What are the top animation Master's (MS/MA) programs in the U.S. for 2021?
|1||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia|
|2||Academy of Art University||California|
|3||University of Central Florida||Florida|
|5||Texas A&M University||Texas|
|6||University of Texas at Dallas||Texas|
|7||University of Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania|
|10||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||North Carolina|
For our graduate degree rankings, we have evaluated animation schools and programs with the best Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Science (MS) options. To determine which degree matches your career goals, it is important to understand how each qualification differs.
The Master of Arts (MA) is an advanced degree that focuses on areas such as the humanities. MA degrees are typically available in the areas of communications, English, teaching, literature, linguistics, art, and languages. Seminars are the main method of learning for MA programs and most programs do not require a thesis.
The Master of Science (MS) degree option typically focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math. This advanced degree often includes immersive lab work, scientific research, analysis, and evaluation. Unlike MA programs, most MS programs require a thesis.
The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is academically recognized as a terminal degree and it is typically awarded in the visual, fine and performing arts. The MFA degree demands the highest level of professional competency in these areas and practicing artists must exhibit the highest level of accomplishment through the generation of a body of work.
Below are the Top 10 Schools and Colleges with Animation MS/MA Programs for 2021.
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers an MA in Animation at its Savannah and eLearning campuses. This 45 credit hour program consists of courses such as 3D Cartoon Character Animation, Computer-Generated Modeling and Design, and Environment Look Development.
Students in the program will complete a Collaborative Project and the Final Animation MA Project, which “provides students the opportunity to synthesize their learning into a cohesive project piece,” says the school. Students will “propose, develop and execute a project that is then cut into their reel.”
SCAD graduates have landed positions at major studios such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The School of Animation and Visual Effects (VFX) at Academy of Art University offers an MA Animation and Visual Effects. The program “provides students an opportunity to work in 2D Animation & Stop-Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or Visual Effects, while focusing on storytelling with an emphasis on exhibiting technical skills and eliciting emotional responses.”
Students can expect to take courses such as 3D Animation Physics and Mechanics, Advanced Character Animation, Feature Animation, Gesture & Quick Sketch for Animators, and Storyboarding. Students in the program will also complete a portfolio and an optional internship is part of the program.
University of Central Florida’s (UCF) College of Sciences houses the Nichols School of Communication & Media, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), which offers an MS in Interactive Entertainment. The program provides specific skills in the area of 3D artistry, game design, and programming as well as essential skills such as problem solving, project management, and teamwork.
Per the school, “student production teams are mentored by industry trained faculty who provide instruction in” 3D animation and modeling, game design, level design, motion capture, postmortems, preproduction, rapid prototyping, software engineering, and technical design. The program also covers creative collaboration and legal and technical issues.
Students may choose between three specializations including Art, Production or Programming. Each specialization requires nine credit hours of study. Students in all specializations will complete a three credit hour capstone that will allow them to complete a large-scale project. A six credit hour practicum allows students to engage in supervised training with a research team, through an on-site internship, by developing a start-up, or with a faculty member on research in an area of interest.
Graduates have access to internship and venture opportunities as well as job interviews with media and game companies from across the country.
DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, which offers an MA in Animation. The program “provides a combination of artistic and technical training,” says the school, “that prepares students for a future in 3D character animation, traditional animation, computer game art, or visual effects.”
Students have the opportunity to work with game development teams, participate in CDM’s annual Premiere Film Festival, which showcases the best of student work in animation and cinema, and study and intern in Los Angeles for three months through the school’s innovative LA Quarter Program.
Past participants in the LA Quarter program have interned at Warner Brothers, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Disney, Nickelodeon, The Mill, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse Animation, Bix Pix Animation, and others. Back at home, students will also benefit from CDMs relationship with Chicago’s largest game development and animation studios.
Animation students also benefit from the visiting artist series, which brings “innovative practitioners and industry leaders to the DePaul campus for film screenings, on-stage conversations, and professional panels.” Past artists have visited from Disney and Pixar. The student organization Animation Lodge and Project Bluelight are other program highlights.
The Lodge is a place where students can network, build their portfolios, work on group projects, and discuss animation trends and techniques. Project Bluelight is a professional, educational, and community outreach program where students receive hands-on experience in motion picture production.
Graduates of DePaul’s Animation Program have been hired in animation roles at Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Google, Laika Studios, Nickelodeon, Phosphor Studios, Synapse Games and Wargaming, to name a few.
Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the College of Architecture - Department of Visualization, which broadly defines animation within “Visualization.” The program here started one year after the Texas A&M University Visualization Laboratory was established in 1988.
The Department offers an MS in Visualization with thesis and non-thesis options. The thesis option requires 32 hours of study and the non-thesis option requires 36 hours, including a Capstone Project and Graduate Seminar. Course highlights for the program include 3D Modeling & Animation, Design Communications, Digital Image, Image Synthesis, and Time Based Media.
Visualization graduates, also known as “Vizzers,” can be found working as creative talent for Hollywood’s leading animation and special effects studios. Just a few include Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, Reel FX, Rhythm & Hues Studios, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) houses the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC), which offers an MA in ATEC.
The ATEC curriculum “provides exposure to arts, science, technology, history, design, criticism, new knowledge creation, and complex understandings,” says the school. Master’s degree students “deepen their expertise in an area and develop understanding in adjacent topics.” The Animation Pathway “blends creative storytelling with technology to encourage experimentation in form, content, and medium and emphasizes 3D animation, which includes various artistic and technical disciplines such as modeling and texturing, character rigging, lighting and composition, computer programming and scripting, as well as character movement and acting.”
ATEC students have the opportunity to take a total of 15 credit hours/five courses in Animation, Design, Storytelling, and Games, to name a few. Courses such as Topics in Animation, Topics in ATEC, and Topics in Game Development are also available. Other program highlights include seminars and lectures, project and portfolio-based exercises, applied and experimental research, and guest speakers from industry giants such as Blue Sky Studios, Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar.
Graduates of the ATEC program at UT Dallas are prepared to seek careers in animation and other areas of entertainment, as well as new and emerging fields such as medical and scientific visualization.
University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn) School of Engineering and Applied Science houses the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), which offers an MS in Computer Graphics and Game Technology Program (CGGT).
The Center for HMS established the CGGT program in 2004 with a goal to expose recent graduates, as well as individuals returning from industry, to state-of-the-art graphics and animation technologies, as well as interactive media design principles, product development methodologies and engineering entrepreneurship.
The CGGT program prepares students for positions requiring multidisciplinary skills such as designers, technical animators, technical directors and game programmers. Students in the CGGT program use the equipment and resources available through the SIG Center for Computer Graphics. Opportunities for specialization are provided in such core areas as art and animation, creative design, animation and simulation technology, human/computer interfaces and production management.
Purdue Polytechnic Institute is one of the 10 academic colleges at Purdue University (est. 1869). The Institute houses eight departments and schools offering a variety of high-demand technology disciplines leading to the bachelor's, master’s, and PhD degrees. The Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT) offers an MS in Computer Graphics Technology (CGT).
The program has four primary focus areas: Animation, Games, Information Visualization, and UX Design. Students may specialize in any area through a range of courses such as Animation History, Technology and Technique, Current Topics in 3D Animation, Computer Graphics Programming, Game Development, Interactive Multimedia Development and Research, and Virtual Environments. Additionally, “real-world projects and research opportunities help students put theory into practice, building a foundation for future growth in their chosen discipline.”
Animation students will experience all key areas of the digital animation process, “preparing them for a growing range of technical and creative positions in the global animation industry, or as research scholars in the animation technology area.” Potential job titles include (but are not limited to) Animator, Digital Lighting Specialist, Rigger, Simulation and Visualization Specialist, Technical Director, and Technical Artist.
Note that students may earn a BS CGT/MS Technology with a Specialization in CGT, which may be completed in just five years instead of six years or more, if pursued separately.
The PhD Program allows students to create a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Data Visualization, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration and Web Programming and Design. Graduates of the program will know how to envision, plan and conduct research and development activities; identify, comprehend, analyze, evaluate and synthesize research; evaluate technologies and technology-related programs; assess individual performance with, and understanding of, technology; communicate effectively and employ constructive professional and interpersonal skills; and function in one or more of the technology disciplines.
Graduates of the program pursue careers in the academic sector, entertainment, government, technology, and many other areas.
Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, houses the Digital Media Department (DMD), which offers an MS in Digital Media. This two-year hybrid program provides comprehensive studies in Advanced Digital Design including 3D Modeling, Animation, Gaming and Digital Media History, Interactivity, and Theory and Methods.
The curriculum “offers a mix of academic coursework and project-related activities. Projects consist of funded grant research opportunities, industry-sponsored projects and independent, student-generated and faculty-approved projects.”
Graduates of the Digital Media program at Drexel University have landed positions at leading companies such as Disney, DreamWorks, Microsoft XBOX, NCSoft Corp., Pixar, and many others.
North Carolina State University (NC State) houses the College of Design, Department of Art + Design, which offers a Masters of Art + Design (MAD): Experimental Media Arts with an Animation and Digital Storytelling Area.
The MAD program focuses on Experimental Media Arts, such as Animation & Digital Storytelling and Computer Gaming & Serious Games. The program encourages students to explore the intersection of digital and material technologies to create interactive and engaging experiences that push the boundaries of storytelling, learning and play.” Course highlights include Coding for Designers, Digital Modeling, Digital Motion, Seminar in Animation, Sequential Imaging, Special Effects, Storytelling Through Films, and Visualizing Narratives.
Students in the MAD program have the option of doing a final project or a more theoretical and research-based paper or study.
MAD graduates are prepared to work on short and full-length animated films, in character development for animated films, games, and digital storybooks, and on interactive and experimental projects.