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Animation Schools and Programs

Every movie, television show, cartoon and video game started as an idea -- a vision in someone's head that was destined to come to life. This is where animators come in -- they take a vision or idea and use their own creativity to turn it into something that others can see and experience. Many animators begin the process with a pen and paper. Often times, a computer program does the rest, allowing multimedia artists and animators to bring those characters and worlds they've created into the real world, all with the click of a mouse. Many multimedia artists and animators choose a specialty within their field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, preferring to focus on either animated movies or video games, movies and television shows, the creation of computer-generated images, or scenery and background design.

How do you train to become an animator?

Colleges with animation programs generally offer a variety of specific degree programs to prospective students. For example, students without any college experience might want to start with an associate degree in animation and can likely do so both online and on campus. Likewise, those interested in earning a bachelor's degree can seek out opportunities to do so through an in-person or distance-learning animation program.

Finally, students who have already earned a bachelor's degree or want a more advanced qualification can consider a Master of Fine Arts degree, or M.F.A., in animation. Most multimedia artists and animators find work after earning a bachelor's degree in computer graphics, art, or related field, the BLS reports, and building an impressive portfolio of work that properly showcases their experience and expertise. Animators don't need to be certified, but may choose to join a professional organization within the field in order to meet new contacts and stay up-to-date on changes within their industry.

Which schools offer animation programs?

Many schools across the country offer on-campus and online degrees in animation, so contact institutions in your area for more details on the local options. In addition, U.S. News & World Report also publishes its rankings of the top graduate schools for both graphic design and multimedia/visual communications. The graphic design schools include:

  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • Yale University
  • Maryland Institute College of Art
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Cranbrook Academy of Art
  • Art Center College of Design
  • California Institute of the Arts
  • School of Visual Arts
  • New School -- Parsons School of Design

The top graduate programs for multimedia and visual communications, according to U.S. News, include the following:

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • California Institute of the Arts
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute
  • University of California, San Diego
  • New School -- Parsons School of Design
  • University of Southern California
  • School of Visual Arts

Are there financial aid options to help pay for a degree in animation?

All students, regardless of major, might be eligible for student aid from the federal government. Anyone can begin the process by filling out a FAFSA form, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Depending on eligibility, the following types of federal aid may be available:

  • Stafford Loan
  • PLUS Loans for Parents
  • Federal Work Study
  • Perkins Loans
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

Scholarships may also be available through professional organizations or certain colleges with animation programs. For example, Santa Fe University of Art & Design offers scholarships of up to $2,000 to animation students who meet certain criteria. Some other scholarship opportunities currently available to students pursuing animation careers:

  • Career AnimationCareerReview.com offers a $1,000 scholarship to qualifying high school students to intend to pursue a degree in animation
  • The Society of Illustrators offers an annual scholarship, which students pursuing on-campus or online degrees in animation can apply for
  • Warner Brothers offers a scholarship for qualifying high school students who plan to work toward a degree in animation
  • Sony Pictures/Imageworks offers scholarships to qualifying students already enrolled in accredited college with animation programs

What is the job outlook for animators like?

According to the BLS, employment for multimedia artists and animators is expected to increase 6 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022, much slower than the average for all occupations combined, which is 11 percent. However, the BLS does note that those who work in certain areas if animation, such as the creation of computer graphics for mobile devices or the use of advanced technologies to create special effects for movies, may see higher-than-average job growth.

Since demand for multimedia artists and animators is determined locally, the need for these professionals varies from place to place. According to state-by-state data aggregated by Projections Central, several states are projected to have above-average career growth for multimedia artists and animators through 2020, including:

  • Washington: 30.9%
  • Utah: 20.1%
  • Virginia: 19.2%
  • West Virginia: 18%
  • Idaho: 17%
  • Iowa: 16.8%
  • Maryland: 16.6%
  • New Hampshire: 16.4%
  • Texas: 15.9%
  • North Carolina: 15.2%

Where can you find more information about these programs?

There are many professional organizations whose purpose is to further education and employment opportunities for multimedia artists and animators, and students should feel free to reach out to them for additional information and support. This includes the International Game Developers Association, the Animation Guild, Society for Animation Studies, Women in Animation Studies, and the Computer Graphics Association. Students can also learn more about animation careers online and reach out to animation schools they're interested in for answers to specific questions.

Sources:

Animation Career Review, The AnimationCareerReview.com "Aspiring Animation Professional" Scholarship Program,
http://www.animationcareerreview.com/animationcareerreviewcom-aspiring-animation-professional-scholarship-program

Multimedia Artists and Animators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm#tab-1

Cartoon Brew, Warner Bros. Animation/Hanna-Barbera Scholarship,
http://www.cartoonbrew.com/student/warner-bros-animationhanna-barbera-scholarship-76631.html

Long Term Data for Multimedia Artists and Animators, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Student Scholarship Competition, Society of Illustrators, 2014,
http://www.soicompetitions.org/

Students/Resources: Internship, Scholarship, Social Networking, Sony Pictures Imageworks,
http://www.imageworks.com/ipax/students/

Animation MFA, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television,
http://www.tft.ucla.edu/programs/film-tv-digital-media-department/graduate-degrees/animation-mfa/

Explore Schools Offering Animation Programs