Special effects artists and animators held about 58,900 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of special effects artists and animators were as follows:
|Motion picture and video industries||12|
|Computer systems design and related services||5|
|Advertising, public relations, and related services||2|
Many artists and animators work in offices; others work from home.
Most special effects artists and animators work a regular schedule; however, when deadlines are approaching, they may need to work nights and weekends.
Special effects artists and animators typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, art, or a related field to develop both a portfolio of work and the technical skills that many employers prefer.
Special effects artists and animators typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, animation, fine arts, or a related field.
Bachelor’s degree programs in computer graphics often include courses in computer science in addition to art. Programs in animation often require classes in drawing, animation, and film. Programs in fine arts may include courses in painting, drawing, and sculpture. Schools also may have specialized degrees in topics such as interactive media or game design.
Employers usually prefer to hire candidates who have a good portfolio and strong technical skills, both of which students may develop while earning a degree.
Special effects artists and animators who show strong teamwork and time-management skills can advance to supervisory positions, where they are responsible for one aspect of a visual effects team. Some artists might advance to leadership or directorial positions, such as an art director or producer or director.
Skills in graphics and animation can be honed through self-study. Special effects artists and animators can develop these skills to enhance their portfolios, which may make it easier to find job opportunities.
Multimedia artists and animators typically have an interest in the Creating interest area, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media.
If you are not sure whether you have a Creating interest which might fit with a career as a multimedia artist and animator, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Multimedia artists and animators should also possess the following specific qualities:
Artistic talent. Animators and artists should have artistic ability and a good understanding of color, texture, and light. However, they may be able to compensate for artistic shortcomings with better technical skills.
Communication skills. Multimedia artists and animators need to work as part of a complex team and respond well to criticism and feedback.
Computer skills. Many multimedia artists and animators use computer programs or write programming code to do most of their work. Those with artistic talent, however, may be able to find work that does not require strong computer skills.
Creativity. Artists and animators must be able to think creatively to develop original ideas and make them come to life.
Time-management skills. The hours required by most studio and game design companies are long, particularly when there are tight deadlines. Artists and animators need to be able manage their time when a deadline approaches.
The median annual wage for special effects artists and animators was $78,790 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $46,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $131,370.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for special effects artists and animators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Advertising, public relations, and related services||$87,540|
|Motion picture and video industries||78,790|
|Computer systems design and related services||77,740|
Most special effects artists and animators work a regular full-time schedule; however, when deadlines are approaching, they may need to work nights and weekends.
Employment of special effects artists and animators is projected to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 6,700 openings for special effects artists and animators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Projected employment growth will be due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television. Consumer demand will continue for more realistic video games, movie and television special effects, and three-dimensional movies. Additional special effects artists and animators will be required to meet increased demand for these enhanced visual complexities.
Furthermore, continued demand for computer graphics for mobile devices, such as smart phones, will lead to more job opportunities. Special effects artists will be needed to create animation for games and for mobile applications.
For information about accredited schools of art and design, visit
National Association of Schools of Art and Design
For more information about careers in video game design, visit