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Where do 3D Modelers Work? 3 Careers and the Skills You’ll Need

Whether they’re rendering weather maps so that news programs can visualize hurricane disasters or creating round, cute-faced animals for children’s programming, 3D modelers have supported almost every form of media for the last fifteen years. And according to bureau of labor statistics, you can expect to see demand for general 3D modelers and multi-media artists grow 6% over the next several years.

3D Modeling—One Passion, Several Career Paths

The kicker is that as media gets more complicated, you’ll likely end up having to do more than just render 3D images. If there’s any one overarching lesson you should take away from this article, it’s this: to practice 3D modeling as a career, you’re likely going to have to learn other skills related to the industry you work in.

These skills will probably include:

  1. Graphical design
  2. Programming
  3. Storyboarding
  4. Data analysis
  5. Website design

If some of the items in that list seem a little spooky, don’t sweat it! You probably won’t have to learn them all, and as you move and work through the early steps of your career, opportunities to learn extra skills will arise naturally.

1. Video Games

Let’s talk about the big one. Most people who love 3D modeling are into tech, and many people in tech love gaming. For them, conceptualizing, rendering, and bringing to life the characters they know and love from video games is why they’re interested in 3D modeling to begin with.

While the multi-media, multi-faceted world of game design is a common career goal for new 3D modelers, you’ll want to keep in mind that it is a super-competitive industry with a huge spectrum of earnings potential.

To get the experience you’ll need to move into a stable, lifelong career, you’ll need to work well with programmers and writers, learn at least a little bit of programming, and be prepared to start out working in high-energy, demanding startup environments.

Career path title: Video Game Designer

Average mid-career salary: $58,438

Good skill to learn for this career path: Object-oriented programming

2. Graphic Design

An experiment: Go to any page on the internet. Look at any billboard. Glance down at most of the pieces of paper in your house. Notice anything? They’re covered in pictures and language—and it was graphic designers who put them there.

Graphic design is the art of translating ideas and goals into imagery, and a lot of that imagery is 3D.

Advertisers use animated commercials to reach their audience. Airports and hospitals use 3D-rendered tutorial videos to teach people how to behave in an emergency. Documentaries and video essays rely on 3D modelers to build out reenactments of battles and cities.

A graphic designer who is comfortable creating high-quality 3D renders has a competitive advantage in the market. You’ll be able to work and support a niche that a lot of other designers just can’t fulfill.

Career path title: Graphic Designer

Average mid-career salary: $42,332

Good skill to learn for this career path: Illustration

3. Architectural Modeling

It may not be the first job that pops into beginning 3D modelers’ heads, but architectural modeling is an excellent career path—especially if you’re interested in building and home design. Most people are familiar with bright blue, geometry-rich 2D architecture maps drawn out on huge sheets of paper. What many people aren’t familiar with are the robust, 3D, built-to-scale designs and maps architects often commission or create during the design of a structure.

This career involves a lot of drawing and a fair bit of math, but it’s a great way to go for people with a dual interest in both an applied artistic career and 3D modeling.

Career path title: Architectural Designer

Average mid-career salary: $50,128

Good skill to learn for this career path: Computer Aided Drafting & Design (CADD)

If you’re interested in turning your passion for 3D Modeling into a career, reach out to us. We’ll guide you to a program that fits your goals and talents.