Anyone who lived through the 80s will recall the now-obsolete video games of the day – PacMan, Frogger and Tetris. Almost as obsolete as the games and the graphics behind them are the machines which powered them. Can anyone say Atari?

Back then, video games were exciting for no other reason than they were new on the scene, with technology we had never seen before. Fast-forward to the 21st Century, and what once passed for cutting-edge game systems with cool graphics are far surpassed by what is available on the market today. With three-dimensional characters bursting to life on the screen and gaming systems that make playing effortless, it is easy to see why 67 percent of all American households played video games as of 2010, according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
The lifelike characters featured in games and other digital animation is the result of the skill and hard work of what is known as an animator.
Animators – sometimes referred to as multimedia artists – are trained to use techniques and current technology to create the vivid characters and surroundings we see in movies, television and other multimedia programs.
Education Requirements

While it is true that creativity is one of those skills that often cannot be taught, animators must possess more than the ability to dream up a character or program. They also must possess storytelling skills and the kind of artistic technique that allows them to literally breathe life into any inanimate drawing. These, and other, vital skills required to be successful as an animator can be learned through a variety of programs designed to teach the art of animation.

An associate degree in animation often is enough formal education to land an entry-level job in the industry. A number of traditional and online programs offer associate degrees in animation. They take roughly two years to complete.

Bachelor degree programs in animation also are available and recommended for those who wish to land more lucrative opportunities in the industry. Any online or traditional program offering an undergraduate degree in animation should include courses which cover the fundamentals of two-and-three-dimensional animation, visual effects and elements, layout and design, stop motion, computer and traditional animation techniques, cinematography and storytelling.
Most quality programs in animation also offer students the opportunity to complete internships in the field. Internships are a great way for students to build professional portfolios which later can be used during their job search.

Animation schools are able to receive accreditation for their programs from a number of reputable accrediting agencies. In order to receive accreditation, programs must prove they contain rigorous and relevant course material.
Among the top-ranked animation programs in the nation are those offered at Carnegie Mellon University, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of Central Florida, Brigham Young University, the Pratt Institute and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Future Outlook

Demand for trained animators is expected to grow by only 8 percent over the next decade, which is lower than the average growth rate for all other business and industry examined during the same time period.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that individuals skilled in creating animation for video games will be in the highest demand.

The average annual salary for animators was estimated at $58,000, with the top 10 percent of wage earners making more than $99,000.

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