Can I study animation without going to university? featured image

Can I study animation without going to university?

So, you want to learn animation. What's the next step?


Twenty years ago, going to study animation at university or college were the best way into the industry. With the rise of online resources, many aspiring animators today are rejecting the traditional route for a self-taught career. How do you know which learning route is best for you?

Studying animation at university


Animation degrees can seem an obvious choice for many would-be animators. Universities and Colleges have designed the animation courses they offer to be as useful as possible to their students. As a student of animation, you’ll have access to resources which are inaccessible to many self-taught animators. Here are some pros and cons to consider before choosing to study animation...

Pros


Industry Level Feedback


Being surrounded by professionals and likeminded students will offer you great feedback, often at industry level. If you have external modules, you will be working with live briefs, giving you a real taste of what it's like to animate as a professional.Therefore, you will receive high quality, realistic feedback. If you're unfamiliar with it, studying animation will also introduce the concept of constructive criticism, which is one of the most valuable ways to grow as a creative.

Can I study animation without going to university? Pro feedback

Comprehensive Skillset


Animation courses are structured to give you an overview of all the skills you’ll need. This breadth of education is useful for aspiring animators who are unsure what aspects of animation they want to pursue. The animation industry can be difficult to navigate for self-taught animation students, so having a roadmap can be valuable.

Can I study animation without going to university? Skillsets
Can I study animation without going to university? Skillsets

Comprehensive Skillset


Animation courses are structured to give you an overview of all the skills you’ll need. This breadth of education is useful for aspiring animators who are unsure what aspects of animation they want to pursue. The animation industry can be difficult to navigate for self-taught animation students, so having a roadmap can be valuable.


Networking and collaboration


Another thing animation qualifications provide is the chance to network. Not only will you connect with professionals, you’ll also network with your fellow students. For self-taught animators, building a network of this size is a challenge, making it a great option to study animation.

Traditional animation study involves constant collaboration. You’ll regularly be asked to work alongside course mates and give feedback for one another’s projects. Working in a studio requires constant collaboration, so this environment is great experience.

making connections to help start a studio

Cons


Expense


Learning animation traditionally is expensive. Gaining qualifications isn’t financially possible for many would-be animators. With a plethora of free online resources available, a traditional education in animation can lose its appeal. Take into account the cost of the course, cost of living, and cost of course materials - it can really add up! Often, you are required to source your own materials, and different modules will require different equipment.

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Expense


Learning animation traditionally is expensive. Gaining qualifications isn’t financially possible for many would-be animators. With a plethora of free online resources available, a traditional education in animation can lose its appeal. Take into account the cost of the course, cost of living, and cost of course materials - it can really add up! Often, you are required to source your own materials, and different modules will require different equipment.


Time


As well as cost, animation school can be time demanding. Beyond the in-person teaching of lectures and class, you will have longer and tighter deadlines for essays, briefs and practical coursework. All of this can be tricky to balance. If you want to learn animation but need to hold down a nine-to-five, animation school might not be for you. Instead, find online resources you can learn from in your own time.

too busy image

Lack of focus


Although a broad course can be a benefit, it can also be frustrating for animators who want to learn a specific skillset. If you want to hone your 2D animation, learning how to model in 3D can feel like a waste of time. While you will become well versed in many styles and programs, you won't necessarily have time to specialise until your final year. Therefore, this is one of the the core reasons people choose to go it alone. 

too much to do image
too much to do image

Lack of focus


Although a broad course can be a benefit, it can also be frustrating for animators who want to learn a specific skillset. If you want to hone your 2D animation, learning how to model in 3D can feel like a waste of time. While you will become well versed in many styles and programs, you won't necessarily have time to specialise until your final year. Therefore, this is one of the the core reasons people choose to go it alone. 

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Teaching yourself animation


Many self-taught animators argue that on its own, a qualification is useless. Studios and clients are more interested in your experience and show reel than which course you attended. Here's what you should consider before going it alone...

Pros


Budget-friendly


Self-taught animation is far cheaper than most degrees. Depending on where you live, and what university you attend, you can be set back by serious student debt after graduation. When you teach yourself animation, you can control the resources you think are worth the money. In other words, you'll know you're getting your money's worth.


One way to learn animation is through YouTube. Check out our post on our 10 top YouTube animation channels to get started.

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Flexible


Teaching yourself animation means learning on your own time. If you have a part time job or a time sensitive commitment, it’s easy to dedicate your evenings and weekends to your study. You could start to learn animation while working a full time job, or even completing another degree - check out our post on learning animation while working a 9 to 5

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Flexible


Teaching yourself animation means learning on your own time. If you have a part time job or a time sensitive commitment, it’s easy to dedicate your evenings and weekends to your study. You could start to learn animation while working a full time job, or even completing another degree - check out our post on learning animation while working a 9 to 5


Catered to you


Want to exclusively work on 3D? Go ahead - no one is stopping you! When you teach yourself animation, you get to choose the materials you want to study. This means you can skip any skills that aren’t relevant to your learning and go straight to the good stuff. For many animators, this results in a much shorter learning curve, as they focus their learning on the skillset they want to build

3D animation software for animators

Cons


Software


Without institution credentials, animation software can be expensive. A subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, for example, will set you back about £50 a month. Recently, programs such as Blender have become available, so you can learn completely free of charge. Before teaching yourself animation, make a list of the software you need. Then, scour the web for free alternatives. Check out our post on animation programs - we provided budget-friendly options!

How much does a freelancer make - billing programs
How much does a freelancer make - billing programs

Software


Without institution credentials, animation software can be expensive. A subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, for example, will set you back about £50 a month. Recently, programs such as Blender have become available, so you can learn completely free of charge. Before teaching yourself animation, make a list of the software you need. Then, scour the web for free alternatives. Check out our post on animation programs - we provided budget-friendly options!


Lack of feedback


When you’re teaching yourself, it can be difficult to find objective feedback. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an industry contact, but they might not have the time to provide regular feedback.

A good solution is to use forums, or reach out to other aspiring animators and critique each other’s work. Consequently, this will not only will this help you improve, but it will help you create connections that could help you out later in your career.

Can I study animation without going to university? No feedback

Lack of motivation


To teach yourself animation, you need serious drive. Whilst university is structured and supported by peers and professors, your only motivation comes from your passion.

If you thrive off routine, an animation course could be for you. However, if you love the independence that comes with creating your own schedule, teaching yourself might be a great option.

Burnout image
Burnout image

Lack of motivation


To teach yourself animation, you need serious drive. Whilst university is structured and supported by peers and professors, your only motivation comes from your passion.

If you thrive off routine, an animation course could be for you. However, if you love the independence that comes with creating your own schedule, teaching yourself might be a great option.

Summary


In conclusion, deciding whether to take a traditional course or go it alone can take a lot of thought. Understanding the tools, resources and knowledge you need is essential when deciding how to learn. Both self-taught and university-taught animators have gone on to succeed in the industry, so the choice is yours!

Want to succeed in animation?


Check out our top tips for getting valuable industry experience.




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Interested In Starting an Animation Studio?


Take The Animation Career Quiz

Are you best suited to a studio role, freelancing or ready to start a studio of your own?
Take the quiz and plan your next animation career steps.

Animation Career Community

Sign up for free to the Start A Studio Animator community & network with likeminded artists.


Animation Studio Startup Course

Checkout our award-winning online course on planning and launching a creative & viable animation studio.


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