Animation is a career that demands rigorous technical and artistic training to produce the mesmerizing results visible on movie, television and computer screens. If you're interested in an animation career, you'll need to begin with a certificate or degree consisting of a broad base of computer animation courses.
Choosing a Computer Animation School
Selecting the right computer animation school is more than a matter of picking the program with the best reputation, although it may help to attend a school that's highly regarded in the industry. However, you should also ask yourself these important questions:
- Do I want to attend a school close to an animation industry hub, or would I rather stay close to home?
- Does the school offer computer animation courses in areas that match my career goals?
- Does the school have up-to-date facilities and equipment? What kind of technology will I have access to?
- Are the teachers experienced in the field of animation?
- How long will it take to earn my degree? Are computer animation courses available at times that suit my schedule?
- What is the cost of the program? Does the school offer student financial aid?
- Does the school offer career advice, job placement services and other networking opportunities?
Types of Programs
For many jobs in the industry, a bachelor's degree from a computer animation school is the minimum requirement. In some fields, such as web animation, a certificate or associate's degree may be enough to start your career.
- Non-Degrees in Animation: Generally, a certificate or diploma takes one to two years to complete, depending on whether you're attending school part- or full-time. You'll acquire a broad range of basic animation skills and begin to develop a professional portfolio and demo reel.
- Associate's Degrees in Animation: In the two years it usually takes to earn an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Arts (AAA) in computer animation, you'll specialize in the area of animation that most interests you—special effects, for example—and gain entry-level knowledge for a number of animation jobs.
- Bachelor's Degrees in Animation: A 4-year bachelor's degree in animation may lead to a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), but in all cases, you'll graduate with higher-level, specialized knowledge that will make you competitive for animation jobs in your chosen industry.
What You'll Learn
The computer animation courses that you'll take will include a mix of traditional artistic and filmmaking techniques as well as training in cutting-edge equipment and software. After all, skills in storyboarding, scriptwriting, camera use and lighting techniques are just as fundamental to the art of animation as knowing how to use a computer.
At the same time, today's animation professional also needs to be well versed in industry-standard software and hardware, whether importing images with a scanner, creating Blu-rays, or utilizing sophisticated rendering programs. Depending on your specialty, you can take computer animation courses focusing on everything from creating rich textures in Autodesk Maya to editing digital video in Adobe Premiere.