoon." Between February and May 1908, Cohl created Fantasmagorie using 700 of his own drawings, individually photographed to create the animated sequence. Fantasmagorie is considered the first fully animated film ever made. –The Atlantic,