Classical Animation Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a classical animation degree program? Read about degree requirements, pros and cons of associate's and bachelor's degrees and potential careers.
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Studying Classical Animation: Degrees at a Glance

Classical animators bring characters to life using their creativity and technical skills. Graduates of classical animation programs commonly work in animation, movie or software studios. An associate's degree program in classical animation offers a foundation in 2-D and 3-D animation concepts and techniques. A bachelor's degree program provides in-depth instruction about important animation concepts, such as action analysis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected job opportunities for multimedia artists and animators, which includes classical animators, to increase 8% during the 2010-2020 decade (www.bls.gov).

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in an entry-level animation position Individuals interested in pursuing a career in art direction
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Character designer (unavailable)
- Multimedia artist or animator ($68,000)*
Career paths for both degrees are similar with the exception of:
- Art director ($95,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credit hours of study
- Capstone project
- Roughly 120 credit hours of study
- Professional portfolio creation
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Animation

Associate's degree programs in animation can teach you about the creative and technical skills required for entry-level opportunities in the field. Programs usually require completion of roughly 60 credit hours of coursework in general education and core classes. In animation-specific courses, you'll learn about drawing techniques, animation history, software programs and storyboarding. Some programs offer the option to concentrate in classical or 2-D animation.

Job candidates possessing an associate's degree may find it difficult to acquire a position as an art director. However, creativity and inventiveness ultimately determine your success in the field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs often allow you to create professional reels to show employers
  • You'll gain technical experience during your studies through group or solo projects
  • Hands-on projects can help you hone your skills and develop your own sense of style

Cons

  • Competition for jobs may be keen, and you might be competing against bachelor's degree candidates
  • Some programs might not offer coursework in action analysis
  • Programs typically won't prepare you to work as an art director

Courses and Requirements

Associate's degree programs typically blend traditional and computer animation concepts. You'll likely learn to create comprehensive productions using hand illustration and current technologies. Some programs require that you complete a capstone project, which usually consists of creating a professional reel to add to your portfolio. You might take courses like:

  • Storyboarding
  • Digital painting
  • Basic and advanced animation
  • Classical animation
  • Visual effects
  • Audio production
  • Compositing

Online Degree Options

Online associate's degree programs in classical animation usually include the same courses as in-person programs. In an online program, you also might create an animated reel for your portfolio.

Stand Out with This Degree

Demonstration of your illustration and animation skills is imperative to gaining employment as an animator. The development of a professional reel that highlights your work can validate your ability to control lighting, motion and visual effects. Participating in hands-on projects during your studies can allow you to create a portfolio of finished animated products to show employers.

The shift toward the use of digital media in animation means that aspiring animators will likely need to know how to create digitized animated products. Therefore, completing courses in digital animation techniques, such as 3-D design, digital imaging and computer animation, could give you an edge over your competition.

Bachelor's Degree in Animation

A bachelor's degree program in animation can introduce you to advanced pre- and post-production techniques, action analysis and character stylization. In these programs, you can develop your personal style through intense, hands-on projects combining observation and illustration concepts. Graduates of these programs should understand conceptualization of characters and worlds, texturing, camera movement, lighting and the environment.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree
  • Graduating from a bachelor's degree program might make you eligible for a position as an art director
  • Programs typically offer advanced coursework in animation and technology, thereby providing you with instruction in both classical and digital animation

Cons

  • Criticism and rejection are normal when working as an animator, which may make working in the field stressful
  • Overseas contracting might impact job growth in the field from 2010-2020*
  • Some programs may not offer a strong computer technology background, which could hamper your ability to find employment after graduation

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

A bachelor's degree program in animation requires completion of roughly 120 credit hours of study in general education, technology and production practices courses. You'll likely learn to illustrate characters using observational skills in classes that teach about animal and human motion. In addition, you might take courses in short story production, post-production processes, technical animation, stop motion, acting and screen design. The program you select might offer a special topics course that examines issues in the industry and provides opportunities to collaborate on projects with other students.

Online Degree Options

Bachelor's degree animation programs are available online. However, these programs may require that you complete an in-person orientation course that introduces you to learning online. In addition, you may need to purchase industry software to complete your studies. Schools often design their online programs for professionals working in the industry who are seeking a career change.

Stand Out with This Degree

Taking industry software program and technology courses during your studies may give you an edge when seeking employment. During these courses, you can build a portfolio that includes 3-D character development and illustrations. A portfolio containing both classical and digital animation projects may impress employers.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Communication Studies, A.A.
      • Communication Studies, A.A.
  • Sioux City, IA

    Western Iowa Tech Community College

  • Parkersburg, WV

    West Virginia University at Parkersburg

  • Saratoga, CA

    West Valley College

  • Paducah, KY

    West Kentucky Community and Technical College

  • Cranford, NJ

    Union County College

  • Chicago, IL

    Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

  • Seattle, WA

    The Art Institute of Seattle

  • Morganton, NC

    Western Piedmont Community College

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL

    The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale

Featured Schools

Colorado Christian University

  • Communication Studies, A.A.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Western Iowa Tech Community College

West Virginia University at Parkersburg

West Valley College

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

Union County College

Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

The Art Institute of Seattle