Animated technologies and entertainment are quickly taking over the market as per businesses’ and consumers’ preferences. This has created many animation job opportunities in various industries such as entertainment, web design, advertising, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.
Animators create unique and creative content for films, commercials, video games, mobile apps, and other media. It is an area that never grows old, and if you have an interest in computer science or artistic ability, you should consider pursuing a career in animation.
Plus, the career pays well. According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), animators earn a median annual salary of $77,000, with best careers in animation paying up to $142,750 per year.
Below, we highlight the best-paying animation jobs with salary expectations to help you make an informed decision.
What are the highest-paying animation jobs?
If you are an expert in animation or want to venture into the field, here are the 13 best and high-paying careers worth pursuing.
1. Mathematical modeler
Mathematical modelers are one of the most specialized professionals in the animation industry. They use software technology and mathematical modeling skills to create, modify and implement 3D animations that provide insights into certain phenomena.
The models mostly illustrate processes or help solve complex problems.
The minimum entry to this job is an advanced degree in mathematics with certification or degree in animation. You should also have close attention to detail and organization skills to excel in your career.
The average annual salary for mathematical modelers in the U.S. is $91,643. Top earners get up to $111,000 annually.
2. Forensic animator
Forensic animators recreate accidents or crime scenes using audio and visual representations for use during investigative processes. They collaborate with police officers, forensic experts, and eyewitnesses to develop fixed video photos that will be used to create an animated version of an event.
Their final simulations, either in physical or digital copies, are used during hearings, arbitration, or court trials for law enforcement. You should, therefore, have a criminal justice, legal, or science background with expertise in animation to work as a forensic animator.
While many forensic animators are self-employed, you can get permanent or part-time job opportunities in investigative firms, law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, government agencies, and aerospace, among others.
The mean annual salary for forensic animators in the US is $55,328, with potential earnings of up to $70,000 per year.
3. Medical animator
This is another specialized field in animation that involves translating complex science into medical media. Medical animators develop imagery, interactive science apps, and animations that empower health literacy and advance medical science knowledge for patients and the public.
One should possess outstanding medical and scientific knowledge to be a medical animator. This helps to understand, interpret and represent complex medical data in a clear visual narrative that is engaging, accurate, and educational to the target audience.
Most employers will require advanced degree holders in a medical or science-related field together with a degree in animation. A master’s degree in medical illustration will give you an upper hand in the job market.
The mean annual salary for medical animators is $79,298 and the top-paid animators earn more than $91,100 a year.
4. Animation art director
An animation art director is an expert who manages visual style and images for the advertising and entertainment industries. They create a style guide that assists animators and artists in designing stories, characters, and other visual elements.
Animation art directors are in charge of the creative staff. They train them, manage budget, and review their projects, ensuring it meets clients’ needs.
You should have a bachelor’s degree in fine art to pursue this career. Animation certification and experience in the field are a plus.
The mean annual salary for animation art directors in the U.S. is $79,336. The top earners get more than $145,000 a year, which makes this one of the highest-paying animation jobs in the US.
If you have always expressed creative flair through drawing and sketching, you should consider pursuing a career in animation. You will need to enroll in a bachelor’s degree in fine art and later major in animation, motion graphics, or special effects.
Animators are mostly employed in the entertainment industries to draw and design arts for different media, such as video games, television, film, social media, and commercials.
They use computer software and collaborate with writers, artists, and directors to develop motions for background scenes, choose colors, create personality traits, and plot animation.
The mean annual salary for animators in the U.S. is $88,080, with senior animators getting up to $142,750 a year.
6. 3D modeler
3D modelers develop 3D characters, objects, or settings that are easy to visualize in realism. These experts are needed in numerous fields such as interior design, architecture, site layout, furniture design, special effects, video games, and in medical and advertising industries.
They use animation tools such as 3DS Max, Maya, and Blender to develop life models. As such, you need to have expertise in particular software programs with a bachelor’s degree in relevant fields such as animation, computer design, game development, or computer science.
The mean annual salary for a 3D modeler in the U.S. is $49,253, with top earners getting $68,000 a year.
7. Character technical director
Character technical director works in film and video game industries to recreate physical characteristics of mechanical objects, creatures, and people. They use complex software to develop a framework of 3D models or bony structures useful in the animation industry.
They capture images to sequence motions in a precise and realistic manner. Apart from handling technical tasks, they also handle managerial tasks such as resolving problems with skeletal physics, doing research, training staff, and deciding on the best software tools for rigging and modeling.
To venture into the career, you should have a master’s degree in a relevant field such as information technology, computer graphics, or computer science and engineering. Wide experience in animation, skinning, rigging, and modeling characters is an asset.
The character technical director is one of the highest paying animation jobs in the U.S. and their mean annual salary is $119,990.
8. 3D creative designer
Animators and artists need design concepts to create animations. This is where the 3D creative designers come in. They create design concepts such as character depiction and storyboards for artists and animators in advertising and multimedia companies.
3D creative designers may use physical materials or computer software to develop stop motion and 3D prototype design models. Basically, they generate ideas from scratch or liaise with team members to create workable concepts.
A bachelor’s of arts degree in creative design with relevant experience gives you a better opportunity in the job market.
The mean annual salary for 3D creative designers in the U.S. is $47,085 with the top-paid designers earning more than $66,000 a year.
9. Lighting technician
Lighting technicians are needed in the animation industry to help create a realistic look in video games, films, and other media. They develop light rigs to add lighting and shadow to the animated environment and create color keys for layering and green screens.
One needs to have an in-depth understanding of lighting design elements such as illumination, shadow, reflections, direct and indirect lights to secure the job.
This is an entry-level well-paying job, and an associate degree in lighting technology gives you a chance. Most employers will also offer you on-the-job training to ensure you are well-equipped to perform your duties.
In the US, lighting technicians earn a mean hourly salary of $17.31 with the potential to earn $36.06 per hour as you build your experience.
10. Compositing supervisor
A compositing supervisor manages the animation department that puts together various visual effects elements. They work with compositors to combine animation aspects such as computer-generated images, visual effects, and live-action footage to develop a cohesive image.
As a compositing supervisor, you will create workflows and schedules to ensure your department meets the deadlines. This means you need good organizational skills, communication skills, and the ability to manage a team.
Experience working in visual effects and composting, plus a master’s degree in animation, computer graphics, or computer science, makes you a great candidate for the job.
The mean annual salary for compositing supervisors is $122,823. High earners get more than $257,000, which also makes it one of the best and highest-paying jobs in the animation industry.
11. Video game designer
Video game designers help develop video games by bringing gameplay and layout concepts to life. They do this by writing storylines for the game and creating concept art for characters and worlds they exist in.
Employers require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in game design, computer science, or computer programming for a video game design job.
Once employed, you will work with game developers to develop video game mechanics and write codes to create the video games. You will also need to test the design concepts using beta apps to ensure the output works well.
The mean average salary for video game designers is $66,452. It is one of the highest-paying animation jobs in the U.S. with the highest earners getting more than $103,000 a year.
12. Special effects animator
Special effects animators use concept art to develop images and motions for films and other media. They create desired look for animations such as character enhancements, natural disasters, and supernatural creatures.
Therefore, there is a need to collaborate with artists and technical directors to create a great final product.
One should have a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer graphics, or computer science to get an opportunity in the job market.
The mean annual salary for special effects animators in the US is $88,080 and the highest-paid earn more than $142,750 a year.
13. 3D artist
3D artists are computer design professionals who create 3D models of characters, objects, and scenery. They work in fields such as engineering, advertising, medical research, and entertainment for video games and films.
The 3D artists use computer illustration and editing software to develop 3D graphics and effects that accurately represent mechanical models, video games, and characters.
To get the job opportunity, you should have a bachelor’s degree in art or computer graphics
The mean annual salary for 3D artists in the US is $55,889, with the potential to earn $89,000 as you build experience.
How much do animators get paid?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, animators earn an average annual salary of $88,080 and the top-earners get more than $142,750 a year. The highest-paying animation jobs include mathematical modeler, special effects artist, video game designer, compositing supervisor, character technical director, animation art director, and medical animator.
Most high-paying animation jobs in the United States require at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as animation, computer design, or computer science and diverse work experience outside the classroom. Build an impressive work portfolio and demo reels as employers want to check what you can offer before giving you an opportunity. Plus, there are many freelance animation opportunities to explore.