Media Arts & Animation: Bachelor, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate or bachelor's degree in media arts and animation. Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses and media arts and animation programs.
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Studying Media Arts and Animation: Degrees at a Glance

Media arts and animation programs prepare you to translate abstract or general ideas into static and animated visual representations that communicate a specific message. You'll use a variety of methods to create animations, including computer or digital software and hardware, as well as photographic and video equipment. Graphic and animated creations are used in virtually every industry, such as advertisement or entertainment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth for animators to be 8% between 2010 and 2020, which is slightly slower than the national average. The BLS reported that independent and freelance artists and artists employed by software publishers - such as gaming software - earn just above the median wage for all industries in this career field in May 2010. The growth of animation jobs in the software industry is projected to increase 49% from 2010-2020.

Associate Bachelor's
Who Is This Degree For? Individuals seeking an entry-level position as a media artist or wishing to transfer their credits to a bachelor's degree program Students looking to gain experience and build their portfolio
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual median salary) - Cartoonist/animator ($47,000)**
- Production artist ($58,000)**
- Multimedia artist and animator ($61,000)*
- Motion picture animator ($83,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Required core courses
- Approximately 12-15 courses in graphics and animation
- Practicum or internship (only required in some schools)
- Portfolio
- Required core courses
- Roughly 20-25 courses in art, technology, graphics and animation
- Portfolio
- Senior design or thesis project (only required at some schools)
Prerequisites - High school diploma
-May require prerequisite courses
-High school diploma
-Some schools may require a portfolio and/or admission essay
Online Availability - Limited - Limited

Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), ** (May 2012 figures).

Associate in Media Arts and Animation

Most associate degree programs provide students with an overview of the equipment, artist skills and knowledge needed for a career in production and animation. Using these tools of expression, you can learn to conceptualize an effective visual message and professionally produce it for the intended audience. The skills you learn in design and production of visual representations in various formats and media can form the basis of the samples included in your portfolio, which may be shown to prospective employers as a demonstration of your qualifications and expertise. Many applicants for media arts jobs possess a bachelor's degree, and it is likely you will be competing for the same jobs as applicants who have more education.

Pros and Cons


  • Associate degree programs provide you with strong technical skills and a good portfolio, which is all you need to qualify for work
  • Many schools offering an associate degree program have open enrollment, so you can be accepted where you might not qualify for acceptance at a 4-year college
  • Associate degree credits can be transferred to a 4-year college bachelor's degree program


  • Associate degree programs may not cover some of the more advanced technical concepts in animation and modeling
  • Competition for acceptance into schools that offer this program is high and there may be waiting lists or skills-based selective placement requirements, which must be met in order to be accepted
  • May have to prove your technical savvy as an animator in a probationary period before becoming a full-time employee*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

In addition to general education courses in math, science and humanities, your coursework may feature art history, technology, communication and design. You'll explore principles of perspective, movement and composition. Your classes build upon these skills, while teaching you to become proficient in the software and technology used by this industry. You may be required to complete projects designed to demonstrate your artistic skill, technical proficiency and creativity. Additionally, your program will typically culminate in a portfolio or practicum. Some programs may provide you with internship opportunities.

Courses generally include:

  • Drawing
  • Composition
  • Imaging technology
  • Digital art and computer graphics
  • Modeling and animation
  • Storyboarding and layout

Online Degree Info

Associate degree programs are available online. While these programs may be hard to find, online programs work the same as campus-based programs; however, you will interact with professors and students through web-based technology. Additionally, programs are flexible and allow you to complete your work around your schedule. Online programs may require you to purchase books and other materials, such as software.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

If you are looking to use your associate degree to obtain an entry-level job as a graphic artist or animator, it may be inadvisable to take the easy courses. If you take the more advance elective and technology courses, you could demonstrate your initiative and employers are more likely to appreciate your desire to ensure your skills are sufficient to meet the demands of the job market. You may also want to take the technology courses generally used by businesses in your selected field in order to develop the technical expertise employers want.

Since one of the graduation requirements may be to create your portfolio, make the most of this opportunity to showcase your creativity and technical proficiency, so that you can impress prospective employers. Additionally, internships can offer you invaluable experience through immersing you into the animation industry.

Bachelor's in Media Arts and Animation

A bachelor's degree in media arts and animation program can help you give a voice to your artistic talents using the latest technology and provide more advanced coursework. Animation programs feature the study of basic artistic principles and teach students to apply those principles to complex 2- and 3-dimensional digital image and animation constructs. You learn valuable modeling and design principles in a variety of audio-visual media, while becoming proficient in the technology used to create and display your visual message. This field is very hands-on and you are trained using the tools of the media arts trade in computer labs and studios.

Pros and Cons


  • Bachelor's degree programs offer you the opportunity to complete on-the-job training through coop opportunities and/or internships
  • Bachelor's degree programs are designed to help you create a compelling portfolio
  • Self-employment opportunities available in the field (59% of animators and multimedia illustrators were self-employed)*


  • There is increased competition in this field due to the fact that more companies are outsourcing more jobs to less expensive graphic artists overseas*
  • While bachelor's degree programs may boost your portfolio, degrees are not required to gain employment; therefore, a degree doesn't guarantee you employment in the field
  • Illustrators may be required to work odd hours and overtime to meet deadlines

*Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

You may be required to take courses in the history of various imaging and animation media, as well theory and design. Your English courses are likely to feature communication techniques used in the media arts and animation industry. There may be studies in life drawing, composition, movement and design. There are many different bachelor's degree programs available, each featuring their own tracks, including cinematography and film, publishing, software and digital graphics. In addition to courses, you'll have the opportunity to complete studio practice, coop experiences and design projects.

Typical courses that you may find in animation and media arts include:

  • Digital imaging, production and graphics
  • Computer hardware and software
  • 2- and 3-dimensional animation
  • Film and photography

Online Degree Info

In most online bachelor's degree programs, the only difference between online and campus-based programs is the delivery method. In an online program, you'll get the same level of service and high quality courses; however, you'll be able to complete courses from your home computer. You may be required to have certain computer hardware and software in order to take online courses, and the online program will advise you of these requirements.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

With the switch to the digital era, most animators and media artists complete their work using computers and industry-standard software. Since computer skills are important, in your program, you'll want to submerge yourself in the latest technologies used in the field, such as Adobe Photoshop, Apple Motion and 2d3 Boujou. Another way that you can boost your skills and polish your portfolio would be to complete advanced animation elective courses. Courses, such as immersion animation and advanced character animation, provide you with expertise in a particular area of animation.

Degree Alternatives

Are you interested in art and animation, but are looking for a career field with a bit more growth, you may want to consider graphic design bachelor's degree programs. Graphic design programs explore principles in design , printing, marketing, graphics production and web design. You will also have the opportunity to build your portfolio through studio and internship experiences. The field of graphic design is projected to see a fast-as-average growth of 13% from 2010-2020. The fastest growing industry for this field is computer systems design, stated the BLS.

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