What are the top animation Master's (MS/MA) programs in the U.S. for 2023?

Top 10 Animation Master's (MS/MA) Degree Programs in the U.S. – 2023 College Rankings
1Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
2Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
3DePaul UniversityIllinois
4Texas A&M UniversityTexas
5University of Central FloridaFlorida
6University of Texas at DallasTexas
7Purdue UniversityIndiana
8Drexel UniversityPennsylvania
9North Carolina State UniversityNorth Carolina
10University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania

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 2023.

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

The School of Animation and Motion at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) houses the world’s first specialized degree in Motion Media Design, three Animation degrees, and three Visual Effects (VFX) options for students seeking an undergraduate or advanced degree. Students in all School of Animation and Motion programs have access to more than 800 networked computers along with a 60,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art digital media center consisting of a green screen lab, in-house theater, and studio environment.

Students in all programs and at all degree levels receive instruction from celebrated professors who have worked at major studios and on award-winning productions such as Ice Age, Pocahontas, and The Lion King.

At the graduate level, SCAD has an Animation MA that requires 45 credit hours to graduate. Incoming BFA students may also enroll in Gradpath@SCAD, which provides the opportunity to earn a BFA and MA at an accelerated pace. The BFA/MA could take less than four years to complete.

The MA is available at the Savannah campus and through the schools online learning platform SCADnow. MA students 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, SCAD Animation graduates have been recruited by major studios, gaming companies, and networks such as Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Electronic Arts (EA), DreamWorks, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney, and Lucasfilm Animation. 

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

The School of Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) at Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) has an Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) Program that focuses on storytelling and technical skills. Students in this 36-unit graduate program will work in work in 2D Animation & Stop Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or VFX.

All Academy of Art Animation programs take place 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 mirrors 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, all degree-seeking students will complete an internship and create a professional portfolio of their best work. 

Academy of Art Animation alumni go on to establish careers at major studios and companies such as Google, LAIKA Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Marvel, Sony Pictures Animation, CASA VFX, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Riot Games, Weta Digital, and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).  

3. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University (DePaul) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, home to the Animation Program. Listed as a Top Film School by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the School of Cinematic Arts features courses taught by award-winning filmmakers, and access to a state-of-the-art, 32,000 square foot production facility known as DePaul Cinespace Studios.

In addition to award-winning filmmakers, courses are taught by members of one of the largest full-time animation faculties in the nation. They teach courses such as 3D Animation Production, Cinema, Animation and Art, Screenwriting, Motion Graphics, 3D Design and Modeling, Stop-Motion Animation, Narrative Development, Storyboarding, Drawing, and Motion Capture. Students in the MA, BA/MA, and BFA/MA have access to all animation courses.

The BFA program has concentrations in 3D Animation, Visual Effects Animation, Cinema, Game Art, Motion Graphics, and Storyboarding and Character Design. While the BA does not offer a concentration, animation students may enhance their skills in a focused areas through major and open electives.  

The MA allows students to concentrate in 3D Animation, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding and Character Design, Technical Artist or Traditional Animation. Course examples 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 benefits 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 major studios and gaming companies such as Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, LAIKA Studios, Disney Animation Studios, Wargaming, Warner Bros. Animation, BioWare, and Iron Galaxy Studios.

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

The School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts at Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the Visualization Program. Established in 1989, the TAMU Visualization Program is cross-disciplinary, allowing students to explore interaction, art, design, visualization, and computer graphics. Students at all degree levels may focus in an area of emphasis. Examples include Computer Animation, Interactive Design, Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Computer Graphics.

Students in all TAMU programs, including the Visualization MS, have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Career Fair, the Semester Away Program in Italy, Germany, and other countries, and the TAMU Internship Program. Graduate internships are worth eight credits and students have completed internships at animation, game, and graphic design companies. 

Texas A&M University Visualization graduates will leave the program with a polished portfolio of their best work. Program alumni are routinely hired for positions at major studios such as DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Reel FX Animation Studios.

5. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

The College of Sciences at University of Central Florida (UCF) houses 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 each year.

UCF FIEA has an MS in Interactive Entertainment that provides the opportunity for students to work in production teams mentored by industry professionals who provide instruction in 3D animation and modeling, game design, technical art, motion capture, creative collaboration, software engineering, and more. 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 and gaming companies such as Blizzard Entertainment, Marvel, Sony, Gameloft, Nintendo, Electronic Arts (EA), Walt Disney Imagineering, DreamWorks, Universal, Google, Microsoft Studios, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Zynga.

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

The School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology (AHT) at University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) has an Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) MA Program that allows students to focus their studies and research in animation, games, science and technology, or other areas. All graduate level programs provide advanced study in computer-based arts, interactive media, digital media, technology, and professional practices.

Other ATEC program highlights include guest speakers from major studios such as Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks; applied and experimental research in collaboration with instructors in varying areas of expertise; seminars and lectures presented by industry professionals; and portfolio and project-based exercises.

All UT Dallas ATEC students have access to the following labs and studios: 3D Studio, ArtSciLab, Creative Automata Lab, Cultural Science Lab, Emerging Gizmology Lab, Fashioning Circuits, LabSynthE, Narrative Systems Research Lab, Public Interactives Research Lab (PIRL), SP&CE Media, and The Studio for Mediating Play. Students focusing in animation also have access to the ATEC Animation Lab, which provides the opportunity to participate in a simulated animated studio experience. Over two semesters, a crew of 40 students will write, design, direct, and produce a two-minute CG animated short film. Just a few past films include Bad Timing (2022), Octo Ninja (2021), Night Shift (2020), and Stargazer (2019).

Graduates of the ATEC programs at UT Dallas are prepared to seek careers in 3D computer animation, film and television, games, modeling and simulation, virtual environments, and medical and scientific visualization.

7. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University

Purdue University (Purdue) houses Purdue Polytechnic Institute (Purdue Polytechnic). Within the Institute is the Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT). Here, students seeking a graduate degree can earn a CGT MS or a 5-Year CGT BS/MS. The CGT MS Program participates in Purdue University’s Computational Interdisciplinary Graduate Program.

The Purdue University CGT MS 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 the CGT MS program is interdisciplinary, students have opportunities to take coursework across other Purdue graduate programs.

MS students who would like to study animation may choose the Thesis or Non-Thesis option. Non-Thesis students will complete a Senior Capstone. Course examples across options include The Art and Technology of Computer Animation, Visual Intelligence and Perception, The Development of Graphics in Technology, and Seminar in Computer Graphics Technology. Elective requirements also allow students to explore other areas.

Purdue CGT MS alumni are Animators, Technical Directors, Digital Lighting Specialists, Simulation and Visualization Specialists, Riggers, and Technical Artists at both independent and major studios.

8. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University

Drexel University houses the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, which has both MS and dual degree programs for animators. The Animation and Visual Effects BS/Digital Media MS (BS/MS) consists of coursework and projects in animation, 3-D modeling, interactivity, gaming, advanced digital design, and digital media history, theory, and methods. This program requires a minimum of 232 credit hours to graduate.

Drexel University has one of the nation’s top cooperative (co-op) education programs, so students in all degree programs have the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience prior to graduation. Dual BS/MS students will participate in three co-op experiences in the second, third, and fourth years of study and positions may be paid or unpaid.

The Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) Program provides instruction and hands-on training in 3D modeling, character design, scripting and storytelling, motion capture, compositing, storyboarding, and rigging. Students apply the skills they have learned to co-op positions in animation, visual effects, technical direction, and 3D at Cartoon Network, Pixar, Sony Studios, FuseFX, and MediaKraft TV, among others.

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

Graduates of the Animation/VFX and Digital Media Programs at Drexel University work in a variety of positions at major companies and studios such as Disney, Microsoft, XBOX, DreamWorks, NCSoft Corp., and Pixar.

9. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University

The College of Design at North Carolina State University (NC State) began as the School of Architecture and Landscape Design in 1946. It was renamed the School of Design in 1948 and the College of Design in 2000. Today, the College provides programs in architecture, art and design, design studies, graphic and experience design, industrial design, and landscape architecture and environmental planning. Programs are available at all levels—including the doctorate.

Other College of Design highlights include swing studios in other majors; study abroad experiences in places such as Greece, Chile, and Prague; an interdisciplinary first-year experience; workshops; and internship opportunities.

Housed in the College of Design’s Department  of Art + Design is the Masters of Art + Design (MAD) Program. With an emphasis on experimental media arts, this program is highly multidisciplinary, allowing students to study both traditional disciplines and emerging techniques. Examples include animation, VR/AR, visual composition, interactive and computational media, and visual effects. Electives allow additional opportunities to focus the MAD. Examples of past MAD 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.

NC State Art + Design graduates work in fields such as animation, digital special effects, multimedia, illustration, filmmaking, and software design. Some graduates go on to launch their own studios and freelance businesses, while others are become art and design educators.

10. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania

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

Course examples for the program include Physically-Based Animation, Computer Animation, 3D Computer Modeling, Interactive Computer Graphics, Physically-Based Rendering, Digital Figure Modeling, and Advanced Project Animation.

Students in the CGGT Program will spend their first year in the Master of Computer and Information Technology (MCIT) Program. This means, graduates will receive two degrees: the MCIT and MSE CGGT.

Graduates of UPenn’s CGGT Programs are prepared for careers and entrepreneurship in areas such as animation, design, directing, and game programming. Program alumni are routinely hired by companies and studios such as DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Walt Disney Animation, Activision, Microsoft, Pixar, Zynga Games, Electronic Arts, and Sony.