How to Become an Animator (With Little or No Experience)

Think you might want to become an animator? Concerned that a lack of experience will hold you back?

Not to worry. The need for animators in Ottawa is so great that there’s never been a better time for newcomers to break into the field.

Demand for animators is far outpacing supply. The shortage is so serious that some Ottawa animation studios are having to turn away work or send projects overseas because they simply can’t find enough local talent to hire.

So how can a total beginner take advantage of that demand?

In this post, we take you through the basic steps you can follow to become an animator, even if you have little or no experience.

Here’s how to position yourself for success in Ottawa’s hot animation job market.



If you want to land a job as an animator, you first need to find out what fundamental skills Ottawa studios are looking for.

You’ll need a solid grasp of animation principles, an eagle eye for detail, and strong problem-solving abilities.

But most importantly, you’ll need to be comfortable with Toon Boom Harmony, the 2D animation software that is standard throughout the industry.

A.J. Cote has two decades of experience working with animation studios in Ottawa and elsewhere. He says local studios are hungry for animators who are well-versed in Harmony.

“This is exactly what Ottawa studios need. It is what 99% of all entry-level jobs are in animation.

In Ottawa alone there are 4 major studios desperately needing animators trained in this software. They just can’t find enough graduates with the right skills.”



The next step is to find a 2D animation course that’s designed to turn out graduates with the skills local studios need.

A good program teaches you how to use animation software for posing, staging, character rigging, and more.

Herzing’s 2D animation program provides in-depth training on Toon Boom Harmony so that students are ready to step right into a studio role after graduation.

Recent Herzing graduate Megan Winters says the laser focus on Harmony was what convinced her to take the training.

“With other 2D animation courses, you have to wait longer to get your hands on the software.

I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to learn Harmony right away, so I could get to work faster. Knowing this software is key to getting hired in the animation industry.”



If you’re trying to become an animator but have never worked in the field, any experience you can get is a huge advantage.

Quality 2D animation training includes an internship that allows you to get into a real studio even before you graduate.

An internship gives you a chance to make valuable contacts, hone your skills alongside industry pros, and see first-hand how the production process really works.

Students in Herzing’s animation program complete a 6-week internship at Big Jump Entertainment. They get mentored by Big Jump animators and work on real productions.

And an internship can often lead to a job offer. One year, Big Jump hired every single member of Herzing’s graduating class, many of whom had no professional animation experience.



A demo reel is an important tool for attracting a studio’s attention. Having a high-quality reel that showcases your abilities is key to getting hired as an animator.

You can start building one during your animation training.

A good program will get you doing hands-on projects right away so that you can grow your skills and graduate with a professional demo reel.

Tip: If you upload your demo reel to Vimeo, you can keep the same URL even when you make changes to the reel. That means you don’t have to worry about potential employers getting a broken link or seeing an outdated version of your reel.



The animation field offers several different paths.

Once you get started in the industry, you can choose to specialize in a particular area, such as:

☑️ Storyboards


☑️ Character design

☑️ Rigging

☑️ Special effects

☑️ Backgrounds

☑️ Editing


As you gain experience at those first few jobs, take note of the projects that interest you most. You can start featuring that work in your demo reel.

Or, you can do some independent projects to hone your skills and create examples for your reel.

Soon, you'll have a body of work in that niche, which you can show studios who are hiring for the specialized role you want.



Looking for quality training that can help you become an animator?

The 2D animation program at Herzing College was designed for beginners. Our goal is to quickly equip students with the animation skills and software Ottawa studios need most right now.

The training is just 12 months long and includes a 6-week internship at Big Jump Entertainment, one of Ottawa’s leading animation companies.

Graduates leave the program with real work experience and a professional demo reel. Quite a few are hired at Big Jump (and other top studios) straight out of the program.

Need more info? An Admissions Advisor can give you all the details about courses, costs, financial aid, application procedures, and more.

Click below to explore the 2D animation program and chat live with an Advisor. We’re here to help!

Explore Herzing's 2D Animation Program