Degrees in 3D Animations

A degree in 3D animation will equip you with a variety of skills and will help prepare you for a career in the film or gaming industry. Learn more about the available programs, online study options, common study topics and career prospects. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kinds of Degrees in 3D Animation Are There?

You can earn fast-track certificates or associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees in 3D animation. Programs dedicated to computer animation, visual effects, digital arts and game development generally all incorporate studies of 3D animation. You might be able to find some online learning opportunities, but these are less common than on-campus programs.

Undergraduate certificate programs in 3D animation leave out general education courses that are central to degree programs, but you can usually transfer your credits to a degree-granting program. Associate's degree programs prepare students to gain entry-level employment in the field, and they take about two years to complete. Bachelor's degree programs cover animation theory and other technical and artistic concepts; they take about four years to complete. You can often finish a master's degree program in about two years, though training is rarer at this level.

Programs Available Certificate program; associate's, bachelor's, master's degree
Online Components Video or real-time class lectures; message boards, email and instant message interaction with professor and classmates; submit assignments via the Internet
Common Courses Character animation, storyboarding, shading, lighting, coloring
Career Opportunities 3D animator, multimedia artist
Job Outlook (2016-26)8% growth (for all multimedia artists and animators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do Online Programs Work?

If you enroll in an online 3D animation program, you watch videos, submit assignments and participate in classes through the Internet. You'll chat with instructors and classmates through message boards, e-mail and instant-messaging platforms. Group projects and hands-on experiences are often part of your learning, just as they are in on-campus programs. Many online 3D animation programs are offered by private, for-profit schools.

What Are the Courses Like?

At all degree levels, you spend a lot of time learning how to use computers to animate characters and stories in 3D. Computer courses teach you about the software and networking concepts required to complete your projects. You'll also likely be required to take drawing and other art-related classes. You'll learn how to give your characters realistic motion and depth. Classes in storyboarding teach you how to draft storylines for your animations. Shading, lighting and coloring are also covered at most degree levels.

Many 3D animation programs emphasize portfolio-building, especially at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. You may even be required to take a class that teaches you how to use your portfolio to promote yourself and land a job. Bachelor's degree programs also include more instruction in programming and computer software, giving you a good idea of the technological tools used in video games and animation creation. At the master's degree level, you'll take more advanced courses in animation techniques and, in some cases, prepare a thesis. You may also be required to complete a short animated film. Your courses and projects will focus on the critical, theoretical and experimental aspects of 3D animation.

What Kind of Career Could I Have?

Most 3D animators work in the motion picture and video industries. The middle 50% of multimedia artists and animators earned between $54,400 and $97,100 in 2018, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report (

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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