Best 3D Animation Degree Programs of 2022

Learn more about the top 3D Animation programs, what to expect, job prospects, and how to choose the program that’s right for you.

3D animation is the process of creating three-dimensional images that can be used in movies, video games, and other digital media. 3D animators use computer software to create models, animate them, and add lighting and other effects.

3D animation is a growing field, as more and more companies are using it to create movies, video games, and other digital media. 3D animators are in demand in a variety of industries, including entertainment, advertising, and gaming.

3D animation degrees can prepare students for a variety of careers in 3D animation, including character animator, 3D modeler, and effects artist. Students in 3D animation degree programs learn about the different software programs used to create 3D animations, and how to use those programs to create models, animate them, and add lighting and other effects.

How to Choose the Right 3D Animation Program

When it comes to choosing a 3D animation program, there are a few key factors that prospective students need to keep in mind. The first is cost. Animation programs can be expensive, so it’s important to research the tuition rates of different schools. Other expenses, such as room and board, should also be considered.

Location is another important factor. Many animation programs are located in major cities, which can be expensive to live in. Students should also consider the job market in their chosen city. Finally, students need to consider the length of the program. Most animation programs take four years to complete, but some schools offer accelerated tracks.

When it comes to choosing a 3D animation program, the most important factor is the curriculum. Students should make sure that the program they choose offers courses that interest them. Many programs also require internships or a final project. These requirements can help students gain experience and build their portfolios.

Best Bachelor’s in 3D Animation Programs

The best programs for 3D Animation ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Some of the metrics influencing how the rankings are determined include graduation rate, average salary for graduates, accreditation, retention rate, and cost.

Rank 1
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

The Bachelor of Arts in Digital Arts and Sciences (BADAS) degree from University of Florida is a cross-disciplinary program that covers production, animation, and game design. The program is designed for students who are interested in exploring the digital edge of these fields. BADAS students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in every aspect of the new and developing digital landscape – from design and production to animation, from programming to game design.

Rank 2
The University of Tampa
Tampa, FL

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation from The University of Tampa is a professional degree program that focuses on 2D and 3D computer animation, motion effects, CGI, and visual and advanced software applications. Students who graduate with this degree will seek roles as creative artists within the animation industry and related fields. The BFA in Animation is accredited by NASAD.

Rank 3
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A) degree program in 3D Animation at University of Connecticut gives students experience in all aspects of 3D animation production: modeling, lighting, rendering, animation, simulations and visualizations, rigging, and compositing for visual effects. The courses in the program focus on the core principles of 3D animation, which are then applied to any industry standard application. Students have the ability to customize their education to focus on their personal area of interest.

Rank 4
California State University-Fullerton
Fullerton, CA

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Entertainment Art/Animation from California State University-Fullerton is a four-year program that prepares students for careers in the entertainment industry. The program emphasizes the development of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, as well as the mastery of industry-standard software and technologies. Students take courses in 2D and 3D design, drawing, painting, sculpture, animation, and illustration, and have the opportunity to choose from a variety of electives to tailor the program to their specific interests. The program culminates in a capstone project in which students apply their skills and knowledge to a real-world problem or challenge.

Rank 5
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

The Bachelor of Arts in Animation and Digital Modeling from University of South Florida is a comprehensive program that engages students in the development of both 2D and 3D animation, as well as the production of virtual 3D objects for fine art, film, games, and visualization. The program combines cutting-edge technology with a foundation of the design process, craft, and studio art practices, allowing students to gain an invaluable skill set as they progress through their courses.

Rank 6
Florida International University
Miami, FL

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation at Florida International University is a 120-credit program that emphasizes concepts and technical practices essential to the production of 2D and 3D computer animation and new media. Students in the program will explore the role of animation and new media within contemporary culture, its potential for artistic output, and creative storytelling.

Admission to the program is based on a portfolio review by a departmental committee. The focus of the review is on quality work, technical ability, and consistency.

Rank 7
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, CA

The Bachelor of Arts in Digital Animation from San Francisco State University is a great choice for students interested in a career in animation. The curriculum revolves around animation, but also offers classes in modeling, rigging, lighting, texturing, story, and improvisation. In the final semester, students will be enrolled in the Studio Class, a project-based class where most of the class time will be spent reviewing and critiquing individual work in progress. This course will guide students in creating a demonstration reel of their coursework to be used for the purposes of applying for employment in the animation industry.

Rank 8
Indianapolis, IN

The Bachelor of Science in 3D Graphics & Animation from IUPUI is a perfect fit for students passionate about next-generation technologies and being on the forefront of innovation. The program provides the skills needed to work across many visualization platforms, including games, advertising, and scientific illustrations. Students will also learn how to translate their skills for emerging mediums such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D printing. Classroom projects give students the opportunity to produce portfolio-ready work to show prospective employers.

Rank 9
Lipscomb University
Nashville, TN

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation degree from Lipscomb University is a four-year program that prepares students for a career in animation. The program is taught by industry professionals and provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the field. The curriculum includes coursework in character design, computer graphics, and 3D graphics. Students also have the opportunity to participate in internships and study abroad programs.

Rank 10
University of Colorado Denver
Denver, CO

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Graphics & Animation from University of Colorado Denver is a top-ranked program that trains students to be 3D digital content creators. Students in the program learn arts aesthetics, critical thinking, and communication skills while gaining expertise in digital 3D animation and graphics. The program includes instruction in the state-of-the-art Digital Animation Center (DAC), where students learn advanced technology and software. Graduates of the program are prepared for careers in fields such as architecture, urban planning, motion picture and television production, advertising, product simulation, industrial design, and visualization.

Rank 11
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation at Sam Houston State University is a highly collaborative program that teaches students how to tell stories through 2D and 3D animation. The program is built on a foundation of fine art, drawing, design, and art history courses, and students have the opportunity to take courses in 2D Animation, 3D Computer Animation, Pre-Visualization, 3D Modeling, Character Animation, 3D Animation for Interactive Games, and the History of Animation. Seniors complete their degree by taking the Animation Portfolio class, in which they create a professional demo reel, website, and print portfolio.

Rank 12
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN

The Bachelor of Science in Animation from Middle Tennessee State provides students with the opportunity to learn traditional animation techniques as well as advanced digital tools and techniques. The six-semester sequence of courses culminates in a two-semester capstone experience in which each student creates a project of their own design.

Rank 13
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw, GA

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Animation degree from Kennesaw State University prepares students for careers in animation and animation-related fields. The degree focuses on intensive work in digital animation, supported by a general studies program. Students take courses in animation, storyboarding, composition, character development, and digital animation production. In addition, they choose from a selection of studio courses in areas such as advanced study of the figure, concept art, 3D animation modeling, and digital animation studio.

Rank 14
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Edinboro, PA

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is a four-year program that is consistently ranked among the best in the country by Animation Career Review. The program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) and offers students the opportunity to learn the basics of animation, such as the twelve principles of animation, and progress into advanced production concepts.

Rank 15
Wilmington University
New Castle, DE

The Bachelor of Science in Animation and 3D degree from Wilmington University prepares students for a career in the growing field of computer-generated graphics. The core of the program focuses on developing critical skillsets in hand-drawn animation, digital 2D animation, 3D sculpting, and 3D animation. In addition, students will gain skills in graphic design, compositing, and sound. Under the guidance of faculty with extensive field experience, students will explore real-world production concepts and will learn to practice a professional animation workflow.

What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in 3D Animation Program

Most bachelor’s in 3D animation programs require 120 credits and take four years to complete. The degree emphasizes both the technical and creative aspects of 3D animation. Students learn how to use industry-standard software to create animations and visual effects. They also study character design, storyboarding, and animation principles.

Most programs include a practicum or internship component to give students real-world experience. Some schools offer concentration options, such as game design or motion graphics. To succeed in a bachelor’s in 3D animation program, students need to be creative, detail-oriented, and able to work independently.

Common 3D Animation Courses

3D animation degree programs differ in their approach to teaching the subject. Some programs focus more on the technical aspects of animation while others focus on the creative aspects. However, most programs will offer a combination of both technical and creative courses. The following is a list of five common courses found in 3D animation degree programs.

3D Character Animation

This course covers the principles and techniques of 3D character animation. Topics include planning and storyboarding, keyframing, interpolation, forward and inverse kinematics, character rigging, skinning, and weighting. Students will use industry-standard software to animate 3D characters in a variety of short projects. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the principles of 3D character animation to create believable character motion.

3D Shape Design

This course covers the principles of 3D shape design for animation and games. Topics include 3D design terminology, shape design, 3D typography, and working with 3D software to create and manipulate 3D shapes. Upon completion, students should be able to create and manipulate 3D shapes using 3D software, and apply the principles of 3D shape design to create 3D animations and games.

3D Movement Principles

This course covers the principles of 3D movement as they apply to computer animation. Topics include the study of weight, balance, rhythm, timing, anticipation, squash and stretch, follow through and overlapping action, slow in and slow out, arcs, secondary action, and exaggeration. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the principles of 3D movement to create realistic and compelling computer animations.

Light and Shadow in 3D

This course covers the use of light and shadow to create the illusion of three-dimensional form in a two-dimensional image. Topics include the properties of light, the interaction of light with various surfaces, the creation of shadows, and the use of light and shadow to create the illusion of depth, volume, and form. Upon completion, students should be able to create three-dimensional images that exhibit the illusion of depth and volume.

Rendering Techniques

This course covers the principles and techniques of rendering three-dimensional images using a variety of methods, including ray tracing, global illumination, and radiosity. Topics include the physics of light and color, the interaction of light with various surfaces, and the creation of realistic images using computer graphics software. Upon completion, students should be able to create three-dimensional images that accurately depict the interaction of light and various surfaces.

Career Options for 3D Animation Graduates

Graduates of 3D animation programs work in a variety of industries, including film, television, video games, and advertising. They may also work in fields such as web design, graphic design, and multimedia.

3D Animator

3D animators create moving images in three dimensions, using computer graphics. They develop characters, stories, and environments to create animated films, video games, and other visual effects. 3D animators use a variety of software programs to create their art, including modeling, rigging, and animation programs. They often work with other animators and artists on a team to bring their creations to life.

2D Animator

2D animators create the illusion of movement in two-dimensional (2D) images, often for use in movies, television shows, video games, and other forms of digital media. The job involves drawing individual images—or “frames”—and then putting them together to create the illusion of movement. 2D animators use a variety of software programs to create their frames, including Adobe Photoshop and After Effects.

Storyboard Artist

Storyboard artists take written scenarios and translate them into a visual medium, creating a sequence of images that will guide the filming of a movie, TV show, commercial, or other video production. In some cases, the storyboard artist will be working from a script; in others, they may be working from a description of the action. In either case, the goal is to create a series of images that will communicate the key beats of the story to the director, cinematographer, and other members of the production team.

Character Designer

Character designers work in the entertainment industry to create the visual appearance of characters for film, television, video games, and other forms of media. They start by developing a character’s basic look, including features such as hair, skin, and clothing, and then they create sketches or illustrations of the character in various poses and expressions. Character designers also create the character’s backstory and personality to help inform the visual design. In some cases, character designers also animate the characters they create.

Layout Artist

Layout artists take the text and images provided by clients and turn them into attractive and readable finished products. They use design software to create layouts for print publications such as magazines, newspapers, and books, as well as for digital products such as websites and e-books. Layout artists must be able to understand a client’s vision and interpret it in a visually appealing way that meets the specific requirements of the project. They must also be able to work within the constraints of the publication’s format and style guide.

Insights From a 3D Animation Graduate

Karlie Hughes is a 3D Animator at Pixar. She has a bachelor’s degree in 3D animation from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Karlie has over 7 years of experience in the animation industry.

ClimbtheLadder: How did you make the most of your 3D Animation degree program so that it prepared you for post-graduation jobs?

Karlie Hughes: I made the most of my degree program by taking advantage of the resources my school had to offer. I took advantage of the school’s animation labs and software to create a demo reel that I could show to potential employers. I also took advantage of the school’s career services to help me polish my resume and prepare for interviews.

ClimbtheLadder: What should students interested in 3D Animation be good at?

Karlie Hughes: Students interested in 3D Animation should be good at problem solving, as a lot of the time you will be solving problems that have never been solved before. You should also be good at working in a team, as a lot of the time you will be working with other animators, directors, and producers to create the final product. Finally, you should be good at time management, as you will often have to work on tight deadlines.

ClimbtheLadder: What was the most challenging course you took? What advice would you give to students who are about to start this course?

Karlie Hughes: The most challenging course I took was “Intro to 3D Animation.” It was a lot of work and required a lot of time outside of class to complete assignments. My advice would be to start working on assignments as soon as they are given and to not wait until the last minute. This will help you to better understand the material and will also help you to complete the assignments in a timely manner.


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