What are the top animation school programs in Massachusetts for 2021?

Top 10 Animation School Programs in Massachusetts - 2021 College Rankings
1Massachusetts College of Art and DesignBoston
2Emerson CollegeBoston
3Northeastern UniversityBoston
4Lesley UniversityCambridge
5School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts UniversityBoston
6University of Massachusetts at AmherstAmherst
7University of Massachusetts-DartmouthDartmouth
8Wellesley CollegeWellesley
9University of Massachusetts-LowellLowell
10Hampshire CollegeAmherst

Our 2021 ranking -our tenth annual- of the top animation school programs in Massachusetts. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) began as Massachusetts Normal School in 1873 in response to the Massachusetts Drawing Act, which required all cities in the Commonwealth of over 10,000 residents to include drawing in their public school curricula.

Serving nearly 2,000 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students, today MassArt is known as “the Commonwealth’s art and design school.”

Dozens of programs are offered in areas such as Animation, Ceramics, Fashion Design, Glass, Illustration, Industrial Design, Painting, and Sculpture. Programs lead to the BFA, MFA, MDES, MAT, or MArch. Programs for aspiring animators include a BFA in Animation that begins “with assignments that build skills while also encouraging inventive and experimental work across a variety of media,” says the school. The program covers technology and workflow, the creative process, and research and context with “classrooms, labs, and studios that facilitate and enhance the work of animation majors.” Emerging Technologies, Experimental Video, and Stop-motion. Course highlights include Advanced Digital Animation, Design for Animators, Motion Graphics, Puppet Animation & Fabrication, Toolbox, and VFX Alchemy: Pixels & Grain. An Independent Study course, Course Assistantship, and Internship are also part of the program.

BFA coursework “culminates in a degree project consisting of a sustained film as well as a portfolio and reel highlighting students' professional and creative objectives.” Graduates of the program have gone on to land positions such as Animator, Freelance Animator, Junior Animation Artist, Medical Animator, and Medical Illustrator.

2. Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts
Emerson College

Founded in 1880, Emerson College is located in the heart of Boston’s Theater District. Focused on communication and the arts in a liberal arts context, this independent, nondenominational college serves nearly 4,500 students enrolled in dozens of programs leading to a BA, BS, BFA, MS, MA, or MFA degree. More than 30 minors designed to augment and enhance students’ primary course of study are also available.

The School of the Arts, Department of Visual & Media Arts (VMA) offers both BA and BFA degrees in Media Arts Production. The VMA faculty has created possible plans of study specifically designed to develop expertise in areas such as Animation and Motion Media, Filmmaking, Interactive Media and Games, Post-Production, Writing for Film and Television, and a number of other areas.

Course highlights for animators include Computer Animation, Drawing for Character Design, Film Production, Foundations in Visual and Media Arts Production, Game Design, Narrative Drama, and Writing for Short Subject.

The BA has an optional capstone that allows students to work on an advanced production project. The student will leave the program with either a project, reel or portfolio. The BFA program “encourages innovative exploration of voice, form, culture, and genre.” Students in this program will pursue a yearlong course of work on a thesis-level project.

Graduates of Emerson’s Department of VMA have found employment at places such as Bunim-Murray Productions, Digital Domain, Fox Searchlight, Hallmark Channel, MAD TV, MGM Studios, SCG Productions, Soup2Nuts, World Wide Pants, and many others.

3. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern University

Northeastern University was founded in 1898 as an Evening Institute of the Boston Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The first graduating class of the school’s Evening Law Institute consisted of 21 students. Today, Northeastern has hundreds of thousands of graduates around the world and it serves nearly 38,000 students, according to the school’s most recent enrollment figures.

Northeastern offers 150 undergraduate majors and concentrations and over 125 graduate programs in nine colleges and schools. With nearly 6,000 students and 15 combined undergraduate degrees, the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) houses the Media Arts program, which has several offerings for aspiring animators. Options include a BFA in Media Arts with a Concentration in Animation, a BFA in Game Art and Animation, and a Minor in Animation.

The Media Arts-Animation BFA is an intensive studio program that consists of courses in imaginative and narrative arts, which are required for professional work in documentary films, game art and promotion, visualization, motion graphics, interactive art, illustration and short animated film. Students in the program have “ample opportunities to explore and collaborate with related creative disciplines,” says the school, such as game design, interactive, video, VR/AR/XR and more.

Course highlights include 4D Fundamentals: Sequence and Drawing, American Animation, Animation for Games, Animation Tools, Character Design for Animation, Digital Sculpture and Model Making, Interaction Design, and Interactive Narrative. Students will also work to develop a professional level portfolio throughout the program, “the centerpiece of which will be a one-year capstone project, demonstrating mastery in their specific area of focus.”

The BFA program also offers frequent co-op and experiential learning opportunities as well as global experiences. Co-op employers include Adobe, Amazon, Apple, CBS, Facebook, Microsoft Studios, MIT Design Lab, National Geographic Learning, NBC Universal Television, SAIC, Sony, Viacom, Walt Disney Company, Zynga, and many others.

The Game Art and Animation BFA takes a collaborative approach to learning, which allows students to join forces with their peers and work with students in other majors, culminating in a two-semester senior capstone. Students in the program will have a home college in the College of Arts, Media and Design but will have a minimum of four interdisciplinary courses where students interact and work together with students in the other degrees.

Northeastern also offers a BS in Computer Science/Media Arts through the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. The combined major provides a solid foundation in Computer Science and Media Arts through a curriculum that spans animation, computer graphics, database design, human-computer interaction, photography, and video. Course highlights for the program include Animation Basics and Animation Tools, Animation for Games, Animation 1, 2 and 3, Character Design for Animation, Digital Sculpting and Model Making, Narrative Basics, and Virtual Environment Design.

Graduates of the animation programs at Northeastern University are prepared to seek positions in all areas of animation, digital art, film, game art and design, and many others.

4. Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Lesley University

Lesley University was founded in 1909. The school serves around 2,700 undergraduate students and nearly 4,000 graduate students enrolled in more than 100 programs through four colleges and schools. The College of Art & Design is home to undergraduate and graduate art & design programs at Lesley, including eight BFAs and two MFAs. Several programs are available for aspiring animators including a BFA and Certificate in Animation & Motion Media and a Minor in Animation.

The 15 credit hour Minor in Animation explores 2D and 3D, character animation, experimental animation, game art, motion media, and VFX. The 60 credit hour Certificate in Animation & Motion Media is designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree. The program covers 2D Digital Animation, Audio Production and Design, Business of Animation, Storyboarding for Time Based Media, and more.

Animation & Motion Media BFA students “will explore media and tools that give life to visual stories, characters, and environments,” says the school. They will also experiment with traditional and emerging techniques, from stop-motion to digital CGI and “master new concepts, like storyboarding, character design, and motion art, and build toward creating impactful animated shorts, special effects, advertising spots, and more.”

Courses for the 123 credit hour program are taught by “expert faculty who’ve won Emmys and international awards, run successful studios, and worked for innovators like Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, and White Snake Projects.” Course highlights include Animation Seminar, Audio Production Design, Business of Animation, Character Design, Digital Animation 2D and 3D, Drawing Intensive, Editing Intensive, Game Production, Image in Context, Stop Motion Animation, Toys, Props & Products, and Visual Culture Seminar.

Students will also take two Senior Studio courses, create productions in the school’s “new state-of-the-art visual effects (VFX) facilities, including a 3D fabrication studio, a rendering farm, and a 130-seat screening room,” and complete a required internship that will take them to “real-life studios in Greater Boston.”

The internship helps students “develop critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.” Through the internship, students can expect to “gain professional experiences that lead to careers in film, TV, game design, and more.”

5. School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts
School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University

The School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) was founded in 1876 as part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The school began as “both a technical institute of drawing and painting and a school dedicated to exploring ideas by building visual literacy and expression,” says the school. In 1945, SMFA began a partnership with Tufts University to offer joint degrees.

The school serves around 400 students enrolled in 12 areas of study. Programs lead to the BFA, MFA, MAT, Combined-degree (BFA + BA/BS), Certificate or Studio Diploma. Programs for aspiring animators include a BFA and a Combined BFA + BA/BS. The BFA is entirely elective, so students may choose courses from a range of disciplines. Just a few options include Animation, Digital Media, Film/Video, Graphic Design, and Illustration.

Per the school, “animation at SMFA consists of a hands-on, artist-driven curriculum that provides students with a solid foundation in a variety of 2D, 3D, hand-made, and digital techniques while encouraging the exploration of a student’s voice and ideas.” Students will learn the various techniques of animating, and how to record and mix soundtracks for animation.

Course highlights include Animation Basics, Animation integration, Animation 2, Drawing for Animation, and Stop Motion Animation. Courses for the program are enhanced by in-class exercises, demos, screenings, and visiting artist lectures.

Known as the SMFA/Tufts BFA, the Combined BFA + BA/BS is specifically designed for students intending to pursue their art and academic interests to the fullest possible extent. Upon completion of this program, students will graduate with two degrees from Tufts: a BA or BS in a major of their choice and a BFA. According to the school, the five-year program makes it possible for students to refine and focus their studies in an academic field and to cultivate their fine arts abilities.

6. University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass Amherst) was founded in 1863 as Massachusetts Agricultural College (MAC). The school opened with four faculty members and 56 students. Today, the school has more than 1,400 full-time instructional faculty serving 22,660 students. UMass Amherst offers 100 major subject areas leading to bachelor's degrees, 79 master’s, and 48 doctoral programs. Programs are offered across ten colleges and schools, including the College of Humanities & Fine Arts-Department of Arts, which offers a BFA in Animation. 

The program covers computer animation, media motion graphics, and stop-motion fundamentals. Students in the 120 credit hour program will have opportunities to complete an internship or engage in practicums. A senior thesis project is required to graduate from the program.

UMass Animation alumni “have won countless national and international awards for their art,” says the school, and they have “been employed on such projects as the Harry Potter and Star Wars films, for Jim Henson and Nickelodeon, and at renowned production companies like Lucasfilm.”

7. University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Dartmouth, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth

University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth (UMass Dartmouth) traces its roots to 1895, when the state legislature chartered two textile schools: New Bedford Textile School and the Bradford Durfee Textile School in Fall River. The school serves just over 8,500 students enrolled in more than 300 majors, minors, certificates, graduate degrees, and fields of study.

Programs are offered in eight colleges and schools, including the College of Visual Performing Arts, which offers several programs for aspiring animators. Options include a BFA in Animation & Game Arts, and a Minor in Animation.

Students in the BFA in Animation & Game Arts will “concentrate on digital animation and interactive multimedia while exploring 2- and 3-dimensional design, web design, and virtual reality,” says the school.  As students “explore the potential of various digital media technologies,” they will “engage in consistent, hands-on experimentation, working with faculty members who have considerable expertise in the field.”

Course highlights for the program include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Digital Essentials, Game Design, Story Structures, and Visual Design for Games. Students in the BFA program will also complete Senior Animation and Senior Game Studios as well as an Animation & Game Capstone.

The Minor in Animation is an 18 credit hour program that “provides students with the necessary skills/knowledge for working in the industry,” says the school, “while one elective class chosen from a list of recommended classes allows each student to choose a course aligned with their personal animation interests.” Course highlights include Advanced Topics in Animation & Game Arts, Digital Video Production, and Visual Design for Games.

Graduates of the Animation Programs at UMass Dartmouth are prepared for career such as 3D Modeler, Animator, Rigger, Texture Artist and many others.

8. Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts
Wellesley College

Wellesley College was founded in 1870. When it opened, nearly all of the schools educators and administrators were women—including the school’s first president. The college began with 314 students. Today, with nearly 2,400 students, the school says it provides a liberal arts education to “women who will make a difference in the world.”

More than 50 departmental and interdepartmental majors are offered at Wellesley College, including a Media Arts and Sciences (MAS) major supported between the Art Department and Computer Science Department. Leading to a bachelor’s degree, MAS major areas of study include computer graphics and animation; three-dimensional visualization and modeling; digital imaging and design; digital composition in audio/video; Web-connected database architectures; and analog and digital print and photographic processes.

Course highlights for the program include 2D Design, Computer Graphics, Computer Music, Computing for Socio-Techno Web, Digital Imaging, Digital Worlds for Gaming, Experimental Production, Human-Computer Interaction, Mixed and Augmented Reality, Moving Image Studio, Scenic Design, Video Production, and Virtual Form.

In addition to other courses at Wellesley, students can take approved courses at the MIT's Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies program or at Olin College of Engineering. The MAS program culminates in a year-long thesis that allows students to develop independent research and production with honors.

9. University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts-Lowell

University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UMass Lowell) began as teaching college—Lowell Normal School, founded in 1894—and the Lowell Textile School, founded in 1895 to train technicians and managers for the textile industry. Today, the school offers programs in six colleges in the disciplines of business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences to more than 18,000 students. Among the schools more than 120 undergraduate programs is a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Animation & Interactive Media.

Offered through the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (FAHSS), the school says that the BFA program “introduces students to the language of several disciplines and various fields of studies in Transmedia Arts.” The concentration covers “a wide variety of skills including visual imagery, critical thinking, problem solving, and new technology methodologies.” Assignments in the program “focus on sequential imagery techniques as well as interactivity in arts and as arts.” In addition to core courses, students can take advantage of courses in animation, interactive design, web design, motion graphics, graphic design, game design, data visualization and advanced independent studies.

During the final year of the program, students focus on their capstone project either in animation, interactive media or a combined project. The Senior Studio project is a yearlong exploration where students create a self-directed project that reflects their talent and skills using the school’s state-of-the art facilities. In addition to completing an internship and a possible study abroad experience, students will develop their online portfolio and resume. “The capstone project results in excellent portfolios that prepare students for today’s rapidly evolving art world and technology,” says the school.

Graduates of the program go on to establish successful careers in the animation industry, app design, film, game design, interactive design, motion graphics, and web design.

10. Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts
Hampshire College

The presidents of Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts Amherst came up with the idea for Hampshire College in 1958. The school became a reality in 1965. Today, the school serves 745 students enrolled in dozens of areas of study in a Five College Consortium. Programs lead to the Bachelor of Arts Degree.

Hampshire College offers an Animation and Digital Art Area that “combines individualized training with interdisciplinary collaboration between studio artists, animators, filmmakers, composers, and computer scientists,” says the school. Students in the program have the opportunity to “develop their own voices as well as work on substantial team-based projects.”

Course highlights for the program include Animation Workshop, Cinema and New Media, Computer Animation I, II & III, Computer Music, Digital Art: Multimedia, Malleability and Interactivity, Digital Image Manipulation for Film and Video, Pixelbending, Programming Artificial Life, Sequential Imagery I & II, Topics in Computer Graphics, Video: New Media Convergence, and Women in Animation. 

Hampshire Animation and Digital Arts students have the opportunity work with “independent production house Bit Films, which provides internship and mentoring opportunities for promising candidates. The short animated films produced through this connection have gone on to win dozens of awards from film festivals worldwide.”

Graduates of the Animation and Digital Arts Program have landed positions at Cartoon Network, Pixar Animation Studios, Rhythm & Hues Studios, South Park, and many others.