University of Southern California (USC) - Program Info, Interviews, and Rankings

Programs to consider:

Our 2016 list of the Top 50 Game Design School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California (top 1% of schools considered)

University of Southern California (USC) was established in 1880 and it is home to 43,000 students enrolled in more than 500 graduate and undergraduate programs, and over 150 minors across 18 colleges and schools. Program offerings for aspiring game designers are offered through several colleges and schools including the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences - Interactive Media & Games Division (in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts) and the Viterbi School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science. 

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Our 2016 rankings of the Top 10 schools on the West Coast for game design and development.

We define the West Coast as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California (USC) is home to the Dornsife College of Letters, the School of Cinematic Arts, and the Viterbi School of Engineering, which offer programs for aspiring game designers. Dornsife’s Interactive Media & Games Division, in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts, offers a BA in Interactive Entertainment, an intensive three-year MFA in Interactive Media, and Minors in Game Design and Game Entrepreneurism. According to USC, the MFA program “draws on the strengths of the School of Cinematic Arts, including Game Design, Animation, Sound Production, Screenwriting, Producing and Critical Studies, bringing these resources together in a vibrant community of innovative digital media practice.”

The Viterbi School of Engineering-Department of Computer Science offers a BS in Computer Science – CSCI (Games), an MS in Computer Science (Game Development), and a PhD in Computer Science (Game Design and Development or Virtual Reality). A Minor in Computer Science and a Progressive Degree Program (PDP) are also available. 

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Our 2016 rankings of the Top 25 Game Design School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) is home to 43,000 students enrolled in more than 500 undergraduate and graduate programs, and over 150 minors across 18 colleges and schools. Program offerings for aspiring game designers are offered through several colleges and schools including the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences - Interactive Media & Games Division (in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts) and the Viterbi School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science.

The Interactive Media & Games Division offers a BA in Interactive Entertainment, an intensive three-year MFA in Interactive Media, and Minors in Game Design and Game Entrepreneurism. According to USC, the MFA program “draws on the strengths of the School of Cinematic Arts, including Game Design, Animation, Sound Production, Screenwriting, Producing and Critical Studies, bringing these resources together in a vibrant community of innovative digital media practice.” 

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Our 2016 rankings of the top 20 animation school programs on the West Coast. 

We define the West Coast as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

 

1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. Established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, the school has a population of 1,489 students enrolled in more than 70 programs at all degree levels. Around 26.9% of the student body is enrolled in the School of Film/Video, which offers BFA degrees in Character Animation and Experimental Animation. An MFA in Experimental Animation is also available. 

Called the “Harvard Business School of Animation” by the Los Angeles Times, CalArts has produced hundreds of successful alumni who have generated more than $26 billion in box office grosses since 1985. 

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Artistic talent, creativity and excellent communication skills are important qualities every aspiring animator must have. But these qualities alone won’t prepare you for the competitive world of animation. The industry is so advanced, that animators must have outstanding computer skills in order to master industry software and computer applications as well as software designed specifically for any given animation studio. While some animators consider themselves self-taught, the vast majority obtain the skills they need through an animation program. Even for the self-taught, earning a degree is a safe bet as most employer’s prefer to hire candidates that hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

While pure animation programs are plentiful and cover all bases, so many industries rely on animation that the craft is often a component of many other degree programs. Think advertising, marketing, multimedia art, interactive media, computer graphics, graphic design, game design, game art, art, architecture, art and design, and even law and medicine. Some of these programs offer optional electives that cover major areas of animation while others may offer a focus, specialization, concentration, option, or minor in animation. In these cases, the program will often delve deeper into the art of animation. Finally, many schools also offer hybrid programs (i.e. Film & Animation, Animation & Digital Art, Film/Video/Animation, etc.) that may cover just as many bases as pure animation programs do.

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Our 2016 list of the Top 50 Animation School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California (top 1% of schools considered)

Established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. With a population of 1,489 students enrolled in more than 70 programs at all degree levels, CalArts attracts a large population of aspiring filmmakers and animators. Around 26.9% of the student body is enrolled in the School of Film/Video, which offers BFA degrees in Character Animation and Experimental Animation. An MFA in Experimental Animation is also available.

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Our 2016 list of the Top 50 Private Animation School Programs in the US. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California 

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. Established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, and with a population of 1,489 students, the school offers more than 70 programs at all degree levels. However, CalArts attracts a large population of aspiring filmmakers and animators. In fact, around 26.9% of the student body is enrolled in the School of Film/Video, which offers BFA degrees in Character Animation and Experimental Animation. An MFA in Experimental Animation is also available. 

Called the “Harvard Business School of Animation” by the Los Angeles Times, CalArts has produced hundreds of successful alumni who have generated more than $26 billion in box office grosses since 1985.

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Sheila Sofian

ACR is excited to announce a new Interview Series that spotlights the work of women in the fields of animation, multimedia and game design. From LaVerne Harding and Mary Blair to Kazuko Nakamura and Jennifer Yuh Nelson, women have influenced generations and offered new perspectives to the craft. Though they remain a minority in the industry, their rank continues to grow; in fact, women now represent a majority of animation students in American college programs. We’re looking forward to following the work they do and bringing you their voices.

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Tracy Fullerton is not your average game designer. Instead, she turns traditional game narrative and motivation on its head (evident in her work-in-progress Walden, a Game). She isn’t the typical gamer, either. She’s drawn to games that experiment with player choice and present complex dilemmas. And she’s anything but your average faculty member. After all, how many college students have the opportunity to learn from someone who has produced games, started her own venture-backed company, and acts as a thought-leader in the industry and academia?

Fullerton does all of this as Director of USC Games and Game Innovation Lab, one of the nation’s preeminent game programs that consistently snags the top spot in the rankings. Offering a B.A. and B.S. from two of USC’s most prestigious departments (the School of Cinematic Arts and the Viterbi School of Engineering), USC Games also lures majors from other departments with its minor degrees in addition to its M.F.A. and M.S. graduate programs.

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University of Southern California - School of Cinematic Arts

When it comes to living and breathing all things animation, few people can hold a flame to Tom Sito. Since the 1970s, Sito has worked on a slew of memorable TV and feature film animations. From Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids to The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we would be hard pressed to find another animator who hasn’t been influenced by him.

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