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Types of Animation Jobs: The 12 Best Careers in 2024

by | Last updated Jan 11, 2024

What are the different types of animation jobs? 

Today, you’ll find out what the various roles in the industry are like. You’ll also learn how to land a job in the field (with or without a relevant degree). 

Want to learn more? Read on!

What is animation?

First things first: Animation is a technique that adds movement to images to tell a story or show action. There are many different types of animation styles, including:

  • Traditional animation
  • 2D animation
  • 3D animation
  • Stop motion
  • Motion graphics

Animation career description

An animation career involves creating animated images, characters, and stories using a variety of techniques and tools. Traditional animation is typically done by hand drawing, but newer animation styles are done via computer software and other tools. 

Clearly, animation is popular in the arts and entertainment, such as TV, movies, and video games, but its use is also increasing in other industries to enhance things like marketing materials. 

As an animator, you would typically be responsible for creating characters, backgrounds, and other elements of animated work. And, depending on what part of the production pipeline you became a part of, your animation career could also involve:

  • Setting up workflows
  • Keeping animation teams coordinated
  • Working on post-production and getting the animation ready for release

Animation training and salary

A career in animation doesn’t usually require a college degree. And that’s good news since degrees can get extremely expensive and don’t always offer much mentorship or technical training. 

The main thing recruiters and supervisors look for is a strong art portfolio showing competency rather than any degrees.

Instead, you can learn the right skills and get practical guidance through self-guided online animation courses and workshops. These courses are more cost-effective and enable you to learn at your own pace. 

Plus, you’ll have access to industry experts and mentorship, which will be immensely helpful as you navigate the world of animation careers. 

According to Glassdoor, the average animator salary is $71K. Keep in mind that salaries can vary depending on the employer, the location, and your experience, but there are a variety of employers looking for talented animators. 

Which animation career is best?

The best animation field for you depends on your skills and interests. Since everyone is different, there isn’t a field that’s objectively ‘best’ in animation. 

With that said, the strongest career paths are generally those where you can offer niche skills or specialized knowledge that you develop as you gain more experience. 

Okay, now let’s take a look at the different types of animation jobs available.

Types of animation jobs 

Animators work at various stages of production. 

So, for example, you can work in the pre-production department doing things like art direction or developing the overall story and narrative. Or you can also be part of the production process by being directly involved in the production of the animation itself (or finishing up the animation in post-production). 

Animation jobs typically require a combination of technical skills and a creative eye to develop and animate engaging visuals that captivate audiences. In addition, qualities such as being detail-oriented and a good collaborator are also valuable in an animation career.  

So, to get started, let’s first explore what pre-production looks like. 

Pre-production department

Here are some of the roles that are generally included in pre-production:

  • Art director
  • Concept artist
  • Layout artist
  • Storyboard artist

These artists are responsible for preparing the materials and resources for production. So, that means establishing the artistic style and creative direction based on the story and plot and getting workflows together (including budgeting and timelines) to ensure the animation process itself goes smoothly.

During pre-production, artists work on pre-visualization to create the look and feel that will be developed in the animation process and work closely with the director to ensure the creative vision is developed and communicated effectively. 

Let’s take a look at a few of these roles in more detail: 

Art director

Art directors are responsible for creating and guiding the animation project’s overall look. This includes establishing the general creative direction for the animation based on the story and plotline to ensure that everything is cohesive. 

Concept artist

Concept artists help shape the look and feel of the animation, including developing initial sketches and artistic looks for the characters based on the narrative and plot. 

Previs/Layout artist

Layout artists come in after the storyboard and project look and feel have been established. The layout artist is able to determine the depth and perspective of the animation based on the techniques being used. 

Storyboard artist

A storyboard artist creates storyboards for the animation by breaking it down scene-by-scene in sketches. Basically, the storyboard is a visual representation of how the animation will develop in production.

Matte painting artist/Set extension

Background designers work on crafting and bringing to life the backgrounds for a project and creating the right atmosphere to set the tone for the story and narrative. 

Character designer

Character designers are responsible for creating the characters for the animation and translating the art director’s creative vision into the individual characters’ designs and personalities. 

Head of story

The head of story is responsible for the animation narrative and ties together the plot, characters, and dialogues with the character design and art direction. 

3D modeling

Modelers create 3D models that are used in the animation based on the established art direction and character design. 

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Production department

The production department is responsible for turning the animation concepts designed in the pre-production process into moving images. 

So, this department takes the look, feel, and atmosphere developed in the pre-production process and starts to bring those visuals to life through animation and lighting. 

Animator

Animators may work on 2D or 3D animation, but their role is ultimately to start adding movement to the storyboard or concept art that has been established in the pre-production process using a variety of techniques and tools. 

Compositor

A compositor is someone who combines different visuals into one image. So, in animation, for example, a compositor may take multiple render passes of the animation and refine them to combine the visuals and make the final product look polished. 

FX technical director

The effects technical director is a key role that oversees the technical aspects of the production, including the development, tools, and other resources used in the animation process. 

They’re also responsible for managing technical workflows, making sure the animation is on track, and troubleshooting any problems that may come up on the technical side of the production. 

Layout artist

A layout artist creates the initial designs and layout for the animation using specialized software. In addition, they also create the background, characters, objects, and other elements necessary for the animation. 

Lighting artist

Lighting artists are an integral part of the animation process since they’re in charge of adding different lighting effects. So, they work closely with the creative and animation teams to ensure that the lighting in each scene conveys the right atmosphere and mood based on the story and narrative. 

Rigging artist

The rigging process is different in animation vs. live-action movies. But, in animation, riggers create the basic 3D models (including the characters’ movements) to bring the animation to life. That’s why these artists play a key role in the production process.

Pipeline technical director 

The pipeline technical director oversees the pipeline of animation work throughout the production process and ensures that each part of the pipeline is fully staffed and has the technical resources needed. Keeping the pipeline moving and managing any issues that come up is a key responsibility for people in this role. 

FX artist

FX artists add visual effects to the animation, such as particles, fluids, and collision dynamics. They also have a role in compositing to ensure the final visual effects are of the highest quality. 

Groom artist

Groom artists are niche animators who can create stylized or natural-looking textures such as hair, fur, and feathers for the animation. 

Environment artist

Environment artists create computer-generated immersive atmospheres and environments in which animated characters move around based on the story and script. 

Character artist

Character artists are in charge of developing the visualization and creation of individual characters based on the concepts and art direction established during the pre-production process. They also create things like the character’s anatomy and style. 

Texturing artist

Texturing artists add the realistic effects needed for 3D characters to look like they’re coming to life. So, they use a combination of different techniques to add texture (such as reflections, imperfections, and other markings) that make the objects in the animation more realistic. 

Cloth TD

Cloth technical directors are responsible for creating the clothing in animation through 2D pattern techniques, 3D modeling, or a combination of the two. So, clothing TD roles include designing the clothing geometry, how the cloth moves, and matching it with the animation’s overall creative concept and art direction. 

Crowd TD

The crowd technical director is in charge of creating how crowds move and behave in animation. So, the crowd technical director role uses the lighting, motion, and art direction of the animation as part of the process of designing crowds. 

Other roles

Unsurprisingly, the production process in animation encompasses many different roles, including niche ones related to specific technical skills or expertise. 

For example, the production part of the animation process includes story creation roles, character design, adding sounds and special effects, and much more. 

Animation isn’t just a one-person job – there are many processes that go into it. So, a career in animation is all about collaborating with others to create incredible visuals and animations together. 

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Production management department

The production management department plays an integral role in animations. That’s because it oversees the production of the animation from start to finish, establishes timelines, and manages budgets.

This department is also responsible for building the animation team (depending on the skill sets and technical expertise required) as well as sourcing the tools and software needed for each team member to complete their work successfully. 

So, this department is involved in the animation process from the pre-production onward, including story and character development, script writing and finalizing, establishing the creative direction, and getting the initial concepts done. 

The production department works closely with team members in the pre-production process to ensure that the script and story are ready for creative development and to prepare concepts for the production. Finally, this department oversees the production and post-production to ensure that the final product is ready for release.  

Development department

In animation, the development department is in charge of the story, characters, and other elements required for the animation. Ultimately, their role is to develop the foundation of the animation, such as the plot and story. 

So, artists in this department work on creating the world and characters from the ground up and identifying the best animation techniques based on the story they’re trying to communicate. 

They then work with other departments, such as pre-production, to bring together the story, plot, and artistic direction into a cohesive vision. Once that’s done, the animation can then be moved to production. 

Post-production department

Once the animation production process is complete, the post-production department takes over to get the animation ready for the final release. 

So, the post-production process takes the completed animation and begins with the compositing process, video editing, final grading of the visuals, and adding sound design to connect the animation and sound. 

The post-production department is mainly involved in getting the animation to the final release stage and ensuring the quality is maintained throughout. They also work on editing the existing visuals and animations into a cohesive story and on more detailed tasks needed to get the animation ready. 

So, roles in post-production can include correcting the color and texture in different parts of the animation or working on timing the animation and sound together to ensure that everything is in sync. 

Distribution department

Once the animation is complete in the post-production process, it’s ready for release! So, at this stage, it’s handed off to the distribution department, which is in charge of distributing the animation to target audiences through relevant platforms and movie theaters.

The distribution department’s responsibilities can vary, depending on who they sell the animated content to. For example, some distribution departments may only work on selling and distributing content to streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Disney+. 

Other parts of the distribution department may work with major movie theaters and cinemas to ensure a wide-scale cinematic release. 

And there might also be a combination of the two, like releasing movies in theaters before selling the content to streaming services after the movie is no longer showing in theaters. 

Distribution departments are also part of the promotional and marketing strategy for the animation. Ultimately, their goal is to ensure that the animation has maximum viewership among their target audiences for maximum reach and revenue generation. 

Over to you!

There you have it! Now you know the different types of animation jobs out there. 

If you’re interested in learning more about lighting specifically, get our free tips on how to create a stand-out demo reel: 

Read more:

How to Become an Animator (Guide)

Animation for Beginners (Guide)

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

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