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How Much Do Professional Animators Make Per Year?

We learn straight from the source if drawing can pay off

If you’re interested in collecting a regular paycheck as an artist, working as an animator can be a viable option.

The demand for animated shows and movies has never been stronger with over 93 animated feature films released in 2021. Animators are also crucial members of the video game industry, advertising industry and mobile app development.

If you’re worried about the long term prospects of a career in animation, things look pretty darn good. The current animation market is valued at nearly $400 billion and is estimated to only go up:

source

So how much can a person expect to earn as an animator? Unlike estimates from career platforms like Indeed or Glassdoor, we actually have some concrete numbers to share.

You might be surprised to learn that just like steelworkers, pipe fitters and electricians, animators also have their own union. The Animation Guild is a labor union that specifically represents animation and visual effects artists.

Just like other unions, they’ve negotiated a series of member benefits like health plans, safe working conditions and wage minimums.

The Animation Guild has signed collective bargaining agreements with the majority of studios operating in the US. The list below shows just a few examples of the employers contracted with the guild:

  • ABC Studios
  • Amazon Studios
  • Cartoon Network
  • Disney Television Animation
  • Dreamworks Animation
  • Fox TV Animation
  • Hasbro Studios
  • Marvel Animation Studio
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation
  • Nickelodeon Animation
  • Sony Pictures Animation
  • Universal Animation Studios
  • Warner Bros. Animation

The guild negotiates new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) every four years and posts a list of wage minimums for each position, which we’ve selected portions to share.

aaron blaise animating
Disney Animator Aaron Blaise

Hourly and weekly wages in the animation industry

Listed below are the minimum wage scales for a variety of key roles in animation. Payments are usually tiered based on the length of employment with the first 6 months, 2nd 6 months and Journey positions earning greater respective salaries.

InbetweenerHourlyWeekly
1st to 6 months$37.13$1,485.20
2nd 6 months$38.20$1,528.00
Journey$39.62$1,584.00
Assistant AnimatorHourlyWeekly
1st to 6 months$43.70$1,748.00
2nd 6 months$44.78$1,791.20
Journey$46.84$1,873.60
AnimatorHourlyWeekly
1st to 6 months$51.61$2,064.40
2nd 6 months$52.78$2,111.20
Journey$54.74$2,189.60
Color DesignerHourlyWeekly
1st to 6 months$44.88$1,795.20
2nd 6 months$45.90$1,836.00
Journey$50.00$2,000.00
Animation TimerHourlyWeekly
1st to 6 months$41.67$1,666.80
2nd 6 months$45.46$1,818.40
Journey$51.43$2,057.20
Assistant DirectorHourlyWeekly
1st to 6 months$41.67$1,666.80
2nd 6 months$45.46$1,818.40
Journey$51.43$2,057.20
Production BoardHourlyWeekly
1st to 6 months$59.34$2,373.60
2nd 6 months$60.69$2,427.60
Journey$62.95$2,518.00
Supervising Animation WriterHourlyWeekly
$72.50$2,900.00

It’s important to note that these figures may or may not include benefits, bonuses or other incentives. The guild also states that animators responsible for supervising the work of others shall receive 15% more than the minimum Journey rate.

The contract also outlines several sideletters – union-ese for side contracts for select employers. Animators working for big studios like Disney or Dreamworks might see slightly different rates than those listed above.

Yearly wages for animators

Calculating the yearly income for people in the animation industry is a little more complex. Many animators work on a contract basis for each project. When one project is finished there might be a gap in their income until the next thing comes along.

If we were to factor 45 work-weeks for each position and use the mid-tier pay scale, the yearly (pre-tax) income would looks like this:

Job TitleYearly Income
Inbetweener$68,760
Assistant animator$80,604
Animator$95,004
Color designer$82,620
Animation timer$81,828
Assistant director$81,828
Production board$109,242
Supervising animation writer$130,500

There are also many other factors that can effect how much an animator can earn including location, experience/education, medium (digital or traditional) and other aspects. Not all animation jobs work within the union too.

Overall, a career in animation is a great option for artists looking for a strong and stable source of income while still exercising their creativity.

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© Efrain Malo

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