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Animators create the illusion of movement by manipulating sequences of still images. They mostly use 2D and 3D software, but may use drawings on paper, 3-dimensional sculptures or other materials and techniques.

Also Known As

Artist, Graphic Artist, Motion Graphics Artist, Rigger, Storyboard Artist, Visual Effects (VFX) Artist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 5241.1: Graphic Designers

2006 NOC-S

  • F141: Graphic Designers and Illustrators

2011 NOC

  • 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC

  • 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators

2021 NOC

  • 52120: Graphic designers and illustrators

2023 OaSIS

  • 52120.01: Graphic designers
Updated Mar 01, 2021

Animators work on visual productions such as short and feature-length films, television series, educational films, commercials, presentations and computer games. They may work independently or as part of a small team of animators on projects of their own creation, or they may work in the feature film, computer game or television departments of large animation studios.

Animators working on their own films:

  • Develop an initial concept or story idea
  • Develop character profiles and personalities based on the story
  • Sketch a storyboard (visual script) for the project
  • Create a dialogue (voice) track for the film, if desired
  • Break down the soundtrack frame by frame
  • Digitally create, draw or build characters, sets and graphics
  • Assemble images digitally or film drawings, puppets or cut-outs one frame at a time
  • Edit scenes together, matching them to the soundtrack
  • Edit in and mix additional tracks including music and sound effects
  • Market their work by screening finished films at local film co-operatives or cinemas, broadcasting animations on the Internet, entering animations in film festivals or showing them directly to broadcasters, film distributors or computer game developers
  • Prepare and deliver in-person or online pitch presentations to potential investors and funding agencies

Animators in large studios follow a director's guidelines and work only on specified parts of a production. In general:

  • The story department develops the concept
  • The character designer designs the characters
  • The visual development (viz dev) artists design all elements of production, including characters, backgrounds, props, etc.
  • The art director creates the look of the film, in collaboration with viz dev artists
  • Animators in the layout department (layout artists) create the technical plans for each scene
  • Animators in the storyboard department (storyboard artists) draw the script
  • The director and sound editor plan and edit the soundtrack

Animators may specialize in one or more of the following types of animation:

  • Characters
  • Settings or environments
  • Special effects
  • Titles or credits

They also may specialize in techniques such as:

  • Cut-outs
  • Clay or plasticine
  • Silhouettes
  • Rotoscoped drawings (traced from live action)
  • Pixilation (frame-by-frame movement of people and objects in a live-action setting)
  • Computer-generated sequences integrated into film or video

Animators usually specialize in 2-dimensional (2D) or 3-dimensional (3D) animation. 2D animation is an evolution of traditional cell or character animation, and may employ a wide variety of art materials and styles. 3D animation often is created with computer programs that add gravity, texture and other realistic effects.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 01, 2021
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Animators often sit for long periods of time, but to understand the movement they are creating, may regularly get up to act out their characters in front of colleagues, a mirror or a video recorder. They work under the pressure of constant deadlines, production delays and other challenges; 60-hour workweeks are not uncommon.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Graphic Designers

2006 NOC: 5241.1

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

Interest in synthesizing information to prepare sketches, layouts and graphic elements of the subjects to be rendered using traditional tools, multimedia software and image processing, layout and design software; and in determining the medium best suited to produce desired visual effects and most appropriate vehicle for communication


Interest in precision working to co-ordinate all aspects of production for print, audio-visual and electronic materials such as Web sites, CD-ROMs and interactive terminals; and in estimating costs of materials and time to complete designs


Interest in consulting with clients to establish the overall look, graphic elements and content of communication materials in order to meet their needs; in supervising other graphic designers or graphic arts technicians, in co-ordinating the work of sub-contractors, and in working in a multidisciplinary environment

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 01, 2021

Animators need:

  • Imagination and artistic ability
  • Patience
  • Self-awareness
  • Attention to detail
  • Time-management and project-management skills
  • Strong understanding of proportion and body movement of both humans and animals
  • An ability to work quickly and meet deadlines

Many animators work on a freelance or contract basis and therefore must be able to:

  • Promote themselves and market their talent
  • Adapt their artistic style to different studios and different clients
  • Convey their ideas to others
  • Work well as members of a team

They should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information 
  • Employing a visual narrative research
  • Being innovative
  • Taking a methodical approach to tasks requiring precision (for example, preparing specifications, estimating costs)
  • Collaborating with colleagues and clients

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC: 5241

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 104 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Mar 11, 2024 and Apr 20, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Tasks: Prepare sketches, layouts and graphic elements
Tasks: Develop the graphic elements that meet the clients' objectives
Tasks: Co-ordinate all aspects of production for print, audio-visual or electronic materials
Tasks: Consult with clients to establish the overall look, graphic elements and content of communications materials
Tasks: Determine the medium best suited to produce the desired visual effect and the most appropriate vehicle for communication
Tasks: Consult with clients to determine the nature and content of illustrations in order to meet their communications needs
Tasks: Estimate costs of materials and time to complete graphic designs and illustrations
Tasks: Use existing photo and illustration banks and typography guides
Attention to detail
Tasks: Establish guidelines for illustrators or photographers
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 01, 2021
  • Minimum Education Varies

Animators are hired on the basis of:

  • A compelling demo reel of previous animation work
  • Strong colour theory, composition and life-drawing skills as demonstrated in portfolios of previous work
  • Being able to construct or contribute to the creation of visual narratives

Animators, including computer animators, need fine art or graphic design training at the post-secondary level.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

In Calgary, the Quickdraw Animation Society (QAS) offers regular courses on various media and occasional workshops on special topics.

Before enrolling in a program, aspiring animators should discuss their training options with potential employers. Some major animation studios offer their own in-house training programs.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 01, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 01, 2021

Many animators start by taking a course from their local university or college. Some are then able to go on to apprentice at local production studios. Others seek out workshops and projects at film and video co-operatives.

Almost all animation work is freelance, paid on a contract basis. Most opportunities for animation work are found in larger cities where there is a lot of film, television and video game production, such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Many professional animators travel from city to city, working on short-term contracts. Remote work-from-home options may become more common in future for this occupation.

Animators may work for:

  • Film and video production companies or post-production houses
  • Independent filmmakers
  • Television stations
  • Advertising agencies
  • Computer game developers
  • Other computer-based multimedia developers or producers

A growing number of animators work with teams involved in designing video games and learning media.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group, 79.6% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group is expected to have an average annual growth of 1.9% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 116 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 01, 2021

In Canada, animators negotiate each contract separately. Incomes can vary greatly from one animator to another, and from one year to another. Many animators must supplement their income with other work, such as teaching, illustration or camera work.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC: 5241
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 5241 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $50.00 $25.08 $20.19
Overall $16.00 $53.48 $29.09 $25.00
Top $16.00 $56.01 $33.13 $29.40

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Wholesale Trade
Information, Culture, Recreation
Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Leasing
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Educational Services
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Computer and Information Technology
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 01, 2021

Digital Alberta website:

Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) website:

Quickdraw Animation Society (QAS) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 01, 2021. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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