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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.

  • Avg. Salary $56,601.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.13
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook avg
  • Employed 6,800
  • In Demand High
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: Graphic Designers (5241.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Graphic Designers and Illustrators (F141) 
  • 2011 NOC: Graphic designers and illustrators (5241) 
  • 2016 NOC: Graphic designers and illustrators (5241) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Animator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Graphic Designers

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

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 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 More

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

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.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
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

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Graphic designers and illustrators
NOC code: 5241

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 42 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 27, 2021 and Jan 24, 2022.

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.
Prepare sketches, layouts and graphic elements
Consult with clients to establish the overall look, graphic elements and content of communications materials
Determine the medium best suited to produce the desired visual effect and the most appropriate vehicle for communication
Develop the graphic elements that meet the clients' objectives
Co-ordinate all aspects of production for print, audio-visual or electronic materials
Estimate costs of materials and time to complete graphic designs and illustrations
Personal Suitability: Team player
Use existing photo and illustration banks and typography guides
Personal Suitability: Client focus
Adapt existing illustrations
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 01, 2021

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.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Mount Royal University

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Visual College of Art and Design of Calgary

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

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

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.

Animators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators. In Alberta, 76% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

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 116 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.

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.

Graphic designers and illustrators

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $37.96 $23.28 $21.58
Overall $18.00 $53.13 $29.13 $26.93
Top $18.10 $58.85 $33.99 $31.10

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.

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.

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

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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