Digital Animation Graduates Find Career Satisfaction

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“One day I realized that people make cartoons for a living. It had never dawned on me that you could do this as a career.”
– John Lasseter, chief creative officer, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios

If you are passionate about video games, animated features or shorts, visual effects or visualizations, and feel just as comfortable with a mouse and keyboard as with a brush and pencil, digital animation may be the field for you.

From video games to movies to advertising and even in crime scene forensics, 3D digital animators are in high demand. The opportunities for Washtenaw Community College 3D Animation program graduates are remarkable. “There’s a huge industry pool out there where our graduates can land,” said Washtenaw Community College Digital Media Arts department faculty member Randy Van Wagnen. “I’m really proud of the amazing work we do here in the classrooms as well as what our students go on to do.”

Nick Tillman says WCC prepared him for his current positon as an environmental artist at Wayforward Games by giving him the basic knowledge of using modeling and texturing software. “I loved the experience of learning the basics, because I wasn’t sure if this was something I wanted to make into a career,” said Tillman. “It was one of the best choices I made, because it confirmed it was something I wanted to do.”

Tillman credits WCC faculty member Randy Van Wagnen for making him feel welcome at the college and helping him to understand all of the 3D animation process from the basic to the most advanced. “If I didn’t understand something, I could always ask him and he would help me figure it out,” continued Tillman. “I owe him a lot for showing me everything from the basic to the advanced. Without him, I might be doing something else instead that would not be as rewarding or fulfilling as my current career.”

Jessi Ruselowski is an environment artist at ArenaNet, a video game development studio located in Seattle, Wash. Ruselowski also credits WCC and Van Wagnen with letting her explore the world of 3D animation. “It’s such a special niche that I was surprised it was being taught at my local community college,” said Ruselowski. “I was between careers and trying to find the best fit. Randy was very supportive of allowing me to try out a class at the last minute, and after that I was hooked on 3D.”

“The 3D program gave me a taste of everything, from modeling, texturing, lighting, rigging and animation, and rendering, to see what I liked and didn’t like about the 3D world, and then I started to ‘specialize’ a little more towards the modeling, texturing and lighting,” explained Ruselowski. “The combination of computers and technology with my passion for art was perfect. Without this experience I would have never found a career I was completely satisfied and passionate about.”


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for multimedia artists and animators is expected to grow about eight percent through the year 2026. That’s above the overall seven percent projected job growth across all industries.

“One of the main goals of our program is to provide students with solid training in basic techniques and to let them try all of the career paths available to them in industry today,” said Van Wagnen.


WCC offers both an associate degree as well as a certificate program in 3D animation. In the associate degree program the emphasis is on realizing a creative vision, using many different techniques ranging from drawing and painting to digital animation. Students will develop their artistic abilities while training in the latest software. The degree also has a transfer option in place with Eastern Michigan University.

“Most of our students go on to get a bachelor’s degree, so we want to give them a solid foundation to work from with our associate degree,” explained Van Wagnen. The certificate program is for students who wish to take strictly animation courses. This often includes those returning to school for retraining, as well as those who have degrees and want specific software training.


The global 3D animation market was valued at $11.5 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $28.3 billion in seven years according to Grand View Research


2016 Median Pay

Video Games, Movies and Television
The three largest digital industries for career growth in digital animation


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