How Much Money Does a Visual Effects Technician Earn?

Visual effects technicians may start designs on paper before moving them to digital media.
Visual effects technicians may start designs on paper before moving them to digital media. (Image: Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Visual effects technicians use photography, film, video and computer software to create special effects, animation, multimedia presentations, slide shows and other visual images for use in mobile digital devices, computer games, movies, music videos and commercials. Some job titles for people in this profession include multimedia designer, animation director, graphic artist, graphic designer and illustrator. The average salary for a person in this field is just under $63,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2009 data.

Average Salary

Visual effects technicians fall under multimedia artists and animators in Bureau of Labor Statistics research data. The average salary for professionals in this occupation is $30.20 an hour or $62,810 a year according to the bureau. California has the highest concentration of visual effects technicians with more than 9,400 professionals. Multimedia artists earn the most in San Jose, Calif., where bureau data reports salaries as high as $83,610 a year.

Education, Skills and Salary

Innate creativity and mastery of design software are the key elements needed for a successful career in this field. Some workers enter the profession after earning a degree in fine art and a graduate degree in computer graphics. Others might secure their first job after earning an undergraduate degree at an art and design school. Still others break in the field after earning an associate degree in computer graphics from a community college. At the low end, multimedia artists earn $32,360 and at the high end, $99,130 annually, according to the bureau. Growth in the field and compensation depends on job location, talent and continual mastery of new software and digital technologies.

Top-Paying Industries

Top-paying industries for visual effects technicians include motion picture and video production houses, where multimedia artists might incorporate live-action footage and computer-generated images to create digital content to enhance storytelling in films or television programming. Salaries in production houses average $70,960 according to the bureau. Other industries that pay above-average salaries include technical and trade schools, telecommunication and software firms. At advertising and public relations firms, the bureau reports below-average salaries of $57,630 a year.

Job Outlook

Employment opportunities for multimedia artists and animators will increase 14 percent between 2008 and 2018 as consumers demand more-realistic video games, movie and television special effects and 3D animated movies, the bureau says. Designing applications for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers also will lead to growth in the profession. New opportunities at scientific research and design firms will increase demand for digital animators, the agency says.

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