Starting a 3D Animation Career: Your First 5 Steps

3D animation careers are hot right now. There's no limit to what you can imagine and create in the magical world of animation, visual effects, and CGI.

Movies like Sin City, Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and How to Train Your Dragon have captivated audiences worldwide—and inspired many young animators to enter the industry.

Or maybe video games are your thing. There are so many ways to express your creativity, artistic talent, and technical skill in the world of 3D. The real question is, how do you get started?

The reality is that animation is a very competitive field. You need a plan to get your career off the ground. Here are your first 5 steps.

Step 1: Understand Your 3D Animation Career Options

Maybe you already have your heart set on working in the gaming industry. Or you know you're destined for a career in film. But, regardless of what you think you'll be doing in the 3D animation universe, it's a good idea to understand all your career options—right from day one.

Many successful 3D artists end up specializing in areas they never considered at the start. For example, you could find yourself working as a skin texturing specialist. Or, get deep into character modelling, lighting, prop development, or background animation.

3D animators also have job options in other industries. Possible career paths include:

  • marketing/advertising
  • television
  • film
  • video games
  • website design
  • medical and scientific animation
  • architectural and engineering animation

Take a look at all the paths. Explore specializations within the film/TV/gaming industries. See what sparks your interest, and where a 3D animation career could take you.

Step 2: Know the Skills You'll Need to Compete

What software skills are most in-demand for 3D animators? What do recruiters and studios look for when hiring 3D artists?

These are great questions to be asking, even early on. You're not on the job market yet, but your goal is to get hired at a great company, right? So, you need to start planning your strategy, so you know where to focus your efforts.

Plus, looking at key skills will help you preview what you'll be learning in 3D animation training. You can figure out if these topics and tools really interest you...and confirm that you're on the right career track.

So, first and foremost, you'll need to master the software most commonly used by 3D animators:

  • Autodesk 3ds Max
  • Autodesk Maya
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Premier

But software isn't everything. There are other important things employers look for when hiring visual effects artists. For example, Autodesk interviewed 20 different VFX recruiters at Effects Montreal 2018.

They asked each recruiter one simple question: "What's the most important quality you look for in a job candidate?"

The answers were really surprising! Qualities like attitude, passion, and creativity ranked higher than software knowledge, across the board.

Bottom line? Companies are looking for well-rounded people, who have solid technical skills AND a true passion for the industry. Your willingness to learn, be a team player, and stay positive will help you build a successful career in 3D animation. 

Step 3: Find a Quality 3D Animation College

So, now you know what skills you need to develop. Now it's time to select a good 3D animation college and get learning. Obviously, you want a program that teaches the most popular industry software, like Maya and 3ds Max.

But there are other things to consider. For example, you need training that really digs deep into:

  • character design
  • storyboarding
  • digital drawing and painting
  • skinning, textures, and materials
  • modelling and character rigging
  • complete video game production process
  • lighting and special effects
  • architectural and environment modelling

Most importantly, you need plenty of hands-on projects, and help creating a professional demo reel you can use to land your first job.

Also, having a guaranteed internship offers a huge advantage. You'll get some real studio experience to kickstart your career, gain confidence, and make industry contacts. These are the characteristics of a quality 3D animation program.

Step 4: Look for a Mentor in the Animation Industry

Speaking of industry's worth taking the time to find a mentor. Someone who already works in the 3D animation or VFX industry.

If you don't know anyone personally, reach out online through LinkedIn, join a forum, or check out 3D animation Facebook groups—like this one.

Once you're in school, make an effort to connect with your instructor outside of class. Talk about your career goals, questions, concerns, etc. Get their advice on how to improve your skills, land a good job, or which areas of specialization you should pursue.

Good 3D animation programs are taught by experienced professionals. Tap into that knowledge, and get the guidance you need. Industry contacts are key to finding work opportunities. Start  building your network now.

Step 5: Fine-tune Your Demo Reel to start applying to jobs

It's all about the demo reel. You'll get help creating it during training, but will need to keep updating and perfecting your reel over time. You'll also need to tailor it to each job you go after.

Bardel Entertainment is a leading Canadian animation studio that does series productions for Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, and Warner Brothers.

They did a great interview with Autodesk on what makes a good demo reel, and what 3D artists should avoid. See that interview right here.

Or just check out Bardel's own demo reel for an awesome example of how to get it right. This is the stuff you'll be learning how to do in class!



What now? Get your questions answered

Interested in learning more about 3D animation training at Herzing College Montreal? We'd love to hear from you.

Our program runs for 24 months and includes a guaranteed 8-week internship at a Montreal animation company. We help you prepare a professional demo real, resume, cover letter, and apply to local companies—all before you graduate.

Use the links below to explore the 3D Animation Program and connect with an Admissions Advisor. An Advisor can help you with:

  • admission requirements for the program
  • financial aid options
  • class schedules and start dates
  • confirming you're a good fit for a 3D animation career
  • arranging a campus tour or class visit
  • application steps for international students
  • any questions you have about 3D animation careers

Click to get started! We're here to help.


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