Learn 3D modeling and animation can be quite expensive. This is not only in terms of time, but in terms of cost as well. This is because high end 3D software costs thousand of dollars. Unless, you opt for open source solution. The most powerful open source solution for 3D graphic is Blender 3D. Although open sourced, Blender is really professional grade application.
There are more and more 3D training being conducted using Blender. Beside Western countries, more Asian countries are beginning to take a serious consideration at Blender with 3D training in Singapore, China, etc.
Beside Blender, the other powerful free 3D suite is Truespace. Unfortunately, Truespace is no longer in development. However, this software is freely available for download over the internet. There is even a plugin developed for it that allows Yafaray external renderer to be used with it.