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:
- Video games
Animation is an important part of our daily lives.
The rapid growth of technology means that future career options in animation will only grow. From creating website graphics in After Effects to recreating a crime scene from iPhone photos, successful animators bring images to life in real time.
Animators must have:
- Strong attention to detail
- Mastery of art of movement
- The ability to transfer real life to animation
As animation continues to grow across industries, many animation schools offer animation degrees. However, not all animation schools provide the same level of knowledge. The following top animation schools 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 Schools
All the animation schools on this list are also accredited. This indicates that the school meets or exceeds criteria that indicate excellence in education.
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 one of the best animation schools, exploring open-source and free animation software is a great way to familiarize yourself with a career as an animator. Consider tools like:
- Toon Boom Harmony
- Synfig Studio
Synfig Studio is also available on:
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.
Related Resource: What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
The School of Visual Arts
The School of Visual Arts in New York offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation degree that provides students with all the tools they need to succeed. You will train on the most up-to-date animation software and hardware used by professional animators to create visual art.
Graduates of the program have gone on to work for well-known animation studios like:
- Warner Brothers
The curriculum for the animation degree includes:
- sound design
- layout courses
Animation majors must also complete two anatomy courses to complete the program, which will help you understand the full muscle and bone system. This cross-platform foundation equips graduates for success in character animation, 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. It is also accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Like many colleges for animation, the curriculum at the MassArt exposes students to a variety of animation techniques. You will study areas such as:
- Character animation
- Stop motion
- Digital animation
This animation degree prepares 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:
The school is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. It is also accredited by the Northeast Association of Schools and Colleges.
Notable graduates of the college include:
- Sonya Rapoport- a multimedia artist
- Chris Beatrice-game designer.
Florida State University
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 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 the Adobe creative suite of animation tools, like Photoshop and After Effects. They are prepared for essential animating tasks like:
- live action
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 is one of the best animation schools in California. It offers an animation degree program 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. They help prepare young animators for a career in the field. Graduates have found employment at well-known animation studios like:
- Industrial Light & Magic
- Cartoon Network
Each year, the school hosts the LCAD Animation Film Festival. It highlighs 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”
- James Lopez, creator of “Hullabaloo”
The college is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It is also accredited by 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. Penn’s program combines 3D animation software skills with motion graphics and computer information and sciences. This provides a broad spectrum overview of digital media in today’s world.
Graduates of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the top animation schools, are employed by
- Zynga Games
- Electronic Arts.
Ariela Nurko and Paul Kanuk, both alumni of the University of Pennsylvania program, worked on the Oscar-nominated film “Brave.”
Animation majors take courses like physically based animation, computer graphics, automata, and 3D to provide as much knowledge to students as possible. Penn is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The Ohio State University
Ohio State University is among the colleges with animation majors. Ohio State offers both an undergraduate and graduate degree in Arts and Technology. It includes a concentration in animation. Students develop knowledge and skills in many aspects of animation:
- Video games
- Stop motion studio drawing
- 3D animation
- Digital imaging
You’ll also learn foundational animation skills like:
- frame animation
- image syncing
- video editing
You’ll leave this program with a comprehensive toolset for entering the workforce as a professional animator.
The college also 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. Also, 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 is one of the best animation schools in the United States. It 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. This allows them the flexibility 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. 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”
- 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 taught 2D and 3D animation as they develop skills and learn the history of new media.
Pratt Institute 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 digital animation degree will develop both the skills and expertise ready to make a contribution to the animation field. Notable alumni include:
- Joseph Barbera-animator and co-creator of “Tom and Jerry”
- 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, NYU 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 is one of the best animation schools in New York. It includes studies of many different aspects of film and television. This gives students knowledge and skills outside the realm of animation while also preparing them for a career in their chosen field. Animation majors master animation software tools like Adobe Flash and Moho (formerly Anime Studio).
This animation degree takes five years to complete and 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 is one of the best animation schools offering media arts designed for students who wish to enter film-related careers after graduation. Students must master film culture, history, and theory. They will develop 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 education outside the art world as well.
Young animators at this college can enjoy the Center for Animation. This:
- showcases films
- spotlights alumni
- 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 is a director, producer, and animator of films. This includes:
- “The Land Before Time”
- “An American Tail”
Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore
The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore is among the best animation schools in the U.S. MICA offers a BFA in Animation where students learn to create original contemporary artwork. Animation majors are provided a thorough understanding of:
- Vector graphic animation
- 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 and related to:
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. It is also accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design. Alumni include:
- Kit Turley (2010)-production coordinator at Walt Disney Animation Studios
- Errol Webber (2008)- the youngest cinematographer to shoot an Oscar-winning film
- Sarah Kujubu (2012)-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
This gives 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 best animation schools in the United States.
The program strikes a balance between technology and creativity. This provides knowledge in:
Students work in the Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio. They gain 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 UCLA Animation Workshop. Erick Oh, a 2010 graduate, is an animator at Pixar and has worked on such films as:
- “Monsters University”
- “Inside Out”
Shane Acker graduated from the program in 2004. He 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 RIT 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:
- performance capture
- 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. This gives 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. 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. Animation majors are provided instruction in:
- digital modeling
- rigging, lighting
- look development
Students at this art school will also learn essential animation skills like:
- onion skinning
- SVG animation
- 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 well-known companies like:
- 20th Century Fox
- Cartoon Network
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 on any of the following:
- Character animation
- Experimental animation
- Visual effects
- 3D computer animation
- Science visualization
- Interactive animation
Pre-professional courses are taken at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. 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.
CalArts was established by Walt and Roy Disney. It 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. This computer animation degree allows students to focus on learning to combine technical skills with conceptual ideas. The program teaches you how to affect an audience emotionally, visually, and intellectually.
Josiah Haworth is an associate animator at Blizzard Entertainment. He graduated from the school in 2013. Patrick Osborne is the founder of Paid Time Off. He is a 2003 graduate. Eric Prah graduated in 2012. He is an animator at Blue Sky Studios. Other graduates are employed at:
- WB Games
- Luma Pictures
Ringling College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It is also accredited by 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:
Students work with 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. It is used throughout the industry. Students are provided training in how to use the tools common to the industry. They are also taught how to use:
- critical thinking
- 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 (1996)- an animator on “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Family Guy”
- Seth MacFarlane- creator of “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and “The Cleveland Show”
- 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 from one of the best colleges for animation can take you far in the visual effects industry.
When searching for 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 focus 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.
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