So just who, exactly, can aspire to a career in computer animation?
The answer, quite simply, is you.
Anyone can seek out a career in computer animation, regardless of any measure of artistic talent; all that you need is to know what you want, and to be willing to put in the necessary effort to achieve it. Computer animation is not an easy task; nor is it one that you can learn overnight, or ever stop learning, for technology in the field advances daily. But if the career path of computer animation is one that you truly want to follow, you'll find the effort as well as the end result to be enjoyable, rewarding, and fulfilling.
Know Your Path.
Just where do you start? The first and most important step is to know where you want to go in your career.
Computer animation can be applied in a startling range of industries; do you want to work in 2D or 3D animation? Do your interests lie in the entertainment fileld, in gaming, in the the oil and pipeline industry? What about architectural drafting, medical imaging, web and graphic design services, or any number of other fields? If you know what field that you want to work in, it will help you in choosing a school that excels in your chosen specialty.
Hone Your Skills.
Once you've chosen your field and your school, that's when the real work starts. The key products of your years of education will be your portfolio and your demo reel; these presentation pieces will be your key to showing employers your best work, and many require them when you apply. Make sure to show your best work and present it in the best light in relation to the position that you're applying for; some animators have even been known to have multiple demo reels, each highlighting specific talents and capabilities. But also, don't forget that you aren't just presenting your work; you're presenting yourself, and your resume and cover letter can weigh just as much as your portfolio and demo reel when it comes to choosing candidates for an interview.
Put Yourself on the Job Market.
So you've got your portfolio and demo reel, and your resume and cover letter are ready to send out; now it's time to start looking for a job. It's time to walk right into Sony headquarters, dazzle them with your demo reel, and demand the position of their key animator. Right?
Many have the idea that one can jump right out of animation school and into a top-level, high-paying position. While this can be true in rare cases, the reality is that you will probably start off in an entry-level position doing mintor, repetitive tasks that may or may not appeal to you. Even with the convenience and expediency of computers, animation is rarely a single-person process; instead it is accomplished by teams of specialists coordinated by one or more directors. The best productions can be large-scale efforts involving over a hundred people, each a cog in the machine that produces stunning, smooth computer animations.
But don't let that discourage you. Even if you wind up as an intern that spends eight to ten hours a day resizing texture maps, you'll be gaining the most valuable tool of your entire career: experience. This is why, while you should know where to look in your job search, you should also never limit yourself to a specific job description, or a specific position; there are too many opportunities out there. Taking an internship or entry-level position in your general area of expertise is a good way to lead in to the job that you really want, and will give you a broader range of experience that will make you more valuable to employers down the line; also, when applying for entry-level positions without any prior experience, you're more likely to be considered for an interview.
Prepare Yourself for Your Interview.
Your interview is your foot in the door; be prepared. While the world of animation seems like it could be all fun and games, don't ever assume that it's all right to walk into an interview in a T-shirt and jeans, even if you know for certain that the dress code is Casual Everyday and Sketchers are part of the company uniform. Unless your interviewer tells you ahead of time that casual dress would be preferable for your interview, try to follow at least the business casual dress code; if you know for a fact that the company that you're applying with prefers a more corporate style, then dress to impress. It's no different from any other interview, from application to interview, follow-up to thank-you letter and acceptance. There'll be time enough later to dress down, once you've settled in and established your place.
And once you've settled in and established your place, you're well on your way. A career in computer animation isn't just a job; it's a learning process, and one that provides new chances for exploration every day. The opportunities are out there; now it's up to you to make the best of them.
About.com Animation Guide