2022

What are the top schools with animation MFA programs for 2022?

Top 25 Animation Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Programs - 2022 College Rankings
RankingSchoolState
1California Institute of the ArtsCalifornia
2Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
3School of Visual ArtsNew York
4University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
5Pratt InstituteNew York
6University of California, Los AngelesCalifornia
7Rochester Institute of TechnologyNew York
8Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
9School of the Art Institute of ChicagoIllinois
10DePaul UniversityIllinois
11University of Central FloridaFlorida
12The Ohio State UniversityOhio
13San Jose State UniversityCalifornia
14Texas A&M UniversityTexas
15California State University, Long BeachCalifornia
16University of Texas at DallasTexas
17DigiPen Institute of TechnologyWashington
18Columbus College of Art & DesignOhio
19Minneapolis College of Art and DesignMinnesota
20The New School/ParsonsNew York
21Clemson UniversitySouth Carolina
22Arizona State UniversityArizona
23Bowling Green State UniversityOhio
24Louisiana State UniversityLouisiana
25University of Illinois at ChicagoIllinois

For our graduate degree rankings, we have evaluated animation schools and programs with the best Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Science (MS) options. To determine which degree matches your career goals, it is important to understand how each qualification differs.

The Master of Arts (MA) is an advanced degree that focuses on areas such as the humanities. MA degrees are typically available in the areas of communications, English, teaching, literature, linguistics, art, and languages. Seminars are the main method of learning for MA programs and many programs do not require a thesis.

The Master of Science (MS) degree option typically focuses on science, technology, engineering,  and math. This advanced degree often includes immersive lab work, scientific research, analysis, and evaluation. Unlike MA programs, most MS programs require a thesis.

The Master of Fine Art (MFA) is academically recognized as a terminal degree and it is typically awarded in the visual, fine and performing arts. The MFA degree demands the highest level of professional competency in these areas and practicing artists must exhibit the highest level of accomplishment through the generation of a body of work.

Below are the Top 25 Animation MFA Programs for 2022.

1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
California Institute of the Arts

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) offers an MFA degree in Experimental Animation. The program is housed in the largest school at CalArts—the School of Film/Video—which focuses on intensive programs that emphasize technical and comprehensive artistic training. The programs are taught by experienced professionals working in CG, traditional, and independent animation.

Students in the CalArts Experimental Animation MFA Program collaborate closely with mentors to master a range of animation approaches, processes, and techniques. Examples include 2D animation, digital production, installation, motion capture, multipane, performance animation, programming, stop motion, and more. MFA course examples include First Year Shorts, Sound for Experimental Animation, and The Digital Path for Animation.

MFA students can expect to participate in independent study, internships, lecture courses, seminars, workshops, and visiting artist lectures. School of Film/Video students will produce a professional portfolio and final project to graduate.

Many California Institute of the Arts graduates go on to successful careers in advertising, animation, film/video, and marketing, while others have launched their own studios.

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

Students in the Animation Program 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, in-house theater, and studio environment. At all degree levels, SCAD animation students receive instruction from celebrated professors who have worked at major studios and on award-winning productions such as The Lion King, Ice Age, and Pocahontas.

SCAD animation programs are housed in the School of Digital Media at SCAD. The MFA in Animation is a 90 credit hour program offered in Atlanta, Savannah, and via SCADnow. The pathway requires a graduate internship and completion of three thesis courses. Students in the program can expect to take other courses such as Drawing in Motion, Media Theory and Application, and Storyboarding and Previsualization. Completion of at least seven 500- to 700-level electives are also part of the program.  

From Stop-Motion Animator to Creature Technical Director, SCAD Animation graduates have been recruited by major studios such as 20th Century Fox, Electronic Arts, DreamWorks, Lucasfilm Animation, Pixar, Disney, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and many others.

3. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
School of Visual Arts

The MFA Computer Arts Department at School of Visual Arts (SVA) was the first MFA program in the U.S. to focus on computer art. Established in 1986, the program highlights workshops, guest lectures, visiting artists, and internship experiences. During the final year of the program, MFA students will complete academic research and a creative work accompanied by an artist’s statement.

Graduates of the SVA MFA in Computer Arts Program have landed positions at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), MTV, Pixar, Google, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Electronic Arts, and Disney, DreamWorks. Some alumni have gone on to open their own studios or win Academy, Emmy Award, and Grammy awards.

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

University of California (USC) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, home to the John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts (Hench DADA), which offers an MFA in Animation + Digital Arts.

The University of Southern California MFA Program provides mini studios for all students. The spaces are provided for animation production and thesis work. Students in the program can expect to master techniques and approaches, from hand-drawn character animation to interactive digital animation. Course examples include Expanded Animation, Animation Production, and Storytelling for Animation. Elective units are an important part of the program, and include titles such as Survey of Interactive Media, Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video, and World Cinema Before 1945.

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

5. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Pratt Institute

The School of Art at Pratt Institute (Pratt) houses the Graduate School of Art, which offers an MFA in Digital Arts with concentrations in Digital Animation and Motion Arts, Interactive Arts, And Digital Imaging. Department highlights include small class sizes, a collaborative environment, state-of-the art studios and classrooms, and courses taught by experienced artists in the field.

Pratt MFA students can expect to take courses such as Digital Animation Studio, Traditional Animation, and Advanced Digital Animation. Graduate Seminar I-II and Thesis I-II are also part of the program.

Pratt Institute graduates have landed positions at Digital Domain, Gameloft, Walt Disney Animation Studios, NBCUniversal, Industrial Light & Magic, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and other top studios.

Many Pratt alumni have gone on establish academic careers at institutions such as New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), New York University (NYU), Rochester Institute of technology (RIT), Howard University, and American Academy in Rome, to name a few.

6. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
University of California Los Angeles

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to the UCLA Animation Workshop. Leading to an MFA, the three-year Workshop guides students through the filmmaking process from beginning to end. Sample required courses include Animation Design, Interactive Animation, Advanced Computer Animation Maya, Writing for Animation, and Visual Thinking and Organization for Animation.

Students in this graduate program will complete one interactive project and several films including a thesis film, traditional film, and computer film.

UCLA Animation Workshop alumni work in a variety of roles at Walt Disney Imagineering, Nickelodeon, Pixar, DreamWorks, and many other major studios.  

7. 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, which offers an MFA in Film and Animation. The program has four options: 2D Animation, 3D Animation, Production, and Screenwriting. All options offer 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 can be found in a variety of positions at Lucasfilm, Electronic Arts, Dolby, Nickelodeon, Sony, DreamWorks, Industrial Light & Magic, Disney, and many others.

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

Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) houses the School of Animation & Visual Effects (VFX), which offers an MFA in Animation & Visual Effects. Learning takes place in a studio production environment known as StudioX. The School of Animation & 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.

In addition to several collaborative projects, students will complete an internship and create a professional portfolio.

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

9. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has a Studio Program that offers an MFA in Studio. The program has extensive coursework in animation with course titles such as 3D Character Animation, Advanced Drawing for Animation, Motion Graphics and Visual Effects, Puppet Animation, Writing and Art Direction for Animation, Type and Image in Motion, and Intermediate Animation: Experimental Methods.

Other Department highlights include interaction with visiting artists, access to state-of-the-art production studios, the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, and on-campus galleries, and graduate seminars, screenings, and performances. In addition, FVNMA MFA students will participate in Critique Week. This week-long event takes place each semester. The entire faculty, along with invited visiting artists and designers, form panels designed to critique students work. All classes are suspended during this time.

Graduates of SAIC’s FVNMA Department are prepared to seek careers in animation, film, games, digital media, and more.

10. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, home to the Animation MFA Program, which follows the project model. Students will spend their time creating a single project with the assistance of an MFA co-chair and MFA faculty mentors. The program is designed for animators who have earned an undergraduate degree in the visual arts. Animation, Art, Illustration, Graphic Design, and Film are just a few examples.

All animation students may participate in the Los Angeles Quarter Program. This 10-week immersion program allows students to intern at major Hollywood studios such Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse Animation, Bix Pix Animation, Warner Brothers, and many others.

Other program highlights include the visiting artist series, where past guests have included artists from Disney and Pixar, access to the Animation Lodge, and participation in Project Bluelight. Students at The Lodge collaborate on group projects, network, and build their portfolios. Bluelight provides hands-on experience in motion picture production to all interested students.

Graduates of the Animation MFA Program at DePaul University have been hired by industry giants such as Electronic Arts, Google, Nickelodeon, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Laika Studios, Wargaming, and many others.

11. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

The School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) offers an MFA in Emerging Media with two tracks: Animation & Visual Effects and Studio Art & Design. Students in both tracks have access to the Graduate lab, outfitted with MacPro and Dell Workstations, equipped with dual articulating monitor arms, 22HD Cintiq and 27 4K Monitors and Herman Miller Saly Chairs.

MFA students will have opportunities to complete an internship, portfolio, several projects, and a final thesis film.

Graduates of the UCF SVAD Animation MFA Program are employed with major studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney, and Electronic Arts, among others.

12. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio State University

The Department of Art in Ohio State University’s (OSU) College of Arts and Sciences offers an MFA in Art with an emphasis in Art and Technology. 3D modeling and animation, art games, sound, digital imaging, moving images, and emerging forms are just a few areas students will explore. Course highlights include Computer Animation, New Media Robotics, Internet Art, Moving Image Art, and 3D Modeling.

Also housed in the College of Arts and Sciences is the Department of Design. Established in 1968, the Department offers an MFA with a Digital Animation and Interactive Media Track. To graduate, students must complete 60 credit hours of study in design, the thesis project, and open electives.

Graduates of the Animation programs at OSU have gone on to become Animators, Human-Computer Interaction Designers, Game Designers, Motion Graphics Designers, Mixed Reality Designers. User Interface (UI), User Experience (UX) Designers, Virtual Reality Designers, Multimedia Designers, Art Directors, Interaction Designers, Freelance Artists, College Professors, and many others.

13. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University

San Jose State University (SJSU) houses the College of Humanities and the Arts, home to the Department of Art and Art History. In collaboration with the SJSU CADRE Institute, the Department offers an MFA in Art with a Concentration in Digital Media Art. CADRE (Computers in Art, Design, Research, and Education) became SJSU’s formal fine arts program in 1985.

The 60-credit hour MFA is a three-year program that includes studio courses, independent study, art history, and seminars. Students in the program will explore animation, sound, computer visualization, multimedia, virtual reality, and other areas. The culminating experience for the program is the MFA Project, worth three credit hours.

SJSU MFA graduates and others have been hired at more than 135 studios and colleges. Just a few include Animation Mentor, Cogswell Institute, Sony/Columbia, Blizzard Entertainment, Disney Interactive, Cartoon Network, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Zynga, and 20th Century Fox.

14. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University

The College of Architecture at Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the Department of Visualization, which offers an MFA in Visualization. The MFA degree is just one of a few programs of its kind in the U.S. and possibly the only one in the State of Texas.

Established in 1989 the TAMU Visualization Program is cross-disciplinary, allowing students to explore interaction, art, design, visualization, and computer graphics. Students at all levels may focus in an area of specialization through electives. Students also have opportunities to participate in the annual career fair and the semester away program in Italy, Germany, and other countries.

Internship opportunities are also available. TAMU Visualization students have interned at animation, game, and graphic design companies.  

Texas A&M University Visualization graduates are often hired for positions at major studios. Examples include Walt Disney Animation Studios, Reel FX, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Industrial Light & Magic.

15. California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California
California State University, Long Beach

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) houses the College of the Arts—one of the universities largest and most popular colleges. Made up of six separate academic units, the College is home to the School of Art, which offers an MFA in Studio Art with an Animation Track.

School of Art highlights include workshops and presentations led by industry professionals, courses taught by experienced animators and illustrators, access to a range of study abroad experiences, and internship opportunities. Graduate students will have the opportunity to customize the program AND choose a track. Graduates will leave the CSULB Animation Program with a focused body of work.

16. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) at University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) offers an MFA in ATEC. Students in the program may specialize in Animation. All ATEC graduate level programs provide advanced study in computer-based arts, interactive media, digital media, technology, professional practices, and more.

Other ATEC program highlights include guest speakers from Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and others, seminars and lectures presented by industry professionals, portfolio and project-based exercises, and applied and experimental research in collaboration with instructors in varying areas of expertise.

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

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

DigiPen Institute of Technology (DigiPen) offers an MFA in Digital Arts that provides advanced training in animation, 3D modeling, drawing, digital painting, and more. Free electives and independent study provide opportunities for students to customize their pathway. Course highlights include Organic and Hard Surface Modeling, Art Research Methodology, Art Production Process, Character Design, Digital Arts Survey and Analysis, and 3D Concepts and Production.

Digital Arts MFA students will complete the MFA Thesis, which begin with the Thesis Pre-Production course, which lasts a semester. For the final two semesters of the program, students will work with a faculty advisor to complete the Thesis project. Throughout the program, students will also work in teams to create several games, films, and more.

Graduates of the Digital Arts MFA Program are prepared to compete for positions such as Animator, Character Artist, 3D Modeler, Simulation and Effects Animator, Producer, Art Director, Environmental/Asset Artist, UI Designer, Concept Artist, and many others. To date, more than 600 companies worldwide have hired DigiPen Institute of Technology graduates.

DigiPen alumni have landed position at major studios and companies such as Apple, Amazon Game Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering, Google, Blizzard Entertainment, Activision, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Zynga, Meta (formerly Facebook), DreamWorks Interactive, Sony Online Entertainment, Riot Games, ArenaNet, Disney Online, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, and many others.

18. Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art & Design

Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) offers an MFA in Visual Arts. This 60-credit hour program operates within a 13,700-square-foot graduate facility that houses individual private studios, a lounge, exhibition space, and faculty offices. In the facility, MFA students may work on individual projects and the thesis in any area of interest. Examples include animation, interactive design, illustration, film, game art, and television. Students may focus in any of these areas through six hours of required art and design electives or even through CCAD’s many minor and concentration options.

Other Visual Arts MFA highlights include small class sizes (the program accepts nine to 15 students per year), internship opportunities with nonprofits and businesses located in places such as New York, Honduras, Chicago, Seattle, Ireland, and Oregon, and the visiting artist series, which welcomes designers and guest artists who teach workshops and seminars, present lectures, and mentor students.

19. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) offers an MFA in Visual Studies. The MFA is an interdisciplinary and experimental program, which allows students to focus in one or more areas of interest. Examples include animation, experimental film and video, illustration, drawing and painting, comic arts, and web and multimedia, to name a few. 

Other program highlights include some 50 private studios, smart classrooms, access to state-of-the-art production facilities, and a large gallery space. MCAD MFA students may also participate in the Master’s Trip to NYC, featuring visits to art and design venues, creative agencies, artist studios, and more.

Internship and/or study abroad experiences are available in places such as Italy, the UK, Germany, and Japan. Students have interned at Nickelodeon, MTV, Walker Art Center, Massachusetts Museum of Art, and more.

Potential careers for MCAD Visual Studies graduates include Background Animator, Character Developer, 3D Modeler/Animator, Pixel Artist, Special-Effects Animator, Storyboard Artist Inker/Opaquer/Checker, Producer, Project Manager, Film Editor, Stop-Motion Animator, and Writer, among others.

20. The New School's Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School Parsons

Parsons School of Design is one of the seven colleges and schools of The New School Parsons (The New School). The School offers an MFA in Design and Technology. The program is a STEM-designated, studio-based degree that requires on-campus study. Students in the program have the opportunity to interact with and work on projects with professionals at places such as Nickelodeon, gameLab, Apple, Samsung, Atari, MTV, and many others.

Graduates of the MFA Program are prepared for success for a wide range of positions in 2D and 3D animation, film and television/digital filmmaking, media art, advertising, game design, VR/AR, UI/UX, graphic arts, interaction design, software design, mobile and application design, web design, and more.

21. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson University

The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson University (Clemson) is home to School of Computing, which houses the Division of Visual Computing’s Digital Production Arts (DPA) Program. A 60 credit hour MFA in DPA is offered here.

Course highlights include Technical Foundations, Visual Foundations, 3D Modeling and Animation, Visual narrative, Special Effects Compositing, 2D Game Engine, Virtual Reality, Physically Based Animation, Advanced Animation, and Physically Based Visual Effects. Students in the program will also complete 12 credit hours in Digital Production Studio, where they will work in teams to complete a production project. Graduate Research Studio (six credits) and MFA Thesis (six credits) are also part of the program.

DPA graduates are prepared for a range of roles in the film and animation, video, electronic gaming, and visual effects industries. Graduates have gone on to land positions at DreamWorks, Electronic Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, ReelFX, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

22. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Arizona State University

Arizona State University (ASU) houses the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, home to the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. Here, graduate students can earn an Art MFA that allows them to complete projects in a discipline of their choice in their own private studios. Other program highlights include visiting artist lectures, workshops, and teaching opportunities.

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

23. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Bowling Green State University

The College of Arts and Sciences at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) houses the School of Art. One of the largest and oldest state art schools in Ohio, the School of Art has five divisions: Graphic Design, Digital Arts, Art History, Studio, and Art Education. School of Art highlights include study abroad opportunities and internship opportunities with local studios and national studios such as Pixar and Disney Animation.

The Division of Digital Arts in the Bowling Green State University School of Art offers an MFA in Art with a Specialization in Digital Arts (Computer Animation, Digital Media, and Interactive Media). The program requires a minimum of 60 credit hours of study, with 21 semester hours within the studio specialization and 12 semester hours of studio electives.

MFA students will complete a body of work and accompanying brochure to be entered into the BGSU MFA Exhibition, held each spring in the Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery in the Fine Arts Center.

BGSU Division of Digital Arts graduates are routinely hired by major animation and game studios such as Blizzard, DreamWorks Animation, and Epic Games, among others.

24. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University

The College of Art & Design at Louisiana State University (LSU) houses the School of Art, which offers an MFA in Digital Art that takes two years to complete.

The curriculum for the LSU Digital Art MFA is experimental and allows students to blend courses that explore computational artmaking with coursework in animation, film, computer science, painting, electronic music, and more. Graduate MFA students will complete 60 credit hours, with 12 general electives to be taken in any specialization, and nine in an area of focus. Six credit hours are devoted to Thesis Research.

Students in all School of Art programs at Louisiana State University have access to the Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research (AVATAR) Initiative and they may join the Digital Art and Design Association (DADA), which hosts the Annual Animation Jam.

25. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
University of Illinois at Chicago

The College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) houses the School of Art & Art History. The School’s MFA in Art provides opportunities to study animation.

This highly interdisciplinary program is a combination of collaborative projects, seminars, individual projects, research, advanced critique courses, and coursework from other Departments at UIC. Course options run the gamut from Drawing and Painting to New Media Arts and Moving Image. Another highlight for the program is the environment—private studio spaces are provided for all MFA students.

During the final year of the program, MFA students will present a public exhibition and complete a thesis or final project. The UIC MFA in Art requires 64 credit hours to graduate.

Locations