How to Become an Animator in 3 Simple Steps

What is an Animator

With the constant advances in computer software, being an animator is becoming more popular and more accessible all the time.

Creative people flourish in the role of an animator, taking their passion for drawing and creating and using software and other tools to create powerful animations.Read our complete guide and answer the question how to become an animator?

Being an animator can open up some interesting and exciting opportunities.

A lot of the work will be day-to-day work using design software. But depending on the industry, some interesting projects can turn up.

Video game designing and movie work is a large part of animation. The technological advances in design software leads to a greater demand for high-quality animation work on the big screen. At the same time, animations are just as important to entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to promote their brand.

What do Animators do?

The title of ‘Animator’ can cover a number of roles. It can mean multi-media animations, creating special effects, working with visual images, animating sculptures, working with electronic tools, and more.

Animators are responsible for a lot of what goes on behind the scenes at film studios, television studios, and video game development companies. This is the more glamorous roles with a lot of exposure. But animators are just as valuable to small companies, managing their multi-media, websites, and public image.

A summary of some typical duties include:

  • Producing animated graphics for companies
  • Designing animated sequences in film and TV
  • Animating simulations for military and medical practices
  • Animating virtual tours of buildings

Important Skills of an Animator

Being an animator comes easier to some people than others. There is a level of natural creativity and imagination that makes the job a lot easier.

Don’t let this put you off if you don’t think these are your strengths however. Anyone can be an animator if it’s what they want to do. There are a few qualities that make an animator more successful, here are some of them.

Drawing Skills

Drawing well is going to be a big advantage when it comes to penciling some rough designs to be worked on. Being able to put your own, or someone else’s vision on to paper and make it come alive is a key part to being an animator.

Creativity and Imagination

As mentioned in the opener, being creative and imaginative is going to open up a lot more creative opportunities and possibilities. Animators are often left to their own creative flair to make designs come alive.

Good Computer Skills and Knowledge of Design Software

There is a strong emphasis on being able to use design software to a high-level. This is a skill set that will hold a person back in their role if they cannot master the software. Some companies use in-house packages and provide the appropriate training.

Good Communication Skills

Being an animator does mean working alone on projects. But in most roles there will also be a need to communicate with other team members, clients, and customers. A clear understanding is crucial to completing a job to the client’s specifications.

Ability to Meet Deadlines and Manage Own Workload

An animation will typically be part of a larger overall project. So meeting personal deadlines is important to the success of the project as a whole. Being able to manage time and deliver work in a timely fashion is a desirable skill set.

The average animator salary is $72,520.

What is an Animator

Becoming an Animator

Step 1: High School Coursework

Art, Painting and Drawing Courses

While the vast majority of the coursework in animation training programs is about graphic design, art schools and colleges want the candidates to be highly trained and skilled artists, you will be expected to be able to draw facial expression, figures and different types of bodies Studio art classes with a focus on drawing is a good place to start. In order to start experimenting with color and get a basic understanding of coloring painting classes are highly recommended too.

Technology and Computer Courses

In order to enter an animator training program you need to be a highly trained artist but the truth is that almost 99% of animators’ work is computer based. You will use computer generated imagery to create 3d and 2d animation. Also all editing programs are computer based, so in order to become a successful animator you need to develop strong computer skills. Courses like computer science will help you build these skills early on.

Science and Math

Biology and science courses will help aspiring animators get a more in depth knowledge about human body movement. As graphics are getting more and more realistic animators are expected to created 2d or 3d human designs with a movement identical to real life. Math classes will also help them to efficiently work things in scale make conversions etc.

Step 2: Get an Undergraduate Degree

Animation Certificate Degree program 1 year

Animation certificates are 24 to 36 semester credit hours programs and can be attended either online or offline. In order to get accepted you will need a high school diploma with a GPA over 1.5, also at some colleges passing a placement test is also needed.


  • Portfolio for 2D Animation
  • Completed 30 credits in the 2D or 3D Animation Certificate Program
  • Animation Principles
  • 2D Animation
  • Principles of 3D Modeling
  • Storyboarding and Animatics
  • Hard Surface and Organic Modeling
  • 3D Animation
  • Character Modeling
  • Material and Lighting
  • 3D Character Animation
  • 3D Character Rigging
  • Animation Studio
  • Advanced Lighting and Texturing

The cost of an Animation Certificate Degree program is $3,502 – $18,333.

Animators Associates Degree Program 2 years

Animators Associates Degree are 63 to 97 semester credit hour programs and can be attended either on-campus or online . In order to get accepted you will need a high school diploma or a GED with a GPA over 2.0.


General Education Requirements (30 Credits Hours)

  • Composition I
  • Composition II
  • Technology and Society
  • Introductory Algebra
  • Oral Communication

Core Courses (67 Credits Hours)

  • Concept and Character Development
  • History of Animation
  • Introduction to Computer Animation
  • Digital Imaging for Animation
  • Computer Animation I
  • Computer Animation II
  • Computer Animation III
  • Interactive Design and Game Development
  • Computer Animation Portfolio Preparation
  • Computer Animation Portfolio Project
  • Introduction to Digital Media Communications
  • Introduction to Graphic Imaging
  • College Algebra
  • Introduction to HTML
  • World Wide Web Design
  • Web Multi-Media
  • Professional Career Strategies   1
  • WRKTC 201
  • Work Experience

The cost of an Animators Associates Degree Program ranges from $23,280 to $52,479.

Bachelor of Arts in Animation Degree Program 4 years

Bachelor of Arts in Animation Degree are 120 to 180 semester credit hours programs and can be attended mostly on campus. In order to get accepted you will need a high school diploma with a GPA over 2.0 or an associates degree.


Foundation courses (35 credits)

  • Drawing I: Form and Space
  • Drawing II: Composition and Media
  • Design I: Elements and Organization
  • Color: Theory and Application
  •  Design II: 3-D Form in Space

General education Courses (60 credits)

  • Survey of Western Art I
  • Survey of Western Art II
  • 20th-century Art
  • Advanced Survey of Computer Art Applications
  • Speaking of Ideas
  • Composition
  • Media Literacy Theory

Core Courses (75 credits)

  • Action Analysis I
  • Principles of 2-D Animation
  • History of Animation
  • Digital Form, Space and Lighting
  • Principles of 3-D Animation
  • Principles of Screen Design
  • 3-D Character Setup and Animation
  • 2-D Animation Production†
  • 3-D Animation Production†
  • Concept Development for Animation
  • Animation Professional Development
  • Senior Animation Project I
  • Senior Animation Project II
  • Animation Post-production
  • Collaboration‡

The cost of a Bachelor of Arts in Animation Degree Program ranges from $38,400 to $84,600.

It is really important to contact the college or university you want to enroll and ask them everything you want to know.

Step 3: Get a Graduate’s Degree

Master of Arts in Animation Program 1-2 years

Master of arts in animation are 30 to 45 semester credit hour programs and can be completed mostly on campus.

Admission requirements:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree
  • 2 letters of recommendation
  • A 500 to 750 statement of purpose
  • A portfolio
  • A resume


  • Animation Context and History
  • Character Animation Basics
  •  Animation Character Set-up
  • Digital 3-D Effects
  •  Animation Aesthetics and Practice
  •  Computer-generated Modeling and Design
  • Drawing in Motion
  • Cartoon Character Animation†
  • Character Look Development†
  • Naturalistic Character Animation‡
  • Environment Look Development‡
  • Collaborative Project
  • Animation M.A. Final Project
  • Art Criticism
  • Collaboration

The cost of a Master of Arts in Animation Program ranges from $36,045 to $69,132.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Animator and How Much Does it Cost?

Option 1 : Certificate

Degree Time Cost
Certificate 6 months to 12 months$3,502 – $18,333
Certification 1 month
Total 6 months to 18 months$3,502 – $18,333

Option 2 : Associate’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$23,280 – $52,479
Certification 1 month
Total 2 years & 1 month $23,280 – $52,479

Option 3 : Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$38,400 – $84,600
Certification 1 month
Total 4 years & 1 month$38,400 – $84,600

Option 4 : Master’s Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$38,400 – $84,600
Master’s2 years$36,045 – $69,132
Certification1 month
Total6 years $74,445 – $153,732

Animator Training Video

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Noel Griffith

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