Online Animation Degree Program Information

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

Online associate's degrees in animation provide basic study in 2D and 3D animation, sufficient for entry-level work as animators. Associate's degree seeking students may find more online programs available in the related fields of Web design and graphic design. A bachelor's degree in animation is a more typical credential in the field, and several online options are available. Online master's degrees focused on animation are uncommon, and career prospects with a graduate degree are similar to those of bachelor's degree holders. Both online and hybrid programs are available.

Applicants to an online associate's, bachelor's or master's degree in animation may need to submit an art portfolio along with application materials. Once accepted, students may need to arrange internships, to be completed at a job site, as part of the program requirements. Additional animation software and scanners may be required, on top of the common hardware and software requirements for online coursework.

Associate of Arts in Animation

Students working toward an associate degree in animation study basic concepts in drawing and illustration and later learn to turn 2D images into 3D animated characters. They examine lifelike movements and expressions so their animations can appear realistic, moving and acting like real people. Because these 2-year programs are intensive to the arts, students also typically take courses in photography.

To be eligible for an associate degree program in animation, students must have a high school diploma or GED. Some schools also require a portfolio of artwork. There aren't many online associate programs in animation; however, more exist in related fields, including graphic and Web design.

Program Information and Requirements

On all academic levels, online programs in animation are available mostly online, with the exception of an internship component. These programs generally incorporate various distance learning formats, such as video and phone conferencing and the use of online portfolios to critique and analyze fellow students' work. Animation students usually log onto a university's Web-based application, which allows them to watch lectures that demonstrate professional tools and techniques, interact with classmates and turn in assignments.

Students must have a working computer and reliable Internet access to complete an online associate degree program in animation. Computer software requirements generally include Microsoft Office Suites, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Oftentimes, students must download Acrobat Reader and Adobe Flash, and they also may need a scanner to submit completed work.

Course Topics

In an online animation program, students complete both general education and major requirements. These distance learning programs typically are flexible, allowing students to access lectures and complete assignments whenever they have time.

History of Animation

This course examines animation techniques used in various movies and TV shows. It also explores how these techniques have changed over time.

Storyboarding and Photography

Students take photographs and turn them into animated images. They also begin developing the elements of a story, using characters, background and setting.

Character Animation

Through this course, students gain practical experience making animated characters. They pay special attention to the way characters' bodies move, including the movement of their lips when they talk and their facial expressions.

Bachelor of Arts in Animation

Online bachelor's programs in animation train students in drawing, animation and the laws of motion. They also study story and background creation, as well as special effects design, as they learn to create films, video games and Web characters using animation principles.

Requirements for an online bachelor's degree program in animation generally are the same as those for an associate's program. Several schools offer online animation programs at the bachelor's level, which typically take 4-5 years to complete.

Course Topics

Typically, students completing an online bachelor's degree program in animation take both animation and general education classes. Most programs allow students to complete courses in a flexible manner, progressing from one lesson to the next on their own time.

Effects Animation

Students taking this course begin by exploring the movement of objects in the real world. They then learn to add visual effects to digital animations.

Color Techniques and Theory

This course trains individuals to understand colors, including how they go together and how they appear on a computer screen versus on paper. Students explore the use of color, including layering, in programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

Animation Techniques

Students gain experience creating flip books, drawing on film and using pixilation and other non-traditional ways of creating animated materials. They also learn to add color, lighting and backgrounds to their animations.

Master of Fine Arts in Animation

Through an online master's degree program in animation, students explore concepts in cinematography, design and story creation. They develop skills that enable them to create lifelike settings and characters. These programs often include courses in animation, photography, illustration, design and film studies. A master's degree program in animation generally takes 1-2 years to complete.

To be eligible for an online graduate program in animation, student must have at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in the arts. There are few online master's programs in animation; related programs in Web or graphic design are more readily available.

Course Topics

Online master's courses in animation provide students with advanced skills in drawing and animation.

Traditional Animation

Through this course, students learn to animate short stories using pencil and paper. They determine the correct amount of pressure to use when drawing, in addition to exploring techniques for creating simple characters and movement.

Figure Drawing

Students learn to create anatomically correct characters in various positions, including sitting and standing. This course may also cover nude drawing.

Texture and Lighting in Animation

This course provides basic instruction in using lighting to make rooms brighter or to apply shadowing to a character's face. They also learn to add texture to designs so they look rough, smooth, glassy or sharp.

Career Information

Upon completion of an online associate degree program in animation, students generally find careers as cartoon artists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for animators and multimedia artists was $72,520 in May 2018 (

Upon completion of a bachelor's program in animation, students are eligible for a variety of careers. In addition to jobs as cartoon artists, students might find work as Web or graphic designers, film animators or desktop publishers. In May 2018, the median annual salary for graphic designers was $50,370, and desktop publishers made a median salary of $42,910, according to the BLS.

Job options for students who complete an online master's degree program in animation are similar to those of students who earned an undergraduate degree in the field. They generally are found in the areas of film or video game animation or Web design.

Degree programs in animation available online can be found at the associate's, bachelor's and master's levels. Students may then find a career as an animator, graphic designer or desktop publisher.

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