I will say schooling is not 100% necessary for getting into a professional animation job. With that said you have to be extremely disciplined and work really hard to learn and study on your own time. Schooling is a great help though in that it gives you structured learning courses and helps you explore more specialties within the field of animation (3d, 3d, rigging, drawing, painting, composition, character design, environment design, and so much more) which you might gravitate towards and find as your focus. There are online schools like ianimate and animation mentor which arent accredited but are way cheaper and taught by professional animators in the field. Theres also CGMA which is an online school with classes ranging in many conceptual designs and painting but no animation classes.
You'll need to put in A LOT of time and effort to practicing the craft and learning. Eventually when you have enough good work you'll make a portfolio online of your best work and send that along with a resume trying to get an internship, mentorship, or even a job.
Network as much as you can with other people in the field and put in work and never stop learning and growing as an artist.
Best of luck!
I got some important steps for you:
Apply to the school program of your choice:
- Apply for an associate's degree program in computer animation. This degree track is usually 2 years long and is highly focused on the technical aspects of the profession, rather than the art. Ensure you choose a program that train in Adobe Creative Suite, including After Effects and Dreamweaver, as well as Maya and Flash animation software. Apply for a bachelor's degree in computer animation or graphic design. Research programs in order to ensure you can focus on animation design and technology. Apply for a bachelor's degree in fine arts with an emphasis or minor in computer animation.
Find an internship while you are studying:
- Some entry level positions require that you have 1 year of experience before starting. You can gain this experience by working as an assistant to an animator while you are still learning the skills needed to animate.
Specialize in the type of animation you would like to perform while in your last years in college:
- If you know you want to work in video games or web animation, then try to take on an internship in this field and focus your school projects on this subset of animation. If you do this, you can leave school with a portfolio that is filled with samples needed to get a good job in that type of animation.
Produce your portfolio:
- After 2 to 4 years of school, you should be able to gather a large number of successful animation projects to give to perspective employers. Find a secure online site to host your animation, for easy transmission of your portfolio. This will be easier for employers to access remotely than large emailed files. It also affords you the opportunity to use web design or graphic design skills. Job applications are heavily weighted on portfolios, so spend plenty of time and some expense in creating yours.
Join the Computer Graphics Society (CG Society):
- For $50 to $80 per year, you gain access to job postings, a portfolio platform, training and special technology. Use this society as a great way to gain industry experience and contacts.
Apply for your first job:
- Apply for freelance work from businesses and individuals in need of piecemeal animation. This is a great way to build your portfolio, but it can be difficult to get full-time work. If you need additional portfolio items, volunteer some freelance projects for friends or charitable organizations.