What are the top schools with animation MFA programs for 2024?
|California Institute of the Arts
|Savannah College of Art and Design
|School of Visual Arts
|University of Southern California
|University of California, Los Angeles
|Academy of Art University
|Rochester Institute of Technology
|Texas A&M University
|School of the Art Institute of Chicago
|University of Central Florida
|The Ohio State University
|San Jose State University
|University of Texas at Dallas
|DigiPen Institute of Technology
|Columbus College of Art & Design
|Minneapolis College of Art and Design
|The New School's parsons School of Design
|Arizona State University
|California State University, Long Beach
|Bowling Green State University
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 2024.
1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
The School of Film/Video is the largest department at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). It is also one of the nation’s most celebrated F/V schools, with famous alumni such as Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood), Chris Buck (Frozen), and John Lasseter (Toy Story, Cars).
Within the School of Film/Video at CalArts is an intensive tree-year, residency track Experimental Animation MFA designed for students seeking leadership positions in studio production. The program is also ideal for those interested in launching their own studios and individuals who would like to teach and create. Students in this interdisciplinary program have opportunities to take courses from Art, Music, Theater, and Dance to reach the 60 required credits to graduate.
At least six graduate-level credits of history/theory coursework must be completed in residence at CalArts. To fulfill these requirements, students will take History of Experimental Animation; Seminar in Animation History; and one other approved history/theory course. Other course examples include First Year Shorts; Drawn Techniques for the Experimental Animator; Stop Motion Basics; Interactive Media; Digital Workflow for Animators; and Sound for Experimental Animation.
The Experimental Animation MFA at CalArts culminates with a thesis, which students will complete across four seminar courses consisting of 12 credit hours. Courses include Experimental Animation Thesis Concept Seminar (two courses) and Experimental Animation Thesis Production Seminar (two courses).
California Institute of the Arts graduates go on to successful careers in animation, film and video, advertising, marketing, and acting. Many CalArts alumni have launched their own studios and other entertainment businesses.
2. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
The School of Animation and Motion at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) houses three Animation degrees, three Visual Effects (VFX) options for students seeking an undergraduate or advanced degree, and the world’s first specialized degree in Motion Media Design. Across programs, students have access to more than 800 networked computers and a state-of-the-art 60,000-square-foot SCAD Digital Media Center, which houses a green screen lab, in-house theater, and studio.
Other program features include instruction from celebrated professors who have worked at major studios and on award-winning productions such as Ice Age, Pocahontas, and The Lion King; participation in SCAD Study Abroad in Lacoste, France, or other location; and SCAD Savannah Film Festival, which highlights special film screenings, celebrity panels, lectures, workshops, and presentations with celebrated industry professionals. SCAD Film Festival is the largest university-run film festival in the world.
For artists seeking a terminal degree in Animation, Savannah College of Art and Design has an Animation MFA that requires 90 credit hours of study. Course examples include Storyboarding and Previsualization; Computer-Generated Modeling and Design; Drawing in Motion; Animation Aesthetics and Practice; and Media Theory and Application. Completion of at least seven 500- to 700-level electives is part of the program, as well as a required graduate internship, and Animation MFA Thesis.
The MFA is available in Atlanta, Savannah, and via SCADnow. Savannah College of Art and Design graduates have been recruited by major studios, gaming companies, and networks such as Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Electronic Arts (EA), DreamWorks, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Lucasfilm Animation.
SCAD alumni have worked on Oscar nominated productions such as Encanto (won), Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, and Turning Red. Many SCAD graduates have also established careers at places such as Microsoft, Adobe, Deloitte, Spotify, and Delta Air Lines.
3. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
The Computer Arts Department at School of Visual Arts (SVA) was established in 1986 as the first MFA program in the nation to focus in computer arts. With a network of more than 1,200 alumni, the MFA program features workshops; visiting artists; guest lectures in all areas of animation, experimental art, and motion graphics; and internship opportunities.
Concentration areas for this 60 credit hour program include 2D Animation, 3D Animation & VFX, and Experimental Art. Across options, students will take courses such as Animation Culture; Character Animation; Advanced Modeling and Rigging Concepts; Digital 2D Animation: Tight Tie Downs; Motion Graphics I-II; Emerging Practices: Nonlinear Storytelling; Virtual Reality Storytelling; and Creative Programming for Artists I-II.
During their studies, MFA Computer Art students have been nominated for 13 Student Academy Awards, and won nine. They have also won awards at international competitions such as ISEA; Prix Ars Electronica; the Leonardo Awards for Excellence; SIGGRAPH; Electronic Theater and Art Show; Adobe Design Achievement Awards; and the YouTube Awards. Student works have also appeared at New York Film Festival and international film festivals such as Cannes, Tribeca, Sundance, Annecy, and Ottawa.
The Computer Art MFA program at SVA culminates with the Thesis, which students will complete across four courses. These include Thesis Research and Writing I & II; and Thesis I & II.
Graduates of the Computer Arts MFA program at School of Visual Arts have won several Academy, Emmy, and Grammy Awards. Program alumni have also been hired at major studios such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), MTV, Pixar, Google, Adobe, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Electronic Arts (EA), Disney, and DreamWorks. Some alumni have gone on to launch their own studios and freelance businesses.
4. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California (USC) is home to the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA). Within USC Cinematic Arts is The John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts (Hench DADA), which has two graduate programs for animators. Options include the Animation + Digital Arts MFA or the Expanded Animation Research + Practice (XA) MFA. This program is housed in SCA’s Expanded Animation Division.
Both options allow students to collaborate with peers across other creative USC schools such Roski School of Art and Design, Thornton School of Music, the School of Architecture, and Viterbi School of Engineering. School of Cinematic Art students also have access to state-of-the art facilities and equipment such as the Ganek Immersive Studio; Cintiq and computer labs; Motion Capture, sound mixing; green screen, and film stages; and an IMAX theater and new Virtual Production Stage.
Other SCA features include guest speakers; courses taught by seasoned filmmakers and industry professionals; and the student-organized USC Animation Studio Day, where students have the opportunity to meet with studio representatives to discuss internships and job opportunities, and present their portfolios.
The Animation + Digital Arts MFA at USC provides mini studios for all students as well as ongoing workshops in new technologies and internship opportunities. Techniques and approaches covered range from hand-drawn character animation to interactive digital animation. Course examples for the program include Expanded Animation, Animation Production, and Storytelling for Animation.
Elective units are an important part of the MFA program and include course titles such as Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video; World Cinema Before 1945; and Survey of Interactive Media. The Animation + Digital Arts MFA program at USC takes three years to complete.
The XA MFA at University of Southern California requires a minimum of 50 units to graduate. Thirty of these units are dedicated to Expanded Animation. Students in this program can select a research concentration from an extensive list of options. Examples include Experimental Animation; Animation for Robotics; Documentary Animation; Fine Art Animation Practice; Cinematic Installations; Virtual Humans and AI; Performance Gesture; Narrativity; Dreams and Consciousness; Sound Design; Gesture Movement; and Science Visualization.
Courses for the XA MFA program are supported by exhibitions, research collaborations, and overnight field trips. Course examples include Expanded Animation; Cinematic Animation - the Art of Motion in Virtual Space; Expanded Animation Production; Writing and Story Art for Vision and Motion; Applied Expanded Animation; and Theory and Practice in Contemporary Animation.
The XA MFA program at USC culminates with the Master’s Thesis, completed over two courses. Final projects have included animation, AI, AR/VR, interactive, installations, and more.
Graduates of the Animation programs at the University of Southern California are prepared to pursue leadership roles at major studios across the U.S. and around the globe. Program alumni have been hired at places such DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Sony Pictures, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Illumination, and Digital Domain. Many USC alumni have also launched their own independent studios.
5. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to one of the oldest animation programs in the U.S. Leading to an MFA and known as the UCLA Animation Workshop, this competitive program accepts just 12 students each year. Part of the School of Theater, Film & Television (TFT)-Department of Film, Television & Digital Media (FTVDM), the three-year Animation Workshop guides students through the filmmaking process from beginning to end.
Program features include immersive studies in CG technologies within the state-of-the-art Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio; personalized instruction by celebrated industry professionals; and the opportunity to develop individual projects across styles from traditional to computer to experimental.
All UCLA Animation Workshop students will complete a combination of required courses; two Cinema Media Studies program (CMS) courses; one live-action course; and several electives. Course examples include Animation Design; Computer Animation for Film; Cinematography; Interactive Animation; Viewing and Reading Media; Animation Seminar; Introduction to Experimental Film; The Disney Feature: Then and Now (elective); Real Time Animation: Puppetry Arts; Advanced Animation (Character Animation); Advanced Animation (Writing for the Animated TV Series); and Legal Issues in Animation.
To graduate from the UCLA Animation Workshop, every student will complete one traditional film one computer film, one interactive project, and one thesis film (if needed). Program alumni are prepared to pursue leadership roles at major companies and studios across the U.S. and abroad. School of TFT alumni have been hired at studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Nickelodeon.
6. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Pratt Institute (Pratt) is home to the School of Art, which houses eight departments and more than 30 degree programs. The Department of Digital Arts has a Digital Arts MFA that provides the option to concentrate in 3D Animation and Motion Arts. Other MFA highlights include small class sizes with courses taught by industry professionals; a collaborative environment; access to state-of-the art studios and facilities; and the opportunity to create a final professional portfolio or reel.
In the Digital Arts MFA program at Pratt Institute, students will produce their narrative films, installations, and non-narrative films using 2D and 3D digital animation techniques, motion graphics, and live action. This one-year, 60 credit hour program consists of courses such as 3D Animation: Expressive Motion; 3D Character Modeling and Rigging; 3D Lighting and Rendering; Graduate Animation Seminar I-II; and 3D Animation Studio: Performance & Acting.
The MFA program culminates with the Thesis (time-based project), completed across three courses: Thesis I, Post Production, and Thesis II. Students will use a mix of animation, video audio, rendering and compositing tools to complete their final projects.
Graduates of the Digital Arts program at Pratt Institute are prepared to pursue positions across a variety of creative industries. MFA alumni have been hired at places such as Sony Pictures Imageworks, Walt Disney Animation Studios, NBCUniversal, Inc., Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Augenblick, Cartoon Network, Gameloft, DreamWorks, Curious Pictures, Framestore, Digital Domain, Buzzfeed, Titmouse, and Thrillist.
MFA alumni have also gone on to establish academic careers at institutions such as University of Florida (UF), Digital Worlds Institute, New York University (NYU), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), Howard University, and National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU).
7. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) is home to the Houdini Certified School of Animation & Visual Effects (VFX). The school provides programs that take place in a studio production environment known as StudioX. The Academy of Art School of Animation & VFX is the only school of its kind to teach in this type of environment.
Because StudioX functions like most real-world studios, students gain hands-on experience using the latest industry standard equipment. Studio X students have been credited for their work on productions such as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, and many others.
Other School of Animation & VFX highlights include collaborations with other artists individually and in teams; the opportunity to manage a production from start to finish; and FAT (Feature Animation Training) Tuesdays classes. Taught by industry professionals from companies like Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), these classes take place every Tuesday evening, and allow students to immerse in the mental processes of creating a character, and explore the emotional aspects of acting to enhance the characters they have created. All degree-seeking students will also complete an internship and create a professional portfolio of their best work.
The School of Animation & VFX at Academy of Art has an Animation & Visual Effects MFA program that explores all areas of animation and visual effects from concept to post-production. Students in this 63 unit program will take courses such as Traditional Animation; 3D Modeling and Animation 1 (Maya); Feature Animation; Perspective for Characters and Environment; Advanced Character Animation; and 3D Animation Studio.
The culminating experiences for the MFA include the Directed Study, Final Portfolio Preparation for Animators, and Animation: Thesis Completion courses.
Graduates of the School of Animation & VFX at Academy of Art University are prepared to pursue positions in all areas of animation. Graduates have gone on to establish careers at major companies and studios such as Pixar, Paramount, Marvel, Sony Pictures Animation, Google, LAIKA Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Wieden + Kennedy, DNEG, Riot Games, Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).
8. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) houses three schools including Cinematic Arts, Computing, and Design. Across schools, students have access to more than 65 degree programs and minors.
Within the School of Cinematic Arts is an Animation program that features courses taught by award-winning filmmakers who are part of one of the largest full-time animation faculties in the nation; access to a state-of-the-art, 32,000 square foot production facility known as DePaul Cinespace Studios; and the new Jarvis Student Center for Innovation and Collaboration.
This 8,000 square-foot open space focuses on industry partnerships and multidisciplinary professional learning across emerging technologies. Collaborations and projects between students and faculty emphasize innovation and community needs.
Cinespace and other CDM/SCA studios and facilities provide access to latest industry animation software, tools, and technologies. This includes Cintiq labs, professional animation and effects software, 3D printing, stop motion stages and fabrication studios, sound studios, 3D motion capture, and motion control.
For students seeking a terminal degree, the Animation program at DePaul University has an MFA program that 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. Examples include Animation, Art, Illustration, Graphic Design, and Film.
All DePaul Animation students have the unique opportunity to participate in the Los Angeles Quarter Program. This 10-week immersive experience allows students to intern at major Hollywood studios such Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse, and Warner Bros. Animation.
Additional program benefits 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. Project Bluelight provides hands-on experience in motion picture production to all interested students.
Graduates of the Animation program at DePaul University are prepared to pursue careers in all industries that require animation, and game design and development skills. Program alumni have been hired by major studios and gaming companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), Warner Bros. Animation, Google, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Blizzard Entertainment, Disney Animation Studios, Iron Galaxy Studios, BioWare, and LAIKA Studios.
9. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is home to the College of Art and Design, which houses the School of Film and Animation. A designated Center of Excellence (COE) by Toon Boon Animation, the School provides many opportunities for students to gain hands on experience and network—all before graduation.
For starters, RIT School of Film and Animation students may participate in RIT’s Study Away: LA Program. Students that choose to participate in the program will spend a semester in Los Angeles where they can intern at top studios and entertainment companies, and take two courses to complement the study-away experience.
RIT also houses the fourth-oldest and one of the largest cooperative (co-op) education programs in the world. All RIT programs provide co-op education opportunities as well as internships and other experiential learning experiences. RIT animation students also have access to 52,000 square foot MAGIC Spell Studios, and labs and classrooms outfitted with industry standard technology and software.
At all degree levels, animation students will participate in the RIT’s Creative Industry Day, where they will have the opportunity to mingle with representatives of studios, design firms, and other creative companies.
At the graduate level, RIT’s School of Film and Animation has a Film and Animation MFA with four options: 2D Animation, 3D Animation, Production, and Screenwriting. Students in this program have 24/7 access to a dedicated graduate lab with industry-level software; and opportunities to gain career experience as a faculty research assistant, graduate assistant, or other position.
Across all School of Film and Animation programs students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment such as MAGIC Spell Studios; Stop Motion Studios; Animation 2D and 3D Labs; Soundstages; Animation and Drawing Studios; Virtual Reality Labs; Editing Suites; a Mixdown Room; Post-Production Labs; SOFA Cage; and the Pro Tools Editing Suite.
All programs culminate with a finished film completed across several Capstone or Thesis courses. Students will then take part in a public screening of their finished work.
Graduates of Rochester Institute of Technology enjoy an impressive 92% employment rate. School of Film and Animation alumni are prepared to pursue careers across the creative, technical, medical, architecture, and legal industries. Examples of companies and studios that have hired RIT Animation graduates include Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Disney Animation Studios, Lucasfilm, Electronic Arts (EA), Dolby, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and Sony.
10. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
The School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts (PVFA) at Texas A&M University (TAMU) is a multidisciplinary school that provides cross-disciplinary programs in music, film, theater, dance, visualization, and production. Across programs, students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and studios; courses taught by faculty who are accomplished directors, computer graphics engineers, composers, sound technologists, art historians, and dancers; and student organizations such as Women in Animation, Viz Industry Fair (VIF), and Texas Aggie Game Developers (TAGD).
Within the TAMU School of PVFA is a Visualization program that was established nearly 35 years ago. The Visualization MFA here is one of a few programs of its kind in the U.S. and possibly the only one in the state of Texas. The program focuses on technological applications and innovations, collaborative projects, and team-building. Students may select from eight areas of emphasis including Visual Storytelling, Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR), Gaming, Interactive Art, User Experience Design, and Data Visualization.
Across emphasis areas, students will take courses such as Contemporary Art Studio/Seminar; Professional Study; and Professional Practice. Other courses will come from a long list of prescribed and free electives. Examples include 3D Modeling and Animation; Computer Animation; Digital image; Color Photography; Multi-media Web Design; Physical Computing for Art & Design; and Generative Art.
MFA students may complete a professional internship and participate in the Summer Industry Workshop. Students in this intensive course will work with professionals from major animation studios to produce professional-grade short films. The course takes place all day, every day, for 10 weeks.
In addition, students may participate in the Annual Career Fair, and the Semester Away Program in Italy, Germany, and other countries.
Graduates of the Texas A&M University Visualization programs will enter the job market with a polished portfolio of their best work. Program alumni are prepared for careers across industries. However, Visualization graduates are routinely hired for positions at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Reel FX Animation.
11. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is home to the Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA), which has a Studio MFA that supports creative work across 12 different departments. Students in this terminal degree program can specialize in one specific area or acquire skills across multiple areas of study.
Concentration areas may include Hand-Drawn and Digital 2D and 3D Animation; Moving-Image Installation; Nonfiction/Documentary and Narrative Film and Video; Media Art Histories; and Interactive Art, VR, AR, and Web-Based Projects. FVNMA students also have access to courses such as Puppet Animation; Motion Graphics and Visual Effects; 3D Character Animation; Intermediate Animation: Experimental Methods; Writing and Art Direction for Animation; Realtime; New Media: Crash Course; Visualization and Storyboarding; Media Practices: The Moving Image; Sonics and Optics; The Digital Dark Age; Video Everywhere; Internet Artware; Advanced Experimental 3D; Handmade Cinema I-II; Graduate Production Studio; and Large Scale Cinematic Production.
Across FVNMA programs students benefit from interactions with visiting artists; access to state-of-the-art film, editing, and production equipment; graduate seminars, screenings, and performances; and unlimited admittance to the Art Institute of Chicago Art Museum (est. 1879) and on-campus galleries. Students also have access SIAC’s Gene Siskel Film Center, which regularly highlights films from around the world, along with student work.
In addition, SAIC MFA students can 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.
The MFA program culminates with a final project. Work will be presented in the SAIC Graduate Thesis Exhibition, the Gene Siskel Film Center, or other end-of-year events at SAIC. Each year more than 200 graduate students present time-based works, performances, and writings to 30,000 people.
Graduates from the FVNMA Department at School of the Art Institute of Chicago are prepared to pursue careers in animation, film, games, digital media, and more. As part of SAIC, FVNMA alumni enjoy a 92% employment or graduate school rate.
12. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
The College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Central Florida (UCF) houses the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), home to the Emerging Media Program. At the graduate level, the program has an Animation and Visual Effects Track.
This 60 credit hour program focuses on narrative film structure and the entrepreneurial aspects of animation as it relates to independent filmmaking, studio employment, and job creation. Program benefits include the opportunity to create an animation and/or visual effects thesis using techniques such as stop motion, 2D and 3D computer animation, and traditional hand-drawn; co-directing opportunities; and access to state-of-the-art labs and studios. This competitive program can be completed in three years, full-time.
Graduates of the Emerging Media programs at University of Central Florida are Animators, Effects Artists, Story Artists, Modelers, Visual Development Artists, Lighting Artists, Riggers, Technical Artists, and Texture Artists. Program alumni are employed with major studios and gaming companies such as Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney, and Electronic Arts (EA).
13. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
The College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University (OSU) houses more than 20 centers and institutes, 38 departments and schools, and over 2,000 faculty and staff members. The College provides more than 250 majors, minors, certificates, and graduate programs to approximately 19,310 students.
Among the many programs in College of Arts and Sciences are an MFA in Art and Technology, and an MFA with a Digital Animation and Interactive Media Track. Students in both programs have access to dedicated labs; state-of-the-art facilities; and collaborative spaces for producing animations, moving image art, interactive and robotic art, game art, and internet art.
The Art and Technology emphasis is housed in the Department of Art. Students in this program engage in project-based learning, while creating 3D animations, virtual reality, sound, and interactive installations. Course examples include Computer Animation; Digital Image Manipulation; 3D Modeling; Animation; Moving Image Art; New Media Robotics; Internet Art; and Art Games. The Art and Technology program culminates with a final project.
Housed in the Department of Design, the Digital Animation and Interactive Media Track consists of courses such as Graduate Studio; Exploration in Graduate Design Studies; Virtual Modeling; Aspects of Art and Technology; and Computer Game Art and Design. In the final year the program, students will complete two Thesis Writing courses, and two Thesis Project Development courses to graduate. Courses culminate with the Project Exhibition and Oral Defense.
Graduates of the Animation programs at The Ohio State University are prepared to pursue roles across industries such as entertainment, advertising, education, architecture, medical, and legal.
Program alumni are Animators, CG Generalists, Motion Graphics Designers, Mixed Reality Designers, Art Directors, Design Educators, Interaction Designers, Virtual Reality Designers, Freelance Artists, Multimedia Designers, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Designers, User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) Designers, Game Designers, and Visual Communication Designers.
14. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
The College of Humanities and the Arts at San Jose State University (SJSU) houses the Department of Art and Art History, home to the Art MFA with a Digital Media Art (DMA) concentration. This multidisciplinary program explores everything from computer graphics and interactivity to computer games. Students have the option to create an area of focus through 24 units of required electives. In addition, students may choose three units of specialized study in any area of art.
Other DMA MFA program benefits include exclusive 24/7 access to lab facilities; collaborative art and technology projects; and internship opportunities at major companies and studios throughout Silicon Valley. Consisting of 60 units of study, the DMA MFA culminates with the MFA Project, worth three units.
Across all Department of Art and Art History programs, students have access to state-of-the-art studios; courses taught by industry professionals; and internship and study abroad opportunities. Students also benefit from interactions with guest speakers from major studios such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Pixar, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Blizzard Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, and Hallmark.
Graduates of the DMA MFA program at San Jose State University are prepared to pursue leadership roles at major studios, top academic institutions, and any industry that utilizes animation, illustration, digital media, and games. To date, SJSU alumni have been hired at more than 135 studios and colleges. Examples include Disney Interactive, the Cogswell Institute, Sony Pictures, Blizzard Entertainment, Pixar, Animation Mentor, Cartoon Network, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, 20th Century Fox, and Zynga.
15. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is home to the Harry W. Bass Jr. School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology (Bass School). Founded in 1975, the Bass School houses the first arts and technology degree in Texas. Launched in 2002, Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) at UT Dallas today consists of BA, MA, and MFA degrees. ATEC students can also earn a PhD.
ATEC MFA students may specialize in Animation or Creative Practice. All graduate level programs provide advanced study in computer-based arts, interactive media, technology, digital media, and professional practices.
Other ATEC program highlights include guest speakers from major studios such as Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks; applied and experimental research in collaboration with instructors in varying areas of expertise; seminars and lectures presented by industry professionals; and portfolio and project-based exercises.
ATEC students have access to the following Bass School research labs and creative practice studios: 3D Studio; ArtSciLab; Creative Automata Lab; Cultural Science Lab; Emerging Gizmology Lab; Fashioning Circuits; LabSynthE; Narrative Systems Research Lab; Public Interactives Research Lab (PIRL); SP&CE Media; and The Studio for Mediating Play.
Students focusing in animation also have access to the ATEC Animation Lab, where they can participate in a simulated animated studio experience (SASE). Over two semesters, a crew of 40 SASE students will write, design, direct, and produce a two-minute CG animated short film. Examples of past productions include Bad Timing (2022), Octo Ninja (2021), Night Shift (2020), and Stargazer (2019).
Graduates of the ATEC programs at UT Dallas are prepared to pursue careers across industries and in areas such as 3D computer animation, film and television, games, modeling and simulation, virtual environments, and medical and scientific visualization. A variety of major companies and studios have hired ATEC alumni. Examples include Disney, Blizzard Entertainment, Cisco Systems, Texas Instruments, Gearbox Software, AT&T Foundry, id Software, JP Morgan Chase, and 900lbs of Creative.
16. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
DigiPen Institute of Technology (DigiPen) is a Certified Partner of SideFX—developers of the procedural 3D art software, Houdini. This tool is preferred by major studios that produce films, games, and projects for television. This innovative institute provides intensive programs for artists seeking a degree in art, design, technology, and engineering. Across programs, students benefit from technology-focused curriculums; interdisciplinary team-based projects that last anywhere from a semester to a year; courses taught by instructors who have worked on projects for Walt Disney Animation Studio and LucasArts; and the opportunity to study abroad at a DigiPen campus in Singapore or Spain.
For animators seeking an advanced degree, DigiPen has a Digital Arts MFA that provides intensive training in 2D and 3D digital art production. Students in this 60 credit hour program will already have formal training in animation, 3D modeling, digital painting, figure drawing, color theory, drawing, and composition sculpture.
Course examples for the program include 3D Concepts and Production; Organic and Hard Surface Modeling; Digital Arts Survey and Analysis; Conceptual Design and Illustration; Art Research Methodology; Character Design; and Art Production Process. Free electives and independent study provide opportunities for students to customize their pathway.
Digital Arts MFA students will complete two MFA Thesis courses, which begins with Thesis Pre-Production. This course lasts one semester. For the final two semesters of the program, students will work with a faculty advisor to complete the final Thesis Project. Throughout the program, students will also work in teams to create several games, films, and other productions.
Graduates of the Digital Art and Animation MFA program at DigiPen are prepared for advancement opportunities in their current careers or to pursue positions in their chosen area. Since its inception in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology has produced hundreds of accomplished animators, filmmakers, game designers, and other artists who have earned more than 300 awards and festival selections. DigiPen students and graduates have also won 230 awards for game projects and academic papers. And, to date, DigiPen graduates have helped develop more than 2,000 commercial game titles.
More than 1,250 companies worldwide have hired DigiPen graduates. Examples include Walt Disney Imagineering, Riot Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Warner Bros. Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Microsoft, Zynga, DreamWorks Interactive, Sony, ArenaNet, Google, Apple, Meta, Amazon Games, and Nintendo.
17. Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) is home to the Amelita Mirolo Visual Arts MFA. This 60-credit hour terminal degree program operates within a 13,700-square-foot graduate facility that houses individual private studios for MFA students, a lounge, exhibition space, and faculty offices. Students here 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 CCAD MFA highlights include small class sizes (the program accepts just nine to 15 students per year); the visiting artist series, which welcomes designers and guest artists who teach workshops and seminars, present lectures, and mentor students; and internship opportunities with nonprofits and businesses located in places such as Chicago, New York, Seattle, Oregon, Ireland, and Honduras.
Graduates of the Visual Arts (and undergraduate Animation) programs at Columbus College of Art & Design work in a variety of fields as Character Animators, Motion Designers, Television Animators, Storyboard Artists, VFX Animators, Game Artists, and Architectural Visualization Producers. Recent employers include Sony Pictures Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), Cartoon Network, Pixar, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks Animation, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Riot Games, LAIKA Studios, and Phosphor Games, and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios.
18. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) has an interdisciplinary and experimental MFA that allows students to focus in one or more areas of interest. Examples include animation, illustration, experimental film and video, comic arts, drawing and painting, and web and multimedia. MFA Students also have opportunities to work one-on-one with a mentor to set goals each semester, and work both collaboratively and independently in their chosen focus areas. With the help of mentors, students can choose one or more areas of specialization.
Other program benefits include access to state-of-the art facilities, classrooms, and private studios; opportunities to participate in events at art centers, galleries, and nonprofits in the Twin Cities; participation in the Master’s Trip to NYC, which features visits to art and design venues, creative agencies, and artist studios; and the option to complete a three-credit Teaching Art and Design Online Certificate (which counts towards electives). This allows MFA students to graduate with a terminal degree and a focused certificate.
During the MFA program, students may complete an internship and/or study abroad experience in places such as Japan, Italy, Germany, and the UK. Across programs, students have completed internships at places such as Nickelodeon, MTV, Massachusetts Museum of Art, and Walker Art Center.
The MFA program at Minneapolis College of Art and Design culminates with the Thesis Exhibition. Graduates are prepared to pursue a variety of positions and leadership roles in art, entertainment, and design. Potential job titles include Background Animator, 3D Modeler/Animator, Editorial Illustrator, Stop-Motion Animator, Film Editor, Pixel Artist, Special Effects Animator, Graphic Designer, Storyboard Artist, Character Developer, Inker/Opaquer/Checker, Director, Producer, Writer, Project Manager, and Arts Educator.
19. The New School's Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
In the 20th century, The New School became famous for housing courses in the creative arts taught by artists such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Martha Graham, W. H. Auden. In 1926, The New School was also the first American university to teach the history of film, and one of the first to offer college-level courses in photography and jazz. Today, The New School is the only university to house a design school, liberal arts college, performing arts college, and graduate programs and colleges under one roof.
Serving 5,755 students, design is the largest college at The New School. Known as Parsons School of Design, the school also houses a Design and Technology program with an MFA option.
The Design and Technology MFA at Parsons School of Design is a STEM-designated, studio-based degree that requires on-campus study. Consisting of 60 credit hours, the MFA features courses and studios such as xFab Lecture and Lab; Major Studio; Creative Practice Seminar; and Collaboration Studio. Other program features include opportunities to work on projects with external partners such as One Plus and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met); and creative collaborations with students in other programs such as Transdisciplinary Design, Data Visualization, and Communication Design.
All Design and Technology students can participate in the Parsons internship program and projects with external partners. Recent partners include Google, MIT, Panasonic, IBM, The New York Times, SXSW, Nokia, Intel, Samsung, and NYC Media Lab. Students in all New School programs also have opportunities to interact with and work on projects with professionals at places such as Apple, Siemens, Nickelodeon, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gameLab, Samsung, MTV, Rockwell Interaction Lab, Atari, UNESCO, OnePlus Technology, and Eyebeam Art & Technology Center.
The Design and Technology MFA program at Parsons School of Design culminates with the Thesis Studio, completed across two courses and 12 credit hours. Graduates are prepared to pursue positions in areas such as animation, 2D and 3D animation, game design, advertising, VR/AR, motion graphics, immersion experience design, digital filmmaking, graphic arts, interaction design, television production, mobile and application design, web design, software design, and media art.
20. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Arizona State University (ASU) is home to the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, which houses the School of Art and the Art MFA. Students in this program may complete projects in a discipline of their choice. Examples include animation, drawing and painting, intermedia, printmaking, and photography.
All MFA students have access to private, state-of-the-art studio space at Grant Street Studios. Located in downtown Phoenix, the facility is also home to several galleries and resources such as a computer lab and 3D print lab, printmaking presses, and a photography darkroom. Other program highlights include workshops, visiting artist lectures; and teaching opportunities.
The Art MFA program at Arizona State University culminates in a solo thesis exhibition in the School of Art Step Gallery, Northlight Gallery, or Harry Wood Gallery. Graduates of the program are professionals in a range of creative, technical, and scientific industries. Examples include animation and film, robotics, medical illustration, scientific and data visualization, games and game development, cinema and television, AR/VR, illustration, and fine arts.
ASU alumni hold titles such as Animators, Creative Director, VFX Artist, Multimedia Designer, Art Director, and Graphic Artist.
21. California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California
The College of the Arts (COTA) at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) is one of the school’s largest and most popular colleges. Housing six separate academic units (departments), COTA employs over 100 full-time and 150 part-time faculty members that serve more than 3,000 students. Departments include the School of Art; Bob Cole Conservatory of Music; Theatre Arts; Film and Electronic Arts; Design; and Dance.
The COTA School of Art at California State University, Long Beach received designation as a school in 2012. The school houses state-of-the-art facilities and top-rated work spaces and seven separate and customizable galleries for displaying, critiquing, and viewing student work. School of Art students also have access to international travel opportunities to support their work, as well as opportunities to interact with professional working artists.
Within the CSULB COTA School of Art is an Art MFA. This program has a concentration in Studio Art with an Animation Track. Course examples include Experimental Animation 2; Graduate Studies: Advanced Illustration/Animation; Animation 4; Computer Animation 2; Graduate Studies: Directed Studio; Writing for Artists; Graduate Studies: Image as Text; and Graduate Studies: Professional Practices for Visual Communication.
In the final semester of the program, students will take the Graduate Studies: MFA Project course with members of the student’s Project Committee. Upon successful completion of the MFA, graduates will have a professional portfolio of their best work. Program alumni are prepared for careers such as Animator, Art Director, Storyboard Artist, Animation Technical Director, Forensic Animator, Character Animator, Compositing Artist, and Illustrator.
22. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences (CECAS) at Clemson University (Clemson) is home to the School of Computing, which houses the Division of Visual Computing. Within the Division is the Digital Production Arts (DPA) Program, which provides a 60 credit hour DPA MFA. The program combines art and performing arts; computer science and computer engineering; philosophy and psychology; and graphic communications with coursework in animation, electronic games, and visual effects (VFX).
Of the programs required 60 credit hours, 12 are devoted to Digital Production Studio (DPA 8600), where students participate in group production work. Six credit hours of the 60 are reserved for the Graduate Research Studio course, where students may work on a team project or pursue an individual project or production. And finally, six credits are devoted to the Master’s Thesis. This is the culminating experience for the program.
Graduates of the DPA MFA program at Clemson University are prepared to pursue positions in film, animation, video, electronic gaming, and VFX. Program alumni have been hired at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Pixar, ReelFX, Electronic Arts (EA), and DreamWorks. Because the MFA is a terminal degree in Fine Arts, program alumni are also prepared to pursue university faculty positions.
23. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
The School of Art at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is one of the largest state art schools in Ohio. In existence for more than 75 years and housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School houses five divisions: Digital Arts, Studio, Graphic Design, Art History, and Art Education. Students in all divisions benefit from a student-faculty ratio of 15:1; National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation; study abroad opportunities at BGSU’s partner school in Florence, Italy; hands-on experience through internships with major studios and organizations such as Pixar, Disney Animation, and the Museum of Modern Art; and access to a variety of minors and programs at all degree levels.
Across all School of Art programs, students also have access to Graduate Assistantships; opportunities to work BGSU’s professional large-format printing studio; and the newly built Wolfe Center for the Arts. Within the Center are three state-of-the-art digital studio classrooms; a 20-seat Mac Pro OSX lab; a 20-seat HP (Windows 7) lab; and an editing lab with 20 Mac Pro video editing workstations.
The School of Art also houses The Media Center, which features high-dynamic range wide format printers; high-end digital A/V equipment for student checkout; 3D printing capabilities; and high-resolution scanners.
For individuals seeking an advanced degree in Animation, the Division of Digital Arts within the School of Art has a two-year Studio Art MFA at Bowling Green State University is a two-year, full-time program that allows students to specialize in Digital Arts (Computer Animation, Digital Media, and Interactive Media). The program requires a minimum of 60 credit hours, with 21 credits in the studio specialization, and 12 credits of studio electives.
MFA students will complete a body of work and accompanying brochure to be entered into the BGSU MFA Exhibition. This event is held each spring in the Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery in the Fine Arts Center.
Graduates of the Studio MFA program at Bowling Green State University are prepared to pursue roles such as 2D or 3D Animator, Motion Graphics Artist, Video Game Animator, Special Effects Artist, and Web Design Animator. BGSU alumni are routinely hired by major animation and game studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, and Epic Games.
24. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
The E.W. Scripps College of Communications at Ohio University (OU) houses the School of Media Arts and Studies (MDIA), home to the Communication Media Arts MFA. This multidisciplinary, three-year program is provided in partnership with the School of MDIA; the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies; and the School of Visual Communication. This allows students to Study in two or more areas. Examples include Animation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Video Game Design, Interactive Web Design, Music Production, and Data Visualization and Infographics.
Ohio University MFA students will receive hands-on training through collaborative and experiential projects. A required component of OU MFA program, projects may include practicum projects through Scripps College or the College of Fine Arts; projects in the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab; grant-funded faculty initiatives; or projects through WOUB Public Media—a broadcasting service licensed to Ohio University.
Other program highlights include opportunities to teach; professional internships and externships; and study abroad experiences. Students in the Communication Media Arts MFA at Ohio University will spend the final year of the program in two immersive Thesis Production courses. Graduates are prepared to pursue leadership roles in film and television, animation production, multimedia, and other related areas. Because the MFA is a terminal degree in the field, program alumni may also pursue teaching positions at colleges and universities.
25. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
The Department of Film and Media Arts at Syracuse University (SU) is part of the College of Visual & Performing Arts (VPA). Within the Department is a three-year Computer Art MFA consisting of 60 credit hours of study. Founded in 1980 by Computer Artist Edward Zajec, the program allows students to focus in a specific area through 12 credit hours of studio electives and free electives totaling six credits. Areas may include Computer Animation, Visual Effects (VFX), Gaming, Software Art, Sonic Art, Multi-Channel Installation, Physical Computing, and Electronic Objects.
Other program benefits include 24/7 access to computer art facilities; video post-production, audio production, and recording studios; a dedicated Apple MacPro workstation; video camcorders and field audio recorders; and a range of physical computing gear.
The Computer Art MFA at Syracuse University culminates with an oral examination and final project with presentation. Graduates are prepared for careers in all areas of entertainment. Program alumni can be found at major networks and studios such as Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Cartoon Network, MPC Film, Blizzard Entertainment, Tippett Studio, and Filmworks/FX.