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Degree Overview: Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree in Animation and Visual Effects

Majors Overview February 14, 2015

Students with a degree in visual effects have the skills needed to implement and design the visual effects for television, commercials, movies, and more. There are various types of degrees in this area, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Digital Media and Visual Effects and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Animation and Visual Effects.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree Programs in Animation and Visual Effects

Universities and colleges offer many four-year degree programs with a specific visual effects focus and pronounced emphasis on film and the arts. Many individuals aspiring to study visual and special effects usually enroll in a regular television or film production degree program. Apart from acquiring a background in the film industry, students enrolled in these programs obtain a strong foundation in the visual medium and a grasp of the process of storytelling.

The technical aspects employed to bring special effects to life on the screen are also taught in a visual effects program. Students are taught about the computer animation tools they can use to alter scenes in order to achieve dramatic effect and tension, in addition to the basics of using CGI in films and television in order to create scenes that they could not otherwise shoot in real life.

They are expected to demonstrate an eye for detail by minutely applying visual effects to every shot; in the process, they may gain an understanding about how a re-created scene could be affected by physics and particle systems.

Education Requirements

A solid background in art studies, physics, mathematics, and computer technology is expected of incoming students seeking admission to a visual effects program. In many programs, the visual effects field is combined with animation and drawing, and students would benefit from having a background in those areas.

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED or a high school diploma, in addition to an average GPA.


Coursework is a combination of the theoretical and technical aspects of film production and design. Coursework may include these topic areas:

•Digital compositing
•Careers in animation and FX
•Digital photography
•Cinematic storytelling
•Introductory computer graphics
•Figure modeling
•Lighting for special effects

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2012, there were 29,270 special effects and visual effects artists (categorized among multimedia artists and animators) employed in the country (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). A job growth rate of 8% was predicted for these professionals over the 2010 – 2020 decade. In 2012, multimedia artists and animators banked an average annual wage of $61,370 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Bachelor’s degree program graduates that seek continuing education can earn a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Animation and Visual Effects that runs over a duration of two years and whose coursework includes advanced topic areas related to visual effects in direction, production, and cinematography. A thesis project is typically required to be completed by students enrolled in such a program, wherein they should employ the theories relating to what they have garnered from a real production setting.

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