Visual Effects Degree and Training Information

Oct 26, 2019

Visual effects programs integrate the fundamentals of design, video, animation, sound, and media to create manipulated image sequences for television and film. Learn more about program requirements, course descriptions, and career options available upon graduation.

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Essential Information

Visual effects is a broad spectrum field that includes programs in multimedia studies, animation and concept development, digital arts, and graphic and game design. Programs are offered at certificate, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Prerequisites include a high school diploma, and a basic grasp of technology and graphic design for certificate and bachelor's programs; a bachelor's degree and a portfolio are required for master's degree programs.

Certificate programs in visual effects can typically be completed in a year or less and provide fundamental training in visual effects software. Submission of a final project or professional portfolio at the completion of the certificate program is usually mandatory.

Bachelor's degree programs focus on visual effects and broadcast graphics through a four-year program. A digital project or portfolio is required to complete the bachelor's program.

Master's programs encourage students to use technical and artistic skills to enhance their storytelling abilities and are required to develop professional portfolios for completion of the two-year degree program.

Certificate in Visual Effects

Certificate programs in visual effects teach fundamental and advanced features of visual effects software, such as Adobe's After Effects or Autodesk's Maya. These programs focus on developing skills for film, television or Internet production, depending on the student's choice of discipline. Some courses available in certificate programs include:

  • 3-D modeling
  • Digital rendering
  • Video editing
  • Special effects
  • Storyboarding
  • Action graphics

Bachelor's Degree in Visual Effects

By studying visual effects at the bachelor's degree level, students can learn the fundamentals of both visual effects and broadcast graphics. Students study subjects related to design, imagery, and storytelling, as well as the technical aspects of animation and artistry. Some programs combine visual effects coursework with subjects in computer information systems, fine arts, and animation, along with other general education requirements. Creative and technical courses within a visual effects curriculum teach skills in the some of the following areas:

  • Color theory
  • Digital lighting and rendering
  • Visual arrangement
  • Matte painting
  • Modeling
  • Cinematography

Master's Degree in Visual Effects

Master's degree programs in visual effects focus on the creative viewpoints of individual students. Individuals can gain first-hand experience by developing their own animated videos, creating characters and implementing special effects. Advanced coursework in these programs focus on topics in design, technology, art, idea development, processes, professionalism and problem-solving. Courses can include:

  • Animation
  • Modeling
  • Composing
  • Editing
  • Camera work
  • Digital texture painting

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduate degree programs can advance the skills of animators, compositors, character designers, concept or storyboard artists, editors, 3-D modelers and visual effects artists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected job growth of multimedia artists and animators will increase by 4% from 2018 to 2028. Those who worked in the motion picture and video industry made an average salary of $86,080 (

Popular Career Options

Visual effects programs can prepare graduates for a variety of careers in broadcasting, digital media, computer technology and the arts. Those who complete bachelor's degree programs in visual effects might find jobs with the following titles:

  • Digital effects animator
  • Lighting artist
  • Composition supervisor
  • Pipeline technician
  • Texture artist

Visual effects is an extensive field of study in multimedia, animation, graphics, game design, and digital arts that prepares students for film, television or Internet production, broadcasting, digital media and computer technology. Graduates of a bachelor's degree program usually land a career as a digital effects animator, lighting artist or opt to take a master's degree to advance their skills in graphics and animation.

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