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Cartoon Animation Education Requirements

Sep 10, 2019

Cartoon animators are required to have some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and experience required to see if this is the right career for you.

In the world of technology, cartoon animators can do very well with the proper education and background. A bachelor's degree is a typical requirement to work in the cartoon animation field, though other program levels are available. Many schools have basic art programs, and a growing number of schools offer specific courses and programs in cartoon animation.

Essential Information

Cartoon animators use drawings and computer software to create life-like characters and images for print and digital media, including video games, television and film. A bachelor's degree is generally needed to prepare graduates for freelance work or full-time employment with advertisers, Web design firms, video game companies and animation firms. Most employers expect animators to submit a portfolio of their best work.

Required Education Bachelor's degree often required
Other Requirements Internships, portfolio
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 4% increase for multimedia artists and animators
Median Salary (2018)* $72,520 annually for multimedia artists and animators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Overview for Cartoon Animation

A bachelor's degree in animation or a closely related field is the standard academic credential among cartoon animators. Candidates with formal and on-the-job training are likely to find more opportunities.

Degree programs in cartoon animation are necessary due to the high level of technical expertise required to compete in today's digital industry. A cartoon animation degree program prepares graduates for careers in computer animation, graphic art and Web development.

Earning a Cartoon Animation Degree

The most basic level of education for aspiring cartoon animators is a certificate in cartoon animation. Generally lasting one year, these programs teach basic drawing and coloring skills used in both traditional and digital media. Students learn to visualize and develop ideas using 2- and 3-dimensional cartoon animation.

Students can earn an associate's degree in cartoon animation by completing two years of study; however, most students earn a 4-year bachelor's degree in animation, multimedia art, graphic design or conceptual art. In a bachelor's degree program, students learn to use computer animation programs and applications in computer laboratories. Internships, which are often an important part of undergraduate programs, help students gain practical experience and build portfolios. Students might complete internships with graphics studios, advertising agencies or media companies.

Master's degree programs in cartoon animation are also available. These typically allow students to specialize in an area of animation, such as 3-dimensional or experimental animation. Graduation requirements typically include completion of an animated project. Toward the end of a master's program, students might focus on building their portfolios and interviewing for jobs.

Education Prerequisites

While no prior experience or background in animation is required to enter a cartoon animation degree program, having some artistic skill and an ability to turn creative ideas into enticing imagery is advantageous. Generally, all that's needed to apply to an undergraduate program is a high school diploma or GED. For graduate school, students typically must have a bachelor's degree in animation or a related field.

Aspiring cartoon animators are often encouraged to submit a creative portfolio along with their application for admission, especially for entry into bachelor's and master's programs. The portfolio is a collection of the candidate's best work. It usually includes a personal essay and several examples of projects, such as storyboards, visuals and video reels. Some schools conduct interviews before making final admission decisions.

Program Coursework

Courses in cartoon animation degree programs are taught in classrooms, studios and computer graphics laboratories. Undergraduate degree programs focus on developing drawing techniques and coloring skills, as well as gaining hands-on experience with popular computer software programs like Autodesk Maya, Photoshop, Flash and Animate Pro. Undergraduate courses generally include:

  • 3-dimensional animation
  • Interactive media
  • Sound design
  • Space and lighting
  • Cinematic storytelling
  • Computer animation production
  • Layout and background design

The types of courses taken in a master's degree program vary depending on students' chosen specialties. Advanced coursework might include:

  • Drawing in motion
  • Character look development
  • Environment look development
  • Computer-generated modeling
  • Design theory and application

Students interested in cartooning and animation have many educational avenues they can choose from. Many postsecondary colleges have programs to help start an artist off, ranging from certificate to master's degree programs. A degree may not be necessary to get into the career field, but technology today demands more and more that students come with digital animation coursework and a portfolio that shows off the artist's animation abilities.

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