What are the top animation Master's (MS/MA) programs in the U.S. for 2024?

Top 10 Animation Master's (MS/MA) Programs in the U.S. – 2024 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
9University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania
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 2024.

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) provides courses and programs led by celebrated professors who have worked at major studios and on award-winning productions such as Ice Age, Pocahontas, and The Lion King. Students in the school also have opportunities to participate in SCAD Study Abroad in Lacoste, France, or other location, and the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, which highlights special film screenings, celebrity panels, lectures, workshops, and presentations with celebrated industry professionals. SCAD Film Festival is the largest university-run film festival in the world.

For artists seeking a graduate degree in Animation, Savannah College of Art and Design has a 45 credit hour Animation MA. Courses examples include Animation Aesthetics and Practice; 3D Cartoon Character Animation; Computer-Generated Modeling and Design; 3D Naturalistic Character Animation; Drawing in Motion; and Look Development. Students have the option to complete a graduate internship.

The Animation MA takes less than two years to complete and it is available at the Savannah campus and through SCADnow (online). The culminating experience for the SCAD MA program is the School of Animation and Motion MA Final Project. During this experience, students propose, develop, and execute a project that is then cut into their reel.

Across all SCAD Animation programs, graduates are prepared to pursue leadership roles in all areas of Film and Animation. SCAD alumni have worked on Oscar nominated productions such as Encanto (won), Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, and Turning Red and they 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, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Lucasfilm Animation.

Many SCAD graduates have also established careers at places such as Microsoft, Adobe, Deloitte, Spotify, and Delta Air Lines.

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

Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) is home to the Houdini Certified School of Animation & Visual Effects (VFX). The school provides programs that take place in a studio production environment known as StudioX. The Academy of Art School of Animation & VFX is the only school of its kind to teach in this type of environment.

Because StudioX functions like most real-world studios, students gain hands-on experience using the latest industry standard equipment. Studio X students have been credited for their work on productions such as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, and many others.

Other School of Animation & VFX highlights include collaborations with other artists individually and in teams; the opportunity to manage a production from start to finish; and FAT (Feature Animation Training) Tuesdays classes. Taught by industry professionals from companies like Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), these classes take place every Tuesday evening, and allow students to immerse in the mental processes of creating a character, and explore the emotional aspects of acting to enhance the characters they have created. All degree-seeking students will also complete an internship and create a professional portfolio of their best work. 

For students seeking an advanced degree, the School of Animation & VFX at Academy of Art has an Animation & VFX MA that focuses on storytelling and technical skills. Students in this 36-unit graduate program will work in 2D Animation & Stop Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or VFX. Consisting of 63 units of study, the Animation & VFX MFA explores all areas of animation and visual effects from concept to post-production. Course examples include such as Traditional Animation; 3D Modeling and Animation 1 (Maya); Feature Animation; Perspective for Characters and Environment; Advanced Character Animation; and 3D Animation Studio.

The MA program culminates with the Final Portfolio for Animators. During this three-unit course, students will gain communication, collaboration, networking, marketing, and workplace pipeline skills while polishing their final portfolios.

Graduates of the School of Animation & VFX at Academy of Art University are prepared to pursue positions in all areas of animation, and at all levels. Graduates have gone on to establish careers at major companies and studios such as Pixar, Paramount, Marvel, Sony Pictures Animation, Google, LAIKA Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Wieden + Kennedy, DNEG, Riot Games, Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). 

3. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) houses three schools including Cinematic Arts, Computing, and Design. Across schools, students have access to more than 65 degree programs and minors. Within the School of Cinematic Arts is an Animation program that features courses taught by award-winning filmmakers who are part of one of the largest full-time animation faculties in the nation.

The school also provides access to a state-of-the-art, 32,000 square foot production facility known as DePaul Cinespace Studios, and the new Jarvis Student Center for Innovation and Collaboration. This 8,000 square-foot open space focuses on industry partnerships and multidisciplinary professional learning across emerging technologies. Collaborations and projects between students and faculty emphasize innovation and community needs.

Cinespace and other CDM/SCA studios and facilities provide access to latest industry animation software, tools, and technologies. This includes Cintiq labs, professional animation and effects software, 3D printing, stop motion stages and fabrication studios, sound studios, 3D motion capture, and motion control.

For students seeking a graduate degree, the Animation program at DePaul University has an Animation MA with concentrations in 3D Animation, Traditional Animation, Storyboarding and Character Design, Motion Graphics, and Technical Artist. Course examples for the program include 3D Animation Production; Animation Figure Study; Advanced Topics in Visual Effects; Topics in 3D Animation; and Game Art Pipeline.

All DePaul Animation students have the unique opportunity to participate in the Los Angeles Quarter Program. This 10-week immersive experience allows students to intern at major Hollywood studios such Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse, and Warner Bros. Animation.

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. Project Bluelight provides hands-on experience in motion picture production to all interested students.

Graduates of the Animation programs at DePaul University are prepared to pursue careers in all industries that require animation and game design and development skills. Program alumni have been hired by major studios and gaming companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), Warner Bros. Animation, Google, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Blizzard Entertainment, Disney Animation Studios, Iron Galaxy Studios, BioWare, and LAIKA Studios.

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

The School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts (PVFA) at Texas A&M University (TAMU) is a multidisciplinary school that provides cross-disciplinary programs in music, film, theater, dance, visualization, and production. Across programs, students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and studios; courses taught by faculty who are accomplished directors, computer graphics engineers, composers, sound technologists, art historians, and dancers; and student organizations such as Women in Animation, Viz Industry Fair (VIF), and Texas Aggie Game Developers (TAGD).

Within the TAMU School of PVFA is a Visualization program that was established nearly 35 years ago. For students seeking a graduate degree in animation, PVFA has a Visualization MS. Students in this program will explore computer graphics, interaction, design, visualization, and art. Students at all levels may focus in an area of emphasis.

TAMU Visualization MS students may also focus in one of eight areas of emphasis. These include Computer Animation, Interactive Design, Virtual Reality (VR), Gaming, Augmented Reality (AR), User Experience Design, Computer Graphics, and Data Visualization. This program has both thesis (32 credit hours) and non-thesis (36 credit hours) options.

Free electives allow MS students in both options to acquire additional advanced skills in their focus area and others. Elective examples include Advanced Animation; 3D Modeling and Animation; Computer Aided Sculpting; Design Communication I-II; Form, Installation, and Environment; Physical Computing for Art & Design; and Image Synthesis. MS students may also professional internship worth eight credits.

In addition, select Visualization graduate students will have the opportunity to participate in the Summer Industry Workshop. Students in this intensive course will work with professionals from major animation studios to produce professional-grade short films. The course takes place all day, every day, for 10 weeks.

Across all TAMU Visualization programs, students will have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Career Fair, and the Semester Away Program in Italy, Germany, and other countries.

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

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 annually.

UCF FIEA has an Interactive Entertainment MS that provides the opportunity for students to compete and internship and work in production teams mentored by industry professionals. These mentors provide instruction in areas such as 3D animation and modeling, software engineering, game design, motion capture, technical art, and creative collaboration.

The Interactive Entertainment MS requires 30 credit hours of study, including 12 credit hours of core courses, nine credit hours in a specialization (Art, Production or Programming), a practicum, and a capstone experience. The Capstone results in a large-scale project that will be presented at a special event for the FIEA community and invited guests.

Graduates of the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy at University of Central Florida are prepared to pursue careers at major studios across the U.S. and abroad. Program alumni have been hired at companies and studios such as Universal, Blizzard Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Marvel, Sony, Walt Disney Imagineering, Gameloft, Nintendo, Electronic Arts (EA), DreamWorks, Google, Microsoft Studios, and Zynga. 

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

University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is home to the Harry W. Bass Jr. School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology (Bass School). Founded in 1975, the Bass School houses the first arts and technology degree in Texas. Launched in 2002, Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) at UT Dallas today consists of degrees are all levels, including the PhD.

For individuals seeking an MA, the UT Dallas Bass School has an ATEC MA that allows students to focus their studies and research in animation, science and technology, games, or other areas. Additional 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.

ATEC students have access to the following Bass School research labs and creative practice 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, where students can participate in a simulated animated studio experience. (SASE) Over two semesters, a crew of 40 SASE students will write, design, direct, and produce a two-minute CG animated short film. 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 pursue careers across industries and in areas such as 3D computer animation, film and television, games, modeling and simulation, virtual environments, and medical and scientific visualization.

ATEC alumni have been hired at a variety of major companies and studios such as Disney, Blizzard Entertainment, Cisco Systems, Texas Instruments, Gearbox Software, AT&T Foundry, id Software, JP Morgan Chase, and 900lbs of Creative.

7. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University

Purdue University (Purdue) is home to Purdue Polytechnic Institute (Purdue Polytechnic). Formally organized in 1964 as the School of Technology, Purdue Polytechnic houses the Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT). Within the Department is a CGT MS that participates in Purdue’s Computational Interdisciplinary Graduate Program.

The CGT MS at Purdue serves around 90 students. The program has four primary focus areas: Computer Animation, Games, Information Visualization, and UX Design. This highly flexible, interdisciplinary program also provides opportunities to take coursework across other Purdue graduate programs or develop a customized plan of study that includes computational art, computer graphics programming, and other areas.

MS students who would like to focus in Computer Animation will explore the entire digital animation process. The program also explores game studies, virtual reality, and visual effects. Course examples include The Art and Technology of Computer Animation; Seminar in Computer Graphics Technology; Visual Intelligence and Perception; and The Development of Graphics in Technology. Elective requirements also allow students to explore other areas of interest.

Students may choose the Animation Research Thesis or Non-Thesis option. Those in the non-thesis option will complete the Animation Capstone (Production). Graduates of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute CGT MS program are prepared for leadership and other roles across industries. Examples include Lead Animator, Technical Director, Senior Simulation and Visualization Specialist, Animation Director, Game Developer, Art Director, and Lead Technical Artist.

Program alumni have been hired at companies and studios such as DreamWorks, Google, Deloitte, and Salesforce. CGT MS graduates are also eligible to apply to the Technology PhD program. Also housed in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue Polytechnic, the PhD supports study and research in Computer Animation, Game Studies, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Digital Enterprise Systems, User Experience (UX) Design, and Data Visualization.

8. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University

The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University (Drexel) has a Digital Media MS that focuses on research and media applications. Areas explored include animation, advanced digital design, gaming and digital media history, 3D modeling, and interactivity.

Students in this two-year 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.

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. Positions may be paid or unpaid. Past co-op positions include animation, visual effects, technical direction, and 3D work at places such as Pixar, Cartoon Network, Studios, FuseFX, and MediaKraft TV.

Graduates of the Digital Media programs at Drexel University have worked on projects such as Avengers: Infinity War, The Mandalorian, Ready Player One, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Program alumni have also been hired by major companies and studios such as Pixar, Microsoft, XBOX, DreamWorks, Disney, and NCSoft Corp. Some graduates go on to work in research and development in the fields of virtual reality, real-time rendering solutions, and generative design.

9. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania

The School of Engineering and Applied Science at University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is home to the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS). Within the HMS Center is a Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT) Engineering MS (MSE) program.

Established in 2004, this interdisciplinary program provides opportunities to specialize in Art and Animation, Animation and Simulation Technology; Creative Design; Production Management, or Human/Computer Interfaces. Students in this program have access to equipment and resources available through the SIG Center for Computer Graphics.

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

Students in the UPenn CGGT MSE program will spend their first year in the Master of Computer and Information Technology (MCIT) program. Upon completion, students may pursue the CGGT degree. Because they have taken a total of 16 courses, graduates will receive two degrees: the MCIT and MSE CGGT.

Graduates of UPenn’s MSE CGGT program are prepared to pursue leadership roles and entrepreneurship in areas such as animation, design, directing, and game programming. Program alumni are routinely hired by major companies and studios such as Pixar, Microsoft, Walt Disney Animation, Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts (EA), DreamWorks Animation, Sony, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Zynga. 

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

The College of Design at North Carolina State University (NC State) launched in 1946 as the School of Architecture and Landscape Design. It was renamed the School of Design in 1948, and the College of Design in 2000. Today, the College of Design at NC State provides programs across six areas at all degree levels. This includes the doctorate.

In addition to a variety of programs, the NC State College of Design provides an interdisciplinary first-year experience; workshops; swing studios in other majors; internship opportunities; and study abroad experiences in places such as Prague, Chile, and Greece.

The College of Design at NC State also has a graduate option for animators. Housed in the College’s Department of Media Arts, Design and Technology is a Masters of Art + Design (MAD) that emphasizes experimental media arts. Elective options allow students to enhance the degree. Examples include 3D Animation; Creative Coding; Sequential Imaging; Special Effects; Digital Motion; Seminar in Animation; Visualizing Narrative; Digital Modeling; and Business of Design.

Depending on their background, MAD students also have opportunities to select from three tracks: Track 1 (30 credit hours); Track 2: 48 credit hours; and Track 3: 72 credit hours. Track 1 is designed for students with a strong background in interactive and experimental arts. Track 2 is ideal for students with an undergraduate degree in interactive and experimental media. These students are likely seeking initial studios to explore new theories and concepts for their final projects. Track 3 is for students who do not have a strong background in interactive and experimental media arts. Though these students may have a degree in another area, they will need to spend the first year taking advanced undergraduate courses.

For all MAD tracks, the final year provides the opportunity to produce a project in animation, interactive media, or other area of the students choosing. Students who choose not to complete a project may, instead, produce a research-based study or paper.

Graduates of the MAD program at North Carolina State University are prepared for leadership roles 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 become art and design educators at major colleges and universities.