Computer Animator Education & Training Requirements
High school students who know they want to go into computer animation should take computer science, creative writing, and drawing classes if they are available. These help to develop the strong visual and spatial skills needed to do well in this career. Most companies that employ computer animators require them to have a minimum of a bachelor degree. For those who choose to go the route of self-employment, having a degree enables them to show clients a strong portfolio.
Both traditional and online colleges offer a variety of degree options in this growing and competitive field. A bachelor degree combines core courses such as mathematics, English, and social sciences with competencies students will need to obtain work once they graduate. Typical course offerings in a computer animation bachelor degree program include:
Technology in the Entertainment and Media Industries
Foundations of 2D and 3D
Shading and Lighting
Character Design and Animation
Fundamentals of Compositing
Additionally, students spend a good percentage of their time preparing their professional portfolios and receiving constructive criticism to improve them. A computer animation portfolio highlights projects the student worked on while earning a degree and should demonstrate his or her very best work. The portfolio should include items like 2D and 3D drawings, sketch art, links to any online work, character drawings, and storyboards. Most companies looking to hire a computer animator consider the work he or she is capable of producing more than any other qualification.
Some students decide to choose a specialty area while earning their degree, such as video game animation. Those who desire to specialize need to ensure that the college they select can accommodate their request for more focused classes as opposed to coursework that provides more of a general overview. Employers and clients typically expect entry-level workers to have a degree in computer animation, graphic arts, or fine arts. Associate and master degrees are also available, although the bachelor degree remains the most common educational credential for new computer animators.
Earn Practical Experience (Internships & Volunteering)
Most schools that offer computer animation degrees require students to complete at least one internship. This involves working at a company off-site to get hands-on experience with what they have learned so far in college. The work may be unpaid or qualify for a stipend. Some schools offer assistance with internship placement and others do not. Completing an internship at an actual animation studio is ideal for this career. The junior year is the most common time to meet the internship requirement. This gives students the opportunity to learn advanced skills during their senior year having already had the experience of working in the field.
Volunteering is another great way to gain experience as a computer animator. Many organizations would welcome assistance with website design or a related skill, especially charities and non-profits. The student should make it clear that he or she is looking for a professional reference in lieu of financial compensation. All experience matters in the eye of the employer or client, whether paid or not. It also shows that the student takes initiative to advance his or her own career.
Continuing Education / Advance Your Career
Software programs can become outdated quickly and new technology emerges all of the time. More than many other fields, continuing education is an essential aspect of working in computer animation. Many online colleges offer certificate programs that enable people to master a specific skill or software program. Obtaining an advanced degree is another option to gain upward movement as a computer animator.
Colleges offering a Master of Fine Arts or a Master of Science in this field require completion of a bachelor degree in computer animation, art, graphic design or a related field. Submission of a professional portfolio, letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and previous college transcripts are also common requirements. MFA courses focus more on the artistic aspects of computer animation, such as graphics development. A Master of Science is more concerned with the technical aspects of animation, such as digital page formatting.