Special Effects Technician Training Programs and Schools

Review the curriculum for undergraduate and graduate programs in special effects and computer animation, and find out how these programs can train you for a career as a special effects technician. Find out how to spot a high-quality special effects school and what options are available for online study. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Skilled special effects technicians can blur the line between reality and fantasy, with the best in the field leaving us unable to distinguish the difference. Programs related to special effects and computer animation are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels from numerous schools.

Programs Certificate, associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels
Courses Computer graphics, short films, software standards, camera and lighting techniques, composting and character rigging, storyboarding, producing and directing
Online Available, may require special software

How Do I Train To Become a Special Effects Technician?

Several universities, community colleges and art institutes offer special effects training at the certificate, associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Special effects programs usually include computer animation since the two fields are so closely related and usually overlap. Bachelor's and master's degree programs might require you to have some knowledge of computer-aided drawing applications or experience in the field.

What Should I Look for in a School?

Special effects and animation applications offer the same capabilities, but if you prefer one vendor over another, you might want to ensure that the school uses a particular software application. Additionally, make sure that the program you enroll in offers the particular training you're interested in. Some programs emphasize film and television productions, while others might provide training in special effects for Internet or gaming industries.

You might also want to look for schools located near animation or production studios. You can usually get additional hands-on experience by volunteering or participating in internships offered by the studio. After graduation, you might be able to find employment with the company or at least make some industry contacts that can help with your job search.

The following schools have special effects training programs:

  • Forsyth Technical Community College (Winston-Salem, NC)
  • University of Southern California (Los Angeles)
  • SAE Institute (Emeryville, CA)
  • Henry Ford College (Dearborn, MI)
  • Gnomon School of Visual Effects (Hollywood, CA)
  • Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA)

What Will These Programs Teach Me?

Certificate and degree programs give you plenty of hands-on training from both a visual and audio perspective. You'll complete short films and develop a portfolio or demo reel for use in your job search. You'll also learn about a variety of industry-standard software. Courses and practicums teach you about these areas of interest:

  • Computer graphics
  • Photoshop
  • Maya
  • After Effects
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Illustrator
  • Camera and lighting techniques
  • 2- and 3-dimensional design
  • Composting and character rigging

What Other Courses Are Available?

Master's studies and some bachelor's programs might also provide you with instruction on other aspects of the filmmaking industry. In these degree programs, you'll usually learn about the following topics:

  • Advanced features of graphics
  • Animations
  • Special effects applications
  • Storyboarding
  • Producing
  • Directing

Can I Learn Online?

Special effects programs are available online and usually provide the same quality and content as the on-campus programs. You'll interact with instructors and classmates via web-based discussions, view live demonstrations and chat with industry experts online. To access your courses, you'll need special software and hardware, such as a DVD drive, sound card and speakers, Adobe Reader, Flash Player and a high-speed modem. Schools usually provide you with trial versions of the applications used in the program, though software manufacturers offer significant discounts to students if you'd rather purchase them.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Full Sail University

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  • Ashford University

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  • Johns Hopkins University

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  • Colorado State University Global

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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  • Grand Canyon University

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  • American University

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  • Regent University

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  • Queens University of Charlotte

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  • Penn Foster High School

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