Most Affordable Online Animation Degrees 2021

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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.

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  • 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

  1. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

    Denver, CO




    Located in Denver, Colorado, the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is a small, for-profit art and design school that was founded in 1963. Home to just over 1,000 artistic students, RMCAD offers both on-campus and online programs. Choose this school if you want to be surrounded by a community of creatives in a beautiful campus setting. Learn more about RMCAD’s online Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Animation below.

    Program Features

    Do you have artistic abilities and an imagination that runs wild? Want to bring your crazy ideas to life? RMCAD’s 3D Animation program can help you do so through storyboarding, stop motion, modeling, and more! Students must complete 123 credits and required courses may include:

    • 3D Computer Fundamentals
    • Experimental Computer Animation
    • 3D Computer Lighting and Materials
    • Introduction to Dynamics and Effects
    • 3D Computer Animation Motion Studies

    All animation students will also be required to complete a thesis to earn their degree.


    The student-to-faculty ratio at RMCAD is 7:1, and the average class size is just eight students. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is approved for Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, and U.S government tuition assistance through the Department of Defense.

  2. Full Sail University

    Winter Park, FL




    Located in Winter Park, Florida, Full Sail University is home to 15,500 students. With a variety of degrees offered, Full Sail now draws in students with a strong demonstrated interest in design and animation. In fact, the school now offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Animation. Students will learn everything from storyboarding, sketching, and visual development to modeling, character animation, and final compositing.

    Program Features

    This program can be completed in 20 months on-campus and in approximately 29 months online. Required courses may include:

    • 3D Animation
    • Model Creation
    • Shading and Lighting
    • Compositing and Scene Finishing
    • Technology in the Entertainment and Media Industries

    All students will also have to complete a final project and build a comprehensive portfolio along the way. Qualified online students can receive up to $20,000 with the university’s Momentum Scholarship.


    Full Sail has partnered with Apple to create Project LaunchBox. All students will receive a heavily-discounted current-generation Apple MacBook Pro. With this program, students can complete their coursework and projects with ease. There is an exception, though! If you pursue a degree in Game Development, Software Development, or Simulation & Visualization, you’ll receive an HP laptop.

  3. Academy of Art University

    San Francisco, CA




    Founded in 1929, the Academy of Art University is located in San Francisco, California. With students from over 112 countries, this art academy is thriving with new and innovative ideas. From design and fine art, to entertainment and liberal arts, there is something for every student. Now, the university offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Animation and Visual Effects.

    Program Features

    The School of Animation and Visual Effects BFA program provides students with the skills to create a world of their own through animation. Students may choose one of the following primary areas of emphasis: visual effects, 3D modeling, 3D animation, 2D animation and stop motion, and storyboarding. All students must complete 132 credits. Required courses may include:

    • History of Animation
    • Computer Animation Production
    • 3D Modeling and Animation
    • Fundamentals of Texturing and Lighting

    Students can take these courses either on-campus or online. All students must also complete a collaborative studio experience project to earn their degree.


    Graduates of the Academy of Art University have gone on to work for prestigious companies, including: Sony, Riot Games, Zynga, EA, and Crystal Dynamics. Whether you wish to be a character concept artist or a 3D environment modeler, the Academy of Art will help you to succeed.

  4. Southern New Hampshire University

    Manchester, NH




    Southern New Hampshire University is a private school located in Hooksett, New Hampshire. While the university only has an on-campus population of roughly 3,000 students, it boasts an incredible 60,000 distance learners! Its innovative online learning platform has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report and continues to grow. Southern New Hampshire University now offers an online Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design with a concentration in 3D Modeling and Animation.

    Program Features

    In this program, you’ll learn how to use the same software that professionals use, including Adobe Creative Suite and Autodesk’s Maya and Mudbox. Required courses may include:

    • Typography
    • History of Design
    • Desktop Publishing
    • 3D Modeling and Animation
    • Language and Practice of Media Arts
    • Advanced Digital Graphic Design for the Web

    The fee per credit hour is $320, while the fee is $225 for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.


    Southern New Hampshire University was ranked the #1 Most Innovative School by U.S. News & World Report in 2018. The university has also been ranked among the Best Colleges for Veterans and Best Value Schools in the United States.

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 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.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

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.

AIAS Foundation Scholarship

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.
Amount: $2,500

AIGA Worldstudio Scholarships

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.
Amount: Varies

Graphic Design Degree Hub Creativity Scholarship

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.
Amount: $1,500

Women in Animation Scholarships

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.
Amount: $1,000

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