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Visual Effects Jobs in Chicago

Chicago might not be known as a visual effects capital, but in recent years, the city has seen growth in visual effects jobs, fueled by the need for special effects in TV shows, commercials, corporate videos, and interactive content. Chicago's visual effects artists tend to have a versatile skillset, as they can be employed to work on everything from the special effects on a film, to the design of mobile game characters, to an advertising campaign for a technology company.

Some of the top cities for finding jobs in visual effects tend to be Los Angeles, NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Miami. You could build a successful career in visual effects in any one of these cities. However, out of those cities, Chicago ranks fourth in terms of the total number of visual effects jobs available and the average level of salaries in the field. Among those cities, about 4% of all visual effects jobs are located in Chicago.

The top ranked schools in Chicago with programs and degrees in visual effects are Columbia College Chicago ($41,850 per year, out-of-state), Northwestern University ($48,624 per year, out-of-state), and University of Chicago ($50,997 per year, out-of-state), according to rankings published by the Hollywood Reporter and Hack College in 2016.

According to Glassdoor, some of the highest-rated visual effects companies in Chicago include 3to1 Studios, Bigfoot Production, Daily Planet Productions, Calabash Animation, Digital Kitchen, and Animagic Studio.

In Chicago, the most popular visual effects jobs are CGI Animators, UX Designers, Video Editors, Compositors, Graphic Designers, CGI Modelers, and Color Gradists.

Some visual effects artists are self-taught, while others go to art school to learn the craft. Whatever your path, two things are required to be successful in visual effects. First, you must master the software package that is required for your work, and be able to move quickly and efficiently through it. Secondly, you must assemble a reel, which will serve as a portfolio of your work and skillsets for potential employers. While some visual effects artists work as generalists, others have specialties in the industry, such as motion tracking, composition, character animation, environment creation, or rigging.

The following are estimates of salaries and wages for visual effects jobs in Chicago, which were compiled from, Glassdoor, and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Multimedia Artists, Animators, and CGI Artists - $69,000 per year, or $33.17 per hour

Graphic Designers - $50,000 per year, or $24.04 per hour

Editors - $66,000 per year, or $31.73 per hour

Art Director Assistants - 82,000 per year, or $39.42 per hour

Creative Directors - $119,000 per year, or $57.21 per hour

Animators - $78,000 per year, or $37.50 per hour

Graphic Designers - $50,000 per year, or $24.04 per hour

Art Directors - $94,000 per year, or $45.19 per hour

Professionals working in visual effects in Chicago also tend to work in the following industries, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Gaming, Technology, Architecture, Virtual Reality, Interactive Entertainment, Advertising, Corporate Videos/Presentations, Engineering.

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