What are the top animation schools in the southwest for 2023?

Top 10 Animation Schools in the Southwest - 2023 College Rankings
1Brigham Young UniversityUtah
2Texas A&M UniversityTexas
3University of Texas at DallasTexas
4University of Colorado, DenverColorado
5Rocky Mountain College of Art + DesignColorado
6Arizona State UniversityArizona
7New Mexico State UniversityNew Mexico
8Sam Houston State UniversityTexas
9University of Advancing TechnologyArizona
10Grand Canyon UniversityArizona

Our 2023 rankings -our twelfth 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

The BYU Center for Animation at Brigham Young University (BYU) was established in 2010. Managed by the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Fine Arts and Communications and the Physical and Mathematical Sciences, the Center accepts just 20-25 students each year. The program is open to artists from the BYU Animation BFA Program, housed in the College of Fine Arts and Communications’ Department of Design, and the Computer Science BS: Animation and Games, housed in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences’ Department of Computer Science.

The Animation BFA is a 62.5-64.5 credit hour limited enrollment program (75 students) that explores animation, film production, storyboarding, special effects, video game production, illustration, screenwriting, and more. The Computer Science: Animation and Games BS is also a limited enrollment program that accepts just 42 students per enrollment period. Consisting of 77-80.5 credit hours, the program explores animation, computer graphics, video game production, programming, software engineering, visual effects, user interfaces, and more.

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

BYU Animation and Animation and Games graduates go on to establish successful careers at studios such as Blizzard, DreamWorks, Disney, Sony, Digital Domain, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Nickelodeon, 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 more than 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 School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts at Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the Visualization Program has three degree pathways for animators including the BS, MS, and MFA in Visualization. The Visualization MFA is 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 emphasis. Options for BS students include Animation and Virtual Production, Media Art, Interactive Design, Game Creation, and Visual Computing.

MS students may focus in areas such as Computer Animation, Interactive Design, Gaming, Virtual Reality or Computer Graphics, to name a few. Examples of emphasis areas for MFA students include Computer Animation, Visual Storytelling, Visual Effects, Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR), Interactive Art, and Gaming.

Students in all programs 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. The supervised undergraduate internship spans 15 weeks and 600 hours, and students earn six credit hours. Graduate internships are worth eight credits. TAMU Visualization 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. Examples include DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Reel FX Animation Studios.

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 Texas’s first public institution of higher learning. Texas A&M houses 17 colleges and schools that provide more than 400 degree programs. 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, Humanities, and Technology (AHT) at University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) has four degree options including the BA, MA, MFA, and PhD in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC). A concentration in Animation and Games (A&G) is available for ATEC BA students. ATEC coursework for this option explores computer animation, motion graphics, game studies, user experience/user interface UX/UI design, and digital fabrication.

Required A&G courses include Computer Animation, Modeling and Texturing, Lighting and Composition, Rigging, Game Design, and Level Design. Students will complete 30 semester credit hours of required electives as well. Examples include Animation Lab, Procedural Animation, Motion Capture Animation. Virtual Environments, Animation Studies, Game Production Lab, and Project Management for ATEC.

ATEC MFA students may specialize in Animation, while MA and PhD students may 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.

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.

University of Texas at Dallas opened in the 1960s as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. Established by the owners of Texas Instruments, UT Dallas is an official member of the University of Texas System. The school serves 31,570 students enrolled in more than 140 degree programs across eight schools. University of Texas at Dallas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. 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 Department of Visual Arts (VA) and the Digital Animation Center (DAC). Together, the VA Department and DAC manage the Visual Arts BFA Program. Students who would like to study animation can enroll in the 3D Graphics and Animation Emphasis Area.

This 120 credit hour program includes courses such as Animation Foundations, Digital Cinematography, 2D Design, Advanced Character Animation, 3D, Advanced Character FX, Production I-II, Lighting & Rendering, Surface Modeling, and Reproduction Look Development. In the junior year of the program, VA BFA 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 program.

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

University of Colorado Denver animation alumni are employed in a variety of positions at major studios such as Pixar, Sony, and LucasArts.

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 15,000 students enrolled in more than 110 academic degrees. University of Colorado Denver is accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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

The Animation Program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) has two options: 2D Animation and 3D Animation. Leading to a BFA, both programs require courses in the areas of 2D and 3D drawing, modeling, character design, line of action, storyboarding, and stop motion. However, the 2D Animation BFA is designed for students interested in traditional animation, while the 3D BFA emphasizes computer animation.

While both the 2D and 3D Animation Programs 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 best work. Program alumni have been hired at major networks and studios such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Pixar, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network. Alumni are Animators, Story Artists, 3D Modelers, Texture Artists, Lighting Artists, and 3D Artists, among others. 

Rocky Mountain College of Art and 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 and Design is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and it is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

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

Arizona State University (ASU) provides several paths to study animation across a number of institutes, departments, and schools. The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts houses the Schools of Art; Arts, Media and Engineering; and Music, Dance and Theatre; The Design School; The Sidney Poitier New American Film School; and the ASU Art Museum.

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

The Art BFA 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, visual effects (VFX), or photography. Other program benefits 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.

ASU Herberger graduates 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, VFX Artists, Graphic Artists, Multimedia Designers, and Art Directors, among others.

The Digital Culture BA in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering features a number of courses that allow students to focus in animation. Examples include 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.

Arizona State University serves approximately 140,760 students, making it one of the largest universities in the U.S. Founded in 1885 as the Arizona Territorial Normal School, ASU has four campuses that provide 800 fully accredited degree programs across 16 colleges and schools. Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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 or NMSU) houses the Creative Media Institute (CMI), home to the Bachelor of Creative Media (BCM) Program. Students in this program can study animation by adding an Emphasis in Animation & Visual Effects (BCM-ANVE), an ANVE Minor, or a Graphics and Animation Certificate. A Creative Media Certificate is also available.

The CMI also has a Digital Filmmaking Program a (BCM) that provides a number of animation electives. Leading to a BCM in Filmmaking, the program requires 27 elective credits of study, which allows students to focus their studies in animation. Examples of elective options include History of Animation, 2D Animation, 3D Animation, Business of Filmmaking/Animation, Writing for Animation, Visual Effects, Screenwriting, and Editing.

The Animation & Visual Effects BCM is a 120 credit hour, cross-disciplinary program with two focus options: 2D Production Studio and 3D & Visual Effects (VFX) Production Studio. Students in both areas 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 spaces, a digital projection screening room, motion capture lab, the Tool Crib, and THX sound mixing theatre. All students are eligible to enter their films or animated productions into the Las Cruces International Film Festival. Entry is free for NMSU students.

Graduates of the Animation Programs at New Mexico State University are prepared for careers in animation, film and television advertising, and game design, among others.

Founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College, New Mexico State University is New Mexico’s land-grant institution and a NASA Space Grant College. Consisting of five campuses, NM State serves 23,365 students, including approximately 13,900 at the Las Cruces—the system’s largest campus. More than 100 programs are offered across seven colleges and a graduate school at Las Cruses. New Mexico State University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1926.

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

The College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) houses the Department of Art, home to the Computer Animation Program. Leading to a BFA, the program consists of 120 credit hours of study, including 45 credit hours in Animation. Courses explore pre-visualization of virtual environments, characters, and objects, 3D modeling, lighting and shading, character modeling and rigging, texturing, creating realistic and expressive movement, motion graphics, and video compositing.

Course examples include Animation Concepts and Techniques, Character Animation, Shading, Lighting, and Rendering, Advanced 3D Animation, Experimental Animation, and Animation Preproduction.

Electives allow students to focus in additional areas in the arts. All Department of Art students will spend a semester in the Workshop in Art Studio and History (W.A.S.H.) Program and they will have opportunities to complete an internship and join SHSU SIGGRAPH—the Animation Program’s student organization.

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 many other areas. Program alumni work at places such as Zynga, EA Mobile, Kiloo Games, Perkins+Will, Stoic Studio, and Jacobs Visual Media Group.

Graduates of the SHSU Department of Art have also been accepted into graduate programs at top universities and art and design colleges such as Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Southern Methodist University (SMU), Florida State University (FSU), and University of Texas Dallas (UT Dallas). 

Sam Houston State University was founded in 1879 as the Sam Houston Normal Institute. The school serves approximately 21,500 students enrolled in 90 bachelor's degree programs, 55 master’s degree programs, and 10 doctoral programs, including America’s first PhD in Forensic Science. Programs at SHSU are housed across 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) has a Game Art and Animation (GAA) Program that features five-week modules taken one at a time, a Synchronic Learning model, and mentored education. 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 examples for the program 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.

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

Graduates of the Game Art and Animation BA at University of Advancing Technology work in a variety of roles in all areas of game design and animation. Examples include Character Animator, Texture Artist, Art Director, Storyboard Artist, Environment Animator, and Game Artist.

University of Advancing Technology is a 100% STEM-based, private, family-owned University that serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in over 20 technology degree programs. Founded in 1983 as the CAD Institute, UAT is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

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

The College of Arts and Media at Grand Canyon University (GCU) has a Digital Design Program with an Animation Emphasis Area. Offered online and on campus, the 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 designed to help them secure an internship. The final portfolio course is designed to prepare students for employment in the industry or to pursue a graduate degree.

Other program benefits include professional critiques and opportunities to participate in Design United, Phoenix Design Week, and the Senior Showcase. The Showcase is the required Capstone for all Design majors.

Graduates of the Digital Design BA: Animation at Grand Canyon University go on to establish careers in animation, film, television, advertising, game design, and multimedia art. The Digital Design Program also prepares students to pursue careers in art and design education, animation for architecture, scientific animation, forensic animation, and medical animation, among others.

Grand Canyon University was chartered in 1949 as Grand Canyon College. This private, Christian university opened with just 100 students and 16 faculty members. Today, GCU serves 25,000 students enrolled in more than 275 programs in nine colleges. An additional 90,000 student are enrolled online, with roughly half of those studying at the graduate level. Grand Canyon University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1968.