Animation instructors at top schools have at least two things in common. They are passionate about animation and all are accomplished artists in the field. Many of these artist-educators began their journey just as their students did—in an undergraduate animation or related program. Just about every top program will provide the opportunity to complete an internship, where students have the chance to gain real world experience. This will become a valuable asset when comes to securing a position in the industry. Common jobs in animation include animator, stop motion animator, 3D modeler, flash animator, compositing artist, storyboard artist, render wrangler, texture artist, and art director.
While an undergraduate program will help you compete in one of the most competitive industries in the world, taking your education to the next level could put you in a position help teach the next generation of animators and earn money to fund your films. If you have ever thought about teaching animation for these or other reasons, consider enrolling in a master’s in animation or other related degree. Though most undergraduate programs allow students to choose a number of free electives that could them develop communication, leadership, and teaching skills, a master’s degree is preferred for many teaching jobs at top schools. This is especially true for tenure-track positions.
In addition to advanced coursework in animation, the right master’s degree program will highlight areas such as critical thinking, collaboration, innovation and experimentation, research, history, teaching, and in-depth knowledge of computer animation software and other tools. The program should also offer the opportunity to choose electives that may help develop additional skills that can be applied to the classroom.
The following curriculum is a good example of a well-rounded MFA in Animation program that could help you land a teaching position. The program is available through DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media.
3D Animation Survey
Animation Graduate Seminar
Animation History and Practice
Collaborative Short Animated Film
Cinema, Animation and Art
Animated Short Film Part I
Audio for Animation
Animated Short Film Part II
Graduate Teaching Seminar
Two Animation Electives
MFA Thesis Animation
MFA Thesis Animation
Students may also browse the College of Education (COE) for other opportunities to develop the skills they need to be effective instructors. These opportunities are often available at four-year colleges and universities, and possibly some art and design schools.
Besides an advanced degree, many academic institutions prefer candidates with at least four to five years of experience in the industry, an impressive body of work, excellent verbal and written communication skills, and the list goes on. For example, San Mateo Community College posted an ad for a part-time 3D animation and modeling instructor on its website. Several requirements stood out:
“Must have demonstrated cultural competence, sensitivity to and understanding of the diverse academic, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds of community college students, faculty, and staff.”
“Ability to communicate effectively and constructively with persons of diverse cultures, language groups, and abilities.”
“Understanding of the commercial and business side of 3D animation, modeling and story-boarding, including contracting and working as part of a larger team.”
SAE Institute in the San Francisco Bay Area posted an ad on Indeed for an animation & visual effects instructor. Take a look at what their ideal candidate looks like:
- A post-graduate degree (MSc, MFA, etc.)
- 4 years of professional experience in a creative media field related to area of teaching.
- Experience using Maya animation tools and working with rigged characters
- Excellent understanding of human/biped and animal/quadruped movement, timing, weight, and acting -Good sense of composition and cinematic storytelling
- Comprehensive understanding of lip sync and facial animation techniques
- Ability to direct and guide students to create industry-ready animation sequences
- Storyboarding and animatic editing experience a plus
- 2D animation experience a plus
- Expert knowledge of compositing basics (roto, keying, tracking, color matching)
- Experience with 3D matchmoving using industry standard software, such as PFTrack
- Nuke and Photoshop experience required, After Effects a plus
- Thorough understanding of the VFX production pipeline, including camera set up and on-set VFX supervision
- Multipass EXR assembly -Ability to seamlessly composite CG assets into live action plates
Experience, Qualities & Abilities
- Cross-disciplinary experience and interest
- Ability to foster a collaborative and cooperative environment among students and faculty
- Ability and willingness to adapt to changing technologies & educational practices
- Ability to prioritize multiple tasks
- Ability to work independently
- Strong desire to learn and inspire other learners
Though it may seem like the requirements for teaching positions are considerable, most animation instructors agree that the benefits outweigh any perceived drawbacks. Besides the opportunity to share your knowledge and experiences with the next generation of animators, remember the “money to fund your films” we talked about earlier? The annual mean wage for postsecondary teachers was $73,990 in 2016. Those in the top tier averaged $94,720-$130,090.
Those teaching at colleges, universities, and professional schools averaged $72,790 and those teaching at junior colleges averaged $77,430. Technical and trade school instructors averaged $54,330. Those teaching at “all other” schools averaged $67,630. The job outlook for instructors is impressive as well. Employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow a whopping 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Both part-time and full-time postsecondary teachers are included in this projection.
To start your search for the best Animation MFA programs in the U.S., read 10 Awesome Animation MFA Programs.
"Animation & Visual Effects Instructor, SAE Institute, San Francisco Bay Area, CA." Indeed.com. Indeed, 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
DePaul University College of Education. DePaul University, 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
"MFA Animation, Curriculum and Requirements." DePaul University College of Computing and Digital Media. DePaul University, 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
"Part-Time 3D Animation & Modeling Instructor." San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) - Employment. San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD), n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
"25-1199 Postsecondary Teachers, All Other." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor, 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
Zeke. "Jobs in Animation: Average Salaries & Career Paths." New York Film Academy Student Resources. New York Film Academy, 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.