Career Advice - A Community Blog

Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

5 Steps to Becoming an Animator

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Dec 8, 2017 5:12 PM

If you're thinking about becoming a professional animator, the following information will help satisfy your curiosity.

Step one: Be passionate

That may sound cliché, but it's true. Even if animation is just a hobby that you indulge in from time to time to unwind, you will never know what you're truly capable of creating unless you're passionate. Who knows, you could be the next Hayao Miyazaki or Rebecca Sugar.

Step two: Use what's available

Being passionate does not mean that you have to use the most expensive animation tools on the market. Experience is what matters, so start small and keep at it. For example, the great Hayao Miyazaki, according to various sources, "began drawing his own manga by studying the work of Osamu Tezuka" as a child. He reportedly also started drawing airplanes around that time - a hobby that was influenced by his father, who built airplane parts.

If you're completely new to animation and short on funds, watch free how-to videos and use freeware until you feel confident enough to invest money in your hobby. There is a lot of great open source animation software available online that you can use to develop your skills.

Step three: Find your niche and educate yourself

Consider the type of animation that interests you, and then start researching schools. Start here to get an idea of what four and two-year schools have the best programs that are also within your price range. Some animation courses and degree programs can be completed online, which can be convenient if you already have a demanding schedule.

Step four: Be a show-off

Neither you nor anyone else will know how talented you are unless you put your art on display.

Some of you may be thinking what if no one likes my work or what if people leave really mean comments. Unfortunately, trolls are everywhere, and some of them like to hide behind computer screens and hurl unprovoked insults at people they don't know. The best way to deal with "keyboard warriors" is to ignore them since they feed on any attention you throw their way. Also, remember not everyone is going to love your work - that's just the way it is - and not all criticism is negative.

If you're particularly sensitive to any form of criticism, and that little pep talk didn't work for you, consider using a pseudonym. That will give you some anonymity, but you may want to register your copyright to protect your work if you decide to do that.

Once you come up with a really cool moniker, join some animation forums so that you can reach out to some pros and fellow newcomers who can teach you a few tricks. You never know, you could meet future collaborators or employers while talking shop and honing your animation skills.

You can also get some valuable feedback by setting up your own animation blog. Additionally, if you want feedback and financial compensation for your artistic efforts, you may want to add payment options such as Patreon or PayPal to your blog - an option that may not be available on some animation forums. 

Step five: Spread your wings

Strictly into 2-D animation? Try your hand at 3-D animation. If you're only into CAD, try sketching. You may find that you're a multitalented animator, which could lead to a lucrative career.

Need more motivation? Currently, entry-level animators can expect to earn around $47,900 per year. In terms of educational credentials, some prospective employers may want you to have a bachelor's degree in art in tandem with or in lieu of experience. By expanding your skill set now, you may be able to command a larger starting salary in the future.

Now you have a general idea of what it takes to become an animator and how much money you can earn if you decide to turn your hobby into a profession.

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