How to Work in Animation

Professional animators work to produce art that moves. Today's animators produce imagery by hand, through clay modeling and through computer software. Working in animation requires you to be well trained in fine art and computer technology. Animators work in a number of different industries, including video games, stop motion television/film, mobile media and film effects. The animation field has changed over the years, and most animators now work in a freelance capacity. Being a successful animator requires you to learn new technology, apply for new contracts continuously and work hard. Find out how to work in animation.


  1. Image titled Work in Animation Step 1
    Earn a bachelor's degree. You can pursue a degree in fine arts or animation. Whichever degree you choose, you should be sure the school has respected animation classes that will teach you about 2D and 3D animation in your program.
    • Some people with the right mix of computer and art experience may not need to pursue a 4-year degree. However, they should enroll in a 1 to 2-year animation program, in order to learn how to use the industry-specific software and terms. Holding an associate's degree in animation is also a common education choice.
  2. Image titled Work in Animation Step 2
    Choose a specialty. If you choose a school that has well-rounded course offerings, you may be able to try your hand at gaming, mobile media, special effects, website animation, TV animation and more before choosing the direction you want to go. If the school has a limited program, you may need to choose 1 of the specialties available to you.
    • People who focused more on a fine art path than computer animation will want to look for work as storyboard artists, painters and modelers.
  3. Image titled Work in Animation Step 3
    Apply for animation internships. It will be hard to get work in the animation field without experience that you can show in a portfolio. Many colleges help students to get internships, so that they can gain this valuable work experience.
    • If you are following a non-traditional animation training course, you may look for work as an assistant to an animator for 6 months to a year. You can find animators in a non-competitive area and offer to work for free or low cost. You can use this mentor relationship to develop your portfolio and learn valuable trade secrets.
    • Volunteer your services to companies and friends in order to further enhance your skills and portfolio. If you don't know of anyone who needs animation services, contact businesses, such as television programs, film producers, websites and business people to volunteer your services on a project. Make sure this project has a definitive end date so that you can work your way into paid work.
  4. Image titled Work in Animation Step 4
    Develop your portfolio. Keep each school project accessible for your portfolio. Prospective employers will need to evaluate your past work before hiring you.
    • Start with a hard copy portfolio. In this professional art portfolio, you should have a bio that explains your training and work experience. It should also include animation stills and story boards.
    • Enhance your portfolio with a demo reel of your successful animation projects. Most people use either a DVD format or a website link.
    • Include a professional resume and your contact information on both the digital and hard copies of your portfolio.
  5. Image titled Work in Animation Step 5
    Look for contract work. Although some work is available in an ongoing basis, most animation work is given based on contracts for projects. Apply for projects individually, and after 2 to 5 years of successful work, you may have a large enough client base to get referrals and steady projects.
    • You can create a sole proprietorship and work under your own name, or you can start an animation business. It is a good idea to seek business and tax advice so that you can keep track of the expenses required to run your own animation business.
    • Update your portfolio after you complete each project. Regular updates will show that you are versatile and in demand.
  6. Image titled Work in Animation Step 6
    Keep abreast of new technology. As 3D computer animation grows more popular, you may need to take additional training courses so that your experience will stay relevant in the job market. For example, employers often outsource 2D animation to other countries, but there are many opportunities for mobile and website animators.
  7. Image titled Work in Animation Step 7
    You can gain access to training and industry updates by joining a professional organization for animators, such as Animation World Network or The Professional Association for Design (AIGA). You may also want to attend yearly industry conferences.


  • Many animators on contracts work long hours. Unlike company employment, working with contracts requires you to adjust your schedule based on upcoming deadlines.

Things You'll Need

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Internship
  • Animation classes
  • Hard copy portfolio
  • Demo reel
  • Resume
  • Professional membership
  • Contract work
  • Sole proprietorship/animation business

Article Info

Categories: Visual & Written Media