What are the top animation schools in the southwest for 2022?

Top 10 Animation Schools and Colleges in the Southwest - 2022 College Rankings
1Brigham Young UniversityUtah
2Texas A&M UniversityTexas
3University of Texas at DallasTexas
4Rocky Mountain College of Art + DesignColorado
5University of Colorado DenverColorado
6Arizona State UniversityArizona
7New Mexico State UniversityNew Mexico
8Sam Houston State UniversityTexas
9University of Advancing TechnologyArizona
10Grand Canyon UniversityArizona

Our 2022 rankings -our eleventh annual- of the Top 10 Animation Schools in the Southwest. We define the Southwest as Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Brigham Young University

Brigham Young University (BYU) houses the BYU Center for Animation. Established in 2010, the Center is managed by the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology and the Colleges of Fine Arts and Communications and Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

Accepting just 20-25 students each year, the BYU Center for Animation is open to artists from the BYU Animation BFA Program, offered in the College of Fine Arts and Communications, Department of Design, and the BS in Computer Science: Animation and Games, offered in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Department of Computer Science.

The program provides extensive hands-on training in animation, games, live-action, and special effects. All BFA, BS, and BYU Center for Animation students will have opportunities to work on personal and group projects, and major films. They will also complete an internship and develop a portfolio of their best work.

BYU Animation graduates go on to establish successful careers at studios such as Blizzard, DreamWorks, Disney, Sony, Digital Domain, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic, Nickelodeon, BlueSky, Riot Games, and many others.

Brigham Young University was founded as Brigham Young Academy (BYA) in 1875 by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Brigham Young. With nearly 35,000 students enrolled in nearly 400 degree programs and minors, BYU is the one of the largest private universities in the U.S. Brigham Young University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

2. 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 BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization. The MFA degree is just one of a few programs of its kind in the U.S. and possibly the only one in the State of Texas.

Established in 1989 the TAMU Visualization Program is cross-disciplinary, allowing students to explore interaction, art, design, visualization, and computer graphics. Students at all levels may focus in an area of specialization through electives. 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. This supervised undergraduate course spans 15 weeks and 600 hours and students earn six credit hours. Graduate internships are worth eight credits. TAMU 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.

With more than 73,000 students, Texas A&M University is one of the nation’s largest universities by enrollment. Established in 1876, TAMU is also the state’s first public institution of higher learning. More than 400 degree programs are offered at all levels across 17 colleges and schools. Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. 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 BA, MA, MFA, and PhD degrees in ATEC. BA students may select a concentration in Animation and Games. Coursework explores games, motion graphics, UX/UI, computer animation, and more.

MFA ATEC students may specialize in Animation, while MA and PhD students may focus their studies and research in animation, science and technology, games, and other areas. All graduate level programs provide advanced study in computer-based arts, interactive media, digital media, technology, professional practices, and more.

Other 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 ATEC programs at UT Dallas are prepared to seek careers in animation, games, film, and television, as well as emerging fields such as medical and scientific visualization.

The University of Texas at Dallas began in the 1960s as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, established by the owners of Texas Instruments. Today, UT Dallas is an official member of the University of Texas System, serving nearly 29,700 students. More than 140 degree programs are offered in eight schools. University of Texas at Dallas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, Denver, Colorado
Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design

Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD) has an animation program that enrolls more than 100 students. Degree options include BFAs in 2D and 3D Animation. The 2D Animation BFA is for students interested in traditional animation, while the 3D BFA emphasizes computer animation.

Students in both programs will take courses in the areas of 2D and 3D drawing, modeling, character design, storyboarding, and stop motion. While the RMCAD Animation BFAs are offered on-campus and online, campus-based students are required to take part in online education to experience learning in a virtual environment.

RMCAD Animation graduates will leave the program with a professional portfolio of their work. Alumni can be found at major studios such as Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, and Blue Sky Studios, to name a few.

Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design began in 1963 as Rocky Mountain School of Art. Serving more than 1,000 students, RMCAD offers 16 degree and certificate programs offered in campus/hybrid and online formats. Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). RMCAD is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

5. University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado
University of Colorado Denver

The College of Arts & Media (CAM) at University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) houses the school’s Film and Television, Media Forensics, Music and Visual Arts programs. Within CAM is the Department of Visual Arts (VA) and the Digital Animation Center (DAC). Together, the VA and DAC offer a BFA in Visual Arts with an Emphasis in 3D Graphics and Animation.

This 120 credit hour program provides coursework and training that prepares students to work in film and animation, as well as science and medicine. Course examples include Dynamic Simulation, Environment Production, Surface Modeling, Character FX, Intro to Film, Character Creation, and Reproduction Look Development.

In the junior year of the program, students will begin an 18-month Capstone experience—the Senior Film. In collaboration with departments across CAM, animation students will work in all areas to create this final project. They will create sound, effects, storylines, soundtracks, motion graphics, and more. Students may also participate in the internship program during the final years of the BFA program.

Graduates of the CU Denver BFA in Visual Arts-3D Graphics and Animation, have produced films that have been screened in more than 300 film festivals in 22 countries. Graduates have also won more than 75 Best Animated Short awards in non-student categories.

University of Colorado Denver animation alumni are employed by major studios such as Pixar, Sony, and LucasArts, to name a few.

University of Colorado Denver began in 1912 as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder. The school became CU Denver in 1973 making it an independent campus. Organized into eight colleges and schools, CU Denver serves a population of 15,000 students enrolled in more than 110 academic degrees. 

University of Colorado Denver is accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

6. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Arizona State University

Arizona State University (ASU) offers several programs for animators across several institutes, departments, and schools. The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts houses the School of Art, and the Schools of Arts, Media and Engineering, and Music, Dance and Theatre. The Design School, The Sidney Poitier New American Film School, and the ASU Art Museum are also housed in the Institute.

The ASU Herberger Institute School of Art offers 18 major degrees including 13 undergraduate and five graduate programs. Minors are offered in Studio Art and Art History. Programs for animators include a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Animation and an Art MFA. The ASU Herberger School of Arts, Media and Engineering offers a BA in Digital Culture. An interdisciplinary, 21 credit hour undergraduate Minor, and an 18 credit hour Certificate in Digital Culture are also available.  

The BFA in Art with a Concentration in Animation consists of 120 credit hours of study. Elective options allow students to gain experience in other areas such as game engine development, photography, or visual effects. Other program highlights include internship opportunities and the Animation Capstone, which leads to an independent short film, or a full-length film produced as a team.

Art MFA students have the opportunity to complete projects in a discipline of their choice in their own private studios. Other program highlights include visiting artist lectures, workshops, and teaching opportunities.

Graduates of the Arizona State University Herberger Art programs work in animation and film, games and game development, cinema and television, AR/VR, illustration, robotics, medical illustration, scientific and data visualization, fine arts and many other areas. ASU alumni are Animators, Creative Directors, Graphic Artists, Multimedia Designers, and Art Directors, among others.

The BA in Digital Culture offered in the ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering provides animation coursework that allows students to create a focus. Course options include, but are not limited to, Animating Virtual Worlds, Introduction to Computer Animation, 2D Digital Animation, 3D Computer Imaging and Animation, Stop Motion Animation, Experimental Video Art, 3D Tools, Introduction to Animation for Film, and Motion Graphics & Animation.

Graduates of the ASU BA in Digital Culture have opportunities to work in animation and film, gaming and entertainment, media arts, computing, and communications, among others.

In early 2021, Arizona State University announced that enrollment at the school would be more than 134,500 undergraduate and graduate students for the fall semester. Founded in 1885 as the Arizona Territorial Normal School, ASU has four campuses and 800 degree programs in 16 colleges and schools. Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

7. New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico
New Mexico State University

The College of Arts and Sciences at New Mexico State University (NM State) is home to the Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts (CMI), which offers a Bachelor of Creative Media with an Emphasis in Animation & Visual Effects (BCM-ANVE), a Minor in Animation & Visual Effects, and Certificates in Graphics and Animation and Creative Media.

CMI also offers a BCM in Digital Filmmaking that offers a significant number of animation electives. The program requires 27 elective credits of study, which allows students to focus their studies in animation. Elective course options include History of Animation, 2D Animation, 3D Animation, Business of Filmmaking/Animation, Writing for Animation, Visual Effects, Screenwriting, and Editing.

The BCM-ANVE is a 120 credit hour, cross disciplinary program with two pathway options: 2D Production Studio and 3D & VFX Production Studio. Students in both options will explore animation, digital filmmaking, and digital arts. Course examples include 2D Compositing & FX, Advanced 2D Animation, Character Design and Development, Rigging for Animation, Script Development and Storyboarding, Motion Capture Techniques, Drawing for Animation, and Visual Effects.

BCM-ANVE and BCM Digital Filmmaking students have access to state-of-the-art animation and post-production labs, production space, and a digital projection screening room. All students are eligible to enter their film or animated productions into the Las Cruces International Film Festival. Entry is free for NMSU students.

Founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College, New Mexico State University is a system of five colleges that serves nearly 21,700 students. Serving around 13,900 students, the Las Cruces campus is the largest in the NMSU system. More than 100 programs are offered across seven colleges and a graduate school. New Mexico State University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) since 1926.

8. Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas
Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University’s (SHSU) College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication is home to the Department of Art, which offers a BFA in Computer Animation. This 120 credit hour program consists of courses such as Character Animation, 2D Animation, 3D Modeling, History of Animation, 3D Computer Animation, Pre-Visualization, and 3D Animation for Interactive Games, among others.

Electives allow students to focus in additional areas in the arts. In addition, all Department of Art students will spend a semester in the Workshop in Art Studio and History (W.A.S.H.) Program. The Workshop encourages innovation and collaboration.

Graduates of the Sam Houston State University Animation BFA Program go on to pursue careers in animation, film, game design, advertising and marketing, multimedia, and more.

Sam Houston State University (SHSU) was founded in 1879 as the Sam Houston Normal Institute. The school serves more than 21,500 students enrolled in 90 bachelor's degree programs, 55 master’s degree programs, and 10 doctoral programs, including the nation’s first PhD in Forensic Science. Programs at SHSU are offered in eight colleges. Sam Houston State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

9. University of Advancing Technology, Tempe, Arizona
University of Advancing Technology

University of Advancing Technology (UAT) offers a BA in Game Art and Animation. Students in this 120 credit hour program will learn how to create 2D and 3D art and animation for VR/AR and online, console, PC and mobile games. Course highlights include Digital Video and Animation, Game Art and Animation, Character and Vehicle Animation, Visual Effects Compositing, Environmental and FX Animation, UI Design and Animation, Storyboarding, VR/AR User Experience Design, Virtual Reality World Build, and Production Studio I-III.

As part of the university core UAT Game Art and Animation students must complete at least three credit hours in an internship. Though not required, courses such as Digital Asset Creation, Java Programming, and Introduction to AI and Analytics are highly recommended. Students can expect to complete the UAT Game Art and Animation BA in eight semesters.

Graduates of the University of Advancing Technology BA in Game Art and Animation are character and environment animators, texture, storyboard and game artists, and art directors, among others.

University of Advancing Technology is a 100% STEM-based, private, family-owned University that serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in 20 technology degree programs. Founded in 1983 as the CAD Institute, UAT is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA)

10. Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona
Grand Canyon University

The College of Fine Arts and Production at Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers a BA in Digital Design, with an Emphasis Animation. Offered online and on campus, the BA Program guides students through the design process, storytelling, and animation techniques in a hands-on learning environment. The bulk of the 120 required credit hours are in the major. Course examples include 2D Motion Design, Designing with Type, Motion Technologies, Layout and Composition, Interface Design, Creative Processes, and 3D Motion Design.

The curriculum also requires the completion Design Professionalism—a four credit hour course that delves into personal branding and marketing, ethical and legal issues, project management, teamwork, networking, the industry landscape, and more. Digital Design students will also complete two portfolio courses—one mid-program, designed to help students secure an internship, the other in the fourth year of the program. The final portfolio course is designed to prepare students for employment in the industry or to pursue a graduate degree.

Graduates of the BA in Digital Design, Animation Emphasis, go on to establish careers in animation, film and TV, game or app design, education, scientific services, and more.

Grand Canyon University was chartered in 1949 as Grand Canyon College. The school opened with just 100 students and 16 faculty members. Today, GCU serves 23,500 students enrolled in more than 275 programs in nine colleges. Grand Canyon University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) since 1968.