2021 Animation School Rankings

What are the top public animation schools of 2021?

Top 40 Public Animation Schools in the U.S. – 2021 College Rankings
1University of California Los AngelesCalifornia Top 2%
2University of Central FloridaFlorida Top 3%
3Massachusetts College of Art and DesignMassachusetts Top 4%
4San Jose State UniversityCalifornia Top 5%
5California State University-Long BeachCalifornia Top 6%
6Texas A&M UniversityTexas Top 7%
7The Ohio State UniversityOhio Top 8%
8University of Texas at DallasTexas Top 9%
9California State University-FullertonCalifornia Top 10%
10Florida State UniversityFlorida Top 15%
11Clemson UniversitySouth Carolina Top 15%
12University of Colorado DenverColorado Top 15%
13Purdue UniversityIndiana Top 15%
14University of WashingtonWashington Top 15%
15California State University-NorthridgeCalifornia Top 20%
16Arizona State UniversityArizona Top 20%
17University of FloridaFlorida Top 20%
18University of South FloridaFlorida Top 20%
19University of North Carolina School of the ArtsNorth Carolina Top 20%
20University of Maryland Baltimore CountyMaryland Top 25%
21North Carolina State University at RaleighNorth Carolina Top 25%
22New Mexico State UniversityNew Mexico Top 25%
23Edinboro UniversityPennsylvania Top 25%
24East Tennessee State UniversityTennessee Top 25%
25Ball State UniversityIndiana Top 30%
26Ohio UniversityOhio Top 30%
27Louisiana State UniversityLouisiana Top 30%
28California State University-Los AngelesCalifornia Top 30%
29Sam Houston State UniversityTexas Top 30%
30Middle Tennessee State UniversityTennessee Top 35%
31University of ConnecticutConnecticut Top 35%
32Bowling Green State UniversityOhio Top 35%
33Ferris State University Michigan Top 35%
34Towson UniversityMaryland Top 35%
35Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityVirginia Top 40%
36Evergreen State CollegeWashington Top 40%
37California State University – ChicoCalifornia Top 40%
38University of Illinois at ChicagoIllinois Top 40%
39University of Wisconsin – StoutWisconsin Top 40%
40Rutgers UniversityNew Jersey Top 40%

Our 2021 list -our tenth annual- of the Top 40 Public Animation School Programs in the US. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (Top 2% of colleges considered)
University of California Los Angeles

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is considered one of the leading arts and cultural centers in the western United States, hosting more than 1,000 visual and performing arts events each year and attracting more than 500,000 patrons. Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, the school serves nearly 45,000 students enrolled more than 125 undergraduate majors in 109 academic departments, and master’s degrees in over 80 academic and professional fields.

Among the schools programs is a BA in Film and Television with a Concentration in Animation and the UCLA Animation Workshop. Both programs are offered in the School of Theater, Film and Television (STFT), Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media (FTVDM).

The BA program requires courses such as Cinematography, Digital Media Studies, Film Editing and Screenwriting. The Animation Concentration consists of 20 credit hours of study. Students in the program will complete Film TV – Senior Symposium and a Film TV Internship.

Founded in 1948 by Disney animator William Shull, the UCLA Animation Workshop is a three-year MFA program that accepts just 12 new students each year. Per the school, the animation area “serves as an instruction and production center for both traditional and CG animation. This includes 2D and 3D character animation; experimental; stop-motion; cut-out; interactive work and more.”

Students in the program have the opportunity to work in the “state-of-the art Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio,” where they gain “hands-on knowledge about the latest CG innovations that continue to transform the animation field.” Just a few course highlights include Computer Animation for Film and Video, Animation Timing, Interactive Animation, Real Time Animation: Puppetry, and The Disney Feature: Then and Now.

Graduates will leave UCLA’s Animation Workshop with one completed traditional film, one computer film, one interactive project, and one thesis film. Program alumni have landed positions at Pixar and they have worked with directors such as Tim Burton, and contributed to films such as Monster House and The Simpsons Movie.

2. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida (Top 3% of colleges considered)
University of Central Florida

Established in 1963, University of Central Florida (UCF) opened its doors in 1968 as Florida Technological University with 1,948 students. The first graduating class consisted of 423 students, and the school granted its first doctoral degree in 1977. Today, UCF leads all universities in Florida in conferring more than 17,000 degrees a year. Serving nearly 72,000 students, the school is also the largest university by enrollment in Florida and one of the largest universities in the nation.

UCF offers 103 bachelors and 91 master’s degrees, 31 research doctorates, three professional doctorates, and three specialist degree programs in 13 colleges. The College of Arts and Humanities houses the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), home to the Emerging Media Program. Options for aspiring animators here include BFA and MFA degrees in Emerging Media.

UCF’s College of Sciences houses the Nichols School of Communication & Media, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), which offers an MS in Interactive Entertainment.

The SVAD BFA has two animation tracks: Character Animation and Experimental Animation. The MFA has one animation track: Animation and Visual Effects.

The undergraduate Character Animation Track is a two-year cohort that provides extended experience in working in multidisciplinary teams on realistic problems. Course highlights include 3D Textures, Artificial Environments and Effects, Digital Effects & Compositing, Look Modeling Workshop, and Visual Storytelling and Visual Development. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek careers in animation, modeling, rigging, and texture art in the computer game or film industries.

The undergraduate Experimental Animation Track “offers students the opportunity to explore expression through innovative, hybrid analog and digital practice,” says the school. “Students engage in classic, current, and widely varied techniques and mediums while making narrative or non-narrative creative works.” Course highlights for the program include Advanced Computer Graphic Design, Experimental Animation Workshop, Fundamentals of Interactive Design, Modeling for Realtime Systems, and Narrative Sculpture.

Students in the Experimental Animation Track “develop a unique creative vision, which culminates in the completion of a BFA thesis project and exhibition/screening.”

Students in both Animation Tracks will use industry-leading software on Mac and PC-based platforms to create projects, works, and portfolios.

The Emerging Media MFA, Animation and Visual Effects Track, is a terminal scholarly and creative degree suitable for students wishing to pursue careers as professors in higher education or as creative leaders in industry.

This full-time, three-year cohort program is designed to “emulate the professional studio environment, providing each student with an opportunity to assume an artistic leadership role. The principal emphasis is placed on narrative film structure and the entrepreneurial aspect of animation as related to studio and job creation.” Courses for the program provide “exposure to time-based media, performance art, video art, sound works, kinetic sculpture, computer-based art, and art using the Internet.”

Highlights include Animation and Visual Effects Production, Directing for Animation and Visual Effects, Editing for Animation and Visual Effects, Media and Music for Animation and Visual Effects, Technical Problem-Solving for Animation and Visual Effects, and Visual Development and Design for Animation and Visual Effects, Visual Effects for Animation and Live Action. Students will also learn about guerilla marketing and models of film distribution.

Courses for the MFA program are designed to give students the “ability to understand the collaborative function of a commercial studio.” Labs and studios are equipped with the same industry-standard software and hardware used in professional studios. 

Graduates of SVAD’s Emerging Media Program have been hired at major animation and gaming studios such as Blizzard Entertainment Electronic Arts, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Riot Games, Reel EFX, and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Some SVAD alumni have been hired at companies, government agencies, and other organizations outside of entertainment. Examples include DISTI, Lockheed Martin, NASA, and the U.S. Navy.

The MS in Interactive Entertainment provides specific skills in the area of 3D artistry, game design, and programming as well as essential skills such as problem solving, project management, and teamwork.

Per the school, “student production teams are mentored by industry trained faculty who provide instruction in” 3D animation and modeling, game design, level design, motion capture, postmortems, preproduction, rapid prototyping, software engineering, and technical design. The program also covers creative collaboration and legal and technical issues.

Students may choose between three specializations including Art, Production or Programming. Each specialization requires nine credit hours of study. Students in all specializations will complete a three credit hour capstone that will allow them to complete a large-scale project. A six credit hour practicum allows students to engage in supervised training with a research team, through an on-site internship, by developing a start-up, or with a faculty member on research in an area of interest.

Graduates have access to internship and venture opportunities as well as job interviews with media and game companies from across the country.

3. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts (Top 4% of colleges considered)
Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) began as Massachusetts Normal School in 1873 in response to the Massachusetts Drawing Act, which required all cities in the Commonwealth of over 10,000 residents to include drawing in their public school curricula.

Serving nearly 2,000 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students, today MassArt is known as “the Commonwealth’s art and design school.”

Dozens of programs are offered in areas such as Animation, Ceramics, Fashion Design, Glass, Illustration, Industrial Design, Painting, and Sculpture. Programs lead to the BFA, MFA, MDES, MAT, or MArch. Programs for aspiring animators include a BFA in Animation that begins “with assignments that build skills while also encouraging inventive and experimental work across a variety of media,” says the school. The program covers technology and workflow, the creative process, and research and context with “classrooms, labs, and studios that facilitate and enhance the work of animation majors.”

Students will study Character Animation, Digitally Generated Animation, Documentary Animation, Emerging Technologies, Experimental Video, and Stop-Motion. Course highlights include Advanced Digital Animation, Design for Animators, Motion Graphics, Puppet Animation & Fabrication, Toolbox, and VFX Alchemy: Pixels & Grain. An Independent Study course, Course Assistantship, and Internship are also part of the program.

BFA coursework “culminates in a degree project consisting of a sustained film as well as a portfolio and reel highlighting students' professional and creative objectives.” Graduates of the program have gone on to land positions such as Animator, Freelance Animator, Junior Animation Artist, Medical Animator, and Medical Illustrator.

4. San Jose State University, San Jose, California (Top 5% of colleges considered)
San Jose State University

San Jose State University (SJSU) was established in 1857. Today the school is known as “Silicon Valley’s Public University.” With approximately 36,000 students and nearly 4,300 employees, the school says, “SJSU is an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and California. Programs at SJSU are offered through eight colleges in over 250 areas of study at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

Animation options are offered in the College of Humanities and the Arts.  The Department of Design here houses the Animation/Illustration (A/I) Program and the Department of Art and Art History houses the Digital Media Program.

Two degrees are offered in the Department of Design: a BA in Design Studies, specializing in Animation/Illustration and a BFA in Animation/Illustration. The Department of Art and Art History offers an MFA in Digital Media Art.

The BA is a liberal arts degree that “provides instruction in A/I foundation skills, supplemented by studies in design, film, photography, and theater arts.” Students in the program receive “basic preparation for entry-level jobs in the entertainment industry or for entry into a graduate program or other fields of study.”

The BFA is a professional degree that “prepares students for careers in feature film animation, games, television, and any other media that uses animation and storytelling as a core communication tool.” The curriculum for the program covers color theory, conventional and digital painting, design, and perspective. Students will also study the principles of traditional and 3D animation, character design, modeling, physics of motion, storyboarding, and visual development.

Once students complete lower division courses, they will have the opportunity to specialize in their area of choice and complete an internship.

Graduates of the BFA in Animation/Illustration program have worked on films such as A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and Shrek and they have been hired at more than 135 animation studios, game design companies, film studios, and academic institutions. Just a few include 20th Century Fox, Animation Mentor, Blue Sky Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Cogswell Institute, Disney Animation, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, and Zynga.

The MFA in Digital Media Art is a three-year program of study. Part of the CADRE Institute, which “reflects the innovative atmosphere in Silicon Valley,” the program includes art history, independent study, seminars, and studio courses. Students will “work across the boundaries of” animation, computer visualization, digital video, electronic sculpture, multimedia, sound, and virtual reality.

As students make their way through the program, they will be monitored through a series of open faculty reviews and exhibition of works. A final exhibition in the University Art Gallery is also a requirement of the program.

5. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California (Top 6% of colleges considered)
California State University-Long Beach

California State University-Long Beach (CSULB) began its first day of classes on September 28, 1949 in a converted apartment building. Under the name Los Angeles-Orange Country State College, the school had 160 students and 13 full-time faculty when it opened. Today CSULB employs more than 4,000 people serving 38,000+ students.

One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB offers more than 300 programs across eight colleges. One of the school’s most popular colleges is the College of the Arts. Made up of six separate academic units, the College houses the School of Art, which offers a BFA in Art with an Illustration/Animation Option and an MFA in Studio Art with an Illustration/Animation Track.

While students in the BFA program have the option to choose the Animation or Illustration Track, they may take courses in both tracks and work with students in both tracks in the digital lab. Other program highlights include internship and study abroad opportunities, as well as visiting artists that present workshops and presentations in collaboration with faculty.

Graduates of the program “work in a variety of fields such as film and entertainment (gaming, animation and live action film), advertising, textiles, biomedical illustration, the gift market, educational illustration, architectural illustration, print publications (newspapers, magazines, graphic novels and books) and more,” says the school. Many alumni have also “distinguished themselves in visual journalism, in storyboarding for film and television, and in all aspects of editorial art as well as gallery exhibition.”

The MFA program allows students to customize 39 units of study based on their “preparation, interests and talents.” The program “centers on each student developing a strong personal and independent creative vision.” Students will “create a focused body of work in the form of an exhibition as the culminating experience of the degree.”

Also part of the College of the Arts is the Department of Film & Electronic Arts, which offers a BA and a Minor in Film and Electronic Arts. Although the BA program does not have a formal animation specialization, the curriculum includes animation courses such as 3D Computer Animation, History of Animation, Digital Arts Production (Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Interactive Media), and others. The 18-unit Minor allows students to group approved animation or other courses into a specialized track.

6. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (Top 7% of colleges considered)
Texas A&M University

Established in 1876, Texas A&M University (TAMU) is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. With the College Station campus covering more than 5,200 acres and serving more than 69,000 students, Texas A&M is also among the nation’s largest universities. The school serves an additional 5,200 students at branch campuses in Galveston and Qatar and at the School of Law, Higher Education Center at McAllen, and Health Science Center locations across Texas.

Texas A&M offers 133 undergraduate degree programs, 175 master's degree programs, 92 doctoral degree programs and five first professional degrees in 17 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture’s Department of Visualization, which broadly defines animation within “Visualization,” offers several programs for aspiring animators. Options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization.

The Visualization program started one year after the Texas A&M University Visualization Laboratory was established in 1988. The Lab and Program were created “in response to clear indications that digital visualization was going to play a highly important role in digital communication,” says the school. Today, “the visualization academic programs produce leaders in the fields where art and science merge.”

The BS in Visualization is a 120 credit hour studio-based program that integrates aspects of fine arts, 3D design, and digital technology into the studio experience. The program focuses on “the processes of creation, design and development of the visual experience.”

The MFA in Visualization (MFA-V) is one of the few programs of its kind in the U.S. This 60 credit hour, interdisciplinary program “is a technology infused visual arts oriented degree,” that helps students “master the use of artistic visual communication and expression through the combined use of digital and analog mediums.” Course highlights include 3D Modeling and Animation, Computer Animation, Digital Compositing, Facial Modeling and Animation, Form, Installation and Environment, Physical Computing for Art and Design, Rendering and Shading, and Visual Storytelling.

The MFA is a non-thesis program that also includes two Contemporary Art Studio Seminars, four hours of Professional Practice, 20 hours of Professional Study, and a Professional Internship worth three credit hours.

The MS in Visualization has thesis and non-thesis options. The thesis option requires 32 hours of study and the non-thesis option requires 36 hours, including a Capstone Project and Graduate Seminar. Course highlights for the programs include 3D Modeling & Animation, Design Communications, Digital Image, Image Synthesis, and Time Based Media.

Visualization graduates, also known as “Vizzers,” can be found working as creative talent for Hollywood’s leading animation and special effects studios. Just a few include Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, Reel FX, Rhythm & Hues Studios, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

7. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (Top 8% of colleges considered)
The Ohio State University

Established in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, The Ohio State University (OSU) is a land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant university that houses more than 200 academic centers and institutes, where research, policy-making, knowledge creation and student engagement happen daily across many disciplines.

Serving more than 68,000 students, the school offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations in 18 colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering offer multiple paths to focus on animation.

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.

Ohio State introduced an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production (MIP) in Autumn, 2017. The program is a collaboration with departments across the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Students majoring in MIP have the opportunity to take production courses in the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD), The Department of Art, The Department of Dance, and The Department of Theatre.

The MIP program teaches live-action and animated filmmaking. The major “focuses on developing students’ creative voices as they produce moving-image works across four areas: animation, experimental, documentary, and narrative.” In addition, “through the required Film Studies Minor, students engage with the entire culture of cinema, learning to think historically, theoretically, and critically about film.”

Course highlights include Cinema Today, Computer Animation, Concept Development for Time-Based Media, Group Studies in Digital Animation and Interactive Media, Motion Studies Through Hand-Drawn Animation, and Video Production. A Film Studies Minor consisting of 15 credit hours is required for the MIP Program as well as a Senior Project that allows students to “blend modes into a single creative project” during a pair of advanced studios.

Students in the MIP Program will also have opportunities to complete an internship, study abroad, and take additional production and screenwriting courses.

The 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. A BS CSE with an Individualized Option (IND) is also available.

Students utilize state of the art facilities, equipment, and interdisciplinary expertise in the school’s many special labs, including the world-class ACCAD.

8. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas (Top 9% of colleges considered)
University of Texas at Dallas

The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) traces its roots back to 1961 when the founders of technology company Texas Instruments established the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW). In 1967, the Center changed its name to the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies and to University of Texas at Dallas in 1969.

An official member of the University of Texas System, today UT Dallas serves more than 28,000 students enrolled in more than 140 academic degrees in eight schools. The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) offers programs that blend science, technology, engineering, art, & management (STEAM). Four options are available for aspiring animators: a BA in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication with an Animation Pathway, (BA ATEC), an MA in Arts and Technology (MA ATEC), an MFA in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (MFA ATEC) with an Animation Pathway, and a PhD in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (PhD ATEC).

The ATEC curriculum “provides exposure to arts, science, technology, history, design, criticism, new knowledge creation, and complex understandings,” says the school. Undergraduate students “acquire foundational skills in media studies, cultural theory, computer programming, and creative production.” Master’s degree students “deepen their expertise in an area and develop understanding in adjacent topics.” Students in the doctoral program “demonstrate mastery in methods of research, analysis, and creative practice, informed by history, theory, and aesthetics.”

The Animation Pathway “blends creative storytelling with technology to encourage experimentation in form, content, and medium and emphasizes 3D animation, which includes various artistic and technical disciplines such as modeling and texturing, character rigging, lighting and composition, computer programming and scripting, as well as character movement and acting.”

ATEC students have the opportunity to take a total of 15 credit hours/five courses in Animation, Design, Storytelling, and Games, to name a few. Courses such as Topics in Animation, Topics in ATEC, and Topics in Game Development are also available. Other program highlights include seminars and lectures, project and portfolio-based exercises, applied and experimental research, and guest speakers from industry giants such as Blue Sky Studios, Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar.

Graduates of the ATEC programs at UT Dallas are prepared to seek careers in animation and other areas of entertainment, as well as new and emerging fields such as medical and scientific visualization.

9. California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton, California (Top 10% of colleges considered)
California State University-Fullerton

In 1957, California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton or CSU Fullerton) became the 12th state college in California to be authorized by the Legislature. Since then, the school has awarded hundreds of thousands of degrees and it has produced more than 50 major league baseball players, along with artists and entertainers such as James Cameron, Gwen Stefani, and Kevin Costner.

Cal State Fullerton serves nearly 41,500 students enrolled in 110 undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs. Programs are offered in eight colleges, including the College of the Arts, which houses the Visual Arts Department. Through the Department, aspiring animators can earn a BFA in Art with an Entertainment Art/Animation Concentration. 

This 132-unit program requires a minimum of 81 units in art: The 12 units of studio art “Admission Requirements” plus 12 units of Art History and 57 units of art. The major is divided into 21 units of lower-division preparation and 48 upper-division units. In addition to the minimum 69-unit requirement for the BFA degree, students must meet the other university requirements for a bachelor’s degree.

Course highlights for the program include 3D Character Modeling, 3D Environment Modeling, and 3D Rigging & Animation, Cartooning and Caricature, Design for Interactive Art, Digital Narrative Illustration, Elements of Sequential Art, Lighting and Compositing, Motion Graphics Design, Video Art and Moving Image, Visual Development and Background Painting, and Writing in the Visual Arts.

Group Projects, Independent Research, a BFA Capstone and Internship in Art are also part of the program.

Through a partnership with Nickelodeon Studios, the Entertainment Art/Animation area has “developed educational opportunities to further the career goals of its students.” In addition to Nickelodeon, graduates of the BFA program have landed positions at Cartoon Network, Disney Feature Animation, Disney TV Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, Sony Games, and Sony Pictures Imageworks, to name a few.

Graduates have also worked on productions such as Alvin and the Chipmunks, Avatar, Ice Age 2, Spiderman 3, SpongeBob Squarepants, Superman Returns, and The Simpsons.

10. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Florida State University

Florida State University (FSU) was founded in 1851 and it serves more than 40,000 students making it one of the largest and oldest of the 11 institutions of higher learning in the State University System of Florida. The school offers baccalaureate degrees in 106 programs, master's degrees in 113 programs, advanced master's/specialist degrees in 14 programs, doctorates in 70 programs, and three professional degrees. The university also offers fully accredited professional programs in law (J.D.), medicine (M.D.) and nursing.

Programs are offered in eight colleges and eight schools in Tallahassee and at branch campuses in Panama City, Florida, and the Republic of Panama, and off-campus instructional sites in Sarasota, New York, and the St. Petersburg College University Partnership Center in Seminole. The College of Medicine has regional campuses in Daytona Beach, Ft. Pierce, Orlando, Pensacola, Sarasota, and Tallahassee. Some programs are available entirely online.

Programs for aspiring animators are offered in the College of Motion Picture Arts, home of the FSU Film School. Options include a BFA degree in Animation and Digital Arts and BFA and MFA degrees in Motion Picture Arts Production. The Motion Picture Arts programs allow students to learn both filmmaking and animation skills through core requirements and electives. Course highlights include 3D Computer Animation, 3D Computer Graphics, Character Animation, Compositing, History & Practice of Visual Effects and Animation, Lighting, Texturing and Rendering, Stop-Motion Animation, and Visual Effects.

The Animation and Digital Arts degree is a three-year program within a four-year degree that provides the opportunity for students to “explore the evolution of filmmaking and master the tools and practices of today’s industry,” says the school. During the first year of the programs, students will work in collaboration with other Film School students on foundational coursework. For animation students, following is a “deep dive into the tools and techniques of 3D animation.”

Course highlights include Character Animation, Character Art, Lighting, Texturing, and Rendering, Motion Picture Editing, Reality and Illusion in World Cinema, Story Development & Screenwriting, and of course, 3D Animation.

Other program highlights include the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals, the chance to make create four major films before graduation, one of which is an area-specific thesis film, and participation in the Torchlight Program.

The Torchlight Program gives FSU animation students who would like to freelance or start their own studios the opportunity to learn about current and emerging business practices of the motion picture industry. This non-degree-granting academic program “functions as a gateway between school and career by providing instruction in current and emerging business practices of the motion picture industry,” says the school. The program offers coursework in key areas such as Distribution, Marketing, and Motion Picture Financing.

FSU Torchlight students “have had the opportunity to present, market, publicize, promote and otherwise theatrically distribute a stunning array of independent motion pictures in a variety of markets throughout the United States and Canada.”

FSU College of Motion Picture Arts graduates are prepared to seek positions such as Animatics Supervisor, Animation Supervisor, Animator, CG Lighter, Effects Animator, Modeler, Rigger, Storyboard Artist, Visual Effects Coordinator, and many others.

11. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Clemson University

Clemson University opened its doors in 1893 as Clemson Agricultural College. When it opened, the school had just 446 male students. Today, the school serves a co-ed population of nearly 26,000 students enrolled in 80+ majors, 80+ minors, and 130+ graduate degree programs in more than a dozen colleges and schools.

The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences houses the School of Computing, which offers 10 degree programs and two minors. Programs for aspiring animators include an MFA in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA), an MS in DPA (MS DPA), and a Minor in DPA.

The DPA MFA Program is a professional degree program that offers a unique blend of instruction in art, computer science, computer engineering, graphic communications, performing arts, philosophy, and psychology, combined with courses targeted at production techniques specific to the animation, visual effects, and electronic games industries. Course highlights include 3D Modeling, Compositing, Computer Animation, Computer Games, FX, Lighting, Rigging, Simulation, and Visual Effects.

The MFA has a mandatory thesis with a DPA focus. Topics include animation, video game design, virtual reality, and visual effects, among others.

MFA DPA program graduates have worked on films such as Frozen, Hobbit, How to Train Your Dragon, Rio, and The Croods. DPA alumni can be found working at industry leaders such as Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks, EA, ILM, Pixar, ReelFX, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

The MS DPA has course only or thesis options that “center on the tools and programming of computer graphics topics including animation, video games, and virtual reality,” says the school. Course highlights for the program include 2D Game Engine Design, 3D Modeling and Animation, Advanced Animation, Audio Engineering, Character Animation, Improvisation, Physically Based Visual Effects, Virtual Reality, Visual and Foundations for Digital Production.

MS DPA students will have the skills needed to pursue employment as a 3D graphics programmer, software engineer, tool builder, and/or technical director in digital production entertainment. Interests may also include related fields such as 3D printing, commercial virtual reality, and visualization.

12. University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado (Top 15% of colleges considered)
University of Colorado Denver

The University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) began as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder in 1912. The school became an independent campus in 1973 and one of the four campuses of the University of Colorado System. What began in one building in downtown Denver has grown to more than 125 acres and more than 15,000 students enrolled each year.

More than 100 degree and 76 certificate programs are offered in 13 colleges and schools. The College of Arts & Media houses the Department of Visual Arts (VA) and the Digital Animation Center (DAC), which offer a BFA in Visual Arts with an Emphasis in 3D Graphics and Animation.

The DAC “provides the labs and technological core of the academic program, while creating a community of student collaboration. Most professional digital content creators work with as many as 500 other artists; the DAC is one of the only college level programs preparing students for this environment, focusing on individual artistry while simultaneously fulfilling the broader vision of a final production.”

The 3D Graphics and Animation Emphasis “is a competitive and rigorous four-year curriculum,” says the school, consisting of 120 credit hours, total. The program focuses on “preparing students to work in a wide variety of fields that use animated digital computer graphics (CG), including entertainment, film and television, gaming, medicine, and science.” Course highlights include Advanced Character Animation, Character FX, Dynamic Simulation, Environment Production, Preproduction for Look Development, Surface Modeling, and Texturing and Shading.

To fine-tune the emphasis, students are also required to take at least twelve semester hours of Visual Arts electives such as Digital Cinematography, Digital 3D Methods: Motion Graphics for Animators and Storyboarding for Cinema and Game Previsualization. An 18-month Capstone experience, which begins development in the junior year, is also part of the program.

To date, DAC student senior short films have been seen in over 300 national and international film festivals in 22 countries. The school says its student films have been seen by hundreds of thousands across the globe, winning more than 75 Best Animated Short awards in non-student categories.

13. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Purdue University – Purdue Polytechnic Institute

Purdue Polytechnic Institute is one of the 10 academic colleges at Purdue University (est. 1869). Founded in 1964 as Purdue University’s School of Technology, Purdue Polytechnic Institute enrolls around 12% of Purdue’s students (around 4,910) at the West Lafayette campus.

The Institute houses eight departments and schools offering a variety of high-demand technology disciplines leading to the bachelor's, master’s, and PhD degrees. Seventy academic options are available in six subject areas in seven departments. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) houses the Computer Graphics Technology Program, which offers a BS in CGT with a Major in Animation or Visual Effects Compositing.

Graduate options are available through the Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT) and include an MS in CGT and a PhD in Technology.

The BS in CGT with a Major in Animation focuses on six areas of animation including 3D Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Rendering, Character Rigging (creating a digital skeleton) and Motion. Graduates of the BS program have found employment at DreamWorks, Walt Disney Company, and Rhythm & Hues and eight of the school’s alumni were part of the creative teams behind 2014 Oscar winner Big Hero 6 and 2014 Golden Globe winner How to Train Your Dragon 2.

The BS in CGT with a Major in Visual Effects Compositing combines Animation, Visual Effects, and Video to create “highly graphical” videos for episodic television and films, says the school. Graduates of the program have been hired at DreamWorks, Walt Disney Company, and Rhythm & Hues.

The MS in CGT offers four primary focus areas: Animation, Games, Information Visualization, and UX Design. Students may specialize in any area through a range of courses such as Animation History, Technology and Technique, Current Topics in 3D Animation, Computer Graphics Programming, Game Development, Interactive Multimedia Development and Research, and Virtual Environments. Additionally, “real-world projects and research opportunities help students put theory into practice, building a foundation for future growth in their chosen discipline.”

Animation students will experience all key areas of the digital animation process, “preparing them for a growing range of technical and creative positions in the global animation industry, or as research scholars in the animation technology area.” Potential job titles include (but are not limited to) Animator, Digital Lighting Specialist, Rigger, Simulation and Visualization Specialist, Technical Director, and Technical Artist.

Note that students may 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.

The PhD Program allows students to create a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Data Visualization, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration and Web Programming and Design. Graduates of the program will know how to envision, plan and conduct research and development activities; identify, comprehend, analyze, evaluate and synthesize research; evaluate technologies and technology-related programs;  assess individual performance with, and understanding of, technology; communicate effectively and employ constructive professional and interpersonal skills; and function in one or more of the technology disciplines.

Graduates of the program pursue careers in the academic sector, entertainment, government, technology, and many other areas.

14. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (Top 15% of colleges considered)
University of Washington

Established in 1861, University of Washington (UW) serves more than 54,000 students annually. UW spans across three campuses in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell. The UW’s 18 colleges and schools offer more than 570 degree options across 300+ programs, with more than 1,800 undergraduate courses alone each quarter. Each year, UW Bothell confers more than 12,000 bachelors, masters, doctoral, and professional degrees.

Serving more than 1,500 undergraduates, the Paul G. Allen School Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) offers a Computer Science Program that allows students to tailor their course of study to their specific interests. The program is also highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and it allows students to get hands-on experience building software and hardware and choose advanced courses such as Artificial Intelligence, Computational Biology, Computer Graphics and Animation, Computer Networking, Computer Security and Privacy, Data Science, Human-Computer Interaction, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Robotics, and much more.

Programs lead to a BS in Computer Science, a BS in Engineering, or a PhD or Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in CSE.

In all degree programs, students can work with faculty and graduate students on research, collaborate with industry partner, and tackle complex design and implementation projects in capstone courses. Course highlights include Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Advanced Digital Design, Digital Sound, Data Visualization, and Artificial Intelligence.

Students have access to three main labs at UW CSE. All are engaged in research spanning the areas of animation, computer game science, graphics, vision, and visualization. Labs include the Animation Research Labs (ARL), the Center for Game Science, and the UW Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL).

The Animation Research Labs (ARL) is a multi-disciplinary effort that brings together faculty and students from UW CSE, the Departments of Architecture and Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), and the Schools of Art, Drama, and Music. The ARL is focused on advancing the state-of-the-art in animation through teaching, research, and computer-animated production in collaboration with experts from Disney Animation Studios, Bungie, Industrial Light & Magic, Microsoft Game Studios, Pixar, and many others.

Researchers at the Center for Game Science use gaming to solve grand challenges, crowdsource human problem solving to aid scientific discovery, and improve student interest and achievement in mathematics. The GRAIL group is known for “groundbreaking” research in 3D reconstruction, animation, computational photography, games for science and education, human shape and motion analysis, information visualization, Internet photo collections, and object recognition.

Graduates of the UW CSE programs are often hired by some of the world’s largest companies. Top UW employers include Amazon, Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, to name a few.

15. California State University-Northridge, Northridge, California (Top 20% of colleges considered)
California State University-Northridge

Founded in 1958, California State University-Northridge (CSUN) is one of the 23 campuses of the California State University System. Situated on a 356-acre campus in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, CSUN is a community of 38,310 students and more than 4,000 faculty and staff. Nine colleges provide bachelor's degree programs in 133 disciplines, 84 master's degree options, and doctorates in educational leadership and physical therapy.

The Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication houses the Department of Art—home of the Visual Arts Program. Here, aspiring animators can earn a BA in Visual Arts with a 2D Design, 3D Animation or Game Development Track.

The 2D Animation Design Track “provides students with a foundation in drawing, design and the essential software skills necessary to thrive in post-graduation careers,” says the school. Upon completing four lower division foundation courses, students take courses in 2D animation (flash/toonboom), pre-production and visual development, with optional classes in compositing and 3D computer animation classes. Students concentrating in the 2D design track spend their senior year focusing on their portfolios and/or collaborative group projects.”

The program prepares students for an artistic career in 2D animation as storyboard revisionists, in visual development, background design or painting, or as animators with a proficiency in flash and/or toonboom.

The 3D Animation Track offers four core CG animation courses with options in compositing, game animation, and Visual Development. Students concentrating in this track spend their senior year focusing on their portfolios and/or collaborative group projects. Career paths for 3D Animation graduates include Pre-Vis artist, character animator, CG modeler, texture painting and lighting artist, and compositor.

Students in all tracks have the opportunity to participate in industry and studio events, organized studio tours, and ongoing collaborative educational partnering with DreamWorks studios and Seoul Institute of the Arts. Students also participate in industry events and internships with Nickelodeon, Disney, Film Roman, Warner Bros., and others. Students in all programs have access to two award-winning student run animation clubs—the Animation Students League of Northridge and the Game Development Club.

Game Design “builds on 3D computer animation courses to a two sequence game production classes.” Students who complete the track will take optional animation production, compositing, and character animation courses. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions in quality assurance, level design, modeling, texture painting & lighting, and character animation.

16. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Arizona State University

Arizona State University (ASU) was founded in 1885 as the Arizona Territorial Normal School. Originally housed in a modest school building, ASU opened with just 33 students training to become public school teachers. Today, the school has four campuses and more than 70,000 students, making it the third largest university in Arizona.

ASU offers 800 fully accredited degree programs in 16 colleges and schools. Programs for aspiring animators are offered in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ School of Art and School of Arts, Media and Engineering, and in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Polytechnic Campus.

The Herberger Institute for Design, School of Art offers a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Animation and an Art MFA. The Institutes’ School of Arts, Media and Engineering offers a BA in Digital Culture (Graphic Information Technology) with a Digital Media – Media Arts & Design Track, and a Minor and Certificate in Digital Culture. The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering offers a BS in Graphic Information Technology with a Game Art and Animation Track.

The BFA in Art – Animation consists of 120 credit hours of study, including 45 upper division requirements. Dozens of electives are offered for students wishing to enhance the degree with experience in other areas such as game design. Course highlights include 2D Digital Animation, 3D Computer Imaging and Animation, Animation Motion Studies, Encounters with Contemporary Art, Professional Practices for Design and the Arts, Storyboarding and Narrative Sequencing, and The Art Experience.

Elective highlights include 3D Computer Graphics Modeling and Representation, Animating Virtual Worlds, Animation for Film, Computer Animation and Video, Digital-Physical Systems, Experimental Video Art, Fantasy Figure Foam Carving, Game Development, Game Engine Development, Graphics for Games, Guerilla VFX, Moving and Interactive Systems in Sculpture, Prototyping Dreams, Video Game Art, and Visual Effects.

Students will also complete an Animation Capstone that allows them to produce a “substantial animation project of their own devising,” says the school. Students may complete an individually produced short film in any medium or full-length film produced in collaboration with other students. An internship is offered as well.

The Art MFA allows students to select a focus from a range of media including animation, ceramics, intermedia, metals, painting and drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, textiles, and woods. Besides access to a range of focus areas, MFA students benefit from individual studio spaces at Grant Street Studios, professionalization workshops, teaching opportunities, and visiting artist and scholar lecture series.

The Art MFA program culminates in a solo thesis exhibition in one of the school’s art galleries including Harry Wood Gallery, Northlight Gallery, and Step Gallery.

The Digital Culture Programs in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering allow students to complete a wide variety of animation courses through electives and the Digital Media – Media Arts & Design Track.  2D Animation, 3D Computer Imaging and Animation, Animation for Film, Animation Motion Studies, Games & Play, Illustration, Motion Graphics & Animation, Stop-Motion Animation, and Visual Effects are just a few course highlights.

The Game Art and Animation Track in the Graphic Information Technology BS Program has five required classes: 3D Computer Graphics Modeling and Representation, Computer Animation, Image Editing and Manipulation, Introduction to Video Game Art, and Special Topics. This 120 credit hour program also includes courses such as Creative Thinking and Design Visualization, Digital Illustration and Publishing, Digital Video Techniques, Graphic Communications, Multimedia Design, Planning and Storyboards, and Web Authoring.

Students in this program will complete a senior project and a three credit hour Professional Portfolio Design and Presentation course.

Graduates of the animation programs at ASU are prepared for a wide range of careers in animation, game art, illustration, modeling, motion graphics, multimedia art, special effects, video game design, visual media, and many others.

17. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (Top 20% of colleges considered)
University of Florida

University of Florida (UF) was founded in 1858 by James Henry Roper—an educator from North Carolina and a senator from Alachua County. The small school known as Gainesville Academy opened with just a few students. Today, UF sits on a 2,000-acre campus with more than 900 buildings, including the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified building in the state of Florida, and it serves around 56,570 students. Programs include 30 certificates, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate programs in 14 colleges and schools.

Established in 1925, the College of the Arts offers fully accredited schools of Art and Art History, Music, and Theatre and Dance, as well as the Center for Arts in Medicine and the Digital Worlds Institute, which offers a BA in Digital Arts & Sciences (BADAS). Students in the BADAS program have the opportunity to choose elective courses from the Institute’s current offerings in Animation, Game Design, and Digital Production.

Animation students will learn industry-standard techniques for film, video game, and interactive media content creation, apply the 12 Principles of Animation to bring characters to life, and develop concepts and skills to create compelling stories through animation. Course highlights include 2D and 3D Digital Animation Techniques, 3D Character Animation, Creating Mobile Games, Digital Storytelling, Writing for Interactive Media, and Production of Immersive Environments.

Students in all areas have the opportunity work at LUMA at Digital Worlds Institute. The student-run digital media production group was founded with a goal of providing talented students the opportunity to work on real-world projects. LUMA offers creative services to members of the UF and Gainesville communities.

Graduates of the BADAS will have experience working in collaborative teams on media projects including digital storytelling, animation, and game design including serious and applied games. Program alumni have landed positions such as Animator, Character Artist, Character Modeler, Digital Storyteller, Rigger, Storyboard Artist, Technical Animator, Visual Effects Artist, and many others.

18. University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida (Top 20% of colleges considered)
University of South Florida

Founded in 1956, University of South Florida (USF) is one of the world’s top research institutions, achieving Preeminent State Research University Status in 2018. The school serves more than 50,000 students at campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota-Manatee. More than 180 undergraduate majors and degree programs at the graduate, specialist and doctoral levels are offered in 14 colleges.

USF’s College of Arts provides training to aspiring actors, architects, art historians, dancers, designers, and musicians. Within the College’s School of Art & Art History are several programs for aspiring animators including BA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Studio Art. All programs offer a Concentration in Animation and Digital Modeling. A Studio Art Minor is also available and a Certificate in Visualization and Design is offered in collaboration with the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications.

The 24 credit hour Studio Art Minor allows for studio experience in Animation and Digital Modeling, Sculpture & Extended Media, Video, and many other areas. The Certificate consists of 18 credit hours of study that blends fine and commercial art. 2D Animation, Live Action Filmmaking, and Video, Animation, and Digital Arts (VADA) are just a few course highlights for the program.

The BA and BFA Animation and Digital Modeling curriculum “engages students in the development of both 2D and 3D animation as well as the production of virtual 3D objects for fine art, film, games, and visualization,” says the school. “Combining cutting-edge technology with a foundation of the design process, craft, and studio art practices, students gain an invaluable skill set as they progress through their courses.”

Initial courses allow students to gain a foundation in the tools and principles involved in animation, digital imaging, and video. Intermediate coursework covers production workflows and experimental approaches and advanced courses help students develop “their personal creative voices as they produce self-directed projects.” Course highlights include 3D Animation, Beginning and Advanced VADA, Baroque and Rococo Art, Computer Animation, Concepts & Practices, Digital Modeling, History of Visual Arts, Intermediate Drawing, and Tech Essentials.

Students in the BA Program will complete “Extended Studies.” Options within this two-credit requirement include the Paris Program, Public Art, Museum Internships, Community Art, Artists Internships/Apprenticeships, and the London Middlesex Program.

BFA students will complete this requirement as well, which includes an internship or study abroad experience. A thesis is required as well.

The MFA in Studio allows students to focus their studies in one area or a combination of areas. In addition to Animation and Digital Modeling, students may focus in Ceramics, Drawing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture and Extended Media, or Video. All MFA students have the opportunity to work alongside “some of the most notable artists today at the USF Institute for Research in Art.”

Students also have the opportunity to travel to Miami art fairs, as well as to New York, Paris, London, and Venice. Students “frequently participate in and are awarded scholarships to prestigious residency programs including Vermont Studio School, Skowhegan, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Yale-Norfolk, and others.”

Graduates are able to use their experiences from the programs in a broad range of disciplines. Animation, Visual Effects, Game Design, and Filmmaking are just a few.

19. University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, North Carolina (Top 20% of colleges considered)

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) was founded in 1963 as America’s first public arts conservatory. The school, which opened its doors in 1965, became part of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system in 1972. Today, UNCSA serves nearly 1,350 students enrolled in dozens of programs through five schools including Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. Programs for aspiring animators are offered in the Filmmaking School and the School of Design and Production.

The Filmmaking school offers a BFA in Animation that consists of 121 credit hours of study. Students take 85 credit hours in Filmmaking, 30 in General Education, and six in Liberal Arts or Designated Arts Course.

Course highlights include Fundamentals of Screenwriting, Fundamentals of Sound Design, Introduction to Animation I & II, Intensive Arts, Animations Foundations I & II, Storyboarding I & II, The History of Experimental & Stop-Motion Animation, International Animation, Advanced Computer Animation I & II, and Computer Graphics I & II.

Classes consist of lectures, workshops, and individual projects, allowing students to add to their portfolios as they progress through the program. The third year consists of the development, pre-production, production, and post-production stages of a three-minute animation project. Students will also begin the development and pre-production phases of the fourth-year animation project.

During the fourth year, students will complete a five-minute thesis animation project and they will have the opportunity choose an independent study or professional internship. Students have interned at major studios such as Sony Pictures Imageworks and Stargate Studios.

Graduates of the Animation Program at UNCSA have established careers with Cartoon Network, Prologue Pictures, and many others top companies.

The School of Design and Production offers a unique MFA program in Animatronics—a hybrid if animation and electronics. Per the school, “the Animatronics graduate program harnesses opportunities presented by constantly evolving technology, preparing students for success in careers at the intersection of arts and technology.” Students in the program will learn to create animatronic figures and props through hands-on experience, and they will study engineering and infrastructure of animatronic figures. Practical courses in animatronics project management are also part of the program.

Course highlights include 3D Design, Sculpting and Animatics, Animatronic Design, Figure Design and Engineering, Production, and Prototypical Project Management.

During the final year of this three-year program, students will learn to design figure finishings including costumes, fur and wigs, with a special focus on maintenance, boning and costume structure. Additionally, students will become “adept at animatronic programming—a practice rooted in animation functions, range of motions and speeds.”

To enhance learning outcomes for students, guest artists, industry leaders, and seasoned storytellers will provide timely industry insight through seminars and workshops. The program will culminate with a research-based thesis project conducted under the supervision of a thesis advisor.

Nearly all Animatronics MFA graduates have gone on to start careers in their chosen fields.

20. University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland (Top 25% of colleges considered)
University of Maryland Baltimore County

Founded in 1966, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) serves around 13,500 students enrolled in more than 200 majors, minors, certificate, master’s and doctoral programs in seven colleges and schools. The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS) houses the Department of Visual Arts, which offers BA and BFA degrees in Visual Arts with a Concentration in Animation.

Students in both programs will study animation as “makers,” says the school, “taking a sequence of hands-on production courses through traditional media and digital tools, investigating the history of animation, and screening of contemporary animation artists.” Students “are encouraged and expected to develop their own artistic voice through exploration of the media and critical review of their work. In-class critiques of personal work are emphasized for the development of a framework from which students can begin their path as artists in the animation field.”

Advanced level courses in the animation programs incorporate technically intensive experiences in 2D and 3D digital, hand-crafted, hybrid, and interactive processes, and the “exploration of emerging practices within the animation field.”

The BFA program also includes intensive lecture, studio, and lab investigation of techniques, methods, and concepts. An optional internship is offered for both programs.

Students completing the Animation Concentration have the opportunity to produce a fully developed work at the culmination of the program, either individually or as part of a team.

Graduates of the animation programs at UMBC have become successful freelance artists or have found jobs at major animation studios, game companies, and government agencies. Additionally, many students continue their studies in graduate programs.

21. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina (Top 25% of colleges considered)
North Carolina State University at Raleigh

Established in 1887, North Carolina State University (NC State) began as a land-grant institution focusing in agriculture and research. Today, the school says it is a leader in “agriculture, education, textiles, business and natural resources.” Serving more than 36,000 students, NC State is also one of the nation’s largest schools, offering over 300 degree programs in 12 colleges and 60+ academic departments.

The College of Design, Department of Art + Design, offers several programs for aspiring animators. Programs include a Bachelor of Art + Design: Animation + Interactive Media, a Masters of Art + Design (MAD): Experimental Media Arts with an Animation and Digital Storytelling Area and a Minor in Art + Design.

The undergraduate animation program “gives students the opportunity to learn as they develop their creative portfolios through a wide-range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional traditional materials and computer-based processes.” These include “drawing and illustration, visual composition, soft materials construction, fibers, graphic and interactive narratives, motion graphics, visual effects, animation, web design, game design, interactive and computational media, virtual and augmented reality, 3D modeling, digital fabrication, and more.”

Animation students will take studios that introduce them to Principles of Storytelling, Animation, and Character Design through Sequential Imaging, along with courses such as Advanced Writing, Design Thinking, Digital Imaging, and Drawing. Students will have the opportunity to complete an internship and participate in the Art + Designer Showcase.

The MAD program focuses on Experimental Media Arts, such as Animation & Digital Storytelling and Computer Gaming & Serious Games. The program encourages students to explore the intersection of digital and material technologies to create interactive and engaging experiences that push the boundaries of storytelling, learning and play.” Course highlights include Coding for Designers, Digital Modeling, Digital Motion, Seminar in Animation, Sequential Imaging, Special Effects, Storytelling Through Films, and Visualizing Narratives.

Students in the MAD program have the option of doing a final project or a more theoretical and research-based paper or study.

Graduates of the animation programs at NC State are prepared to work on short and full-length animated films, in character development for animated films, games, and digital storybooks, and on interactive and experimental projects.

22. New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico (Top 25% of colleges considered)
New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University (NMSU) was founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College. The NMSU system, which consists of five colleges, serves more than 36,000 students enrolled in over 100 programs across seven colleges and a graduate school. The Las Cruces campus, which serves more than 14,000 students from 49 states and 89 foreign countries, is NMSU’s largest campus.

The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest college at NMSU, teaching every freshman and offering degrees to over 6,000 majors. The college houses 24 academic departments, including the Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts (CMI). The Institute offers a Bachelor of Creative Media in Animation & Visual Effects (BCM-ANVE) or Digital Filmmaking. A Minor in Animation & Visual Effects and Certificates in Graphics and Animation and Creative Media are also available.

The 120 credit, cross-disciplinary BCM-ANVE program has two pathways: 2D Production Studio and 3D & VFX Production Studio. Students in the program will study all aspects of digital filmmaking and digital arts, whether they are aspiring animators, directors, cinematographers, visual effects artists, or writers.

The CMI curriculum, which focuses on the art, craft, and business of storytelling, consists of courses such as 2D Animation, 3D Animation, 2D and 3D Production Studio, Character Design and Development, Digital Illustration, Drawing for Animation, Modeling, Motion Capture Techniques, Previsualization, Rigging for 3D Animation, Screenwriting, Sets and Environment, Visual Effects, and Writing for Animation.

Other program highlights include internship and study abroad opportunities, access to a state of the art digital projection screening room, post-production lab, animation lab, and production space, and free entry into the Las Cruces International Film Festival.

23. Edinboro University, Edinboro, Pennsylvania (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Edinboro University

Edinboro University was founded in 1857 as Edinboro Academy—a private training school for teachers. Today, the school serves nearly 5,000 students enrolled in more than 100 areas of study in five colleges and schools. The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is houses the Art Department, which offers a BFA in Animation.

Students in the program have access to state-of-the-art facilities and academic opportunities including 3D software Maya (Industry Standard Software) and 2D Cintiq Lab. They will also benefit from on-campus visits from alumni and professional animators, directors and storyboard artists as well as participation in the programs’ Animation Club.

All students will have the opportunity to complete an internship with a local, regional or national production studio as well as visits to CTNX Animation expo in Burbank, California, where they will tour high-profile studios such as Disney, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Sony, Warner Bros., and Universal.

Graduates of Edinboro’s Animation BFA program have found success in every area of animation. They have been hired at studios and companies such as Blizzard, Disney, Nickelodeon, Pixar, South Park Studios and Weta. Edinboro Animation Alumni have been credited on films such as Frozen, Night at the Museum, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Zootopia.

24. East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee (Top 25% of colleges considered)
East Tennessee State University

Founded in 1911 as East Tennessee State Normal School, East Tennessee State University (ETSU) serves more than 14,500 students. The school offers 140 academic programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels housed across eleven colleges and schools.

Part of the College of Business and Technology, the Digital Media Department offers a BS in Digital Media (BS DIGM) and a DIGM Minor.

The BS Program has concentrations in Digital Animation, Digital Game Design, Digital Visualization, and Digital Visual Effects. For aspiring animators, the Digital Animation Concentration provides the instruction necessary to “animate in any media/software with strong skills in one of several specialty areas of animation, such as character animation and special effects animation,” says the school. “Students in the animation concentration would typically be preparing for careers in 3-D animation, 2-D animation, motion graphics, character animation, and technical direction.”

Course highlights for the program include 3D Animation, 3D Lighting & Rendering, Character Animation, Contemporary Art, Effects Animation, High-Fidelity Modeling for Entertainment, Principles of Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Raster-Based Imaging, and Visual Effects Compositing. Students will complete several projects and a portfolio. here is also a Digital

The Digital Media Minor is designed for students “who wish to gain broad exposure in each of the four areas.” This 24 credit hour program is available to all majors. 

Graduates of the DIGM Programs at ETSU are prepared to pursue a wide range of career paths. Some of the most common include animator for games, movies of broadcast, cinematographer, game developer or level designer, modeler for entertainment, and visual effects artist. Graduates have worked on various animation, media, and game productions such as Alice in Wonderland, Avatar, Captain America, Halo 5, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Kung Fu Panda III, Lord of the Rings, The Incredible Hulk, and The Peanuts Movie.

25. Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana (Top 30% of colleges considered)
Ball State University

Ball State University (BSU or Ball State) was established in 1918 as the Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division. The school became Ball State University in 1965 to “acknowledge phenomena; growth.” Today, Ball State offers more than 300 programs in nine colleges to more than 22,000 students from across the U.S. and more than 50 other countries.

The College of Fine Arts at Ball State houses the School of Art, which offers 12 undergraduate programs and two master’s degrees. A BFA in Visual Arts/Animation is available for aspiring animators.

The program explores 2D, 3D, stop-motion, and traditional animation as well as character design, lighting, modeling, storyboarding, texturing visual effects, and a wide range of other topics. Students will learn “up-to-date animation techniques,” says the school, “and how to use industry-standard animation software,” such as Adobe Illustrator, Maya, Photoshop, Toon Boom, and Toon Boom Harmony.

In every animation course, students “will gain valuable experience with leading animation industry software.” Toon Boom, Toon Boom Harmony, Maya, Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator are just a few. Students will also have opportunities to participate in hands-on, collaborative projects with students and faculty in other courses of study.

During the final years of the program, students will create a demo reel or portfolio, and they will “learn how to market” themselves “in relation to today’s jobs.”

Graduates of the program are prepared for opportunities such as 3D animation for the film industry, 3D animator or modeler for the video game industry, 3D modeler for advertising, engineering or entertainment, animation web design, architectural rendering, medical animation, multimedia art, product visualization, and storyboard artist for the film industry.

26. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio (Top 30% of colleges considered)
Ohio University

Ohio University (OU) was established in 1804 as Ohio’s first university. Ranked as one of the safest campuses in America, the school serves nearly 35,000 students enrolled in more 250 academic programs in 11 colleges. The E.W. Scripps College of Communications houses the School of Media Arts & Studies, which offers a BS in Communication with an Emphasis in Games & Animation (G&A) and an MFA in Communication Media Arts.

Offered in partnership with the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies, the G&A emphasis area “encourages students to explore the production of computer animation and digital games while also emphasizing creative decision making, storytelling and experiential learning,” says the school.

Students may choose the Animation or Games core. Animation students have the opportunity to pursue animation for games, film/television, and VR/AR. In addition, the G&A area allows students to take production courses outside the games or animation cores,” broadening their skills while enhancing the creative process.” Students in the Games Area will have the opportunity to work through the entire game pipeline from level design to asset creation to playable games.

Course highlights for the G&A program include 3D Modeling & Animation, Animation I, II & III, Compositing, Digital Game Design, Game Development, Media Arts Management (FILM), Sound for Moving Images, Narrative Animation, Screenwriting, Special Topics in Games & Animation, Motion Graphics, Video Game Design, Video Production, and Visual Storytelling. Students will also complete a capstone course: Digital Games or Storytelling, Technology and Digital Media in Theme parks (Disney).

The MFA in Communication Media Arts is a partnership in the Schools of Visual Communication, Media Arts and Studies, and the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies in the Scripps College of Communication. The three-year program has an Animation Area that allows students to explore animation for educational, entertainment, and game development purposes. The curriculum emphasizes 3D computer animation, with classes in 2D and experimental animation. Ancillary courses/experiences also provide an understanding of the management and leadership roles in these industries, visual storytelling, and sound for moving image.

Aspiring animators can also learn to design sound environments for animation, games, film and video in the Audio/Sound Design Area and in the Game Design Area, students learn game design, animation, programming, sound design, and entrepreneurship.

A unique component of the MFA program is the required hands-on, experiential project where students will engage in collaborative projects such as grant-funded faculty initiatives, projects through WOUB Public Media, the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, or practicum projects through the Scripps College of Communication or the College of Fine Arts. International experiences and professional externships are also encouraged in this area.

During the final year of the MFA program, students will complete a thesis and they will have the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant and instructor.

27. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Top 30% of colleges considered)
Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University (LSU) welcomed its first class on January 2, 1860. Today the school is in the elite 1% of U.S. universities having land-, sea-, and space-grant designations.

LSU provides more than 235 academic fields of study in 15 colleges and schools to 34,290 students. The College of Art + Design serves nearly 1,200 students and it houses the School of Art, which offers several multidisciplinary programs for aspiring animators. Pathways include a BFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Digital Art and an MFA in Digital Art. The programs allow students to refine their skills in classes that provide a broad, integrated understanding of creative practice across 3D modeling, animation, digital printmaking, interactive systems, photo-based media, video, and the web.

The school says it teaches “the expressive potential of hybridized technologies and democratized tools to engage with diverse audiences.” Emergent forms are emphasized, and “student work may manifest through integrated media including animation, games, visual effects, networked art, robotics, physical computing, printed matter, performance, public intervention, audio composition, installation, and digital fabrication, among limitless combinations.”

Another option in the School of Art is interdisciplinary Master in Digital Media Arts & Engineering (DMAE). A 21-credit-hour Minor in DMAE is also available. This program is a collaborative endeavor with seven campus units at LSU.

Students in all programs have access to the Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research (AVATAR) Initiative and The Digital Art and Design Association (DADA). Both provide support to Digital Art students as they pursue “opportunities throughout the university and the broader community.”

28. California State University-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (Top 30% of colleges considered)
California State University-Los Angeles

Founded in 1947, California State University-Los Angeles (Cal State LA) offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities. The school, which houses the active TV, Film and Media Center, serves more than 27,000 students enrolled in 100 undergraduate academic programs in 55 majors and over 100 graduate-level master's, certificate, and credential programs, including two at the doctoral level. Programs are offered through seven colleges and the Honors College.

The College of Arts & Letters consists of nine departments including ART, Communication Studies, English, Liberal Studies, Modern Languages and Literatures, Music, Theatre & Dance, Philosophy, and Television, Film & Media Studies.

The ART Department offers BA, MA, and MFA programs that allow students to study animation, graphic design, fashion, art history, art education or the studio arts, including ceramics, photography, painting, printmaking, and sculpture.

Programs are “structured so that students have the opportunity to acquire an understanding of the variety of subjects encompassed within the visual arts as well as to develop excellence in a specific area,” says the school. Specific programs for aspiring animators include a BA in Art with an Animation Option and MA and MFA degrees with a Design Option (Graphic Design/Visual Communication, Animation).

The BA with an Animation Option is a 120-unit program that “provides a thorough education in the creative, practical and historical uses of animation. The option encourages an experimental approach to animation that combines traditional and contemporary techniques.” Animation majors can choose courses involving stop-motion animation, digital 2D and 3D animation, computer graphics, hand-painted abstract animation, story and visualization, as well as other art and film courses that galvanize their understanding of animation production, art-making, cinema, mixed-media, and narrative.

The MA is a 30-unit graduate program consisting of advanced study and practice in a specific discipline, including animation. “The degree provides students with an opportunity to gain stronger educational and experiential basis for a professional career and may be an interim step to pursue further graduate work in the field. It is considered to be a general degree, and is well suited for individuals that are seeking an advanced degree for teaching purposes.”

The MFA is a “highly selective” 60-unit graduate program designed for students who have “already achieved a strong direction and focus in their work and a high level of technical proficiency in a specific discipline in the Design Option or Studio Arts Option.” The goal of the program is to “develop students into professional artists capable of producing high quality work for public exhibition and presentation, or professional designers well-positioned to be leaders in their industry.”

MFA graduates will have the qualifications needed to teach at the university level, and are “prepared to take their place within the visual arts or design communities and to make a significant contribution to their fields.”

Students in all programs will benefit from The Getty Trust, which offers internships at the Getty Center. In addition, the Getty supports internships at Los Angeles area museums and visual arts organizations. Students will also benefit from access to Cal State LA Fine Arts Gallery and frequent visits by guest artists and scholars.

29. Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas (Top 30% of colleges considered)
Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University (SHSU) was founded in 1879 as the Sam Houston Normal Institute, which trained teachers for the public schools of Texas. Today, SHSU serves more than 21,500 students, making it one of the largest universities in Texas. The school offers over 90 bachelor's degree programs, more than 60 master’s degree programs, and 10 doctoral programs, including the nation’s first PhD in Forensic Science.

Programs at SHSU are in eight colleges, including the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication—home to the Department of Art. Here, aspiring animators can earn a BFA in Computer Animation.

One of the most popular programs in the Department of Art, the Computer Animation program offers a highly collaborative experience in 2D and 3D animated storytelling to a diverse student body. Students in the program take courses such as 2D Animation, 3D Animation for Interactive Games, 3D Computer Animation, Character Animation, 3D Modeling, the History of Animation, and Pre-Visualization.

In addition, all art majors will spend a semester in the W.A.S.H. (Workshop in Art Studio and History) program, which emphasizes contemporary and collaborative art practices. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue careers in advertising, film and television animation, game development, internet media, and publishing.

30. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Top 35% of colleges considered)
Middle Tennessee State University

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) opened on September 11, 1911 as one of three state normal schools for teacher training. The school serves nearly 22,000 students enrolled in more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degrees of study in diverse disciplines that prepare students for high-demand careers.

Programs are offered more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU houses the Department of Media Arts, which offers a BS in Animation and a 15 credit hour Minor in Animation. The School of Journalism offers an MS in Media and Communication.

Per the Department, “the Animation major is designed for those who wish to work professionally in animation and/or imaging, including character animation, video games, motion graphics, visual effects, simulation and visualization, and image manipulation. This program blends theoretical and hands-on approaches to traditional and digital animation. Students are encouraged to complete their education with internships in professional settings.” This 120 credit hour program requires a Minor in Art.

Students in the MS program (both the thesis and non-thesis option) may choose six hours of approved electives in Animation. Specializations for the program include Advertising, Health Communication, International Communication, Journalism, Management, Media Law, Public Relations, and Traditional/New Media.

Assistantships are available for MS students, as well as awards, fellowships, and other financial support.

The Animation Programs at MTSU prepare students for careers in character animation, motion graphics, visual effects, and many others. Students are prepared to create animated and feature films, as well as content for documentary films, educational videos, and television.

31. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Stamford, Connecticut (Top 35% of colleges considered)
University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut (UConn) was established in 1881 as Storrs Agricultural School, launching with just three faculty members and 13 male students. Today, the school has more than 18,000 faculty and staff members serving a coed population of more than 32,300 students across one main and four regional campuses.

UConn offers eight undergraduate degrees in 117 majors, 17 graduate degrees in 88 research and professional practice fields of study, and six professional degree programs (JD, LLM, MD, DMD, PharmD, SJD) in 14 schools & colleges. The School of Fine Arts houses the Departments of Art & Art History and Digital Media Design (DMD). Both offer pathways for aspiring animators.

The Art & Art History Department offers a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Illustration/Animation. The purpose of the program is to “prepare students to pursue visual narrative storytelling as an applied art creatively and professionally. Emphasis is on creative process, visual thinking, communication, authoring extended illustration and/or animation works, and understanding professional practice.”

Students in the program will pursue projects in “both analog and digital environments,” including 2D and stop-motion animation; book, editorial, institutional, and children’s illustration; character and environment design; comics, cartoons, and graphic novels; design for products; self-promotion, and more. All students have opportunities to participate in faculty-led Education Abroad Courses in Florence, Italy or London.

The Digital Media Design Department offers a flexible BA in Digital Media and Design (Generalist) and a BFA in Digital Media and Design with Concentrations in 3D Animation and Motion Design and Animation. The 3D Animation Concentration “gives students experience in all aspects of 3D animation production: modeling, lighting, rendering, animation, simulations and visualizations, rigging and compositing for visual effects.” Courses focus on experiential learning through group and personal projects that integrate analysis, critical-thinking, and problem-solving methods.

Students in the program have access to production facilities including include a new Motion Capture studio, render farm, and high-powered Cintiq computer lab. Graduates of this program are prepared to seek careers in animation, character modeling, environmental art, medial/scientific visualization, VFX, virtual cinematography, and many others.

The Motion Design and Animation Concentration begins with coursework in critical thinking, design, drawing, image making and story development. Courses are project-based and electives are available to help students personalize their path. During the final years of the program, students will complete several capstone experiences with clients in Agency, and they will develop a Senior Project.

Students will work with emerging technology, including touch-interactive screens, video walls, projection mapping, and VR equipment, through coursework and engagement in creative research projects. Students at the Storrs campus also have access to a film production studio, audio recording studio, motion capture studio, and Cintiq Lab.

Graduates of the program have established careers in 3D design/animation, art direction, compositing/VFX, graphic design, motion design, social media content producing, video editing and many others.

UConn Storrs graduates have obtained jobs (often within six months of graduation) or paid internships at places such as Adobe, CBS 2 News, and NBC Sports Group. Some have landed positions at smaller animation and design studios like Alessandro Weber Design, DW Advertising, Fusion 360, milk*, and XVIVO | Scientific Animation.

32. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio (Top 35% of colleges considered)
Bowling Green State University

Founded in 1910, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) serves more than 20,000 students across campuses in Bowling Green (main) and Huron, Ohio (BGSU Firelands). More than 200 undergraduate majors and programs are offered on the main campus, along with 30 at BGSU Firelands. Programs are offered through dozens of colleges, divisions, and schools.

Within BGSU’s College of Arts and Sciences is the School of Art, which houses five divisions: Studio, Digital Arts, Graphic Design, Art Education, and Art History. The Division of Digital Arts offers a BFA and MFA degrees in Digital Arts, a BA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization, and a Minor in Digital Art.

The undergraduate programs offer three Focus Areas including Computer Animation & Video, Imaging, and Interactive Multimedia. The school says that the Digital Arts program at BGSU is “one of the leading programs in the nation for studying digital arts and animation, focusing on creative expression using digital technology. Students are encouraged to investigate aesthetic and perceptual possibilities as they engage in alternative art discourses. Digital Arts courses investigate the theoretical, aesthetic, and technical aspects of the digital arts while providing hands-on experiences with state-of-the-art equipment.”

Students in the program focus on 3D animation, digital imaging, interactive art, video art, virtual environments and gaming, mobile web app development, digital painting, and hybrid forms of digital art. Other program highlights include diverse study abroad opportunities in more than 40 countries worldwide as well as facilities and faculty that “position students for successful internships and careers with organizations such as Disney Animation, Pixar and the Museum of Modern Art.”

The MFA in Art with a Major in Digital Arts (Computer Animation, Digital Imaging and Interactive Media) is an intensive, 60 credit hour studio degree designed to prepare students to become both professional artists in industry and university-level instructors while developing their own studio practice. Students have the opportunity to explore 3D Modeling and Animation, Interactive Multimedia Development, Digital Video, Digital Imaging, and Hybrid Media forms including 3D printing, Architectural Projection Mapping, Web App Development and Interactive Installation Art. All supported graduate students are provided with studio space and computers.

Though the Digital Arts MFA has three areas of focus, students also have the opportunity to “merge art disciplines and investigate new directions. Students are also encouraged to explore interests in media outside of Digital Arts. For instance, a student may want to explore the integration of drawing, computer programming, sculpture, theater, or film with their Digital Arts work.”

In recent years, BGSU Digital Arts graduates have been hired by companies such as Apple, Blizzard, Blue Sky Studios, DNA Productions, DreamWorks Animation, Epic Games, Friendly Software (Microsoft games), LogicJunction (interactive web), Rhythm & Hues Studios, Volition, and many others.

33. Ferris State University (KCAD), Grand Rapids, Michigan (Top 35% of colleges considered)
Ferris State University

Founded in 1928, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) is a college within Ferris State University. The school serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. KCAD offers a BFA in Digital Art and Design that allows students to work in one of two focus areas including Entertainment Art (2D animation, 3D game art, and concept and production art for games and animation) and Multimedia Design (interaction design for the web, apps, virtual reality, the internet of things and video and motion design animation).

Students in the BFA program will be able to develop portfolios in one or more of these professional media markets: 2D Animation, 3D Game Art, Interaction Design, Motion Design, and Visual Development. Course highlights for the Entertainment Art Focus include Animation & Motion Graphics, 3D Character Design, Imaging for Game, Animation & Film, Comic Media Design, Applied Music and Sound, Video, 3D Game Art, Interactive Multimedia Design, Storyboard Art, and 2D Character Animation. Students will also take Professional Studio I & II, and Digital Art and Design Thesis I & II.

Multimedia Design students will take many of the same courses and studios as students in the Entertainment Art Focus, including Digital Art and Design Thesis I & II.

Students in both programs will gain knowledge and hands-on experience via high-end equipment and on-campus facilities such as Cintiq Studios and a wide range of cameras, microphones, and lighting equipment, and via access to The Dow Center FlexLab, and KCAD Library.

Graduates of the programs will have the skills and experience needed to pursue careers such as 2D animation, 3D game art, concept and production art for games and animation, interaction design, motion design, and visual development.

34. Towson University, Towson, Maryland (Top 35% of colleges considered)
Towson University

Towson University (TU) opened its doors on January 15, 1866 as the Maryland State Normal School. By 1875, the school had enough space to accommodate 300 students. Today, the school sits on a 329-acre campus that accommodates close to 23,000 students, making it the largest university in the Baltimore area and the second-largest university in the University System of Maryland. Students at TU pursue 64 undergraduate majors, 46 master’s programs, and four doctoral degree programs in seven colleges.

The College of Fine Arts & Communication (COFAC), Department of Art, offers a BFA in Art + Design with a Digital Art and Design Concentration and an MFA in Studio Art. The BFA program has a 12-unit specialization in Animation. Required courses include Animation 2D, Animation 3D, Animation Studio, and Photo Imaging – Motion.

Students in the program gain practical expertise, as well as creative insight, while problem solving in a variety of digital contexts. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in animation, broadcast design, digital illustration, digital imaging, interactive design, multimedia design, or web design.

The MFA is designed for students who wish to pursue art as a career or become a college-level instructor. The program consists of professional study in animation, digital media, graphic design, illustration, interactive media design, interrelated media, jewelry, metalsmithing, painting, printmaking, photography, and sculpture. Students will develop research and writing skills and they will have the opportunity to focus on a specific area of study “while also being able to choose from a wide variety of learning experiences.”

Graduate seminars and weekly critiques are part of the program as well as assigned studio spaces for full-time students.

35. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia (Top 40% of colleges considered)
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) officially opened on October 1, 1872 under the name Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. Today, with a 2,600-acre main campus, educational and research facilities across the state, a study-abroad site in Switzerland, and a 1,800-acre agriculture research farm near the main campus, the school serves more than 36,000 students enrolled in 280 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral majors nine colleges and a graduate school.

The College of Architecture and Urban Studies houses the School of Visual Arts (SOVA), which offers BFA and MFA degrees in Creative Technologies (CT).

Students in this 120 credit hour CT BFA program will take courses in areas such as 3D Animation and Modeling, Digital Painting, Digital Video, and Visual Effects, and Digital Painting. Course highlights include 3D Computer Animation, Computer Animation Studio, Digital Photography, Drawing, and New Media Art. Students may also choose a Plan of Study from the following: Immersive Virtual Environments, Code and Form, and Moving Image. All Plans offer animation coursework.

Immersive Virtual Environments students will take Topics in Computer Animation (Character Modeling), Topics in Computer Animation (Character Animation), Topics in Computer Animation (Video Game Design), and one other 3500 or 3600-level art course.

Code and Form consists of Topics in Computer Animation (Processing), Topics in Digital Art + Design (Multimedia Studio Max/MSP), Intermediate Sculpture, and one other 3500- or 3600-level art course.

Moving Image consists of Topics in New Media Art (Digital Video), Topics in New Media Art (2D Motion Graphics), Topics in New Media Art (Digital Illustration), and one other 3500, 3600 or 3700-level art course.

The MFA in Creative Technologies is a terminal degree program that “prepares students to use digital and new media technology to create, present, communicate, and shape information and imagery,” says the school. The program, which “focuses on creative practice at the intersections of digital technology and artistic exploration,” allows MFA students to design a specific program of study that fits their individual interests.

Students in this 60 credit hour program will have the opportunity to develop original work in 3D animation, creative coding, digital imaging, installation, motion graphics, interactive multi-media design, simulation, sound and imaging, spatial interactivity, video art, virtual environments, web design, and more. SOVA also “strategically” leverages “projects and research opportunities spearheaded by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, located at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech.”

A thesis is required to graduate from the MFA program (12 credit hours) and students can complete up to 15 credit hours in field studies and internships.

SOVA Creative Technologies graduates go on to pursue careers in animation, film, fine arts, gaming,  motion graphics, video art or production, virtual reality, and others. Some graduates will also pursue graduate programs in these fields.

36. Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington (Top 40% of colleges considered)
Evergreen State College

Founded in 1967, Evergreen State College is as public liberal arts college that serves more than 2,200 students enrolled in more than 60 fields of study. Students at Evergreen also have the opportunity to design their own degree or select one of 11 curated paths of study. Undergraduate programs lead to a BA, BS or BAS.

Curated Pathways for aspiring animators could include Mathematical, Physical, and Computer Science, Media Arts and Studies, and Visual Arts. Work within a Path culminates in a major project, capstone, or thesis. Students can also combine their studies in a Path with an internship at a local non-profit, business, or government agency.

Fields of study for aspiring animators could include Communication, Computer Science, Media Arts, Media Studies, Moving Image, and Visual Arts. Students declaring a field of study do not have to take any specific prerequisite classes to complete their bachelor’s degree. However, some offerings require knowledge of specific subjects, and the BS and BAS degrees have minimum science credit requirements.

Students in custom programs, curated pathways and fields of study have access to Evergreen’s Animation Labs and other production facilities.

37. California State University – Chico, Chico, California (Top 40% of colleges considered)
California State University – Chico

Founded in 1887, California State University, Chico (CSU Chico) has one of the highest graduation rates in the CSU systems and the lowest average student debt amounts in the U.S. Located just a few hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, CSU Chico serves 16,600 students enrolled in over 300 undergraduate and graduate academic programs. These include 70 undergraduate majors in the liberal arts and in professional and technical areas. Programs are offered in seven colleges, five schools, and 29 centers and institutes.

For aspiring animators, the College of Humanities & Fine Arts (HFA), Department of Department of Art & Art History offers a BFA with an Emphasis in Digital Media. The College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management offers a BS in Computer Animation and Game Development (BS CAGD) and a Minor in Applied Computer Graphics.

The Minor requires Computer-Assisted Art, Concept Design & Storyboarding, and Digital Photography. Students may also select three units from any CAGD courses and nine units from upper-division CAGD courses.

The Digital Media Emphasis has three areas of focus to “help students establish a professional art practice,” expand their skill sets, and “create a cohesive portfolio while investigating technical, conceptual, and aesthetic questions,” says the school. Areas include Digital Illustration, Fine Arts, and Time-Based Media. Digital Illustration covers storytelling and using digital software and tools. Fine Arts covers drawing, painting and other areas of fine art as well as new and traditional media.

In Time-Based Media, students will “explore the art of the moving image using a wide range of techniques, with an emphasis on experimental digital filmmaking, hand-drawn, and computer-assisted 2D and stop-motion animation.” They will “examine contemporary and historical works and create time-based art that challenges conventional thinking, inspires action, and elicits emotion.”

Students in all Digital Media focus areas have the opportunity to customize their course choices to meet their creative needs. They also have access to a “contemporary digital studio, which includes cutting-edge software, Cintiq monitors, fine art printers, 3D printers, vinyl cutters, and more.”

The BS in CAGD program is “designed to guide students through curricula which will enhance their knowledge of industry standards and expectations through hands-on experience, collaboration on group projects, and skill development in 3D modeling, 3D animation, rigging, digital lighting and texturing, game design and development, game scripting, motion capture and digital art.”

Course highlights for the program include 3D Character Modeling, 3D Character Rigging, 3D Computer Modeling, Advanced Animation Production, Computer-Assisted Art, Concept Design & Storyboarding, Digital Animation, Digital Lighting and Texturing, Digital Modeling, Motion Capture for Games, and Video Game Design.

BS in CAGD graduates are prepared for careers in animation, business, commercials, film, television, video games, web design, and more.

38. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (Top 40% of colleges considered)
University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) was formed in 1982 “by the consolidation of two U. of I. campuses: the Medical Center campus, which dates back to the 19th century and the comprehensive Chicago Circle campus which replaced, in 1965, the two-year undergraduate Navy Pier campus that opened in 1946 to educate returning veterans.” Today, with more than 33,500 students enrolled in more than 260 degree programs and 66 certificate programs in 15 colleges, UIC is the largest university in the Chicago area. 

The College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts (CADA) houses the School of Art and Art History, Department of Art, which offers a BFA in Art and MFA in New Media Art. All programs offer the opportunity to choose animation courses. Course highlights include Space I: Modeling, and Space II: Animation, Topics in Motion Graphics I & II, Topics in New Media Arts, and Topics in Video.  

Students in these courses and others will be introduced to film/video animation techniques including cycles, direct animation, metamorphosis, special graphic processes and effects, and stop-motion. Courses also cover 3D modeling, computer animation, and lighting, rendering and texturing. Students will have the opportunity to create artwork with new media technologies, interactive installations, software, and of course, computer animation. An internship is also part of the program.

The College of Applied Health Sciences’ Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences (BHIS) offers another option for students that may be interested in a career that fuses science, medicine, and animation. The MS in Biomedical Visualization (BVIS) offers animation electives such as Interactive 3D, Modeling, Animation I &II, Illustration Techniques, Medical Legal Visualization, and Graphic Design.

BVIS is the largest and second oldest of four accredited programs of its kind in North America. Graduates of the BVIS program become highly skilled science visualization specialists in medical illustration, animation, interactive media, gaming, haptics, and virtual and augmented reality, working on the frontiers of discovery.

39. University of Wisconsin – Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin (Top 40% of colleges considered)
University of Wisconsin – Stout

Established in 1891 as The Stout Manual Training School, University of Wisconsin – Stout (UW-Stout) is a polytechnic university that serves nearly 8,000 students. One of just 125 polytechnic universities in the U.S. and the only one in Wisconsin, UW-Stout offers 49 undergraduate and 22 graduate degrees, many of which are unique to Stout or are not offered elsewhere in the Midwest.

Programs are offered in three colleges and six schools. The School of Art And Design offers a BFA in Entertainment Design with a Concentration in Animation and an MFA in Design.

The 120 credit hour program “encompasses disciplines related to the entertainment and media industry, particularly, animation,” says the school. Students in the program will “acquire hands on experience using industry standard tools, software and creative techniques, as well as, be encouraged to participate in research projects, co-ops or study abroad programs.” The “required mid-program portfolio review offers entertainment design students an assessment of their progress in foundation art and design courses.”

Other program highlights include studios such as Animation Studio, Comics & Sequential Art Studio and Digital Cinema Studio, access to extensive library resources along with the art and design department visual resource center, and the opportunity to present a final portfolio as part of a public exhibition hosted by the School of Art and Design.

UW-Stout graduates from this program hold jobs at a variety of animation studios, graphic design companies, interactive design firms, and in the health care industry.

Course highlights for the BFA program include 3D Game Art and Engines, 3D Modeling and Animation, Animation Studio, Comics and Sequential Art, Digital Cinema Studio, Graphic Design, Typography in Motion, and Video Production. The program prepares students to enter the industry immediately or to enroll in an MFA program.

The School of Art and Design’s MFA in Design is a cross-disciplinary, 60-credit terminal degree program that consists of study in the areas of Animation, Digital Cinema, Game Design, Graphic Design, and Interactive Media. Courses for the program are delivered through a variety of methods including on-site, online, evening, weekend, and intensive summer. Students in the program will benefit from 30 hours of focused curriculum credits and electives, experiential learning, and design-based research through collaborative faculty-student projects.

Graduates of the MFA in Design program will be prepared to pursue roles in the academic community and as design professionals and leaders.

Students in both the BFA and MFA programs will benefit from the two galleries housed in the School of Art and Design: Student Gallery and the John Furlong Gallery. These, along with other spaces on and off campus, provide student, faculty, and outside exhibition opportunities throughout the academic year.

40. Rutgers University, Camden, New Jersey (Top 40% of colleges considered)
Rutgers University

Founded in 1766 as Queen's College, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is the eighth oldest university in the nation. Serving more than 71,000 students from all 50 states and more than 125 countries, Rutgers is also the largest university in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.

The school has campuses in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick. The Camden campus offers 38 undergraduate majors and 29 graduate programs in five colleges and schools.

Camden College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Visual, Media, and Performing Arts (VMPA), which offers a BA with a Concentration in Animation.

Students in the program “learn to prepare two and three-dimensional art for animation films, gaming, video, advertising, architecture, medical research, and web design in the most comprehensive and advanced courses available in this region,” says the school. Course highlights include Advanced Computer Studio, Animation Production, Character Animation, Classical Animation, Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Computer Multimedia, Design for the World Wide Web, Environmental Design, Kinetic Sculpture, New Media Art, and Video and Film Production. 

Students in the program will complete Special Studio Projects, which allows them to work closely with a studio faculty adviser to develop and execute a specified series of art works. An internship is also part of the program and all students have access to three on-campus laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art networked computers and post-production units, as well as 2D/3D editing software.

Graduates of the Animation Program at Rutgers have worked in the 3D animation industry as art directors and technical directors for various companies and studios, such as BBC Earth, Blue Sky Studios, Digital Domain, Psyop, Ubisoft, Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, and more. In addition, they have participated making a variety of award-winning movies and games, such as Assassin’s Creed Unity, Frozen, Happy Feet, Ice Age, Sesame Street 3D, and Walking with Dinosaurs 3D.