Animation plays a much bigger role in daily life than most people realize. In addition to being used in television and entertainment, animation is used in advertising, science, travel, video games, and healthcare, making it an important part of our daily lives.
The rapid growth of technology means that future career options in animation will only grow with time. From creating website graphics in After Effects to recreating a crime scene from iPhone photos, successful animators bring images to life in real time.
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.
Featured Animation School Programs
As animation continues to grow across industries, many animation schools offer degrees in the field. However, not all animation degrees provide the same level of knowledge. The following top animation programs all have the following criteria:
- Highest rate of job placement
- Up-to-date video editing and animation software
- Training in 3D animation
- Training in motion capture
- Training in storyboarding and scriptwriting
- Access to and high-end drawing tools.
What to Look for in Animation School Programs
All the animation school programs on this list are also accredited, which 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 excellent animation programs are those with notable alumni who have been recognized in their field.
If you’re interested in an animation program, exploring open-source and free animation software is a great way to familiarize yourself with a career as an animator. Consider tools like Blender, Pencil2D, OpenToonz, Toon Boom Harmony, Animaker, and Synfig Studio, which is available on Linux, Windows, and OSX. The internet is also filled with explainer videos on all types of animation, whether you’re using Mac or Windows to make your animation dreams come true.
Here’s a look at the best schools for mastering animation software and which animation tools and skills they offer.
School of Visual Arts, New York
The School of Visual Arts in New York offers a BFA in Animation that provides students with all the tools they need to succeed. Students train on the most up-to-date animation software and hardware used by professional animators.
Graduates of the program have gone on to work for Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, and other well-known animation studios. The curriculum for the animation degree includes storyboarding, sound design and layout courses.
Students must also complete two anatomy courses to complete the program, helping students understand the full muscle and bone system. This cross-platform foundation equips graduates for success as character animators, making SVA NYC one of the top animation programs.
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.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Like many colleges with animation programs, the curriculum at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design exposes students to a variety of animation techniques. Students are provided instruction on how to animate through documentary, character, stop motion, and digital animation, to name a few.
This forms students into well-rounded animators when they seek employment after graduation. The program allows students to engage in conventional as well as experimental techniques throughout their studies.
MassArt 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.
Notable graduates of the college include Sonya Rapoport, a multimedia artist, and Chris Beatrice, game designer.
Florida State University
Florida State University offers a BFA 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 at this top animation school in Florida work with the most current technology available in the animation world and begin working with 2D animation software from the first class they take in the program.
Students are provided instruction in Adobe animation tools, like Photoshop and After Effects, and are prepared for essential animating tasks like cinematography, live action, editing, and sound. They’re also taught 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”
- 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, California
Laguna College of Art and Design, one of the best animation programs in California, offers an animation degree that is dedicated to training exceptional storytellers.
Students develop their skills using the latest tools, including Adobe Animate and open-source animation software with advanced features. Students are taught by instructors with professional experience in the animation industry, helping prepare young animators for a career in the field. 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.
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania offers a Digital Media Design program through the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The program combines 3D animation software skills with motion graphics and computer information and sciences to provide a broad spectrum overview of digital media in today’s world.
Graduates of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the top animation programs, are employed by Zynga Games, Microsoft, Pixar, Disney, and Electronic Arts. Ariela Nurko and Paul Kanuk, both alumni of the University of Pennsylvania program, 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.
The Ohio State University
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 video games, stop motion studio drawing, 3D animation, and digital imaging. You’ll also learn foundational animation skills like tweening, frame animation, image syncing, and video editing. You’ll leave this program with a comprehensive toolset for entering the workforce as a professional animator.
Also, the college offers a MFA 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% employment rate.
Columbia College of Chicago
The Columbia College of Chicago, a top United States animation college, offers a BA degree in both traditional and computer animation.
Students in the computer animation program choose a concentration 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 stop-motion animation or hand-drawn animation, where they use the best drawing tools and teach cut-out animation skills. Both concentrations provide training in 2D and 3D animation.
Students may also choose a BFA 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.”
Pratt Institute, New York
The Pratt Institute of New York offers a BFA in Digital Arts and Animation. Students are given instruction in 2D and 3D animation as they develop skills and learn the history of new media.
The college has nine state-of-the-art animation studio classrooms and a high-speed fiber channel network. There are audio recording studios and dedicated green screen facilities.
Graduates of this top animation bachelors will develop both skill and expertise ready to make a contribution to the animation field. 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, New York University offers both a BS and a BFA in Film & Television that includes a concentration in animation. Notable alumni include Alex Woo and Andrew Coats of Pixar Animation.
Tisch, one of the top animation programs in New York, 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 also helps students master animation software tools like Adobe Flash and Moho (formerly Anime Studio).
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
Brigham Young University offers one of the top undergraduate animation programs 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.
Young animators at this college can enjoy the Center for Animation, which showcases films, spotlights alumni, and manages the Animation Emphasis for students. This top animation college only enrolls 100 students per year.
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 approximately $60,000.
Don Bluth, director, producer, and animator of films that include “The Land Before Time,” “An American Tail,” and “Anastasia,” graduated from Brigham Young.
Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore
The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore offers a BFA in Animation where students learn to create original contemporary artwork. Students are provided a thorough understanding of character, narrative, keyframes, vector graphic animation, and animation software technology.
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 10 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. Kit Turley, a 2010 animation graduate, is a production coordinator at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Errol Webber, the youngest cinematographer to shoot an Oscar-winning film, graduated from MICA in 2008. Sarah Kujubu, who graduated from MICA in 2012, is a production manager at DreamWorks Animation.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida offers a BA in Visual Media as well as a BA 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 Studios, and SeaWorld, 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% of graduates from this top animation college in Florida said the college contributed to their career success after graduation. The average salary for a UCF graduate 10 years after graduation was almost $114,700. Almost 60% were in the field in which they received their degree.
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles offers one of the most highly ranked animation programs in the United States.
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 real-world 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 be pursuing the BA in Film and Television when they apply to 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
Rochester Institute of Technology offers a BFA 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 at this top animation college in New York produce several animations throughout the program, working through all phases of production, including scripting, budgeting, shooting, and editing.
RIT is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Over 87% 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
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
Savannah College of Art and Design offers BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in animation. Students are provided instruction in 2D, 3D, stop-motion, digital modeling, rigging, lighting, and look development.
Students will also learn essential animation skills like onion skinning and SVG animation, and how to make graphics for macOS, Windows, and Android. Animation 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.
SCAD is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. A stunning 98% of graduates of this top animation school in the United States reported that they were employed within 10 months of graduation.
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California offers a BA in Animation and Digital Arts that allows students to gain 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 Dornsife 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.
This best animation school in California 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, the creator of “Star Wars,” is also a graduate of USC. Over 70% of USC graduates are employed after graduation.
California Institute of the Arts
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 BFA degree that provides students an understanding of the art of storytelling and character performance as it relates to animation.
Students may work toward a BFA or an MFA 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 Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Ringling College of Art and Design
The BFA in Computer Animation at Ringling College of Art and Design allows students to learn to create characters and tell stories 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. It is one of the best animation schools in the world.
Rhode Island School of 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 BFA 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,” who 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.”
Consider These Top Animation Programs
Whether you dream of becoming a video editor for your favorite cartoon or creating a best-selling video game, a degree in animation can take you far.
When searching the best animation programs available, consider what type of animation you want to learn and what software tools and skills are most important to you. This will help you choose the best animation school for your goals. Find more tips and expert rankings on the best degree programs at College Rank.