What Careers are in Visual Effects?

Careers in visual effects are thrilling for both the artistically-inclined and the technically-minded, but what job opportunities are available when you’ve finally received your degree? Visual effects artists create content that can’t be filmed with computers, so you’ll find plenty of opportunities in the video game and film industries. Whether you become a compositor or a matte painter, there are a surprising amount of career options in visual effects.

Digital Matte Painting

Do you have a big imagination and an eye for photo-realistic detail? Matte painting may be just your discipline. Although matter painting wasn’t always digital, the main idea is the same. Your job is to carefully craft the background of a film, using both 2D and 3D technology.

Digital matte painters are valuable members of any special effects team because they focus on creating something that could otherwise not exist. When the directors have a huge imagination, the digital matte painters are the ones to recreate it in painstaking detail.

If you’re looking to break into the highly-competitive concept art industry, digital matte painting is a great place to start. Although the roles are separate, your advanced skills as a digital matte painter are vital to creating a project proposal that creates hype and generates funding.


Compositing is essential to a career in visual effects and film. Although we have all the tools to create a computer-generated effect that can’t be filmed, it’s still a complicated process to combine it with the final product. As a visual effects compositor, that’s where you come in.

Should you choose to pursue compositing as your career, you’ll need a thorough understanding of the entire visual effects and filmmaking process. Your job is to combine several items, created by people from all departments, into the final image. Everything from the live footage to the computer-generated animation needs to look convincing when pasted together. You’ll ultimately need a strong eye for details and an ability to follow the art director’s vision. As far as careers in visual effects go, this one is the most well-rounded option out there.


As a visual effects animator in the film industry, your job is to place effects in the film with the appropriate timing. Any computer-generated effect, from fire to spaceships in the distance, needs to be placed in the post-production stage. Even computer-generated films need visual effects animators to bring in special effects like fire, water and explosions, according to Vulture.

If you’re working in games instead of film, your animations can still involve anything from magic sparks to laser beams. You’ll create and animate each effect and hand it over to a level designer or programmer who figures out precisely when and how to implement it during the game.

The difference between being a special effects artist in the game industry vs. the film industry is that you have more technical limitations when creating something for games. Video games are rendered in real time, so you’ll have to get creative with lower file sizes and geometric detail when it comes to animating your special effects.

Related Resource: What Degree is Needed for a Career in Application Development?

If you’re skilled with a computer and have an eye for design, these career paths are viable possibilities. With the required training, you can surely pursue one of these many careers in visual effects.