Animation is the sequencing of still images to create the illusion of movement for a viewer. While animators use the same pen and paper that they have since the 19th century, the future of animation lies in the use of computer technology.
Degrees in computer animation are available at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Students pursuing a degree in computer animation study 2-D, 3-D, CGI, and stop-motion animation as well as modeling, rigging, lighting, look development, design, texture, and editing. Degree programs should provide students with exposure to design, writing, production, and the technical skills necessary to pursue a career in animation.
In the professional world, animators often pursue careers in gaming, film, television, motion graphics, video production, web design, advertising, and the visual arts. Most graduates of computer animation degree programs continue to work within the animation and media professions. They can work independently on original projects or collaboratively at animation companies, advertising firms, web companies, media studios, and video game companies. As an alternative to becoming animators, graduates of computer animation degree programs often work in the field as technical directors, riggers, digital modelers, or story and concept artists.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Animation
Students can pursue bachelor's degrees in computer animation through both online and on-campus degree programs. On-campus fine arts bachelor's programs typically take four years to complete, whereas online programs provide more flexibility and can therefore often be completed in fewer than four years.
On-campus programs ask students to begin their studies with foundational courses in art and design as well as general education courses covering mathematics, art history, composition, and communication theory. Students will then progress on to classes in concept development, animation, and production. Bachelor's degree programs will often finish with a capstone animation projects and a course in post-production.
Online courses compress foundational studies and general education in order to move students through a program more quickly. The curriculum will still include technical classes in modeling, rigging, and animation, and will generally conclude with a capstone animation project.
Master’s Degrees in Computer Animation
Master’s programs in computer animation provide students with advanced training in animation as well as access to networking events, internships, and an opportunity to complete a thesis. Master's students can expect to meet guest instructors and lecturers who have gained noteriety in the field, or to participate in film festivals and workshops. Students pursuing master's degrees also have access to fully operational studios and animation desks, which they will often utilize to complete a film, either individually or in collaboration with other students, in order to complete the degree.
Admission and Tuition
Admission standards and tuition for computer animation programs vary widely by institution and program. Typically, people applying to a bachelor’s level program will need to submit an application, ACT or SAT scores, a copy of their high school transcript or GED certificate, and a letter of recommendation. They will also need to submit a portfolio of visual and written work. Portfolios should showcase the applicant's interests, creativity, talent, and technical proficiency. Most bachelor's degree programs in Computer Animation cost between $10,000 to $40,000 per year.
For admission to a master’s level program, prospective students are typically expected to have completed a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. At more prestigious programs, applicants will need to complete a formal application, supply three letters of recommendation, and provide transcripts of undergraduate work. Most importantly, prospective students must submit a portfolio showcasing their talent as an animator. Portfolios generally include creative work and an original storyboard and should be focused on quality rather than quantity of work. Suggested creative work to include in a portfolio includes: life drawings, sculpture, theater design, painting, street art, photography, character design, animation art, an additional storyboard, and writing. Students might also choose to include film sequences or animation. Master's degree programs can range in cost from about $15,000 to $45,000 and above.