What Can You Do With an Animation Degree?

What Can You Do With an Animation Degree?
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By Adreon Patterson

Published on November 16, 2020

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Over the decades, animation has changed from kids' stuff to entertainment trendsetter. Today's animation industry is booming, but animated films and TV shows wouldn't be where they are now without the skilled creatives behind them.

Many of these professionals completed rigorous training through an animation degree program. Students can pursue a bachelor's degree in animation at a traditional four-year college or art school. Upon obtaining a BFA in animation, graduates can look for animation positions or apply their skills in other industries, such as publishing and advertising.

One major benefit of getting an animation degree is that it allows you to network with like-minded individuals while honing your technical and artistic skills. Having an undergraduate degree also opens you up for better career advancement and higher earning potential.

At the same time, animation jobs are welcoming lots of competition. So is an animation degree worth pursuing, or not?

What Will You Learn in an Animation Major?

An animation or computer animation degree program gives you the opportunity to develop and hone your creative skills. You'll learn from industry professionals and study an array of topics, including basic animation principles, the production pipeline, character and background design, storyboarding, and modeling.

As an animation major, you'll grow your artistic abilities by working with motion graphics, 2D and 3D visual effects, and video editing. You'll also develop skills like typography, screenwriting, camera direction, pre- and post-production planning, time management, and computer literacy.

Many of your classes will require you to use industry-standard software, such as Toon Boom, Autodesk Maya, and Adobe Creative Cloud.

Common Classes in an Animation Major

Life Drawing: Helps you hone your basic drawing skills Design: Enhances your understanding of formal elements and design principles Principles of Animation: Teaches you how to use the main principles of animation Storyboarding: Introduces the concept and practice of visual storytelling 2D and 3D Character Animation: Focuses on the practices of character animation Storytelling: Goes over how to write for animated films and TV series
Movement/Acting: Teaches you emotions and movements for animated content 3D Modeling: Focuses on the basics of 3D computer modeling History of Animation: Provides background on the history of animation and film Concept and Development: Prepares you to craft a thesis film Film Production: Allows you to focus on creating your thesis film Post-Production: Gives you the opportunity to put finishing touches on your thesis film

Sources: SCAD, Art Institute of Atlanta, CalArts

What Jobs Can You Get With an Animation Degree?

Animation degree-holders can pursue long and fruitful careers. Many choose to stay within the animation field by working positions dealing with 2D and 3D animation, storyboarding, or design. Some graduates may pursue related jobs in motion design and visual effects, while others delve into graphic design and advertising so they can utilize their technical prowess and artistic skills for agencies and clients.

Animation, gaming, broadcast design, and special effects are some of the most popular career paths for animation graduates. A studio animator designs and storyboards animated content for film and TV, whereas gaming and special effects animators create characters and visual effects for video games, movies, and TV shows. Some may also work with prop and background design and technical direction. Finally, broadcast designers create titles, graphics, and more for TV shows, news, and special events.

Other avenues for animation graduates include advertising, graphic design, and illustration. An animator working in advertising creates, directs, and produces animated ads. Graphic design and illustration, by contrast, give animation degree-holders the chance to create comics (strips, books, etc.), consumer products, and brand designs.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for multimedia artists and animators is $75,270, or about $35,000 above the median income for all occupations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for multimedia artists and animators is $75,270, or about $35,000 above the median income for all occupations. Jobs for animators are projected to grow 4% — right around average — between 2019 and 2029.

Most animation-related jobs require candidates to have a bachelor's degree. An animation degree can help you learn more about the industry and its practices, and signals to employers that you understand what the position entails, especially when it comes to managerial and directorial roles.

Even without a degree, you can still prepare and train for a job in animation using things like online tutorials and animation books. Industry acquaintances, apprenticeships, and social media have all become major tools for getting your foot in the door in animation.

Animation Jobs and Salaries
Job Median Salary Job Growth Rate (2019-29)
Art Director $94,220 -2%
Animator $75,270 4%
Character and Background Designer $75,270 4%
Special Effects Artist $75,270 4%
Game Designer $65,000
Motion Graphic Designer $60,000
Graphic Designer $52,110 -4%
Illustrator $50,550 (all fine artists) 1% (all fine artists)

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale

Can You Earn an Animation Degree Online?

If you're hoping to get an animation degree online, you're in luck. Because most animation these days is done digitally, the subject works well as an online offering. Though you won't be sitting in a classroom, you'll still get that crucial hands-on experience through your computer.

As you would in a traditional in-person program, you'll work with certain animation software and applications to develop and hone your skills. Students typically complete weekly assignments as well as a larger end-of-term project or final.

Because most animation these days is done digitally, the subject works well as an online offering.

Before you apply for an online animation degree program, make sure the school is accredited. In addition, don't limit your search to animation programs only — many online programs in areas like graphic design and media arts offer concentrations in animation or a related field.

Consider as well how the program allows you to interact with your instructors, how many credits are required to complete the degree, and what kind of digital learning platform and animation software you'll be expected to use.

Should You Go to Graduate School for Animation?

While many animation majors get their BFA and then head right into the workforce, some may need a master's degree to advance their careers.

Graduate degree-seekers can choose from an array of MA and MFA programs that specialize in animation. Many well-known colleges and universities offer master's degrees in animation with varying lengths and course loads. Here are some examples:

Generally, animation master's degree-seekers want to advance their careers or concentrate on a certain specialization. Mid-level senior animators and directors may earn a master's degree so they can move into studio executive positions. The same goes for intermediate artists and designers looking to become animation and technical directors.

Others, meanwhile, may want a master's in animation so they can teach courses at the college level.

Is an Animation Degree Worth It?

Like any other degree, an animation degree's worth can be measured by its impact on not only the student but also their career.

With a bachelor's degree in animation, you'll get time to perfect your creative efforts and collaborate with artists across multiple disciplines. Taking a variety of art courses exposes you to different mediums and techniques, giving you a sense of flexibility for your future career.

Another perk of majoring in animation is the opportunity to receive guidance from industry professionals. Their career advice can help when it comes to seeking and obtaining internships and animation jobs; they can also offer assistance to students interested in attending graduate school.

Research shows that the animation market has grown 2-3% year over year. This growth is tied to the virtual reality and augmented reality boom.

As animation's presence grows, the job outlook for degree-holders has improved. According to Business Wire, research shows that the animation market has grown 2-3% year over year. This growth is tied to the virtual reality and augmented reality boom, as well as the heightened demand for qualified animators.

The BLS also notes that the increase in smartphone apps' popularity has greatly contributed to this demand for high-quality animation. Due to students' growing interest in establishing careers in animation, there is projected to be stiff competition for animation jobs in the coming decade.

If you're set on becoming an animator — and especially interested in working with mobile devices — an animation major will make you more qualified for specific jobs and help you earn a steady income. Just know that competition for these positions will be tough, and you may need a master's degree to help you stand apart from other candidates.

Ultimately, though, your success as an animator will come down to your talent and drive.

Resources for Animation Majors

A guide to the various career paths you can pursue in animation.

Learn what to expect in an animation bachelor's degree program.

A list of the top online undergraduate animation programs in the U.S.

Feature Image: Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

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