SAC 3D Animation Program Is Launching Pad for a Fun and Lucrative Career

3D Modeling and Animation at Santa Ana College (SAC) is an award-winning program that has been designed to give students the fundamental knowledge to get entry-level positions with 3D animation companies. The curriculum is approved by industry professionals on an advisory board to ensure that it is up-to-date and relevant to the industry. This advisory board include professionals with DreamWorks, Pixar, Lucas Films, and Blizzard.

Students get to use the same type of computers that are used in large animation studios and video game companies. Autodesk’s 3D Studio Max software, which is the most widely used 3D animation software, is used in all of the classes. Instructors with real-world experience in 3D animation careers have the practical knowledge to poise students for success.

The program offers three certificates with different areas of emphasis including an art emphasis, video game and interactive media art emphasis, and a previsualization emphasis. These certificates take two years to complete and students can complete more than one. The certificates have some overlapping courses.

Fields that students can work in are:

  • Film industry
  • Broadcast television industry
  • Video games
  • Product and industrial
  • Architecture
  • Print and web-based illustrations

Patricia Waterman, SAC art professor, who developed the current curriculum for these certificates, worked in advertising prior to entering the video game industry with Big Grub Entertainment in Irvine.

Later, she started her own 3D animation company, Waterman Animation. Waterman said, “With my industry knowledge, I revamped the program, to ensure the curriculum reflected the current requirements of entry-level 3D artists.”

Arturo Morales obtained a 3D Modeling and Animation certificate in 2008 and is currently employed as a lead artist for one of the world's largest promotional, retail, and shopper marketing agencies; The Integer Group.There, he utilizes his skills in digital art and 3D modeling in the development of online and print marketing collateral. Morales discovered the program through a professor at Santiago Canyon College after he had done research and the only other programs he found were much more expensive than SAC’s program.

“The program has helped me a lot,” Morales said. “With it I had the opportunity to do a couple of freelance jobs while I was studying and right after graduation I landed in a 3D studio doing architectural visualizations.” Having this certificate and the work from his freelance jobs to put in a portfolio differentiated him among other job applicants.

Another student who has benefitted from the 3D Modeling and Animation certificate program is Jamie Sugarman. With grown-up children of her own, she found herself returning to college after a layoff. She had no idea what she would do, but discovered 3D digital media when she took a SAC Photoshop class. Soon thereafter, she enrolled in a 3D animation class and fell in love with the art form.
“I don’t want a full-time job,” said Sugarman. “Today there are so many opportunities to sell the work that you create as an independent. I’ve got my work online and am excited about taking even more classes. I have learned a lot from my instructor Patricia and from the other students. It is a really collaborative environment.”

The future has never been brighter for digital artists. It is no longer necessary for an artist to work for someone else to make a living. Today, individual artists working out of their own homes are “setting up shop,” developing art assets and even entire games and selling them to the public and other developers worldwide via new distribution portals, including the Unity Asset Store, TurboSquid, Steam, and Apple’s App Store.

According to Animation Career Review, at the end of 2014, the median annual earnings for multimedia artists and animators was $61,370. The highest paid earned $113,470 per year. At $72,680, multimedia artists and animators working in the film industries earned the highest median annual wage of the top five industries for this profession.

For more information on the SAC 3D Modeling and Animation program, contact Patricia Waterman at or visit