Animation degrees teach the foundational skills of animation and design, which typically include both traditional (i.e., hand-drawn) and digital animation. Animation programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels.
Applicants to associate's and bachelor's degree programs typically need a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll, and associate's degrees take 60 credit hours to complete. Bachelor's degrees, on the other hand, require 75 credit hours of degree-related coursework plus 90 credit hours of general education courses to graduate. For a master's degree, applicants will need a bachelor's degree in a related field.
Program specializations are available and include film animation, special effects technology, and video game animation, among others. Some programs require students to complete an internship and create a portfolio.
Skills include figure drawing, concept drawing, digital modeling, asset creation and digital lighting. Further education develops the artistic and technical skills required for a career in computer-generated animation. Students develop skills in 2D animation, 3D animation, character animation and animation production.
Associate of Arts in Animation
Associate's degree programs typically result in an associate's degree in animation or transfer to a 4-year bachelor's degree program. The names of associate's degree programs in animation vary from school to school, but they typically include both animation and some form of digital design or concept development.
- Basic drawing
- Figure drawing
- Digital 3D animation
- Concept design and color
Bachelor's Degree in Animation
In a bachelor's degree program, coursework typically includes internships with design or animation studios and the development of a portfolio of work. Depending on the institution, students graduate with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Classes include:
- History of animation
- 2D animation production
- 3D animation production
- Screen design
- Character setup and animation
- Animation concept development
Master's Degree in Animation
A Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts degree in animation focuses on advanced animation techniques and interdisciplinary studies, such as film, video game development or even management. Students learn more about project development, content development, motion, storytelling and utilizing narrative and non-narrative structures in their work. Students may even participate in research, such as animation in contemporary art, design research or visual research in a social context.
Coursework for master's degree programs in animation varies from school to school, depending on the concentration or area of specialty the student wishes to pursue. For example, students wishing to pursue careers in film animation and special effects technology may have additional film studies and film history coursework and may intern with film animation studios such as Pixar; video game animators may focus more on gaming techniques and game narratives and intern with video game development companies. Coursework might include:
- Environment development
- Interactive animation
- Writing for animation
- 3D cartoon animation
- 3D naturalistic animation
Popular Career Options
Careers for animators are available across a variety of industries, with multimedia artists and animators representing the largest portion of working artists. Master's degrees can give job-seekers an edge over the competition, but, as with most artistic fields, experience, talent and a well-built portfolio hold sway over employers' final decisions. Some possible job titles include:
- Animation teacher or professor
- Character designer
- Stop-motion animator or fabricator
- Concept artist
- Texture or lighting technical director
- Graphic designer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Animators find work in a variety of fields, such as film, advertising and marketing; computer systems design; and software design. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top-paying fields for multimedia artists and animators in May 2015 were travel arrangement and reservation services; other information services; and software publishers. Animators and multimedia artists earned an annual median salary of $63,970, as of May 2015. The BLS predicts a job growth rate of 6 percent between 2014 and 2024 in the field.
Continuing Education Information
Doctoral degrees in animation are available, primarily in Europe. Students wishing to pursue animation doctoral degrees in the United States might consider doctoral graphic design programs with animation concentrations. Because of rapidly changing technology within the field, professional animators may need to return to school for professional development classes or technological certifications.
In the animation field, students can pursue a degree ranging from associate's to doctorate. After graduation, students may find work as a multimedia artist or animator, a job field expected to grow by 6% over the next decade. There are additional career opportunities available such as concept artist or graphic designer.