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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study animation?

Want to find out more about animation? Use our guide to learn more about this creative field.

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If you are a creative person with an active imagination who enjoys drawing, illustration and design, you could do well as an animator. Maybe you’ve always loved watching animated films and cartoons, but you want to know more about how these are created? That’s where a degree in animation comes in. In this course, you will gain a range of technical and creative skills relevant to a career in film or other digital careers. If you want to become an animator, games designer, graphic designer, VFX artist or illustrator, an animation degree would be highly suitable. Here we explore what exactly you can expect from this programme at university and why it’s worthwhile.


What is animation?


Animation involves drawing and designing still images which are then transformed into moving sequences, often using computer technology. Famous shows like Wallace and Gromit or Chicken Run use a process called Claymation where characters are made out of modelling clay. This is also known as stop motion where objects are manipulated to create the illusion of natural movement. Different types of animation include:


  • Stop motion
  • 2D animation
  • 3D animation
  • Motion graphics
  • Hand drawn


A lot of animation also involves storytelling to bring these static characters to life and connect with an audience. Well-known animation studios include Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney and Aardman which are large organisations that dominate the animation industry producing internationally acclaimed films such as Toy Story, Snow White, Frozen, The Incredibles, Shrek and more. With the emergence of sophisticated computer technology and software, animators must also possess excellent IT skills to master the quality of animation that is expected within the industry.

What types of animation degrees are there?


Most undergraduate animation courses will be either bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degrees. The same goes for postgraduate degrees which are classed as master of arts (MA) or master of fine arts (MFA). A BA in animation will last between three to four years while a master's degree will typically take one year on a full-time basis.


You can choose from a variety of specialisations such as:


  • Game animation
  • Game development
  • 3D animation
  • 2D animation
  • Digital animation
  • Creative computing
  • Animation and VFX
  • Illustration and animation
  • Character animation 


During a degree in animation you will gain the following skills which are transferrable for other creative digital professions:


  • Attention to detail
  • Technical skills
  • Confidence with specialist software
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Project management skills
  • Design skills


While a master’s degree in animation is not compulsory, you may choose to develop your skills and expertise to improve your employment prospects. Find out more about making the move from undergraduate to postgraduate study.

Want to know why studying abroad is valued by so many employers?


What will I learn when studying for an animation degree?


Gaining an animation degree will equip you with industry-ready skills and knowledge that will prepare you for the world of work such as modelling, texturing, lighting and so on. As with most courses, some modules will be compulsory while others will be optional, allowing for you to develop specific interests. Common modules include:


  • Drawing for animation
  • Digital techniques
  • Introduction to 2D animation
  • Introduction to 3D animation
  • Narrative
  • Signs and meaning
  • Theory and history of animation
  • Visual effects
  • Documentary development
  • Scriptwriting
  • Fundamentals of design
  • Character rigging
  • Modelling and texturing
  • Pre-production and post-production 


In your final year as an animation student, you will likely be set a final major project such as the creation of a film where you can demonstrate all of the skills you’ve acquired over the course. Some degrees will also encourage you to attend conferences and networking events to improve your career prospects towards the end of your degree. 


A postgraduate degree in animation will be structured slightly differently as full-time courses typically last one year. Also, master’s courses in animation tend to require students to have studied animation or a relevant subject at the undergraduate level to gain the necessary foundational knowledge needed at this level.



Where can I study animation?


You can study animation in many parts of the world, with plenty of courses offering high-quality teaching and facilities. Destinations such as Europe, the USACanadaAustralia, and New Zealand are some of the most popular study regions in general and animation is no exception. We referred to rankings produced by the Animation Career Review 2020 to find out which institutions sit among the top 10 for animation. The results are as follows:


  • 1st Sheridan College (Canada)
  • 2nd Gobelins (France)
  • 3rd Rubika (France, Canada, India) 
  • 4th Bournemouth University (UK)
  • 5th Ecole Superieure des Metiers Artistiques (France)
  • 6th MoPA (France)
  • 7th Animation workshop/VIA University College (Denmark)
  • 8th RMIT University (Australia)
  • 9th Media Design School (New Zealand)
  • 10th Griffith University (Australia)


Make sure to check out the animation courses at these institutions for more information and details about the programmes on offer. 


If you want to keep browsing different animation courses around the world, you should also take a look at these universities for further inspiration:



What to do after an animation degree


As with most courses, if you wish to begin your career as an animator after graduating, you will need to gain work experience, particularly after an undergraduate degree. There are several areas that you could move into as an animation graduate. According to UK research, 25 per cent of animation graduates become graphic designers, 16 per cent become artists and a small number become directors and producers. The good news is that 78 per cent of animation graduates find work within 15 months of graduation (Graduate Prospects 2019).

If you’re struggling to figure out your next steps, get in touch with the careers team at your university. Alternatively, we’ve got you covered with plenty of careers advice.


Expected salary 


In 2018, the animation industry was worth USD 259 billion (Statista 2017-2020). There’s plenty of money to be made and salaries are promising for people with the right skills and expertise. 


Animators – GBP 14,000 (starting salary) up to GBP 36,000 with experience 


Graphic designers – GBP 15,000 to GBP 19,000 (starting salary) up to between GBP 35,000 and GBP 55,000 with experience.


VFX artist – GBP 27,000 (starting salary with one to two years’ experience) up to between GBP 38,000 and GBP 54,000 with experience.


Game artist – GBP 18,000 to GBP 25,000 (starting salary). Up to between GBP 30,000 and GBP 40,000. Lead artists can earn in excess of GBP 60,000.


Hopefully, you can now see why animation is a great field to enter into, especially if you’re artistic and want to do the work behind the films and shows you see on your screen. 


Didn’t find what you were looking for? You can search for more courses in different parts of the world using our course matcher tool.

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