Computer Animation College Degree Program Overviews

Computer animation degree programs are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. While both bachelor's and master's degrees may qualify graduates to pursue employment as animators, students who earn a Master of Fine Arts in Computer Animation might go on to teach at colleges or universities as well.

Essential Information

Degrees in this field provide students with a mix of technical and artistic training on industry-standard software and equipment to produce both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional animations. Undergraduate students gain hands-on experience with animation software in computer lab sessions. Most bachelor's programs culminate in a portfolio, which is essential for many job applications and for admission to a master's program in animation. At the master's level, students can choose specializations, like 3-D animation. Completion of a final creative project or thesis is usually required.

  • Program Levels in Computer Animation: Bachelor's, Master's.
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; Bachelor's degree and portfolio are required for admission to the Master's.
  • Program Specializations: Examples include 2-D animation, 3-D animation, digital imaging.
  • Program Length: 2-4 years, depending on the program level.
  • Other Requirements: A final project or thesis may be required.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Animation

Degrees in computer animation are available through Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs. Students learn a variety of essential skills, including drawing, storyboarding and modeling. Programs usually also teach students post-production, collaboration and implementation techniques. Students typically work toward the completion of a portfolio of work, which most employers in the field request from job applicants.

Applicants should expect to submit high school transcripts, standardized test scores and letters of recommendation to admissions committees. The strongest applicants will have aptitudes in computer science or art.

Bachelor's degree programs in computer animation feature a heavy emphasis on practical, hands-on learning, which usually takes place in a laboratory setting in which students can work with necessary software. Here are some course topics that might appear in the curriculum:

  • Introductory 2-D animation
  • Introductory 3-D animation
  • Design principles
  • Digital imaging
  • Studio techniques

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Computer Animation

An MFA in Computer Animation is available to those students who wish to receive professional-level training in animation skills in order to secure a raise, leadership position or post-secondary teaching position. MFA programs often allow students to specialize in a specific area of animation, such as 2-D animation, 3-D animation or digital imaging. Some programs also allow students to study management or publication techniques. Most programs include an in-depth study of the history of animation and animation techniques, which allow students to better situate research in a cultural and historical context. Many programs also offer training in art history and art criticism.

Applicants to MFA programs in computer animation must have at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission, and some prefer students who hold a BFA in Computer Animation. Perhaps the most important consideration in the admissions process, however, is an applicant's portfolio of work, which can show both talent and understanding of equipment and techniques.

Like most graduate programs, MFA programs in computer animation expect students to do original research; however, as a creative degree, the central focus is almost always for students to produce and critique their own work. Here are some course topics that might appear in the curriculum:

  • Modern art history
  • Applied design
  • History of animation
  • Advanced figure drawing
  • Philosophy of aesthetics

Popular Career Options

While many MFA graduates work as animators, others take on leadership or academic positions. Here are some jobs that may be available to those with this degree:

  • Senior animator
  • Project manager
  • Animation consultant
  • Professor
  • Art critic

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicted that the employment rate for computer animators and multimedia artists would grow 6% from 2012-2022. The median annual salary for multimedia artists and animators was $63,630 in May 2014.

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