Online Masters Degree Programs in Computer Animation: Program Info

Learn about online master's programs with computer animation courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

A few schools offer online master's degree programs in computer animation. Students need a bachelor's degree and a general knowledge of computer graphic arts. Some schools want to review a portfolio of the student's work. Most master's programs take 2 years to complete with full-time study and up to 4 years if the student is part-time.

Students usually can access all lectures, class assignments and course materials online as their schedules permit. Some hybrid programs do have a few on-campus requirements. In addition to an up-to-date computer and a high-speed Internet connection, students will probably need special software for creating animations, such as Adobe Photoshop or Toon Boom Studio.

In these programs, students learn to convey a message or narrative using computer animation. The courses cover various aspects of the computer animation process, including creating a storyboard, cinematography and the stages of production. Students also learn about animation history and different styles of animation. A final project may be required.

Master's Degree in Computer Animation

An online master's degree in computer animation provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to create animated characters and special effects for film, video and computer games. Applicants should have already completed a 4-year degree, preferably in a field such as computers, graphic arts or film. Some schools also require candidates to submit a portfolio of their previous work for review prior to acceptance. In all cases, a basic knowledge of computers is required.

Program Information and Technical Requirements

Most master-level computer animation programs take 2-4 years to complete, depending on whether students are enrolled full- or part-time. Some schools use third-party services such as Blackboard or ANGEL to deliver distance-learning content. A few programs offer the option of attending courses both online and in person; these are called hybrid programs. Others are offered strictly online.

Due to the heavy use of computers in graphic design animation, access to a computer is a necessity. Students also need to be able to connect to the Internet. Individual courses may demand specific software programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Toon Boom Studio.

Common Courses List

Computer animation is about using computers to create a narrative in a visual medium. In courses such as those detailed below, students learn the styles and conventions used in the craft, basic terminology and the historical background of the industry.


Storyboarding is the art of turning pre-production concepts--or story ideas--into visual form. Students learn how to outline or brainstorm their ideas using several types of storyboards and thumbnail sketches to determine such details as camera angle, lighting and tone. They also study story construction techniques, both narrative and visual.

Cinematography and Animation

Students learn the basics of lighting and special effects in animation. They study the computer programming techniques behind the simulation of light and texture on various surfaces. They also learn the different historical styles of animation, from photorealistic to cartoon-style.

Animation Pipeline

This course covers the production process from start to finish. Students learn how to coordinate computer graphics, voice recordings and background music into a final product.

Career Information

Graduates with a master's degree in computer animation may find work in the motion picture, advertising, software design or game design industries. Job examples are: visual effects artist, compositor, 3D modeler, storyboard artist or character designer. Although job opportunities are available nationwide, many jobs in the field of animation are located in highly populated, urban areas known for their entertainment and technology sectors, including New York, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for multimedia artists and animators was $70,300 as of 2015. Employment in the field is expected to grow by 6% (as fast as the average for all professions combined) from 2014 through 2024 (

Online master's degree programs in computer animation focus on topics, like storyboarding and animation, to prepare students for employment as multimedia artists and animators.

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