The best bachelor’s degrees in animation are a good choice for strong earning potential, and a career in an industry that is projected to grow over the next decade.
With a degree in animation, you’ll understand how an idea makes it through from concept to production. You’ll learn how to transform a flat character or world into a living, breathing work of art. Many of the big-budget movies on our screens today have been crafted by graduates of animation degrees, with an alumni of one such program on this list having worked on titles in the Marvel Universe.
What Is an Animation Degree?
In an animation degree program, you’ll develop your creative skills through the application of art and modern animation and design software. In most cases, students applying for an animation major will have a strong interest in the field, and you will likely already have some degree of experience and skill in art and design.
Most curriculums will be structured in a way that you’ll learn the entire production process, starting from concept and storyboarding. Your classes will typically include those such as life drawing, storyboarding, 2D and 3D character animation, texturing, modeling, and production. Depending on your emphasis, you might spend more or less time working with character and world development.
In most cases, the admission requirements for an animation major are not too stringent. Many of the programs we’ve looked at require you to possess and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of around 2.0 to 2.5. However, some programs have additional requirements, such as a need to engage with the local museum and art gallery scene.
Careers for Animation Majors
Special effects artists and animators often graduate with a bachelor’s degree in animation or design before entering their career. This popular choice, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is projected to grow by around 4% over the next decade, creating new opportunities for graduates of relevant programs.
Other graduates choose to pursue a career as a film and video editor, while some become graphic designers, producers and directors, or web developers and digital designers. Film and video editors are projected to see an increase in available positions of around 18% over the next decade, a huge rise in demand.
While master’s degrees are available in numerous areas of the industry, most roles do not require more than a bachelor’s level of education. If you’re seeking a senior executive role however, then a master’s could help set you aside in this highly competitive field. Additionally, qualifications such as those from CompTIA can be beneficial.
Animation Salary Potential
According to the BLS, in 2019, special effects artists and animators earned a median annual salary of around $74,270. The same source highlighted that film and video editors earned a median of around $59,810 in the same time period. And graphic designers made around $52,110 in 2019.
Some of the highest salaries in the industry, aside from those in managerial positions, are afforded to web developers and digital designers. This group earned a median salary of around $73,760 in 2019. The projected growth for this field in the next decade is around 8%, representing around 14,000 new roles.
One of the best ways to increase your prospects for promotion and higher earning potential in the future is to maintain your own portfolio. Employers in this industry expect that you can evidence your own portfolio of professional and personal work, so you should endeavor to keep this up to date throughout your studies and career.
What Are the Best Animation Degrees?
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University of Advancing Technology
Average Net Price
Based in Tempe, Arizona, the University of Advancing Technology was founded fairly recently in 1983. Technology features largely in the foundation requirements of all programs taught. The average class size is around 15 students, with a 14:1 student to faculty ratio, meaning students get a great deal of personal support.
This animation degree program focuses on the creation of 2D and 3D art for video games. You’ll utilize modern games software to create character models, textures, collision objects, and everything else needed to bring these two and three-dimensional platforms to life. You’ll develop a strong understanding of areas including lighting, anatomy, perspective, and texturing.
Comprising 120 credits in total, the program includes 36 credits of your chosen major and requires a 2.0 cumulative GPA to successfully graduate. By the end of the program, you’ll be able to create 2D and 3D art assets and animation assets, plan your own production pipeline, and demonstrate aesthetic skills based on existing theories and practices. For the most accurate estimate of your cost of attendance, you can check out the university’s net price calculator on this page. Undergraduates typically pay tuition of around $17,322 annually, including fees. You’ll also find a lot more information on tuition and financial assistance on this page of their website.
Full Sail University
Winter Park, Florida
Average Net Price
Full Sail University is based in Winter Park, Florida, and was founded in 1980. Campus comprises 210 acres of open space, with more than 110 studios and labs offering many opportunities for the 21,000 students who attend. There are more than 100 programs to choose from across the curriculum.
There are two routes into this computer animation bachelor’s degree, including a 20-month, on-campus program route and a 29-month, fully online schedule. The curriculum follows the natural production pipeline employed by professional animation studios, from concept storyboarding through to final compositing, getting you ready for a career in the industry.
You’ll also benefit from an established network of contacts and organizations in the industry, which can get you valuable real-world experience. Numerous projects and other opportunities are integrated into the curriculum, with students having access to professional-quality hardware and software that’s used in organizations throughout the animation and design industry. The most accurate estimate of your cost of attendance can be found using the university’s net price calculator. Some students may qualify for the Academic Advantage Scholarship too, which awards up to $15,000 to successful applicants. And the Momentum Scholarship has a higher award of up to $25,000 for eligible students.
University of Colorado Denver
Average Net Price
Part of the University of Colorado System, the University of Colorado Denver attracts around 15,000 students annually, with more than 100,000 alumni around the globe. Dating back to 1912, the university collaborates with businesses across the city to provide learning opportunities to its student body.
This fine arts degree program offers an emphasis in the area of 3D graphics and animation. A highly competitive program, it offers a curriculum lasting four years that’s geared toward students who want to work in a number of industries that include film and TV, entertainment, and video gaming.
The program is offered on-campus only, with students declaring the major needing to have completed two prerequisite courses in 3D Foundations and Animation Foundations. Other courses included in the major curriculum include Surface Modeling, Texturing and Shading, Environment Production, Lighting and Rendering, and Character Creation. The cost of tuition for undergraduate programs at the University of Colorado Denver depends on your residency. Tuition for digital animation programs is markedly higher than rates for other programs too. State residents pay around $1,103 per credit hour, while non-residents pay around $1,102-$1,157. More information on rates can be found on this page.
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Average Net Price
The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Lakewood, Colorado, was founded in 1963. The institution is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and NASAD. The university has a super low student to faculty ratio of just 8:1, with the average class size being around 9 students on-campus and 12 students online.
In this program, you’ll cover key areas that include character design, modeling, storyboarding, 2D and 3D drawing, line of action, and stop motion. You’ll explore every level of animation, understanding how to employ your existing skills and techniques to create your own original work. For an insight into the kind of pieces that have been created by alumni, check out this page.
As a graduate of the program, potential careers open to you include 3D artist, character developer, digital videographer, and new media designer. Students from this program have gone on to see some incredible success, with one notable alumni having worked on a range of Marvel and DC movies, including Spiderman and The Avengers. Undergraduate tuition at RMCAD Denver is charged at around $544 per credit hour for online programs and $693 per credit hour for on-campus programs. These figures do not include books or fees, with fees totaling around $1,180 per semester for campus-based study and $990 per semester for remote learning programs.
Academy of Art University
San Francisco, California
Average Net Price
Originally founded as the Academy of Advertising Art, the Academy of Art University is located in San Francisco, California. The institution focuses on professional studies, preparing students for careers in art and design. The admissions process is friendly toward those who haven’t necessarily developed their strengths in these fields yet.
In this program, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the field of animation from professionals with many years worth of experience in the industry. The program itself has been named on countless rankings in recent years for its outstanding quality.
According to their website, this is the only Animation and VFX school in higher education to teach students in a real-world production environment (StudioX). What’s more, past students have won awards including Student Academy Awards. Undergraduate tuition costs around $1,011 per unit. You can expect to pay a total of around $26,399 in tuition in your first academic year. Fees include a $50 application fee, $50 registration fee, and $95 enrollment fee. More information on other fees and materials and supplies can be found here.
Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Average Net Price
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a private university accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. It has been named the most innovative university in the North, in addition to ranking highly on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Regional Universities ranking.
Accredited by NECHE, this online Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design and media arts will help carry your ideas through from concept to production. You’ll learn how to employ the most modern design tools, design and develop your own professional work, and understand ethical issues that affect visual media.
There are two concentration options available in 3D modeling and animation and web design, depending on where your interests lie. With the first concentration, you’ll be prepared for careers in industries such as TV and film and video games design. With the web design concentration, you might work on some of the biggest organization’s web strategies, or even start your own web design agency. Undergraduate tuition for this program comes in at around $320 per credit, with the program comprising a total of 120 credits. You may be able to reduce the cost of your overall program tuition by transferring in up to 90 credits from previous study too. What’s more, unlike some other programs on this list, there’s no application fee.
La Jolla, California
Average Net Price
National University (NU) was founded in 1971 as a private university based in La Jolla. More than 75 programs are available at NU, with around 25,000 students in attendance annually. What’s more, the institution has been offering online classes for more than two decades, having a wealth of experience in online distance education. It is the largest private nonprofit university in San Diego.
The bachelor’s degree in digital media design at National University is available as both an on-campus and fully online program. Comprising four-week classes, the curriculum covers a range of topics including video games, social media, and animation. You’ll employ the latest technologies to study how visual communication is created in a range of industries.
Graduates of this program enjoy roles in web design, special effects, audio and video, and image design and editing. You’ll look at existing trends in media, design and create your own media from concept to production, and understand how ethical issues affect media distribution. Undergraduate tuition at National University costs around $370 per quarter unit or $1,665 per 4.5 quarter unit course. You might also qualify for the recently launched Opportunity Scholarship, the result of a 50th-anniversary new investment into student scholarships. Check out this page for more information on financial aid and scholarship eligibility.
Average Net Price
Liberty University was founded in 1971 and is situated in Lynchburg, Virginia. The institution boasts over a quarter of a million alumni around the world, with current students supported by more than 2,500 professors. Over 700 programs of study are available, and students study on a 7,000-acre campus.
Liberty University offers the Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design, comprising 120 credits and lasting for around 3.5 years. Students may transfer in up to 75% of the degree’s total credits depending on prior study, and the program is offered solely online.
The online program enjoys tuition from leaders in the graphic design industry, who have gained a cumulative many years’ worth of experience working in media. Your coursework will be based on practical real-world applications that will prepare you for life after university. The typical undergraduate tuition at Liberty University is around $23,800 annually. However, online programs such as this one are charged on a per-credit basis. Undergraduates pay around $390 per credit for online programs full-time or $455 part-time. There are some exemptions and special rates—for example, for military affiliated students—which you can find on this page.
Average Net Price
There are more than 50 programs for students to choose from at Rasmussen College-Bloomington, including those in nursing, business, and technology. Students study both on-campus and remotely, with remote learning highly beneficial to working professionals. This includes the Flex Choice learning approach, which creates a highly unique and tailored study program.
Rasmussen’s unique curriculum structure, known as “laddering”, means that you’ll earn your online associate degree in graphic design as a natural progressive step toward earning your bachelor’s degree. The associate degree comprises a total of 91 credits and is typically earned after around two years, while the four-year bachelor’s degree comprises 180 credits.
The curriculums have been created by design professionals with a significant amount of experience, including those who have won awards for their work in the industry. Many problems presented in the program are structured around hands-on, real-world scenarios that will prepare you for work in the industry. Rasmussen University has a detailed tuition catalog that can be found here. However, for the most accurate estimate of your cost of attendance, the tuition calculator on their website is the best way to go. Check out this page to input your region and program of study, and you should get a fairly accurate estimation of your tuition and costs.
George Mason University
Average Net Price
A public research institution, George Mason University was founded in 1957 and is based in Fairfax County, Virginia. It’s the largest university of its type in the state, whose motto is “freedom and learning”. The student body represents 130 countries worldwide and comprises around 37,000 students.
The Bachelor of Arts in art and visual technology at George Mason University comprises 120 credits. You’ll take foundation courses in key skills, including Oral Communication, Quantitative Reasoning, and Information Technology. Major courses include Three-Dimensional Design, Drawing and Figure Drawing, and New Media in the Creative Arts.
There is an additional expectation of students to meet the “Artsbus Requirement”. This requires all AVT majors to meet a minimum requirement for travel to local museums and galleries as part of student enrichment. This requires at least 5 separate instances of travel during the duration of the program. George Mason University’s undergraduate tuition costs around $396.25 per credit hour for state residents. For non-residents, this increases to around $1,373.75. These figures don’t include the mandatory student fee per credit of around $146. There are other fees too, including a one-time undergraduate new student fee of $335.