Careers in Animation: Articles on Employment Trends, Salary Trends, Types of Jobs & Education/Training Requirements

Our 2015 list of the Top 50 Private Game Design School Programs in the US. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.


11. University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, California

Established in 1880, the University of Southern California is home to 43,000 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors across 18 colleges and schools. USC Games offers four degree programs and four minors for aspiring game designers. School of Cinematic Arts degrees include a BA in Interactive Entertainment and an MFA in Interactive Media. Viterbi School of Engineering degrees include a BS in Computer Science (Games) and an MS in Computer Science with a Specialization in Game Development. Minors include Game Animation, Game Audio, Game Design, and Game Entrepreneurism.

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Top 100 Most Influential

After eight years of writing about video games, I wanted to take the pulse of the game industry. I organized this list with the criteria for influence being: how long since a studio’s last release, how many releases they had in 2013 and 2014 combined, how many copies were sold, how many people still play their games today, what do they have coming out in the near future, how unique are their games, and how much competition from other studios do they have?

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Pixar has been churning out blockbuster animated films for decades. I mean, who could forget Toy Story (1995)—the first fully computer-animated movie? This joint venture between Disney and Pixar went on to gross more than $373 million at the box office. For a first, and it being the 90’s and all, this is nothing short of amazing. Add the Toy Story sequels, and the figure jumps to a staggering $1.9 billion—and counting. It’s no wonder Disney snapped up Pixar in 2006 for a cool $7.4 billion. 

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Animation instructors at top schools have at least two things in common. They are passionate about animation and all are accomplished artists in the field. Many of these artist-educators began their journey just as their students did—in an undergraduate animation or related program. Just about every top program will provide the opportunity to complete an internship, where students have the chance to gain real world experience. This will become a valuable asset when comes to securing a position in the industry. Common jobs in animation include animator, stop motion animator, 3D modeler, flash animator, compositing artist, storyboard artist, render wrangler, texture artist, and art director. 

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The animation world is extremely competitive, so it may feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle when it comes to getting your work in front of the right people. If you’re a student, well let’s just say it can be even tougher to get noticed. The industry will always be competitive, so it’s up to you to find ways to compete.

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You’re probably thinking there’s no way an animated film could cost as much as making a live action movie. After all, animated films don’t require building elaborate sets from the ground up, travelling with cast and crew to exotic countries, designing hundreds of intricate costumes, or hiring the highest paid actors in the world, right? Wrong! For every costly component of creating a live-action film, there’s a pricey one for animation too. And an animated film could take even longer to complete—even with talent working around the clock. 

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Animation is one of the most exciting career fields in the art and design industry. It also offers one of the highest salaries. Animators earned a median annual wage of $63,970 in 2015, with top earners averaging more than $113,600. Certain industries, specialized areas or high-level positions could pay even more than the median.

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So you’re heading into the home stretch and it’s time to gain some real-world experience before you graduate. Good news. Your degree program will likely include an internship component that could easily lead you to any number of major game design or animation studios.

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Ever wonder how the world’s most famous animators got their start? While there will always be working animators out there who consider themselves self-taught, many successful animators have at least some formal training. Some may have a degree or two in a range of areas, while others may have completed a diploma, workshop, or apprenticeship program. Its programs such as these that led many of today’s top animators to some of the most sought after internships in the world. Others went straight to positions at some of the world’s most celebrated studios. Pixar, Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, and Studio Ghibli are just a few.

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Animators and Multimedia Artists held about 64,400 jobs in 2014, with a projected six percent increase in employment for the 2014-2024 decade. At a six percent increase, which is as fast as average for all occupations, the industry will add close to 4,000 new jobs in the coming years.

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