What are the top animation Master's (MS/MA) programs in the U.S. for 2022?

Top 10 Animation Master's (MS/MA) Degree Programs in the U.S. – 2022 College Rankings
1Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
2Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
3DePaul UniversityIllinois
4University of Central FloridaFlorida
5Texas A&M UniversityTexas
6University of Texas at DallasTexas
7Purdue UniversityIndiana
8University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania
9Drexel UniversityPennsylvania
10North Carolina State UniversityNorth 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 2022.

1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design

The School of Animation & Motion at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers a 45 credit hour MA in Animation. The program is offered in Savannah, Georgia and through the schools online learning platform SCADnow. Students in SCAD’s Animation MA Program will complete courses such as Animation Aesthetics and Practice, Environment Look Development, and Computer-Generated Modeling and Design. Students will also complete a collaborative project and a final project. The graduate internship is optional.

From Stop-Motion Animator to Creature Technical Director, graduates of the Savannah College of Art and Design Animation Program have been recruited by major studios such as 20th Century Fox, Electronic Arts, DreamWorks, Lucasfilm Animation, Pixar, Disney, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and many others.

2. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) houses the School of Animation & Visual Effects (VFX), which offers an MA in Animation & Visual Effects. The program is taught in a studio production environment known as StudioX. The School of Animation & VFX is the only school of its kind to teach in this type of environment. Because StudioX mimics most real-world studios, students gain hands-on experience with industry standard equipment, collaborating with other artists and on teams, and managing a production from start to finish.

In addition to several collaborative projects, Academy of Art University Animation & VFX students will complete an internship and create a professional portfolio.

Academy of Art Animation alumni work at major studios and companies such as Google, Laika, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Marvel, Sony Pictures Animation, CASA VFX, Blue Sky Studios, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Riot Games, Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic, and many others.

3. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, which offers an MA and combined BFA/MA in Animation.

Courses for the animation programs at DePaul University are taught by one of the largest full-time animation faculties in the nation. More than a dozen animation professors teach courses such as 3D Animation, Design, Screenwriting, Motion Graphics, Stop-Motion Animation, Narrative Development, Drawing, Animation Production, History of Animation, and more.

The CDM MA allows students to focus in 3D Animation, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding and Character Design, Technical Artist or Traditional Animation. Course highlights for the program include Advanced Topics in Visual Effects, Animation Figure Study, Topics in 3D Animation, Game Art Pipeline, and 3D Animation Production.

All DePaul Animation students may participate in the Los Angeles Quarter Program. This 10-week immersion program allows students to intern at major Hollywood studios such Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse Animation, Bix Pix Animation, Warner Brothers, and many others.

Other program highlights include the visiting artist series, where past guests have included artists from Disney and Pixar, access to the Animation Lodge, and participation in Project Bluelight. Students at The Lodge collaborate on group projects, network, and build their portfolios. Bluelight provides hands-on experience in motion picture production to all interested students.

Graduates of the animation programs at DePaul University have been hired by industry giants such as Electronic Arts, Google, Nickelodeon, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Laika Studios, Wargaming, and many others.

4. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Sciences houses the Nichols School of Communication & Media—home to Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA). Established in partnership with the City of Orlando, the State of Florida, and UCF, FIEA enrolls more than 130 students annually.

The Academy offers an MS in Interactive Entertainment that covers areas such as 3D animation and modeling, motion capture, technical and level design, technical art, and preproduction. The program requires 30 credits including 12 credit hours of core courses, nine credit hours in a specialization, a practicum, and a capstone experience. An internship is also part of the program.

University of Central Florida FIEA graduates have been hired at studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Marvel, Sony, Gameloft, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Walt Disney Imagineering, DreamWorks, Universal, Google, Microsoft Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, Zynga, and many others.

Also housed in the Nichols School of Communication & Media is the Digital Media MA Program. This option prepares UCF animation students for entry into a PhD program or employment in the animation, games, AR/VR, or special effects industries.

5. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University

The College of Architecture at Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the Department of Visualization, which offers an MS in Visualization.

Established in 1989 the TAMU Visualization Program is cross-disciplinary, allowing students to explore interaction, art, design, visualization, and computer graphics. Students may focus in an area of specialization through electives. TAMU Visualization students also have opportunities to participate in the annual career fair and the semester away program in Italy, Germany, and other countries.

Internship opportunities are also available at all levels. The supervised undergraduate course spans 15 weeks and 600 hours and students earn six credit hours. Graduate internships are worth eight credits. Texas A&M University Visualization students have interned at animation, game, and graphic design companies. 

Texas A&M University Visualization graduates are often hired for positions at major studios. Examples include Walt Disney Animation Studios, Reel FX, Blue Sky Studios, Pixar, Rhythm & Hues Studios, DreamWorks Animation, and Industrial Light & Magic.

6. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) at University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) offers an MA in ATEC. Students in the program may focus their studies and research in animation, science and technology, games, and other areas. This graduate level program also offers advanced study in computer-based arts, interactive media, digital media, technology, professional practices, and more.

Other UT Dallas ATEC program highlights include guest speakers from Disney, Blue Sky Studios, Pixar, DreamWorks, and others, seminars and lectures presented by industry professionals, portfolio and project-based exercises, and applied and experimental research in collaboration with instructors in varying areas of expertise.

Graduates of the University of Texas ATEC Program are prepared to seek careers in animation, games, and film and television, as well as emerging fields such as medical and scientific visualization.

7. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University

Purdue University (Purdue) houses Purdue Polytechnic Institute—one of the 10 academic colleges at the university. Within the Institute is the Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) which offers an MS in Computer Graphics Technology, and a 5-Year BS/MS in Computer Graphics Technology.

The CGT MS program participates in Purdue’s Computational Interdisciplinary Graduate Program and provides study and training in Animation, Games, Information Visualization, and UX Design. A large number of course options allow students to concentrate in a specific area. Because CGT MS program is interdisciplinary, students have opportunities to take coursework across other Purdue graduate programs.

MS students wishing to focus in Animation may choose the Thesis or Non-Thesis option. Those in the Non-Thesis option will complete a Senior Capstone. Course samples for both options include The Art of Technology of Computer Animation, Visual Intelligence and Perception, The Development of Graphics in Technology, and Seminar in Computer Graphics Technology. Elective requirements also allow for the exploration of other areas.

Purdue University CGT MS alumni are Animators, Technical Directors, Digital Lighting Specialists, Simulation and Visualization Specialists, Riggers, and Technical Artists, among others.

8. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania

The School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) houses the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), home to the MS in Computer Graphics and Game Technology Program (CGGT). Established in 2004, the CGGT MS program provides the opportunity to specialize in Animation or Animation and Simulation Technology.

The UPenn MS program prepares students for careers and entrepreneurship in Animation, Design, Directing, and Game Programming, among others.

University of Pennsylvania CGGT MS graduates are routinely hired at Activision, Microsoft, Pixar, Blue Sky Entertainment, Zynga Games, Electronic Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Walt Disney Animation, Sony, and DreamWorks Animation.

9. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University

Drexel University (Drexel) is home to Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, which houses the Digital Media Department (DMD). Gradute program offerings for animators include an accelerated BS/MS, and an MS in Digital Media. Drexel University programs are offered online, on campus or in hybrid format.

Thanks to Drexel’s elaborate cooperative (co-op) education program, BS/MS and MS students have plenty of opportunities to gain valuable hands-on experience prior to graduation. For example, accelerated BS/MS students will participate in three co-op experiences in the second, third, and fourth years of study. Positions may be paid or unpaid.

The MS in Digital Media at Drexel University is a two-year program that focuses on research and medias applications. Ares explored include animation, gaming and digital media history, 3D modeling, and interactivity. Students in the program will complete several projects that may be independent, industry-sponsored, student-created or faculty-approved. Past projects have focused on advanced animation production techniques, narrative comics, animation design, video games, and more.

Graduates of the Drexel Westphal Digital Media Programs have landed positions at leading companies such as Disney, DreamWorks, Microsoft, XBOX, NCSoft Corp., Pixar, and many others.

10. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University’s (NC State) College of Design, Department of Art + Design, offers a Masters of Art + Design (MAD). The program, which emphasizes experimental media arts, allows students to focus their studies through electives. Examples of past elective options include 3D Animation, Seminar in Animation, Special Effects, Creative Coding, Digital Motion, Visualizing Narrative, Digital Modeling, Sequential Imaging, and Business of Design.

During the final years of the program, MAD students will have the option to produce a project in animation, interactive media or other area of their choosing, or complete a research-based study or paper.

North Carolina State University Art + Design graduates are currently working in fields such as animation, digital special effects, multimedia, illustration, filmmaking, and software design. Many graduates go on to become art and design educators or entrepreneurs.