Our 2017 rankings of the top animation programs in the Midwest. We define the Midwest as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 2% of schools considered)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Founded in 1866, the school is home to 3,590 students enrolled in more than 25 programs, offers several programs for aspiring animators through its Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA). Options include a BFA and MFA in Studio with a Concentration Animation. A Certificate in Studio is also available.
Students in the FVNMA Department have access to world-class resources such as the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. Specifics include The Gene Siskel Film Center—one of the country's premiere screening venues dedicated to promoting alumni, student, and faculty work; The Donna and Howard Stone Gallery for Film, Video, and New Media in the Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing, and The Video Data Bank—the leading resource in the United States for videos by and about contemporary artists.
2. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (top 4% of schools considered)
The Ohio State University offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations from which more than 66,000 students can choose multiple paths to focus on animation in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering. Paths in animation encourage students to explore courses in 3D modeling, 2D/3D animation, video game production, augmented and virtual reality, digital imaging, digital video, interactive visualization, interactive art, game art and design, Art Games, motion capture, procedural content generation for games, real-time rendering, photogrammetry and more at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students in all programs can work on individually-defined or team-based projects.
The Department of Art offers BFA and MFA degrees in Art with an emphasis in Art and Technology. It emphasizes the creation of animation, interactive art and experimental forms in the context of art making.
The Department of Design offers an MFA degree in Design focusing on Digital Animation and Interactive Media. This program emphasizes the production of creative research-based projects in the user-centered context of design.
The Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) offers BS, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a specialization in Computer Graphics and Game Design.
Ohio State introduced an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production in Autumn, 2017.
Students utilize state of the art facilities, equipment, and interdisciplinary expertise in our many special labs, including the world class Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).
3. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 10% of schools considered)
Columbia College (est. 1890) is home to more than 10,000 students enrolled in over 100 academic majors or programs across three schools including the School of Media Arts, the School of Fine and Performing Arts, and the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Media Arts is home to the Cinema Art + Science Department, which offers a BA in Animation, BFA degrees in Computer Animation and Traditional Animation, a BA in Game Art, and Minors in Animation and Game Art. The programs at Columbia College prepare students to work in video game production, television production, cinema visual effects, toy design, product design, and illustration and digital advertising, to name a few.
4. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois (top 10% of schools considered)
Established in 1898 DePaul University has a student population of 23,110, making it the nation’s largest Catholic University. The school offers 300 programs of study across 10 colleges and schools and four campuses. The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) offers BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Animation. A Minor is also available, as well as the opportunity to enroll in a double major or combined degree program.
DePaul CDM also offers a Game, Cinema and Animation Summer Academy for future animation students. According to the Academy, the weeklong program features “hands-on instruction using the latest equipment and technology.” Academy participants have the opportunity to focus on 3D Computer Modeling and Animation for Games and Cinema, Computer Game Development, and Digital Cinema Production. Animation students also have the opportunity to gain experience through the school’s internship program. Students have worked with Walt Disney Animation Studios, Richter Studios, WMS Gaming, and Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett.
5. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio (top 10% of schools considered)
Established in 1879, Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) is one of the oldest private art and design colleges in the U.S. The school is home to more than 1,300 students enrolled in 14 degree programs. Programs for aspiring animators include an Animation BFA with Concentrations in Animation/Game and Animation/Experimental. Minor options include Animation 2D and Animation 3D. An MFA program is also available. Students in this program have executed individual projects from animation and video to interactive design and illustration.
All students may participate in CCAD’s International Exchange Program, which highlights study at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China; Universidad Mayor, Santiago, Chile; Xi’an Fine Arts Academy, Xi’an, China, and Northumbria, Newcastle, England. Students may also study at CCAD-approved programs at Studio Art Centers, Florence, Italy, and University of Arts London, London. Graduates of the CCAD Animation BFA Program have landed positions at Cartoon Network, Electronic Arts, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks, Time Warner, Twentieth Century Fox, Sony Pictures Animation, and many others.
6. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota (top 15% of schools considered)
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) is home to 800 students enrolled in more than 20 programs across several departments. Established in 1886, the school is home to an Animation Department that offers a BFA in Animation and an MFA in Visual Studies. The BFA Program highlights courses such as Stop-Motion Animation, Character Animation, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Filmmaking, Storyboard, Sound, and Drawing. A required internship is also part of the program as well as optional study abroad experiences in England, Japan, Germany, Italy, and other places. MCAD students have interned at MTV, Nickelodeon, Walker Art Center, and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
The MFA Program is allows students to pursue creative work in areas such as Animation, Comic Arts, Filmmaking, Illustration, Installation Art, and Interactive Media. This program is housed in an all-MFA studio and gallery space.
7. Purdue University – Purdue Polytechnic Institute, West Lafayette, Indiana (top 15% of schools considered)
Purdue Polytechnic Institute (est. 1964 as Purdue University College of Technology) is part of Purdue University (est. 1869). The Institute consists of eight departments and schools that offer 68 academic options in six subject areas. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) offers BS degrees in Animation, Visual Effects Compositing and Effects Technical Direction. An MS in Computer Graphics Technology (MS CGT) is also on the menu as well as a PhD in Technology offered through the Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT).
The BS in Animation program focuses on six areas of animation including 3-D Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Rendering, Character Rigging (creating a digital skeleton) and Motion.
The BS in Visual Effects Compositing combines Animation, Visual Effects, and Video “to create highly graphical videos for episodic television and films, while the BS in Effects Technical Direction highlights supplemental coursework in Animation. The MS CGT offers several focus areas for aspiring animators including Computer Animation, Video Production and Visual Effects, Computational Art, and Virtual and Augmented Reality.
The PhD Program offers a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration, and Web Programming and Design. Students may also earn a BS CGT/MS Technology with a Specialization in CGT, which may be completed in just five years instead of six years or more if pursued separately.
Purdue Polytechnic graduates have gone on to work at DreamWorks, Walt Disney Company, Rhythm & Hues, and many others.
8. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri (top 20% of schools considered)
Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) is home to more than 700 students enrolled in around 15 programs. Established in 1885, the school trained students such as Walt Disney (who took Saturday Classes as a child), and multimedia artist Robert Rauschenberg, offers one program for aspiring animators—a BFA in Animation. The program allows students to spend a full year of “structured studio time producing a significant personal work.” Students also have access to internship and employment opportunities at studios such as DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Nickelodeon, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Titmouse Inc., Hallmark, Bazillion Pictures, and many others.
9. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio (top 20% of schools considered)
Founded in 1910, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is home 19,000 students, including 2,500 at BGSU Firelands in Huron, Ohio. The school offers more than 200 undergraduate majors and programs on the main campus and 22 at BGSU Firelands. The school houses nine colleges, including the College of Arts and Sciences, home of the School of Art. The School houses the BGSU Digital Arts program, which offers a BFA in Digital Arts and a BA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization with three Focus Areas—Computer Animation & Video, Imaging, and Interactive Multimedia. An MFA in Art with a Major in Digital Arts (Computer Animation, Digital Imaging, and Interactive Media) is also on the menu, as well as a Minor in Digital Art.
The MFA program is an “intensive, 60-credit studio degree designed to prepare students to become both professional artists in industry and university-level instructors while developing their own studio practice.” Both programs offer study abroad experiences and internships in more than 40 countries worldwide.
10. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 20% of schools considered)
Formed in 1982, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is home to 29,000 students making it the largest university in the Chicago area. The school offers 240 degree programs and 53 certificate programs across 15 colleges, including the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts (CADA). CADA houses the School of Art & Art History, which offers BFA and MFA degrees in New Media Arts and Moving Image. All programs feature animation coursework. An Art Minor is also available.
The College of Applied Health Sciences, Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences (BHIS) offer another option for students that might be interested in a career that fuses science, medicine, and animation. The MS in Biomedical Visualization features heavy animation electives such as Animation I, II, III, & IV, Modeling, Illustration, 3D Space: Animation, Advanced Illustration, Virtual Reality, Interactive 3D, and Visualization. The program also highlights Video Game Design and Development and Advanced Graphic Design courses.
11. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan (top 25% of schools considered)
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) was founded in 1906 and it is home to approximately 1,402 students enrolled in more than a dozen degree programs across 14 academic departments. Home to 285 students, Entertainment Arts is the school’s largest department, and it offers a BFA in Entertainment Art with a Concentration in Animation. All Entertainment Art students have the opportunity to customize their curriculum by taking coursework in other concentrations such as Digital Film or Game Design.
Graduates of the CCS Animation Program have been hired at major studios across the U.S. such as Sony Pictures Imageworks, DreamWorks Animation, and Disney ABC Television Group.
12. Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri (top 25% of schools considered)
With more than 26,000 students, Missouri State University (est. 1905) is the state’s second largest university. The school, which consists of four campuses, seven academic colleges, and one Graduate College, offers more than 90 graduate degree programs and 85 undergraduate majors leading to more than 180 academic options. The College of Arts and Letters, Department of Art and Design offers several programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include a BFA in Art and a BS in Electronic Arts. Both programs offer an Animation Emphasis.
According to the Department, “the degree pathways within the BFA in Art, Animation Emphasis are designed to develop students’ personal point of view within a body of animation work. Degree paths in the BS in Electronic Arts, Animation Emphasis are geared towards students developing a collaborative, senior-level project between at least two disciplines within Electronic Arts.” Students in both programs may participate in the internship program, the study abroad program, and the Japanese Animation Club.
13. Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana (top 30% of schools considered)
Ball State University was established in 1918 and it is home to 21,000 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across 10 colleges. The College of Fine Art, School of Art offers several programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include BFA and MFA degrees with an Emphasis in Animation. The programs, which explore traditional 2D and 3D Animation, Character Design, Storyboarding, and other topics, prepare students to work in Film and Television, Video Games, Advertising, Product Visualization, Medical Animation, and Architectural Rendering.
14. Kendall College of Art and Design, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan (top 30% of schools considered)
Kendall College of Art and Design, Ferris State University (KCAD) was founded in 1928. The school is home to approximately 1,214 students enrolled in more than 20 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. The school offers a BA in Digital Media that offers the opportunity to develop focused portfolios in 2D Animation, 3D Game Art, Digital Imaging, Interactive Design, and Video and Motion Graphics. Students may choose three credit hours in Imaging/Animation Prof. Studio or Design/Animation Prof. Studio, as well as supportive studio courses in Drawing, Digital Imaging, Graphics, Design and Color, and more. A required fifteen studio electives allows students to refine their degree.
15. Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois (top 35% of schools considered)
Founded in 1897, Bradley University is home to 5,400 students enrolled in more than 185 undergraduate programs and 30-plus graduate programs across eight colleges and schools. Slane College of Communications & Fine Arts is home to the Department of Interactive Media, which offers BFA degrees in Animation and Animation & Game Design. Program highlights include guest speakers, internship opportunities, and access to the Interactive Media, Animation Research, and Game Design Research Labs. Students also have access to the InterMedia Center and they have the opportunity to present a project at the department’s year-end show, FUSE.
16. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio (top 35% of schools considered)
Established in 1804 as Ohio’s first university, Ohio University is home to more than 40,000 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across 11 colleges. The E.W. Scripps College of Communications, School of Media Arts & Studies offers a Games & Animation (G&A) Program that focuses on Computer Animation and Digital Games. The program, which leads to a BS in Communication with an Emphasis in Games & Animation, consists of courses such as Modeling & Animation, Narrative Animation, Screenwriting, Compositing, Motion Graphics, Sound for Moving Images, Video Game Design, Media Arts Management (FILM), Video Production, Visual Storytelling, Game Development, and Media Content Management, to name a few.
17. Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan (top 35% of schools considered)
Eastern Michigan University (EMU) was established in 1849 and it is home to approximately 21,105 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across five colleges plus the Honors College. The College of Technology, School of Visual and Built Environments is home to the Simulation, Animation and Gaming Program (SAG). The program, which emphasizes Animation, Modeling, Lighting, Rigging, and Camera Work in 3D, gives students “a wide variety of experiences in their course of study, which provides a competitive advantage over many other programs that are local, national and international.” The SAG Program leads to a BS with a Focus in Simulation, Animation, and Gaming.
18. Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Illinois (top 40% of schools considered)
Indiana University was established in 1820 and it consists of eight campuses, including core campuses in Bloomington and Indianapolis, and regional campuses in Fort Wayne, Gary, Kokomo, New Albany, Richmond, and South Bend. The Bloomington campus (IU Bloomington) is home to approximately 49,695 students enrolled in more than 550 academic programs across 15 colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences is home to The Media School, which offers several popular options for aspiring animators including a BA in Media with Concentrations in Interactive and Digital Media or Cinema and Media Arts.
The BA Program allows students to customize their Media School experiences by selecting from a variety of courses that match their career goals.
19. Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota (top 40% of schools considered)
Dakota State University (DSU) was established in 1881 and it is home to more than 3,000 students enrolled in more than 35 majors and more than a dozen graduate degrees and certificates. DSU offers a BS in Digital Arts and Design with a Focus in Production Animation and Minors in Production Animation 2D or 3D. The animation programs at DSU highlight Digital Arts and Design and Production Animation coursework, so graduates are prepared to pursue careers in Animation, TV/Film Effects, Broadcast Design, 3D Graphic Design, and many others.
20. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio (top 45% of schools considered)
Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) was established in 1882. This independent college of art and design has a population of approximately 550 students enrolled in 15 majors in the areas of Art, Craft, Design, and Interactive Media. The school offers a BFA in animation that features an integrated curriculum that focuses on sequential narrative storytelling, methods of animation, conceptual development, framing and staging, storyboarding, animatics, layers, and motion and figure studies. Students can expect to take courses such as Advanced 3D Animation, Mapping, Digital Lighting, 2D/3D Compositing for Animation, 3D Texture, and Concept Development.
The CIA Animation Program prepares students for positions such as Animator, 3D Character Animator, Storyboard Artist, Independent Filmmaker, Concept Artist, and Game Designer.
21. Webster University, Webster Groves, Missouri (top 45% of schools considered)
Founded in 1915, Webster University is home to more than 17,000 students studying at campuses in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The school houses five colleges and schools including the College of Arts & Sciences, Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts, George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology, School of Communications, and the School of Education. The School of Communications (SOC) is home to the Electronic and Photographic Media Department, which offers BA degrees in Animation, Film, Television & Video Production, and Interactive Digital Media. Minors and Certificates are available in Animation Production and Interactive Digital Media, and a Minor in Film, Television and Video Production is also available.
Highlights for all programs include small classes, hands-on experience with equipment and resources early in the program, collaboration across disciplines within SOC and across the University, and internships and portfolio development.
22. Minnesota State University – Moorhead, Moorhead, Minnesota (top 45% of schools considered)
Minnesota State University – Moorhead (MSUM) opened in 1887 with just 29 students, five faculty members, and seven courses. Today, MSUM is home to approximately 5,836 students enrolled in 247 academic programs across five colleges and the Department of Graduate Studies. The College of Arts, Media and Communication, School of Media Arts & Design (MAD) is home to the Animation Program and the Film Program. Offerings include BA degrees in Animation, Film Production, Film Studies, and Graphic Communications. Minor offerings include Media Arts, Graphic Communication, and Film Production.
The Media Arts Minor offers 3D Modeling, 3D Animation, and Dreamweaver courses, while all majors offer the opportunity to study animation through core and/or elective coursework. Students must take 12 to 13 credits of elective courses. Just a few options include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Motion Graphics, Animation Studio, Motion Design, Video Production, and Dreamweaver. Animation BA students can expect to take core courses such as Animation Studio, Animation Techniques, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, MAYA, Computer Graphics, Video Production, and Motion Graphics.
23. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Indianapolis, Indiana (top 50% of schools considered)
Established in 1969, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is home to approximately 29,804 students enrolled in more than 250 degree programs across 19 schools. The School of Informatics and Computing (SOIC) offers several programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include both a BS and a five-year BS+MS in Media Arts and Science (MAS) with a Specialization in 3D Graphics and Animation or Digital Storytelling.
Program highlights include access to the Advanced Visualization Lab, a virtual reality theater, the Media Arts Research and Learning Arcade, as well as internship and study abroad opportunities. MAS graduates have landed positions at major studios and companies such as Blizzard Entertainment, Capital Records, Pixar, Wiley and Sons, and BET.
24. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois (top 50% of schools considered)
Southern Illinois University (SIU) was founded in 1869. When it opened, the school had around a dozen academic departments serving 143 students. Today, SIU is home to approximately 17,292 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across 11 colleges and schools. The College of Mass Communication and Media Arts houses the Department of Radio, Television, and Digital Media, which offers several programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include a BA in Radio, Television, and Digital Media with a Specialization in Digital Media Arts and Animation, and an MFA in Media Arts. The MFA program allows students to produce work in Film, New Media, Video, Sound, and Photography.
25. University of Montana, Missoula, Montana (top 50% of schools considered)
Founded in 1893, University of Montana (UM) is home to more than 13,000 students enrolled in degree programs at all levels across more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of Visual & Performing Arts houses the School of Media Arts, which offers a BFA with Specializations in Animation, Digital Filmmaking, Integrated Digital Media, and Sonic Arts. According to the School, the graduate program offers an MFA, which provides “an intensive, dedicated program in either Digital Filmmaking or Integrated Digital Media.” The Integrated Digital Media Track focuses on the areas of Animation, Interactive Digital Media, Digital Compositing, and Digital Image Design. A Media Arts Minor is also available.
Please note that though Montana is a Northwest Mountain State, it shares a border with the Midwestern states of North Dakota and South Dakota. Because we do not do rankings for the Mountain States and Montana’s close proximity to the Midwest, we have decided to include UM in our Midwest Ranking.