For the record, we define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.
For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) has one of the nation’s largest collections of competitive programs for aspiring game designers and animators. Established in 1931 by John Ringling—art collector, real estate developer, and circus impresario, RCAD offers 14 majors to a growing student body of more than 1,300 students. Situated on 48 acres just north of downtown Sarasota, this independent, not-for-profit visual arts and design college attracts recruiters from Activision and Blizzard Entertainment to DreamWorks, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, and more.
Ringling College of Art and Design offers a BFA in Game Art & Design (the school’s second most popular major), as well as a BFA in Illustration (the school’s most popular major), and a BFA in Graphic & Interactive Communication (third most popular major). RCAD also offers a Computer Animation BFA program that ranks among the school’s five most popular programs (according to U.S. News & World Report), as well as a BFA in Graphic Design.
Ringling College of Art and Design offers a variety of related majors including a BFA in Motion Design and Digital Filmmaking and a Certificate in Digital Graphics. In addition to the recruiters mentioned above, RCAD students have the opportunity to meet with recruiters from Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar Animation, Riot Games, Sony Pictures Animation, Universal Studios, and more. Many RCAD graduates are employed at DreamWorks Animation, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Electronic Arts, Pixar Animation Studios, Reel FX, and Apple, while more than 700 alumni have their own businesses.
2. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Established in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a private, nonprofit college that offers more degree programs and specializations that any other art and design university. Located in the heart of Savannah in one of the “largest and most renowned National Historic Landmark districts in the United States,” Savannah College of Art and Design is made up of nearly 70 facilities totaling more than two million square feet. Home to more than 10,500 students, Savannah College of Art and Design also has campuses in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France.
Savannah College of Art and Design offers 40 majors and more than 60 minors trough the Schools of Digital Media, Entertainment Art, Communication Arts, Fine Arts, Foundation Studies, Design, Liberal Arts, Building Arts, and Fashion. SCADs Game Design and Animation programs are offered through the renowned School of Digital Media.
The School of Digital Media offers a BA, BFA, MA, MFA, and a Minor in Interactive Design & Game Development, a BFA, MA, MFA, and Minor in Motion Media Design, and an Interactive Design Certificate. Aspiring animators have several options as well including a BFA, MA, MFA, and a Minor in Animation and Visual Effects.
Related programs are available through the School of Communications. Offerings include the BA, BFA, MA, MFA, and Minor in Illustration, the MA in Illustration Design, and the BA, BFA, MA, MFA, Minor and Certificate in Graphic Design. The School of Entertainment Arts offers the BFA, MA, MFA, and a Minor in Film & Television, and the School of Liberal Arts offers a MA and a Minor in Cinema Studies.
SCAD’s Interactive Design & Game Development BA is offered at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses, and online. The BFA is offered in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and online, and the MA and MFA programs are offered in Savannah, Hong Kong, and online. Minors are offered at all SCAD campuses. The Animation BFA is offered at all campuses, the MA is offered at the Savannah campus only, the MFA is offered at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses, and the Minor is offered at all campuses. SCAD Animation programs are not available online.
3. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) was established in 1885 as the Georgia School of Technology. The school sits on a 400-acre campus in the heart Atlanta and it is home to more than 21,500 students, enrolled in more than 100 academic programs through six schools. Georgia Tech, which ranks among the Top Ten Best Public Universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report, is also top school for engineering. In fact, Georgia Tech is home to eight undergraduate engineering programs ranked in the top five by U.S. News & World Report.
In addition to award-winning engineering programs, Georgia Tech is home to one of the nation’s best game design programs. Offered through the College of Computing and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts-School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC), the Bachelor of Science in Computational Media (BSCM) offers three specialty areas: Interactive Games Design, Special Effects, and Culturally Informed Program Design. The program prepares students for careers in Game Design and Development, Digital Arts, and Software Design.
Many Computational Media graduates enter graduate programs in Computer Science, Digital Arts, Digital Media Studies, and Human-computer Interface. Some students even go on to complete the Digital Media PhD—also offered through Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication. Georgia Tech BSCM graduates have accepted positions at a variety of major companies and studios such as Apple, Electronic Arts, Google, Lucasfilm Animation, PlayOn Sports, South Park Studios, Technicolor, Turner Broadcasting, Universal Studios, Zynga, and more.
4. The Digital Animation and Visual Effects School (DAVE School), Orlando, Florida
The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE) was founded in 2000 by Jeffery Scheetz and his wife, Anne. Scheetz was an Animator and Visual Effects Supervisor at Foundation Imaging, which was one of the top visual effects houses in Hollywood at the time. Foundation Imaging earned Emmy Awards for special effects work on Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Voyager. Today, under Scheetz’s direction, the DAVE school offers “complete immersion in the art and science of computer animation and visual effects as it relates to motion pictures, television and games.” In addition, “every lesson plan is based on objectives faced by professionals in a daily basis.”
The DAVE School is located on the backlot of Universal Studios Florida and consists of a 36,055 square foot space inside Sound Stage 25. The school is home to more than 100 students, with an average class size of 20 to 30 students. DAVE offers a Digital Animation and Visual Effects program, which spans four terms or “Blocks,” lasting three months each.
During each Block, a single course is taught. The course for each Block focuses on a major discipline within the computer graphics industry. Blocks include Digital Modeling & Texturing, Fundamentals of Computer Animation, Movie Magic – The Art of Visual Effects, and Stereoscopic 3D Production. Each Block includes 300 clock hours of study and classes meet five hours per day, five days per week.
5. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
Established in 1963, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the youngest universities in the U.S., but in just 50 years in existence, the school has become the second largest university in the nation in student enrollment. Home to more than 59,000 students, UCF is also the largest school in the State of Florida. Situated on a 1,415-acre main campus, the University of Florida has also been named a Top 10 National University to Watch by U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” guide.
The University of Central Florida is home to 12 colleges offering more than 212 degree programs and more than 125 Certificate and Minor programs. The school, which also has 10 regional campuses located throughout Central Florida, is a leader in the areas of
Digital Media, Modeling and Simulation, Engineering, Computer Science, and more. UCFs School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD) is home to several of the school’s top programs for aspiring game designers and animators. The BA in Digital Media program offers a Game Design track, the BA in Art offers tracks in Drawing and Illustration, and the BFA in Emerging Media offers Experimental Animation and Graphic Design tracks.
Head over to UCF Research Park and UCF Downtown and you will find several other valuable programs and initiatives for animators and game designers. UCF Research Park also offers a Digital Media BA, but with a Game Design and a Web Design track. The Center For Emerging Media (CEM) at UCF Downtown is home to the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) and Vicon Entertainment's House of Moves Motion Capture Studio, which debuted in 2008. The Center offers a BFA in Emerging Media with a Character Animation track, MFA and MA degrees in Visual Language and Interactive Media, and an MFA in Studio Art.
6. Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, Orlando, Florida
Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy at the University of Central Florida was established in 2004. Also called “FIEA” the Academy was the number two graduate-level video game development school in the country in 2011, according to The Princeton Review and GamePro Media. Home to more than 300 graduates from 102 undergraduate schools, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy offers a Master’s of Interactive Entertainment with three tracks including Art, Production, and Programming.
The Art track focuses on areas such as Game Art, Capture Editing, Lighting, and Modeling, while the Programming track teaches students how to write their own game engine and tackle issues in the game industry such as memory management. The Production track teaches students how to develop video game ideas, manage game developers, and how to market and distribute games.
Located in downtown Orlando, Florida at UCFs Center for Emerging Media (CEM), Florida Interactive Academy also offers an MFA in Studio Art and the Computer, an MFA and MA in Visual Language and Interactive Media, and a BFA in Emerging Media with a Character Animation track. Graduates of the FIEA program have landed positions at top companies such as EA Tiburon, Lucas Film Animation, Monster Media, Ubisoft-n-space, Zynga, Lockheed Martin, Iron Galaxy Studios, and more.
7. Memphis College of Art, Memphis, Tennessee
Founded in 1936, Memphis College of Art (MCA) is a small, private art & design college located within 342-acre Overton Park. The school has a student body of 400 to 450 students representing 25 states and five foreign countries. Although small, MCA has more than 75,000 square feet of student housing, a historic building in downtown Memphis’ South Main Arts District, and state-of-the-art facilities. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Memphis College of Arts offers 13 undergraduate art and design programs and several graduate programs.
MCA offers a BFA in Digital Media with a Concentration in Animation and Digital Cinema, a BFA in Design Arts with Concentration in Digital Media and Illustration, and a BFA in Fine Arts with a Concentration in Drawing. Related programs include a BFA in Graphic Design and a BFA in Design Arts with a Concentration in Sequential Narrative. MCA’s graduate department has another interesting option—the MFA in Studio Art program.
This Studio Art MFA “emphasizes a generalist and interdisciplinary approach to artmaking in both traditional and new media.” Students have the opportunity to work in any area that interests them including, but not limited to, Animation, Video, Drawing, Surface Design, Installation, or Performance. This studio intensive program is a 60-credit hour program that is typically completed in two years.
8. East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee
Founded in 1911 as the East Tennessee State Normal School, East Tennessee State University (ETSU) has grown from 29 students to a student body of more than 15,000 students. The school is now home to 11 colleges and schools and thirty-six departments, offering more than 150 academic programs. One of the most popular programs for aspiring game designers and animators is East Tennessee State University’s BS in Digital Media (DIGM).
Offered through the College of Business and Technology, Department of Engineering Technology, Surveying & Digital Media, the Digital Media program offers three concentrations. Students may choose the Digital Animation Concentration, Digital Interaction and Game Design or Digital Visualization. The Department also offers a MA in New Media Studio and the DIGM Minor.
The MA in New Media Studio is open to students from all traditional backgrounds. The program allows students to “expand their knowledge to include emerging techniques” such as 3-D Animation, Gaming, Motion Capture, Video and Special Effects, Image Editing, Digital Illustration, Visualization, and Graphic Design. Graduates of the MA program will be prepared for positions such as Animator, Game Designer, Web Designer, Graphic or Motion Graphics Designer, Illustrator, Multimedia Artist, Videographer, and many others.
The East Tennessee State University College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Art and Design also offers several related programs worth exploring. Department offerings include BFA degrees in Drawing and Graphic Design. A Radio/TV/Film BA (BA, RTVF) is also available through the College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Communication.
9. Digital Media Arts College, Boca Raton, Florida
Digital Media Arts College (DMAC) may be young compared to most other schools, but this growing Media Arts College has already produced 34 ADDY Award winners, that competed with more than 60,000 other entries. The school, which holds accreditation by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges, is licensed with the Commission for Independent Education and it is one of the few colleges to focus solely on Digital Arts.
Housed in a 33,000+ square foot facility, Digital Media Arts College offers an “immersive environment” that prepares students for a career in Computer Animation, Visual Effects Animation, Game Art, Motion Graphics, and more. The school offers “innovative technology” and “uniquely qualified professors” that work in their respective fields. Home to nearly 300 students, enrolled in 10 programs, DMAC offers the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees.
DMAC has several popular programs for aspiring game designers and animators. Offerings include a BFA in Computer Animation, a BFA Computer Animation with a Game Art Concentration, and a MFA in Visual Effects Animation. The school also offers an AS in Multimedia Design and an AS and BFA degree in Graphic Design. Professional Certificate programs are available in Computer Generated (CG) Modeling, Drawing, Motion Graphics, Graphic Design, and Web Design. DMAC is also one of the few design schools to offer a Web Design MFA program.
10. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Established in 1979 as Full Sail Recording Workshop, Full Sail University is a for-profit entertainment and media college that ranks among the Top 50 Undergraduate Game Design Programs by Princeton Review and GamePro Magazine. The School, which offers more than 40 degree programs, is also listed in “Schools that Rock” by The Rolling Stone College Guide, and it won School of the Year (2010-2011) by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools & Colleges (FAPSC).
Situated on a 212-acre campus just six miles from Orlando, Florida, Full Sail is home to more than 18,700 students and more than 110 studios and production environments, including Full Sail Studios. This 2.2-acre facility features a game production studio, a professional recording studio, and a “large-scale” live performance venue. In addition, the school has an endless number of program options for digital artists of all kinds.
Full Sail offers Bachelor’s degrees in Game Art, Game Development, Computer Animation, Digital Arts & Design, Film, Mobile Development, Software Development, and Web Design & Development. The University also offers Master’s degrees in Game Design and Film Production. An Associate degree in Graphic Design is on the menu as well.
Full Sail University has an extensive list of online offerings for animators and designers. Online offerings include a Master's in Mobile Gaming, Education Media Design & Technology, and Media Design as well as a Bachelor’s in Computer Animation, Game Art, Game Design, Digital Cinematography, Mobile Development, Graphic Design, and Web Design & Development.
Many Full Sail graduates have found employment in the areas of Game Design and Animation and other artists and have worked on games such as Halo 4, Dead Space, and Starhawk, and animated adventures such as The Incredibles, Cars, and Brave. Others work for Disney Interactive, EA Tiburon, Insomniac Games, Microsoft, and many others.
11. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University was established in 1887. Commonly called “NC State University,” “NC State” or “NCSU,” the school welcomed its first class of 72 students in 1889. Today, NCSU is home to more than 34,000 students from across the U.S. and 119 foreign countries, making it the largest four-year institution in North Carolina. The University, which consistently ranks among the nation's top 50 public universities by Princeton Review, consists of 12 schools and colleges offering more than 300 degree programs through 65 departments.
NC State’s College of Design, Department of Art + Design offers several programs for aspiring animators and game designers. Offerings include the Bachelor of Art + Design: New Media and Animation path. Relative areas of focus include Interactive Design, Motion Graphics, Computer Imaging, and Illustration. The New Media and Animation path prepares students for careers in Computer Animation, Interaction Design, Motion Graphics, Digital Special Effects, Software Design, Illustration, Fine Arts, and more.
North Carolina State University offers one of the nations top Master’s degree programs in Animation as well. The Master of Art + Design (Animation) “educates artists/designers skilled in drawing, time-based imaging, interactive media and digital imaging to use the computer effectively in synthesizing and augmenting these skill sets.” The program allows students to “immerse” in three areas including Digital 3-D Animation, Video, and Graphics. NC State University also offers a Master of Art and Design (MAD) and a Master of Graphic Design (MGD).
12. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
Florida State University’s roots can be traced back to 1823 when the Territorial Legislature began to plan a higher education system. Although the school was not established until around 1851, it is the oldest school in the State University System of Florida. With more than 40,000 students, Florida State University (FSU) is also the largest school in the System based on enrollment.
The 446-acre FSU campus is home to more than 16 colleges, offering more than 270 academic programs at all levels. Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts offers several programs (and related programs) for aspiring animators. Offerings include BFA degrees in Animation & Digital Arts and Production, a MFA in Production, and Film Studies Minor.
The Animation program focuses on digital motion picture production, with an emphasis in Computer Animation, Visual Effects, Green Screen, Motion Capture Technologies, and more. College of Motion Picture Arts graduates “have earned a 97% industry placement rate within one year of graduation.”
The College of Visual Arts, Theater & Dance, Department of Art offers a BFA in Studio Art, which recently merged with the BFA in Design program. A BA in Studio Art is also available as well as a Master of Fine Art (MFA). The MFA program offers a variety of options such Design, Drawing, Electronic Media, and Video.
13. University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
The University of South Florida (USF) was established in 1956 as the first independent state university “conceived, planned, and built in the 20th century.” Today, the University of South Florida ranks among the Top 250 World Class Colleges and Universities by Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2012-2013) and it ranks among the top tier of colleges listed in the USNWR Best Colleges 2012. The school, which sits on more than 1,900 acres on Florida's sunny west coast, is home to more than 47,000 students from across the U.S. and more than 150 countries around the world.
University of South Florida offers more than 230 degree programs through 15 colleges. The College of the Arts, School of Art & Art History is home to the Animation and Digital Arts programs. The School offers a BFA in Animation and Digital Arts, and Video as well as a BA and BFA in Studio Art with a Focus in Drawing, Printmaking, Electronic and Digital Media, and Video. Students may earn a MA of MFA in Studio Art as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and a Certificate in Film Studies. The Graphic Design program is offered at the University’s St. Petersburg, Florida campus.
14. University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana
Established around 1900 as The Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is a public university located in Louisiana’s fifth largest city. The school, which opened with a few classrooms “on a patch of barren farmland,” began with just 100 students and three programs including agriculture, stenography and mechanics. Today, the school sits on a 1,500-acre campus with a student body of nearly 17,000. The state’s second largest institution, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette now offers more than 120 degree programs, throughout nine colleges and schools.
The College of Sciences, School of Computing and Informatics is home to the school’s notable Video Game Design program. The program leads to a BS in Computer Science with a Video Game Design and Development Concentration. Video Game Design and Development electives relate to Video Games, Human-Computer Interaction, Graphics, Artificial Intelligence, Visual Arts and Design, and Storytelling. The School of Computing and Informatics also offers a BS degree in Informatics with a Digital Media Technology or Web Design Concentration. All Computer Science programs are ABET-accredited.
The College of the Arts, Department of Visual Arts has several offerings for aspiring animators. Offerings include a BFA in Computer Art and Animation and BFA degrees in Media Arts, Drawing (Concentration), and Graphic Design. The Computer Art and Animation program features study in Concept Development and Timing, Scriptwriting, Story Boarding, Creating Animatic Studies, Compositing, and Video and Audio Editing. Animation study and production takes place in a buzzing 1,200 square foot studio.
15. Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana
Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU) is a state-funded public university that sits on a 363-acre campus, just 50 miles north of New Orleans and about 45 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. The school, which has a student body of nearly 16,000, consists of five colleges with 18 academic departments and programs, offering a total of 65 degree programs at all levels.
The Southeastern Louisiana University College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Department of Fine and Performing Arts is home to several programs for aspiring animators and game artists. The Department offers BA degrees in New Media & Animation, Drawing, Drawing & Painting, and Art. The Department also offers an Arts Minor with a Graphic Design or Visual Arts Concentration.