What Can You Do With a 3D Animation Degree?

Student working on their 3D animation degree

What do "Toy Story," King Tut and the iPhone have in common? The answer: 3D modelers, the artists and animators who use specialized computer software to create visuals and images that appear three-dimensional. These professionals work as part of the teams that helped bring Pixar's Woody and Buzz to life, put a face on a centuries-old mummified pharaoh and developed the iconic look of Apple's products.

It's an exciting time to find work-or advance your current career-in digital design. Most jobs in the field require a bachelor's degree in graphic design, media arts or a related subject. But because the field is moving beyond traditional design, today's multimedia artists and animators are expected to have cutting-edge technical skills. That's why Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) online graphic design degree offers a concentration in 3D modeling and animation. You learn the latest principles and techniques by mastering industry-standard 3D animation programs, software and tools, including the Adobe Creative Suite and Autodesk's Maya and Mudbox.

Graduates with an education and experience in 3D animation or modeling can find employment opportunities in a variety of industries, from entertainment to medicine. They work for companies and organizations, or as freelancers, depending on what works best for them personally and professionally. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, multimedia artists and animators (which includes 3D modelers) had a median annual wage of $63,970 in May 2015.*

So if you're ready to combine creativity with construction and imagination with innovation, then consider one of the following industries for a career in 3D modeling and animation.

Film and Television

A 3D animation degree can be your foot in the door with the motion picture and video industries, the largest employers of multimedia artists. 3D-modeling professionals work as part of the creative teams that produce the visual effects for movies and television shows.

You know the dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" or the dragons in HBO's "Game of Thrones"? Such computer-generated images (CGI) and other on-screen visual effects comprise 3D modeling work. Not surprisingly, animation and special effects studios such as Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic continue to be at the forefront of developing the latest and greatest in 3D animation and modeling technology.

Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing

Closely aligned with the film and television industries are advertising, public relations and marketing. From the Super Bowl to Facebook, media outlets and platforms provide numerous opportunities for digital designers to work with 3D animation or modeling.

The best advertising and marketing campaigns are memorable, emotional, interactive or some combination thereof. Compelling computer-generated graphics or images can contribute greatly to creating innovative or successful commercial videos-think of GEICO's flagship Gecko or the enduring appeal of Coca-Cola's polar bears.

SNHU's 3D animation program teaches you both the theory and practice behind multimedia graphic design. You learn design fundamentals as well as advanced digital sculpting. Meanwhile, you master the tools of the trade, including Adobe Creative Suite, Autodesk, Mudbox and other software and apps designed for creative professionals working in 3D modeling.

Video Games

Video, computer, and other electronic games have come a long way since Pac-Man was released in 1980. Today, the video game industry is a billion-dollar business and the games feature realistic graphics, elaborate scenery, and sophisticated storylines. Video games are also expanding to include more technologies and platforms, such as mobile devices and social media.

3D modelers and animators play a vital role in designing and developing the characters and environments that make up video games or role-playing games. From creating initial wireframes to rendering photorealistic effects with the latest software, SNHU's 3D animation program teaches you the 3D sculpting process. The hands-on training and projects you complete as part of the program prepare you for a career in the game arts industry while also building your game design portfolio.

Architectural, Interior and Industrial Design

From the iPhone to I.M. Pei's Louvre Pyramid, good design balances form and function.

Similarly, most people interested in a 3D animation program want to balance their creativity with their tech-savvy. Mastering the ability to visualize and design original concepts using emerging technology can give you a professional edge.

SNHU's concentration in 3D modeling and animation teaches you to produce multidimensional digital representations of your design concepts. Using wireframe 3D modeling techniques and software, you learn to render digital designs of prototypes, products, properties, and more-for businesses, for clients, or for yourself.

Scientific and Medical Services

The entertainment and design industries aren't the only options for pursuing careers in 3D modeling, especially if you have previous experience, interest or education in the sciences or healthcare.

The medical industry, for example, continues to expand its use of 3D imaging to create detailed models of human anatomy based on CT or MRI scans. Meanwhile, forensic anthropologists work with 3D modelers to reconstruct the faces of deceased people based on CT scans of the remains. In addition to facial reconstruction, forensic artists at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children even use software to create "age-processed" images of missing children in order to help find them.


Online learning has created a new career opportunity for graduates with a degree in 3D animation or modeling: virtual instruction designer. "Virtual classrooms" need professionals who design, develop, and maintain online tutorials, interactive multimedia, and distance-learning courses.

That's where virtual instruction designers come in. They help people learn better by using research, design, and technology to improve e-instruction. This is especially important with the increasing use of virtual learning technologies and learning management systems, especially in corporate settings and higher education.

So how does this career path fit with a 3D animation program? Online classes and virtual trainings benefit from well-designed 3D animation and modeling, which help by illustrating key concepts or by aiding retention and recall.

If your dream job combines design, technology and teaching, keep an eye out for such opportunities.

3D Modeling and Animation Degree from SNHU

The need for capable and creative graphic designers with leading-edge training continues to grow. The world needs digital artists and animators to help tell stories intriguingly, solve problems imaginatively, and illustrate solutions effectively. If the idea of creating visual content using emerging technology appeals to you, then consider exploring the 3D animation program options available through SNHU's online degrees in graphic design. The BA in Graphic Design with a concentration in 3D modeling and animation can prepare you for a variety of existing and future career opportunities, whether in entertainment, education, industry or elsewhere.

Interested in learning more? Contact SNHU's admission team today.

*Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.

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