Do you burn for a career as a 3D computer animation artist? Maybe you’re checking into some of the heavily advertised trade schools, but you’re not sure about spending all that money. These schools cost a lot of money and they never guarantee you employment. As is the case with many of the applied arts, a trade school degree is no guarantee to employers that you have the skills to carry your weight.
Some of the best chefs work their way up from dishwasher, and some of the most incompetent ones have culinary degrees. Likewise, in the 3D computer animation field, your track record and portfolio are a lot more important than any trade school degree you might have paid for.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not disparaging education. On the contrary, a degree from a competitive university enriches your life and returns its cost many times over.
What matter most to animation houses are your skill at design and your facility with the leading 3D animation software such as Maya and 3D Studio Max. Before making any investment in technical education, you can begin to develop the latter skill set by actually learning any one of the available free 3D animation programs. By experimenting in the field, developing your facility with the software, and doing some pro bono work that leads to real paid projects, you will be learning the trade without blowing tens of thousands of dollars on a purely technical education that may never pay for itself.
After establishing yourself in the field you will either realize this isn’t for you and explore a more traditional education at a four year university, or you will find that you have a great passion for the field and will now have a much better chance to qualify for admission to a reputable, selective art school like The Art Institute of Chicago, Pratt or RISD. Or perhaps you will have begun a lifetime of productive and lucrative computer animation work, with no thoughts of turning back.
The advice here is basically to try before you buy. Trade schools have their place, but they are marketing machines. Due diligence reveals that diploma mills – private trade schools with low or no admission standards – do less to help their grads get jobs than more selective schools do. Rather than make a bad choice about school, why not get your hands on some 3D animation software, really learn it well, give the work a try and put yourself in a much stronger position to make the next step in your career a smart and prudent one?