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Degree Overview: Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree in Special Effects Animation

Majors Overview June 22, 2015

This article talks about Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree programs in Special Effects Animation and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, and job and wage outlook.

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Programs in Special Effects Animation

Students enrolled in a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Special Effects Animation program are taught ways of using animation and computer graphics for creating visual effects in media and film. MFA programs in Special Effects Animation are also commonly called MFA in Visual Effects and Animation, MFA in Animation, or MFA in Animation and Motion Arts programs.

Over the whole duration of the program, students may be taught innovative ways of using cutting-edge software applications to develop a portfolio of work or thesis project. Internships and fieldwork experiences may be available in some programs, in addition to workshops wherein students become familiar with emerging technologies.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to submit transcripts of their undergraduate education. Although holders of a bachelor’s degree in fine arts may get preference, the condition may be waived for applicants who demonstrate any ability or experience relating to working in art and animation.

Letters of recommendation may also be required to be submitted by incoming students along with an entrance statement outlining their program goals. In some programs, GRE test scores may also be required. A reel of previous animation work or a portfolio of visual examples may also have to be submitted by students seeking enrollment.


Coursework is devised to impart a grasp of the importance of collaboration and professionalism to students while they work on projects devised to enhance their technological skills. They will also master abilities related to communication, problem-solving, presentation, time management, and film criticism. Additionally, the program may help them in developing a creative voice in scriptwriting and storytelling, and in maturing as character designers and artists. Coursework is devised to enhance students’ skills in using 3-D modeling, animation, visual effects, compositing, and storyboarding. The focus of other courses may be on the technical aspects of special effects animation, including lighting, rigging, compositing or tendering. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•VFX techniques
•History of animation
•Layout design
•Traditional animation
•Music and sound
•Motion graphics
•Texturing and lighting

Career Choices

Program graduates can seek careers in fields specializing in animation including the entertainment industry. They may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Character Designer

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, a job growth of six percent has been predicted for multimedia artists and animators (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The projected growth is attributed to increasing public demand for forms of entertainment, such as animated movies and video games.

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