What are the top animation bachelor's (BA) programs in the U.S. for 2021?
|1||University of Southern California||California|
|2||University of California Los Angeles||California|
|4||California State University-Long Beach||California|
|5||The Ohio State University||Ohio|
|6||University of Texas at Dallas||Texas|
|7||Loyola Marymount University||California|
|8||Columbia College Chicago||Illinois|
|9||California State University-Northridge||California|
|10||University of Florida||Florida|
|11||University of South Florida||Florida|
|12||University of Maryland Baltimore County||Maryland|
|13||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||North Carolina|
|14||Cogswell University of Silicon Valley||California|
|16||California State University-Los Angeles||California|
|17||University of Connecticut||Connecticut|
|18||Bowling Green State University||Ohio|
|19||School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University||Massachusetts|
|20||Evergreen State College||Washington|
For our undergraduate degree rankings, we have evaluated animation schools and programs with the best Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), and Bachelor of Science (BS) options. To determine which degree matches your career goals, it is important to understand how each qualification differs.
The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is the principal liberal arts degree. Most BA programs require 30-some or 40-some credits, which leaves plenty of flexibility in the form of free electives. BA students can use the free electives to sample widely from other course offerings or to earn an additional credential (a second major, a minor, or some combination of additional credentials).
The Bachelor of Science (BS) degree is offered in areas such as Computer Science, Mathematics, Psychology, Statistics, and each of the natural sciences. The BS is best suited to the student who wants to focus more on courses in the major and on 'collateral' courses (like chemistry or mathematics for a major in Geological Sciences) and is willing to give up some of the flexibility of the BA in return for the greater focus.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree is considered the most prestigious bachelor's degree that you can receive in the visual arts. This option is for students who wish to gain as much experience and skill in the arts as possible.
Below are the Top 20 Schools and Colleges with Animation BA Programs for 2021.
University of Southern California (USC) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, home of the John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts, which offers a BA in Animation + Digital Arts. The program encourages collaborations with students from Thornton School of Music, the Kaufman School of Dance, the School of Dramatic Arts, the Viterbi School of Engineering, and the School of Architecture.
Students in this “unique” four-year program “study within the framework that combines a broad liberal arts background with specialization in a profession,” says the school. For 2020-2021, USC lists the following possible areas of concentration: Character Animation, Experimental Animation, Visual Effects, 3D Computer Animation, Science Visualization and Interactive Animation.
The program requires 128 units, including a minimum of 16 lower-division units and a minimum of 26 upper-division units in Cinematic Arts. Course highlights include 3D Character Performance Animation, Drawing for Art and Design, Expanded Concepts in 2D/3D Animation, Ideation and Pre-Production, The World of Visual Effects, Transmedia Entertainment, and Writing for Animation. Students will complete a senior project and they will have the opportunity to complete Directed Studies, Directed Research OR an Internship in Cinematic Arts.
Graduates of the Animation + Digital Arts Program at USC have gone on to become independent filmmakers while others go on to work for major feature and animation studios such as Digital Domain, Digital Idea, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Sony Pictures, and many others.
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) offers a BA in Film and Television with a Concentration in Animation. Offered in the School of Theater, Film and Television (STFT), Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media (FTVDM), the BA program requires courses such as Cinematography, Digital Media Studies, Film Editing and Screenwriting. The Animation Concentration consists of 20 credit hours of study. Students in the program will complete Film TV – Senior Symposium and a Film TV Internship.
Graduates will leave have gone on to land positions at major animation studios, media companies, game design studios, and more.
DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) is home to the School of Cinematic Arts, which houses the Animation Program. With more than a dozen full-time animation professors, the school has one of the largest full-time animation faculties in the U.S.
The school’s BA in Animation “emphasizes the art of animation, creativity, and critical thinking,” says the school. This “extremely” flexible and interdisciplinary degree allows students to experiment with the latest in animation software, technologies, and tools including 3D, green screen studios, hand-drawn, motion capture, motion control, and stop-motion.
School of Cinematic Arts students have the opportunity to work with game development teams, participate in CDM’s annual Premiere Film Festival, which showcases the best of student work in animation and cinema, and study and intern in Los Angeles for three months through the school’s innovative LA Quarter Program.
Past participants in the LA Quarter program have interned at Warner Brothers, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Disney, Nickelodeon, The Mill, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse Animation, Bix Pix Animation, and others. Back at home, students will also benefit from CDMs relationship with Chicago’s largest game development and animation studios.
Animation students also benefit from the visiting artist series, which brings “innovative practitioners and industry leaders to the DePaul campus for film screenings, on-stage conversations, and professional panels.” Past artists have visited from Disney and Pixar. The student organization Animation Lodge and Project Bluelight are other program highlights.
The Lodge is a place where students can network, build their portfolios, work on group projects, and discuss animation trends and techniques. Project Bluelight is a professional, educational, and community outreach program where students receive hands-on experience in motion picture production.
Graduates of the Animation programs at DePaul have been hired in animation roles at Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Google, Laika Studios, Nickelodeon, Phosphor Studios, Synapse Games and Wargaming, to name a few.
California State University-Long Beach (CSULB) houses the College of the Arts, Department of Film & Electronic Arts, which offers a BA Film and Electronic Arts. Although the BA program does not have a formal animation specialization, an 18-unit Minor allows students to group approved animation or other courses into a specialized track. Course highlights for the BA Program include 3D Computer Animation, Digital Arts Production (Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Interactive Media), History of Animation, and many others.
Other program highlights include internship and study abroad opportunities, as well as visiting artists that present workshops and presentations in collaboration with faculty.
College of the Arts graduates “work in a variety of fields such as film and entertainment (gaming, animation and live action film), advertising, textiles, biomedical illustration, the gift market, educational illustration, architectural illustration, print publications (newspapers, magazines, graphic novels and books) and more,” says the school. Many alumni have also “distinguished themselves in visual journalism, in storyboarding for film and television, and in all aspects of editorial art as well as gallery exhibition.”
The Ohio State University (OSU) offers an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production (MIP). Introduced in Autumn 2017, the program is a collaboration with departments across the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Students majoring in MIP have the opportunity to take production courses in the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD), The Department of Art, The Department of Dance, and The Department of Theatre.
The MIP program teaches live-action and animated filmmaking. The major “focuses on developing students’ creative voices as they produce moving-image works across four areas: animation, experimental, documentary, and narrative.” In addition, “through the required Film Studies Minor, students engage with the entire culture of cinema, learning to think historically, theoretically, and critically about film.”
Course highlights include Cinema Today, Computer Animation, Concept Development for Time-Based Media, Group Studies in Digital Animation and Interactive Media, Motion Studies Through Hand-Drawn Animation, and Video Production. A Film Studies Minor consisting of 15 credit hours is required for the MIP Program as well as a Senior Project that allows students to “blend modes into a single creative project” during a pair of advanced studios.
Students in the MIP Program will also have opportunities to complete an internship, study abroad, and take additional production and screenwriting courses.
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) houses the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC), which offers programs that blend science, technology, engineering, art, & management (STEAM).The School’s BA in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication offers an Animation Pathway, (BA ATEC).
The ATEC curriculum “provides exposure to arts, science, technology, history, design, criticism, new knowledge creation, and complex understandings,” says the school. Undergraduate students “acquire foundational skills in media studies, cultural theory, computer programming, and creative production.”
The Animation Pathway “blends creative storytelling with technology to encourage experimentation in form, content, and medium and emphasizes 3D animation, which includes various artistic and technical disciplines such as modeling and texturing, character rigging, lighting and composition, computer programming and scripting, as well as character movement and acting.”
ATEC students have the opportunity to take a total of 15 credit hours/five courses in Animation, Design, Storytelling, and Games, to name a few. Courses such as Topics in Animation, Topics in ATEC, and Topics in Game Development are also available. Other program highlights include seminars and lectures, project and portfolio-based exercises, applied and experimental research, and guest speakers from industry giants such as Blue Sky Studios, Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar.
Graduates of the School of ATEC at UT Dallas are prepared to seek careers in animation and other areas of entertainment, as well as new and emerging fields such as medical and scientific visualization.
Loyola Marymount University (LMU) houses the School of Film and Television, home to LMUs BA in Animation Program.
The BA in Animation encourages the development of a personal artistic vision as students immerse in the collaborative filmmaking process. After completing lower division courses, students will have the opportunity to choose one of three tracks: Traditional, 3D, or Interactive Animation. Course highlights for the program include Advanced Storyboard, Animation Workshop, Digital Toolbox, Experimental Animation, Game Design, Interactive Animation, Mechanics of Animation, and Visual Story Development for Animation.
During the final years of the program, students will complete an Animation Internship that provides the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field. During their senior year, students will write, animate, and direct a thesis film/project for their portfolio.
Students “will be prepared to take creative leadership roles in new and emerging industries,” says the school, and “many will work within the studio system while others will be independent artists.”
Graduates of the program “work in movies, television, videogames, and many other media. Many have won awards at film festivals in this country and abroad.”
Alumni include notable industry professionals such as Van Partible—creator/director of the Cartoon Network series Johnny Bravo; Emmy Award-winning producer/director of The Simpsons, and co-writer of The Simpsons Movie, David Mirkin, and Lauren Montgomery—director of the Warner Bros. animated features Wonder Woman, Superman: Doomsday, and Green Lantern: First Flight.
Columbia College Chicago’s (Columbia) School of Media Arts houses the Interactive Arts and Media Department, which offers a BA in Animation that allows students to begin animating in their first year.
Per the school, “BA students have the option of working with a team their senior year to create an animated film in Animation Production Studio, they can work on their own solo film, or take electives that will help them polish their demo reels and gain professional-level competency in the areas of their choosing.”
The Animation Production Studio is an intensive, two-semester capstone course that introduces students to the animated film process. Studio students will have the opportunity to, “supervise and be supervised in roles ranging from director to editor.” Finished films will be presented at Columbia College’s annual urban arts festival known as “Manifest,” which “celebrates the amazing work” of the school’s graduating students.
All students will also have the opportunity to take the one-credit course—Animation Studios in LA—where they will spend time learning professional standards and industry preparation as well as touring local animation studios such as Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros.
Graduates of the Animation program at Columbia have won Oscars and Emmys and they have worked on popular animated films and series such as Brave, Coco, Finding Dory, Frozen, Pocahontas, Robot Chicken, The Lego Batman Movie, The Lion King, and UP. Alumni work at networks and studios such as Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Warner Bros. Animation, Weta Digital, and many others.
California State University-Northridge (CSUN) is home to the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, which houses the Department of Arts’ Visual Arts Program. Here, aspiring animators can earn a BA in Visual Arts with a 2D Design, 3D Animation or Game Development Track.
The 2D Animation Design Track “provides students with a foundation in drawing, design and the essential software skills necessary to thrive in post-graduation careers,” says the school. Upon completing four lower division foundation courses, students take courses in 2D animation (flash/toonboom), pre-production and visual development, with optional classes in compositing and 3D computer animation classes. Students concentrating in the 2D design track spend their senior year focusing on their portfolios and/or collaborative group projects.”
The program prepares students for an artistic career in 2D animation as storyboard revisionists, in visual development, background design or painting, or as animators with a proficiency in flash and/or toonboom.
The 3D Animation Track offers four core CG animation courses with options in compositing, game animation, and Visual Development. Students concentrating in this track spend their senior year focusing on their portfolios and/or collaborative group projects. Career paths for 3D Animation graduates include Pre-Vis artist, character animator, CG modeler, texture painting and lighting artist, and compositor.
Students in all tracks have the opportunity to participate in industry and studio events, organized studio tours, and ongoing collaborative educational partnering with DreamWorks studios and Seoul Institute of the Arts. Students also participate in industry events and internships with Nickelodeon, Disney, Film Roman, Warner Bros., and others. Students in all programs have access to two award-winning student run animation clubs—the Animation Students League of Northridge and the Game Development Club.
Game Design “builds on 3D computer animation courses to a two sequence game production classes.” Students who complete the track will take optional animation production, compositing, and character animation courses. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions in quality assurance, level design, modeling, texture painting & lighting, and character animation.
University of Florida (UF) houses the College of the Arts, which offers a BA in Digital Arts & Sciences (BADAS). Students in the BADAS program have the opportunity to choose elective courses from the Institute’s current offerings in Animation, Game Design, and Digital Production.
Animation students will learn industry-standard techniques for film, video game, and interactive media content creation, apply the 12 Principles of Animation to bring characters to life, and develop concepts and skills to create compelling stories through animation. Course highlights include 2D and 3D Digital Animation Techniques, 3D Character Animation, Creating Mobile Games, Digital Storytelling, Writing for Interactive Media, and Production of Immersive Environments.
Students in all areas have the opportunity work at LUMA at Digital Worlds Institute. The student-run digital media production group was founded with a goal of providing talented students the opportunity to work on real-world projects. LUMA offers creative services to members of the UF and Gainesville communities.
Graduates of the BADAS will have experience working in collaborative teams on media projects including digital storytelling, animation, and game design including serious and applied games. Program alumni have landed positions such as Animator, Character Artist, Character Modeler, Digital Storyteller, Rigger, Storyboard Artist, Technical Animator, Visual Effects Artist, and many others.
University of South Florida (USF) houses the College of Arts, home to the School of Art & Art History, which offers a BA Studio Art with a Concentration in Animation and Digital Modeling.
The curriculum for the BA “engages students in the development of both 2D and 3D animation as well as the production of virtual 3D objects for fine art, film, games, and visualization,” says the school. “Combining cutting-edge technology with a foundation of the design process, craft, and studio art practices, students gain an invaluable skill set as they progress through their courses.”
Initial courses allow students to gain a foundation in the tools and principles involved in animation, digital imaging, and video. Intermediate coursework covers production workflows and experimental approaches and advanced courses help students develop “their personal creative voices as they produce self-directed projects.” Course highlights include 3D Animation, Beginning and Advanced VADA, Baroque and Rococo Art, Computer Animation, Concepts & Practices, Digital Modeling, History of Visual Arts, Intermediate Drawing, and Tech Essentials.
Students in the BA Program will complete “Extended Studies.” Options within this two-credit requirement include the Paris Program, Public Art, Museum Internships, Community Art, Artists Internships/Apprenticeships, and the London Middlesex Program.
BA graduates are able to use their experiences from the program in a broad range of disciplines. Animation, Game Design, Filmmaking and Visual Effects are just a few examples.
University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) houses the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences’ (CAHSS) Department of Visual Arts, which offers a BA in Visual Arts with a Concentration in Animation.
Students in the program will study animation as “makers,” says the school, “taking a sequence of hands-on production courses through traditional media and digital tools, investigating the history of animation, and screening of contemporary animation artists.” Students “are encouraged and expected to develop their own artistic voice through exploration of the media and critical review of their work. In-class critiques of personal work are emphasized for the development of a framework from which students can begin their path as artists in the animation field.”
Advanced level courses in the animation programs incorporate technically intensive experiences in 2D and 3D digital, hand-crafted, hybrid, and interactive processes, and the “exploration of emerging practices within the animation field.”
Students completing the Animation Concentration have the opportunity to produce a fully developed work at the culmination of the program, either individually or as part of a team.
UMBC Animation graduates have become successful freelance artists or have found jobs at major animation studios, game companies, and government agencies. Additionally, many students continue their studies in graduate programs.
North Carolina State University’s (NC State) College of Design, Department of Art + Design offers a Bachelor of Art + Design: Animation + Interactive Media.
The program “gives students the opportunity to learn as they develop their creative portfolios through a wide-range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional traditional materials and computer-based processes.” These include “drawing and illustration, visual composition, soft materials construction, fibers, graphic and interactive narratives, motion graphics, visual effects, animation, web design, game design, interactive and computational media, virtual and augmented reality, 3D modeling, digital fabrication, and more.”
Animation students will take studios that introduce them to Principles of Storytelling, Animation, and Character Design through Sequential Imaging, along with courses such as Advanced Writing, Design Thinking, Digital Imaging, and Drawing. Students will have the opportunity to complete an internship and participate in the Art + Designer Showcase.
Graduates of NC State’s Animation Program are prepared to work on short and full-length animated films, in character development for animated films, games, and digital storybooks, and on interactive and experimental projects.
Cogswell University of Silicon Valley (USV) houses the Department of Digital Art & Animation (DAA), which offers a BA in DAA with four concentrations including 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Entertainment Design, and Technical Art. All concentrations allow students to “experience what it’s like being in the full animation and VFX pipeline,” says the school.
Core courses for the BA in DAA Program include 2D Design, Color Theory, Figure Drawing, Perspective and Rendering, Principles of Management, Sculpture, Sketching, and Storyboarding. The remaining courses will depend on the concentration.
Course highlights for the 3D Animation Concentration include 2D and 3D Animation, Acting, Character Rigging, Drawing Animation, Media Works for Animation Students, Scripting: Python, and Storyboarding. Students will also complete Animated Film Production, where they will work in teams to create a shore animated film.
3D Modeling students will take courses such as Character Rigging and Introduction to 3D Modeling, and, while course highlights for Entertainment Design include Perspective & Rendering and Texturing. Entertainment Design students will also take a portfolio course that will prepare them to create a finished portfolio that demonstrates their abilities in Entertainment Design.
Graduates of the Cogswell Digital Art & Animation Program have landed positions at major studios and companies such as Activision Blizzard, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar. Alumni have developed characters for blockbuster animated films like Big Hero 6, Deadpool and Frozen.
Emerson College’s School of the Arts, Department of Visual & Media Arts (VMA) offers a BA 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 the BA in Media Arts Production have found employment at Bunim-Murray Productions, Digital Domain, Fox Searchlight, Hallmark Channel, MAD TV, MGM Studios, SCG Productions, Soup2Nuts, World Wide Pants, and many others.
California State University-Los Angeles (Cal State LA) houses the College of Arts & Letters, home of the ART Department, which offers a BA that allow students to study animation, graphic design, fashion, art history, art education or the studio arts, including ceramics, photography, painting, printmaking, and sculpture. The program is “structured so that students have the opportunity to acquire an understanding of the variety of subjects encompassed within the visual arts as well as to develop excellence in a specific area,” says the school. Specific undergraduate programs for aspiring animators include a BA in Art with an Animation Option.
The 120-unit “provides a thorough education in the creative, practical and historical uses of animation. The option encourages an experimental approach to animation that combines traditional and contemporary techniques,” says the school. Animation majors can choose courses involving stop-motion animation, digital 2D and 3D animation, computer graphics, hand-painted abstract animation, story and visualization, as well as other art and film courses that galvanize their understanding of animation production, art-making, cinema, mixed-media, and narrative.
Students in the programs will benefit from The Getty Trust, which offers internships at the Getty Center. In addition, the Getty supports internships at Los Angeles area museums and visual arts organizations. Students will also benefit from access to Cal State LA Fine Arts Gallery and frequent visits by guest artists and scholars.
The University of Connecticut (UConn) houses the School of Fine Arts, home of the Department of Digital Media Design (DMD), which offers a flexible BA in Digital Media and Design with seven concentrations. Among them are 3D Animation, Digital Film/Video Production, Game Design, Motion Design & Animation, and Web & Interactive Media Design.
Courses for the program are project-based and electives are available to help students personalize their path. Students work with emerging technology, including touch-interactive screens, video walls, projection mapping, and VR equipment, through coursework and engagement in creative research projects. Students at the Storrs campus also have access to a film production studio, audio recording studio, motion capture studio, and Cintiq Lab.
During the final years of the program, students will complete several capstone experiences with clients in Agency, and they will develop a Senior Project.
Graduates of the program have established careers in 3D design/animation, art direction, compositing/VFX, graphic design, motion design, social media content producing, video editing and many others.
UConn Storrs graduates have obtained jobs (often within six months of graduation) or paid internships at places such as Adobe, CBS 2 News, and NBC Sports Group. Some have landed positions at smaller animation and design studios like Alessandro Weber Design, DW Advertising, Fusion 360, milk*, and XVIVO | Scientific Animation.
Bowling Green State University’s (BGSU) College of Arts and Sciences houses the School of Art, Division of Digital Arts, which offers a BA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization.
The school says that the Digital Arts program at BGSU is “one of the leading programs in the nation for studying digital arts and animation, focusing on creative expression using digital technology. Students are encouraged to investigate aesthetic and perceptual possibilities as they engage in alternative art discourses. Digital Arts courses investigate the theoretical, aesthetic, and technical aspects of the digital arts while providing hands-on experiences with state-of-the-art equipment.”
Students in the program focus on 3D animation, digital imaging, interactive art, video art, virtual environments and gaming, mobile web app development, digital painting, and hybrid forms of digital art. Other program highlights include diverse study abroad opportunities in more than 40 countries worldwide as well as facilities and faculty that “position students for successful internships and careers with organizations such as Disney Animation, Pixar and the Museum of Modern Art.”
In recent years, BGSU Digital Arts graduates have been hired by companies such as Apple, Blizzard, Blue Sky Studios, DNA Productions, DreamWorks Animation, Epic Games, Friendly Software (Microsoft games), LogicJunction (interactive web), Rhythm & Hues Studios, Volition, and many others.
The School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) offers a number of combined degree programs including BFA + BA/BS.
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.
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. This 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.
Evergreen State College offers the opportunity for students to design their own degree or select one of 11 curated paths of study.
Curated Pathways for aspiring animators could include Mathematical, Physical, and Computer Science, Media Arts and Studies, and Visual Arts. Work within a Path culminates in a major project, capstone, or thesis. Students can also combine their studies in a Path with an internship at a local non-profit, business, or government agency.
Fields of study for aspiring animators could include Communication, Computer Science, Media Arts, Media Studies, Moving Image, and Visual Arts. Students declaring a field of study do not have to take any specific prerequisite classes to complete their BA degree.
Students in all programs have access to Evergreen’s Animation Labs and other production facilities.