Cartoon Animation: Education Needed to Be a Cartoon Animator

Oct 20, 2021

A career as a cartoon animator requires an educational background with certain skills and practical experience. Pursuing a bachelor's degree in animation, graphic design, or fine art is a typical place to start. Learn about these programs and other necessary experience or education, as well as typical job duties of a cartoon animator.

Essential Information

Cartoon animators work in the entertainment, design and advertising industries. These professionals combine their drawing skills with art techniques to create television shows, animated commercials and other products. A bachelor's degree is usually required in order to become a cartoon animator, and most employers require submission of a professional portfolio as well.

Required Education Bachelor's usually required
Other Requirements Portfolio often required for employment
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 4% for multimedia artists and animators
Median Salary (2019)* $75,270 annually for multimedia artists and animators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Education Requirements for Cartoon Animators

Animators are generally required to have a bachelor's degree in animation, graphic design or fine arts. Graduation generally requires the completion of at least 120 units, with half or more coming from the fine arts major or related electives.

Admission Requirements

Admission to an art school or program may require submitting a portfolio. A student's portfolio needs to be a showcase of his or her best work and highlight his or her abilities. Some schools may have specific requirements as to what must be included in a portfolio. Most schools also have specifications and preferred formats for portfolios.

Major Requirements

Most fine arts programs in animation or design begin with core classes that cover topics in color theory, drawing techniques and thematic design. Additional topics may include experimenting with character movements and motion using flipbooks and other tools. Some programs may also cover animation history and include discussions on topics like the effects of propaganda and politics on animation. Advanced courses may cover topics such as conception, illustration and computer animation. Programs may also cover personal style development, digital tools, stop-motion animation, character movement, computer graphics and animation techniques.

Most programs require the completion of a final project, such as a short cartoon or film. Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs may also mandate students to produce a senior project, which may be presented by the student to a panel of peers and then critiqued. These projects allow students to apply all of their learned knowledge from basic illustrations to 3D animations into one complete assignment.


Internships are usually included as part of a fine arts program and help students to gain practical experience and build their resumes. The internship will serve as a learning experience, where the student will work side-by-side with a mentor. A student may work at a magazine, animation studio, art studio or other art, graphics or animation businesses. Interns may be responsible for duties ranging from modifying 3D animations to checking computer coding.

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups multimedia artists and animators together in its career statistics. For the years 2019-2029, the BLS predicts a job growth as fast as the average for these workers. Multimedia animators and artists earned $75,270 as a mean annual wage in 2019, according to the BLS.

Schools with bachelor degree programs in graphic design, animation or fine art typically require submission of a portfolio. Once accepted, courses may cover color theory, design, animation, technology, history and even social and political themes relating to animation and design. Internships and final projects allow for the further development of skills and practical experience, and can help when applying for jobs in this growing field.

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