Colleges with an undergraduate animation program usually require applicants to meet general admission criteria. However, some schools give preference to applicants who submit a portfolio of their work in animation, whether in digital or hard copy format. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that multimedia artists and animators earned a median salary of $75,270 in 2019, much higher than the annual median salary of all other workers ($39,810).
Graduates of an accredited animation program typically qualify for jobs as concept artists, graphic designers, or product developers, among others. After a few years of experience in the field and depending on their focus and professional interest, animators often take on work as art directors, video game designers, and film editors. Many animators work indoors, either in an office or from home, and their work often includes collaboration with peers, product or project managers, and clients.
What degrees do animators need?
Ideally, an animator holds a degree in animation from an accredited institution. However, a bachelor’s in a related field, such as art or computer graphics, often suffices for entry-level positions in the industry.
How long does it take to get an animation degree?
An undergraduate animation degree typically takes four years to complete. However, other factors impact completion time including enrollment status and whether a student pursues an on-campus or online animation degree.
Is animation a good career?
The BLS projects a 4% growth rate for animation jobs, on par with the projected growth rate for jobs in other arenas. Steady job growth and a higher-than-average median wage means animators can expect to enter a robust job market after graduation.
Can I study animation online?
Yes, several colleges and universities now offer animation degrees online, including degree completion programs. However, degree completion programs require students to hold an associate degree or a minimum of 60 transferable credits.
Most Affordable Online Animation Degrees 2021
New Mexico State University
NMSU's associate of applied science in creative media degree prepares students for entry-level work in the media industry. Students in this 60-credit program learn to work with audio and video equipment. They also explore interdisciplinary skills in editing, directing, acting, and writing. Graduates gain communications, project management, and computer proficiencies transferrable to other media-related jobs.
After general education classes, core studies cover desktop publishing, web design, principles of design, and 2D animation. Students also take introduction to information technology followed by electives.
Qualifications for admission include graduation from any state high school or academy in the U.S. and official transcripts. Students completing the GED or HiSET may also be considered for admission. SAT and ACT test scores are not required for regular admission, but are required for early admission.
With its main campus in Las Cruces, NMSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Savannah College of Art and Design
A private college, SCAD's eLearning component offers a master of arts/fine arts in animation. Both programs guide students to develop and deliver signature styles in various animation areas, including 2D, 3D, and stop motion. They also explore digital modeling, rigging, lighting, and look development.
Core topics for both degree programs include art criticism, animation aesthetics and practice, computer-generated modeling and design, and drawing in motion. The 45-credit MA curriculum includes a final project consisting of either a graduate internship or a 500- or 700-level elective. MFA study, totaling 90 credits, requires a thesis and graduate internship.
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree (or equivalent), a portfolio specific to the course of study, a resume, two recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose.
SCAD is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Hawai'i - West O'ahu
UH West O'ahu offers its online bachelor of arts in creative media with a concentration in general creative media as a degree-completion program. Available to students residing on the other Hawaiian islands, the program targets students completing the first two years of coursework in a media/art program at a UH system community college.
Studies focus on producing and distributing content across all major media platforms, including on-location video and audio recordings. Graduates learn to identify and apply interviewing techniques, communicate concepts and ideas for media projects, and evaluate work in a selected medium. Students must also produce a professional portfolio and record and research relevant information for projects.
Transfer students must submit a transcript with a minimum GPA of 2.0 or higher from previous institutions. Those with fewer than 24 college credits are evaluated under first-year admission requirements.
UH West O'ahu is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.
Based in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State's master of arts in emerging media design and development teaches working professionals interested in managing and directing teams using advanced storytelling techniques. The mostly online program focuses on design thinking, human-computer interaction, and cross-platform storytelling.
The 36-credit curriculum comprises foundational courses, lab experiences, and a culminating project. Foundation classes include emerging media design thinking and interactive media design and development. The lab focuses on applied research and creative projects. A culminating project may consist of a thesis or project option.
Though taught online, students must meet for five days each semester work in small groups with professors and classmates.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 2.75 minimum GPA. Admission requirements include a current resume, a statement of purpose, a creative or design portfolio, and an academic or professional writing sample.
Ball State is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Lynn master of science in communication with a specialization in digital media teaches students advanced digital media skills on the latest design software. Participants also learn about digital storytelling, image-making, animation, and motion graphics.
Designed for working professionals, the 37-credit program consists of foundation courses followed by digital media emphasis classes. Foundation courses focus on theories and technologies, media and culture, and persuasion and social change. Digital media coursework includes drawing and design, graphic design studio, and aesthetics of digital photography. A professional media presentation course allows students to combine rhetorical theories with practice skills in delivery, audience analysis, and crowd manipulation.
Applicants must submit a current resume, official transcripts from previously attended institutions, one recommendation letter, and a personal statement.
A private institution located in Boca Ratan, Florida, Lynn is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
What Are the Goals of an Animation Degree?
Many colleges and universities across the country offer a two-year associate or a four-year bachelor’s degree in animation. Several institutions also offer postgraduate degrees in the field. Some programs give enrollees the option of specializing in niche areas such as special effects, computer animation, and modeling.
A typical animation curriculum includes coursework in color and composition, character animation, 2-D and 3-D modeling, and motion graphics. Many colleges and universities offer an online degree in animation in addition to their on-campus program, giving students greater flexibility.
Why Get an Animation Degree?
Students who complete an animation program from an accredited institution enjoy the professional and personal benefits listed below.
- Build a Portfolio of Work
- Through individual or group projects, animation students compile a portfolio of work that showcases their ability and creativity. Employers often expect animation applicants to submit a portfolio.
- Develop Professional Network
- Most animation programs include internship and mentoring opportunities that give enrollees the chance to develop connections in the industry, which often become professional recommendations after graduation.
- Increase Credibility
- An animation degree presents the holder as a serious and disciplined professional who possesses the knowledge and training required to carry out the artistic and creative requirements of different types of jobs in the field.
- Hone Individual Abilities
- A well-designed animation program gives students plenty of opportunities to explore and improve their individual abilities through coursework and hands-on training.
- Improve Collaboration Skills
- Throughout an undergraduate or graduate animation program, enrollees work closely with their peers and instructors. They develop crucial collaboration skills required in the majority of jobs in animation.
What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?
What Are the Requirements for an Animation Degree?
High school graduates planning to pursue an online animation degree usually submit the same materials as applicants to an on-campus program. Application requirements typically include SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, a minimum GPA, and a portfolio or work samples that demonstrate their artistic ability. Most schools require working applicants to include a portfolio, but not test scores. Schools also assess the capability of online students for self-directed learning.
Animation programs often require degree candidates to make a formal presentation of their work to an academic panel prior to graduation. Final requirements vary among schools, but often include a comprehensive exam, a capstone project, or the completion of a practicum or internship experience.
Professional Organizations for Animation Students
Professional associations benefit members by providing networking and mentoring opportunities, access to digital and print publications with the most recent research findings and developments in the field, and exclusive career centers. Several professional organizations serving the field of animation offer these benefits to their members, including the two presented below.
International Game Developers Association
IGDA boasts more than 150 chapters throughout the world and includes a variety of professionals involved in game development including animators, programmers, writers, and business administrators. Members enjoy benefits such as exclusive discounts on industry-relevant software and events, access to the organization's comprehensive resource library, professional webinars, and much more.
Society for Animation Studies
Founded in 1987, SAS membership includes animation professionals from all over the world. It publishes Animation Studies, a peer-reviewed digital journal with the latest developments and research findings in the industry. SAS maintains an expert directory that lists each member's professional interests and qualifications for networking and collaborating opportunities.
Scholarships for Animation Students
Colleges and universities offering an onsite or online animation degree often maintain financial assistance packages for talented and deserving enrollees. However, many art/animation students also explore other financial aid options from professional associations, private nonprofit organizations, and companies with products and services related to the field. The four scholarships below provide an excellent starting point for animation students in need of financial assistance.
Who Can Apply: Administered by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, this program accepts applications from students and artists/animators still in their early professional years. Applicants demonstrate commitment to pursuing a career in game development as artists, animators, programmers, and game designers, among others.
Who Can Apply: The American Institute of Graphic Arts accepts applications from students pursuing a design discipline. Eligible applicants come from an underrepresented group in the design industry or demonstrate economic disadvantage, and show commitment to giving back to the community through their work.
Who Can Apply: The program welcomes applications from undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in graphic design, animation, game design, or a closely related field at an accredited college or university. Eligible applicants hold U.S. citizenship and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Candidates undergo a phone or online interview as the final step in the selection process.
Who Can Apply: WIA welcomes applications from female students (or individuals who identify as female or nonbinary) currently enrolled in an accredited animation program. In addition to funding, awardees receive products and services from the scholarship’s sponsors such as 3-D animation and modeling software and access to proprietary licenses of industry-recognized programs. The program also gives students the chance to attend free workshops conducted by leading experts in the field.