The 20 Best Animation Degree Programs

Although most people think of animation as the Saturday morning cartoons they used to watch on television; animation plays a much bigger role in daily life. The animation is used in advertising, for scientific demonstrations, and in computer games, making it an important part of our daily lives. This means there are many career options available in the animation industry. Animators may create graphics for a website, or they may recreate a crime scene for a court proceeding. A successful animator is one who sees the world much differently than other people. They must have strong attention to detail, must be able to master the art of movement and must be able to transfer what they see in the world into their animation.

With animation a growing field, many schools offer animation degrees. However, not all animation degrees provide the same level of knowledge that others do. These animation programs have graduates with a high rate of job placement, offer the most up-to-date technology and offer various types of animation training, including 2D, 3D, lighting, storyboarding and scriptwriting. Another factor in choosing colleges for this list is that they must be accredited. Accreditation indicates that the school meets or exceeds criteria that indicate excellence in education. In addition, animation studios are more likely to choose a candidate who has graduated from one of these schools over one who has not. The sign of an excellent animation program is one with notable alumni who have been recognized in their field.

The School of Visual Arts in New York offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation that provides students with all the tools they need to succeed. Students train on the most up-to-date software and hardware used in the animation industry. Graduates of the program have gone on to work for Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon and other well-known animation studios. The school has a graduation rate of 69 percent. The curriculum for the animation degree includes storyboarding, sound design and layout courses. Students must also complete two anatomy courses to complete the program. The school has also been named one of the best Art and Design Schools by Salary Potential by Payscale. The School of Visual Arts is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Like many colleges with animation schools, the animation program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design exposes students to many animation techniques. Students are provided instruction in documentary, character, stop motion, and digital animation to name a few. This gives students a well-rounded animation background when they seek employment after graduation. The program allows students to engage in conventional as well as experimental techniques throughout their studies. Massachusetts College of Art and Design was founded as a training school for artists, designers, and architects. The school is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design as well as the Northeast Association of Schools and Colleges. The school has a graduation rate of 59 percent over the past six years. Notable graduates of the college include Sonya Rapoport, a multimedia artist, and Chris Beatrice, game designer.

Florida State University offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Motion Picture Arts with an Animation and Digital Arts concentration. The program explores the many different methods for using animation in the filmmaking industry. Students work with the most current technology available in the animation world and begin working in animation from the first class they take in the program. Students are provided instruction in cinematography, live action, editing, sound as well as film history to give them a background in how far the industry has come. Courses include 3D, texturing, visual effects and more to give the student a well-rounded background in animation. FSU alumni include Ron Friedman, screenwriter for “Chicken Little” and “Open Season;” Amy Kennedy of Princess Pictures; Matthew Lopez, screenwriter for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice;” and Jonathan King, Executive Vice President of Participant Productions. The college is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Laguna College of Art and Design offers an animation degree that is dedicated to training exceptional storytellers. Students develop their skills using the latest tools and are taught by instructors with experience in the animation industry. Graduates have found employment at Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic, Cartoon Network and other well-known animation studios. Each year, the school hosts the LCAD Animation Film Festival highlighting the best work from the animation department. Guest instructors have included Chris Sanders, director of “The Croods” and “How to Train Your Dragon;” John Kricfalusi, creator of “Ren & Stimpy;” and James Lopez, creator of “Hullabaloo.” The college is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

The University of Pennsylvania offers a Digital Media Design program through the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The program combines computer graphics with computer information and sciences to provide a broad spectrum overview of digital media in today’s world. Graduates of the program are employed by Zynga Games, Microsoft, Pixar, Disney and Electronic Arts. Ariela Nurko and Paul Kanuk, both alumni of the University of Pennsylvania program, recently worked on the Oscar-nominated film, “Brave.” Courses include physically-based animation, computer graphics, automata and 3D to provide as much knowledge to students as possible. The University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Ohio State University offers an undergraduate as well as a graduate degree in Arts and Technology that includes a concentration in animation. Students develop knowledge and skills in many aspects of animation, including 3D, gaming and digital imaging. Also, the college offers a Master of Fine Arts in Design with a concentration in Digital Animation and Interactive Media. In addition to their major, students are required to complete a rigorous liberal arts component as part of their degree program. Ohio State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Notable alumni include Charles Scuri, considered the father of digital art and computer animation and Jeff Smith, creator of the comic book series “Bone.” Graduates of Ohio State have a 61 percent employment rate.

The Columbia College of Chicago offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Traditional and Computer animation. Students in the computer animation program choose a concentration sequence in either computer animation or visual effects, allowing them flexibility with electives to tailor their education to their career. Students in the traditional animation program choose a concentration in either hand-drawn or stop-motion animation. Both concentrations provide training in 2D and 3D animation. Students may also choose a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation that adds additional liberal studies to the program. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Notable alumni include Everett Downing, story artist for DreamWorks; Mauro Fiore, Academy Award winning cinematographer of “Avatar;” and Aaron Hartline, animator for “Up.”

The Pratt Institute of New York offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Arts and Animation. Students are given instruction in 2D and 3D animation as they develop skills, in theory, practice, and history of new media. Students develop the animation that is sophisticated, crafted well and conceptualized properly. The college has nine state-of-the-art digital studio classrooms and a high-speed fiber channel network. There are audio recording studios and dedicated green screen facilities. Notable alumni include Joseph Barbera, animator and co-creator of “Tom and Jerry” and Eric Goldberg, animator for Walt Disney and Warner Brothers. Pratt Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

New York University, through the Tisch School of Arts, offers both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film & Television that includes a concentration in animation. Notable alumni include Alex Woo and Andrew Coats of Pixar Animation. The program includes studies of many different aspects of film and television, giving students knowledge and skills outside the realm of animation while also preparing them for a career in their chosen field. It is a five-year degree and also includes courses designed to provide knowledge into the business side of the arts world. NYU is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Brigham Young University offers an undergraduate animation degree in Media Arts designed for students who wish to enter film-related careers after graduation. Students must master film culture, history, and theory while developing the skill sets necessary to work in their chosen field of animation. This provides students with a broader education than if they were only studying animation. In addition, Brigham Young requires a rigorous liberal arts component in all of their degree programs, providing students with an education outside the artistic world as well. The college also offers students the Center for Animation which showcases films, spotlights alumni and manages the Animation Emphasis for students. BYU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on College and Universities and the National Association of Schools of Art and design, Commission on Accreditation. The average salary for a BYU Arts, Entertainment and Media graduate is approximate $60,000. Don Bluth, director, producer and animator of films that included “The Land Before Time,” “An American Tail” and “Anastasia” graduated from Brigham Young.

The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation where students learn to create original contemporary artwork. Students are provided a thorough understanding of character, narrative, and technology. Students explore and experiment using the state-of-the-art process as well as software and hardware currently used in the industry. Students can complete creative works using 2D, stop motion and 3D animation or a combination of several approaches. All student courses are linked to the art world, including courses related to history, literature, and science. The school also has a partnership with Johns Hopkins Medical School allowing students to attend courses at both schools.

MICA is consistently ranked as one of the top ten visual arts colleges in the country. MICA is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Higher Education as well as the National Association of Schools of Art & Design. The school is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, East Coast Art School Association and Maryland Independent College & University Association. Kit Turley, a 2010 animation graduate, is a production coordinator at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Errol Webber, the youngest cinematographer to win an Oscar-winning film graduated from MICA in 2008. Sarah Kujubu, who graduated from MICA in 2012, is a production coordinator for the show “Sanjay and Craig” at Nickelodeon.

The University of Central Florida offers a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Media as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media Game Design, both of which include a strong animation component. The University of Central Florida is located in proximity to Walt Disney World, Universal Studies, and Sea World, giving students ample opportunities for internships and work experience that allows them to gain hands-on experience while studying animation. UCF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Over 60 percent of graduates from UCF said the college contributed to their career success after graduation and the average salary for a UCF graduate ten years after graduation was almost $114,700. Almost 60 percent were in the field in which they received their degree.

The University of California offers one of the most highly ranked animation schools. Animation Workshop has created some of the most talented animation artists in the world. The program strikes a balance between technology and creativity, providing knowledge in scriptwriting, editing, and storytelling. Students work in the Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio, gaining hands-on experience in an industry where technology changes rapidly. Upon completion, students are provided the opportunity for a full year of animation studies as well as an internship. Students must complete a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television prior to applying for the Animation Workshop. Erick Oh, a 2010 graduate, is an animator at Pixar and has worked on such films as “Cars,” “Brave,” “Monsters University” and “Inside Out.” Shane Acker, who graduated from the program in 2004, expanded an Academy Award Winning Short Film, “9” into a feature film for producer Tim Burton. UCLA is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Rochester Institute of Technology offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and animation which focuses on production. Students begin work on 16mm film, digital video, and animation from the first year of study and build on their production work throughout the program. Students may choose an animation concentration. The program uses lectures, laboratories, and guest speakers to help students develop their animation skills. Students produce several animations throughout the program, working through all phases of production, including scripting, budgeting, shooting and editing. Rochester Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Over 87 percent of the school’s graduates are employed in their field of study. Elan Lee, an alternate reality game designer, graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1998.

Carnegie Mellon University offers a concentration in Animation and Special Effects that allows students to develop an understanding of the many aspects of animation. Students learn rendering, 3D, 2D, performance capture and special effects. Students in any major may add the concentration to their curriculum. Students are also able to integrate their Integrative Design, Arts and Technology courses with the animation concentration. Carnegie Mellon provides students with collaborative studios that promote hands-on learning, giving them the ability to apply what they learn in class to a real-world situation. Carnegie Mellon is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Ivan Sutherland, who is considered the creator of computer graphics, graduated from the school in 1959 and Andy Warhol graduated from the university in 1949.

Savannah College of Art and Design offers Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees in Animation. Students are provided instruction in 2D, 3D, stop-motion, digital modeling, rigging, lighting and look development. Students are able to collaborate on projects, learning the importance of teamwork in the animation industry. Graduates have found positions at Disney, Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. Students have access to professional-grade technology allowing them to master industry technology that they will use in their career. Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Graduates of the school reported that 98 percent of them were employed within ten months of graduation.

The University of Southern California offers a Bachelor of Arts in Animation and Digital Arts that allows students to gain both a liberal arts background with a professional specialization. Students may concentrate their studies in character animation, experimental animation, visual effects, 3D computer animation, science visualization and interactive animation. Pre-professional courses are taken at the Dornslife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences while the major courses are selected from the School of Cinematic Arts. All students must complete a senior project in order to graduate. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Art Clokey, clay animator and creator of “Gumby,” graduated from USC in 1956. George Lucas, creator of “Star Wars,” is also a graduate of USC. Over 70 percent of USC graduates are employed after graduation.

California Institute of the Arts offers both a Character Animation and Experimental Animation program through the School of Film and Video. The Character Animation program is a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree that provides students an understanding of the art of storytelling and character performance as it relates to animation. Students are provided comprehensive artistic and technical training that allows students to collaborate on projects. Students may work toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Animation. The degrees are designed for students who wish to develop personal visions with the ever-changing parameters of animation. The college was established by Walt and Roy Disney and was the first higher education in the country to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in visual and performing arts. The school works to help students find employment after graduation with their “Curating Your Own Life: Transitioning to a Career after CalArts.” The course allows students to participate in career-related courses and internships. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Computer Animation at Ringling College of Art and Design allows students to learn to create characters and tell story using animation created through computers. The major allows students to focus on learning to combine technical skills with conceptual ideas that are designed to affect an audience emotionally, visually and intellectually. Josiah Haworth, an associate animator at Blizzard Entertainment, graduated from the school in 2013. Patrick Osborne is the founder of Paid Time Off and is a 2003 graduate. Eric Prah graduated in 2012 and is an animator at Blue Sky Studios. Other graduates are employed at JibJab, WB Games, Pixar and Luma Pictures. Ringling College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Rhode Island School of Design is ranked as the top art school in the country by many different publications and organizations. The school offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film, Animation, and Video. Students work with the live action, animation or a combination of both and can produce films in a wide range of genres. The facilities at RISD offer state-of-the-art technology with digital editing, sound mixing and puppet animation technology that is used throughout the industry. Not only are students provided training in how to use the tools common to the industry, but they are also taught how to use concepts, critical thinking and content development. RISD is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Notable alumni include Michael Dante DiMartino, an animator on “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Family Guy,” graduated from RISD in 1996. Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show” also graduated from RISD as did Lance Wilder, animator for “The Simpsons” and “The Critic.”