What are the top private Visual Effects schools for 2022?

Top 10 Private Visual Effects (VFX) Schools - 2022 College Rankings
1Gnomon School of Visual EffectsCalifornia
2Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
3University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
4School of Visual ArtsNew York
5Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
6The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School Florida
7DigiPen Institute of TechnologyWashington
8New York UniversityNew York
9Rochester Institute of TechnologyNew York
10Otis College of Art and DesignCalifornia

Our 2022 list of the Top 10 Private Visual Effects Schools in the US, our first annual rankings for VFX. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California
Gnomon School of Visual Effects

The VFX Program at Gnomon School of Visual Effects consists of 12 terms leading to a BFA in Digital Production with a Concentratin in Visual Effects. Students seeking a shorter path to a VFX career can enroll in the Certificate in Digital Production Program, which consists of eight terms. This option has a Visual Effects Emphasis Area. The BFA can be completed in three to four years, full-time, and the Certificate Program can be completed in two years, full-time.

Gnomon students receive training in industry software such as After Effects, Houdini, Nuke, V-Ray, Photoshop, ZBrush, and Maya. Students will graduate from a professional demo reel that showcases their best work.

With a nearly 100% employment rate, Gnomon School of Visual Effects has alumni working at some of the world’s top studios. Examples include Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Framestore, Nickelodeon, Netflix, Fox, DreamWorks, Paramount, Sony Pictures Animation, and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Graduates are VFX Artists, Cinematics Animators, Character Artists, Environment Artists, and Gameplay Animators, among other roles.

Gnomon School of Visual Effects is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Established in 1997 and located in Hollywood, California, Gnomon sits on a 35,000 square foot lot within the Television Center Studio lot. Gnomon offers degree programs, vocational certificate programs, and more than 100 individual 10-week courses.

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

Visual Effects (VFX) students at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) have access to more than 800 networked computers and a 60,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art digital media center consisting of a green screen lab, 75-seat in-house theater, and studio environment. Students will create visual effects and animations with premium software such as Pixar's RenderMan and Arnold, Nuke compositing, Autodesk Maya, Resolve, and Substance Painter, and Houdini 3D animation.

At all degree levels, SCAD VFX students receive instruction from award-winning professors who have worked at major studios and on award-winning productions such as Ice Age, The Lion King, and Pocahontas.

The VFX Programs at SCAD are housed in the School of Animation and Motion. Three degree pathways are available: the BFA, MA and MFA. The BFA and MFA are available at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses. The MA is available at the Savannah campus only. The 180 credit hour VFX BFA consists of 75 hours in the major. Students may also choose 10 hours of free electives. An optional internship is also part of the program.

Course examples for the VFX BFA include Visual Effects Studio, Concept Development for Visual Effects, Visual Effects-Based Cinematography, Digital Visual Effects, Survey of Visual Effects, Visual Effects Programming, and Professional Development for Visual Effects.

The SCAD VFX MA and MFA programs are 45 and 90 credit hours, respectively. Students in both programs will take many of the same courses. Examples include Modeling for Visual Effects, Programming Concepts for Visual Effects, and Visual Effects Theory and Application. MA Students will complete the Visual Effects MA Studio, and Visual Effects Portfolio. The MA Graduate Internship is optional. SCAD VFX MFA students will complete Visual Effects Studio I and II: Preproduction & Production,  the Visual Effects MFA Thesis, and the MFA Graduate Internship.

Graduates of the VFX Programs at Savannah College of Art and Design are Visual Effects Artists, Technical Directors, VFX Producers, 3D Environment Artists, Lighting Technical Directors, and Digital Compositors, among others.

Around 86 SCAD VFX alumni contributed to 16 Academy Award nominated films in 2020 alone. They have shared Academy Awards for their work on films such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Frozen 2, Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Graduates have been recruited by major film and VFX studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Disney, Pixar, Blur Studio, DreamWorks Animation, Shade VFX, Pixomondo, Microsoft, and Blur Studio.

Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The school opened in September 1979 with just 71 students, one classroom, and an administration building. Today, SCAD serves more than 15,000 students across campuses in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, and Lacoste, France. Offering more than 100 degree programs and over 75 minors and certificate programs, Savannah College of Art and Design has more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design college in the U.S.

3. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California

The School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) at University of California (USC) houses the John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts (Hench DADA), which offers programs that allow students to explore all areas of art in motion. Examples include visual effects (VFX), real-time animation, experimental filmmaking, performance capture, visual production, character animation, motion graphics, visual storytelling, projection mapping, and installations and multimedia.

Another unique component of the programs at Hench DADA is the opportunity to explore collaborative projects with the Interactive Games Division, Thornton School of Music, the Production (live action) Division, and Kaufman School of Dance.

Specific program options for students interested in visual effects include the Hench DADA BFA in Animation + Digital Arts with a Concentration in Visual Effects, the SCA Game Art BFA with a Concentration in Visual Effects, and the SCA BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production with VFX coursework.

Course examples across programs include Visual Effects, The World of Visual Effects, Digital Effects Animation, Live Action Integration with Visual Effects, 3D Modeling, Animation, and Visual Effects, Programming in Python, Digital Lighting and Rendering, Organic Modeling for Animation, and Production.

Students in any SCA program may add a 3D Animation Minor, which offers the opportunity to focus in a specific area such as Visual Effects, Virtual Reality, or Motion Capture. Students in all programs will complete a final project.

Graduates of the VFX Programs at the University of Southern California work for studios such as Digital Domain, Digital Idea, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, and Sony Pictures. Many USC alumni have founded their own independent studios. 

University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Established in 1880, this private research university is the largest private sector employer in the City of Los Angeles. USC houses 23 schools and divisions, and serves a population of 49,500 students. More than 600 graduate and professional programs are offered.

4. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
SVA logo

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) has a Computer Animation and Visual Effects (VFX) Program that focuses on learning by doing. Leading to a BFA, the VFX Program provides the opportunity for students to develop their skills by working with alumni-owned studios such as Augenblick, Plymptoons, and Titmouse studios. In addition, SVA VFX students train on the latest industry software including Maya, Adobe Animate, Storyboard Pro, After Effects, and Toon Boom Harmony.

Consisting of four years of study, the SVA Computer Animation and VFX program requires 120 credit hours as follows: 72 credits in studio art courses, 30 credits in humanities & sciences courses, 15 credits in art history courses, and three elective credits from any area. Course examples include VFX Animation with Houdini, Production Resources in Computer Art, Modeling and Animation with Maya I, Thesis Preproduction: Visual Effects and Compositing, and Advanced Compositing Techniques.

Upon completion of the program, SVA Computer Animation and FX students will participate in a showcase consisting of their best work, which will be presented to industry professionals and prominent figures at the School of Visual Arts Thesis Celebration.

Graduates of the Computer Animation and Visual Effects BFA Program at School of Visual Arts have gone on to win awards at major festivals and from the Academy of Motion Pictures. Program alumni can be found at independent animation studios worldwide and at Lucasfilm Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Disney Animation Studios, Warner Bros. Animation, Nickelodeon, and DreamWorks.

The degree offerings at School of Visual Arts are accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and/or the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). The School of Visual Arts dates back to 1947, when it was known as the Cartoonists and Illustrators school. When is opened, SVA had just three teachers and 35 students. Today, the School of Visual Arts serves more than 4,000 students enrolled in dozens of BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS programs.

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

The School of Animation & Visual Effects at Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) has four programs leading to an animation degree. Options include the AA, BFA, MA, and MFA in Animation & Visual Effects (VFX). The school also has an Animation and VFX Certificate Program that allows students to skips the liberal arts coursework and dive right into animation and VFX.

The Certificate takes four years to complete and it includes the same opportunities as the degree programs offer such as collaborative projects, internships, study abroad experiences, and completion of a professional portfolio.

Students in all programs will learn how to produce animations and visual effects for games, animated productions, and more. All programs are taught in a studio production environment known as StudioX. The School of Animation and VFX is the only school of its kind to teach in this type of environment. Because StudioX mimics 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.

Academy of Art Animation alumni work at major studios and companies such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Sony Pictures Imageworks, Weta Digital, Google, Laika, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Marvel, Sony Pictures Animation, CASA VFX, and Riot Games, among others.

The Art and Design programs at Academy of Art University are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The Academy is accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Academy of Art University is a family-owned private university located in one of the world’s top cities for animation careers—San Francisco. Serving more than 7,000 students, Academy of Art is of the nation’s largest private art and design schools. Divided into 22 schools, Academy of Art University offers more than 129 degree programs in 40+ areas of study. Programs lead to the AA, BA, BFA, BS, B. Arch, MAT, MA, MFA and MArch degrees.

6. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School), Orlando, Florida
DAVe School logo

The Visual Effects Production (VFX) Program at the Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School) has two options: a 12 month Diploma consisting of 60 credits and the 32 month Bachelor’s degree, consisting of 120 credits. Students in both programs will master industry software such as After Effects, Maya, and Unreal Engine, while immersing in the production process from start to finish.

Course examples across programs include Dynamics and Visual Effects for Motion Graphics, VFX & Compositing, Emerging VFX Tech & Pipelines, Digital Compositing, Character, Prop and Environment Modeling, Rotoscoping, 3D Animation for Motion Graphics, and Level Design. Students will also learn the basics of creating a start-up.

Student in all DAVE School programs will build a demo reel and create a portfolio. Programs are offered in a hybrid format where student will complete the program virtually and via studio residencies at the Orlando campus. Residencies take place in a collaborative studio environment.

Graduates of the Digital Animation & Visual Effects School go on to establish freelance careers, start their own studios, or work with major studios.

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects (DAVE) School is an academic unit of NUC University, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MCSHE). Founded in 2000, The DAVE School is located on the backlot of Universal Studios Florida, and consists an 18,000 square foot facility featuring learning and interactive labs, a dedicated Virtual and Real-Time production stage, a Vicon motion capture system, 3D printing, VR/AR labs, and secure student access 24/7.

7. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
DigiPen Institute of Technology

The BFA in Digital Art and Animation at DigiPen Institute of Technology (DigiPen) provides the opportunity for students to study sound and visual effects (VFX) through major courses, required electives, and open electives. Course examples include Cinematography for Visual Effects, Procedural Effects and Pipelines, Digital Post-Production, Interactive Sound with Synth, Advanced Sound Synth, 3D Computer Animation Production, Game Engine, Technology for Designers, and 3D Production Pipeline. Each of these courses have VFX components.

The DigiPen Digital Art and Animation BFA is available at the main campus in Redmond and at the school’s international branch campuses—DigiPen Europe-Bilbao and DigiPen Singapore. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue positions such as VFX artist, Simulation and Effects Animator, Environmental/Asset Artist, UI Designer, Concept Artist, Animator, Character Artist, 3D Modeler, Producer, Art Director, and many others.

To date, more than 600 companies worldwide have hired DigiPen Institute of Technology graduates. DigiPen alumni work at major studios and companies such as DreamWorks Interactive, Zynga, Electronic Arts, Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, Amazon Game Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering, Google, Blizzard Entertainment, Activision, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Riot Games, ArenaNet, Disney Online, Microsoft, Nintendo, and many others.

DigiPen Institute of Technology is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Established in 1988 as a Vancouver, British Columbia-based computer simulation and animation company, DigiPen serves 1,200 students enrolled in 10 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Computer Science, Digital Art and Animation, Engineering, Game Design and Development, and Music and Audio. DigiPen has international campuses in Singapore and Spain, and educational partnerships with Princess Nourah bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Keimyung University in South Korea, The One Academy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Thammasat University in Thailand. 

8. New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York
New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts

New York University (NYU) is home to Tisch School of Arts, which houses the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. Producing more than 5,000 films per year, Maurice Kanbar is home to the Department of Animation and Digital Arts, which has a BFA in Film and Television with an Animation Area. Students in the Animation Area have plenty of opportunities to study visual effects (VFX) through required courses and electives. In addition, students may study audio and visual effects through NYU’S School of Professional Studies. Courses examples include After Effects I, After Effects II, and Audio Production and Sound Design. 

Launched in 1979 with just three classes and 80 students, the Animation Area at NYU Tisch provides instruction in 2D Animation, 3D Animation, and Traditional Animation to more than 500 students from nearly every state and dozens of countries. The BFA Program features courses that include VFX such as Visual Effects and Compositing, Motion Design & Titles, Stop Motion Animation, Animation: From Pitching to Pipeline to Production, 3D Computer Animation, Pipeline to Production, Advanced 3D Animation Production, and Animation Techniques. Other program features include guest speakers such as Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Polonski, and Chris Butler, as well as study abroad and internship opportunities.

NYU Tisch Animation Area graduates have been hired at Pixar, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and many others. Some program alumni work as freelancers, while others have started their own studios.

New York University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The school was founded in 1831 and Tisch School of Arts was established in 1956. With an estimated 400+ programs, NYU serves nearly 55,000 students, making it one of the nation’s largest private universities. In addition to the New York campus, NYU has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, along with 11 global academic centers in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America.

9. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology

The College of Art and Design at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) houses the School of Film and Animation. A designated Center of Excellence (COE) by Toon Boom Animation, the RIT School of Film and Animation has a program that explores animating for digital and visual effects, films, AR/VR, and games. Leading to a BFA in Film and Animation, the program consists of courses such as Digital Effects & Compositing, After Effects for Animators, World Building Workshop, Production, Computers and Imaging Technology, and Production Process. 

Program features include internship opportunities, cooperative education, and experiential learning opportunities. RIT animation students also have access to the 52,000 square foot MAGIC Spell Studios, along with labs and classrooms outfitted with industry standard technology and software. At all levels, RIT animation students will have the opportunity to participate in the RIT’s Creative Industry Day, where they get to mingle with representatives of studios, design firms, and other creative companies.

Graduates of Rochester Institute of Technology are prepared to pursue positions such as Visual Effects Supervisor, Effects Animator, Director, Visual Designers, 3D Modeling and Character Designer, and Production Manager. RIT alumni work at major studios such as Lucasfilm, Electronic Arts, Dolby, Nickelodeon, Sony, DreamWorks, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Disney, among others.

Rochester Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Dating back to 1829, RIT serves more than 19,000 students, making it one of the largest private universities in the U.S. With campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai, and Kosovo, RIT offers more than 200 academic programs across 11 colleges and institutes.

10. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design

Otis College of Art and Design’s (OTIS) has several options for students interested in pursuing a career in visual effects (VFX). OTIS Extension has a Motion Graphics Certificate Program that explores visual effects, editing, and animation. Coursework covers industry-standard tools such as Adobe Premiere, After Effects, and Cinema 4D, as well as Music and Sound Editing, Digital Storytelling, and Background and Character Development. The program, which takes 18-24 months to compete, culminates with a professional-quality portfolio of the students best VFX or other work.

The Digital Media Department at OTIS has Digital Media BFA Program with three Emphasis areas: Motion Design, Animation, and Game and Entertainment Design. All offer the opportunity to study VFX through required coursework and studio electives.  OTIS BFA students will complete a Capstone, Senior Project, and Portfolio. An optional internship is also part of the program.

Potential careers for graduates who chose to focus on VFX include Effects Animator, Compositor, Rotoscope Artist, Match Mover, Modeler, Background Artist, Animatic Design & Production, Storyboard Artist, and Animator. Program alumni have been hired for VFX positions at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Look Effects, Sony Imageworks, Mattel, New Deal Studios, and Hydraulx. Other Digital Media BFA graduates have been recruited by Disney, Pixar Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon, Digital Domain, Weta Digital, Blizzard Entertainment, LucasArts, Electronic Arts (EA), and Cartoon Network.

Otis College of Art and Design is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The school is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). Founded in 1918, OTIS is the oldest professional school of the arts in Los Angeles. Serving more than 1,200 students, OTIS offers 11 BFA degree programs and MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing. A variety of minors and certificate programs are also available. Programs and courses at OTIS are led by more than 430 professors—all active professionals in their respective fields.