What are the top animation school programs in Pennsylvania for 2023?

Top 5 Pennsylvania Animation School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh
2University of the ArtsPhiladelphia
3Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia
4Pennsylvania Western UniversityEdinboro
5University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia

Our 2023 ranking -our twelfth annual- of the top animation school programs in Pennsylvania. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) College of Fine Art (CFA) houses the School of Art. Serving around 200 students, CMU School of Art has an interdisciplinary program that explores animation, bioArt, game arts, computational and interactive arts, video, and other related areas. Leading to a BFA in Electronic & Time-Based Media (BFA ETB), the program features advanced courses such as Animation, Art & Technology, Digital Storytelling and Resistance, Experimental Capture, and Visual Music.

Carnegie Mellon University is also home to the Integrative Design, Arts and Technology Network (IDeATe). In collaboration with the School of Computer Sciences’ Robotics Institute (est. 1979), the IDeATe network manages eight undergraduate areas that can be taken as minors. This includes Animation & Special Effects.

Courses for the Animation & Special Effects Minor are led by faculty with expertise in Art and Robotics. Course examples include Animation, Art, and Technology, Art of Robotic Special Effects, Computational Photography, Advanced ETB: Video: Experimental Science Fiction, Technical Character Animation, and IDeATe: Introduction to 3D Animation Pipeline. IDeATe Animation & Special Effects course are open to all students. This provides opportunities for animation minors to collaborate with students from game design, film, digital media, and more.

Graduates of the ETB and Animation & Special Effects Programs have gone on to establish successful careers at major studios, networks, and gaming companies such as Sony Interactive Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Interactive, Zynga Games, Comedy Central, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), MTV, Paramount, and Blizzard Entertainment.

Founded in 1900 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Mellon University began as Carnegie Technical Schools. Today, the school serves around 15,800 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across seven colleges and schools. CMU also has more than a dozen degree-granting locations, and over 20 research partnerships in Silicon Valley, Australia, Africa, and Qatar. A private, global research university, Carnegie Mellon University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

2. University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of the Arts

The School of Film at University of the Arts (UArts) has three paths to study animation including a BFA in Animation, a BFA in Film & Animation, and a Minor in Animation. The School of Film encourages collaboration between schools, so students have opportunities to study design, acting, photography, and other disciplines.

The Animation BFA Program allows students to focus in 2D, 3D, Stop Motion/Experimental, or a hybrid focus path. The Film & Animation BFA explores many styles and genres in both animation and filmmaking. Examples include traditional animation, narrative, computer-generated animation, documentary, stop motion, and experimental. Across programs, students will have opportunities to work with professionals and faculty associated with major studios and networks such as Disney Animation Studios, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, HBO, Cartoon Network, and Netflix.

The curriculum for the BFA Programs combines a collaborative, hands-on teaching environment with internships at studios such as Augenblick, and study away experiences in places such as France and South Korea. Students will also participate in lectures, screenings, and formal critiquing sessions designed to evaluate their progress and work.

A major component of the Animation Programs at University of the Arts is the Professional Practices class. This multifaceted course, which takes place in the final year of the program, includes guest speakers, personal branding development, mock interviews, social media strategies, design, and resume building. At the end of the course, students will have the opportunity to display their final portfolio reels online.

The Animation Program at UArts also provides access to a 5,600-square-foot space known as the Center for Immersive Media (CIM), which allows students to explore other areas such as human-computer interaction (HCI), VR/AR, and performance motion-capture. In addition to CIM, animation students have unlimited access to computer labs and state-of-the-art animation, film, and stop-motion studios.

University of the Arts Animation graduates are Character Animators, Storyboard Artists, Effects Animators, Computer Animators, Art Directors, Clay/Puppet Animators, Directors, Scientific Animators, Forensics Animators, and Background Artists, among others.

UArts graduates have been hired at a number or local companies such as unPOP, Alkemy X, and Center City Film & Video. UArts alumni also work at major companies, studios, and networks such as Netflix, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Google, DreamWorks, HBO, and Sony Interactive Entertainment. 

Founded in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, University of the Arts serves nearly 1,500 students enrolled in over 40 degree programs in fine arts, design, media arts, dance, music, theater, and crafts. More than 20 minors are available and open to all students. UArts programs are offered in the Schools of Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, Theater Arts, and Graduate and Professional Studies. University of the Arts is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

3. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University

Drexel University houses the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, which lists several programs for animators. Options include the Animation and Visual Effects BS, the Dual Animation and Visual Effects BS/Digital Media MS, a Digital Media PhD, and a 24 credit hour Animation and Visual Effects Minor. The Dual BS/MS consists of coursework and projects in animation, 3-D modeling, interactivity, gaming, advanced digital design, and digital media history, theory, and methods. This program requires a minimum of 232 credit hours to graduate.

Drexel University has one of the nation’s top cooperative (co-op) education programs, so students in all degree programs have the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience prior to graduation. During the junior year of undergraduate programs, students will spend six months working full-time in the industry. Positions may be paid or unpaid. Dual BS/MS students will participate in three co-op experiences in the second, third, and fourth years of study.

The Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) Program provides instruction and hands-on training in 3D modeling, character design, scripting and storytelling, motion capture, compositing, storyboarding, and rigging. Students apply the skills they have learned to co-op positions in animation, visual effects, technical direction, and 3D at Cartoon Network, Pixar, Sony Studios, FuseFX, and MediaKraft TV, among others.

The Digital Media MS at Drexel University is a two-year program that focuses on research and medias applications. Areas explored include animation, gaming and digital media history, 3D modeling, and interactivity. Students in the program will complete several independent, industry-sponsored, student-created or faculty-approved projects. Past projects have focused on animation design, advanced animation production techniques, narrative comics, and video games, among others.

The PhD is a research-driven degree program that take place in an experiential learning environment. Besides entertainment, PhD students may conduct research in business, engineering, health, education, or other areas.

Graduates of the Animation/VFX and Digital Media Programs at Drexel University work in a variety of positions at major companies and studios such as Disney, Microsoft, XBOX, DreamWorks, NCSoft Corp., and Pixar.

Drexel University was established in 1891 as Drexel Institute of Art, Science, & Industry. The school serves approximately 23,215 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) and Digital Media Programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Arts & Design (NASAD).

4. Pennsylvania Western University, Edinboro, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Western University

The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Pennsylvania Western University, Edinboro (PennWest Edinboro) is home to the Department of Art, which provides programs in the visual arts at all degree levels. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Department houses dedicated studio spaces, several galleries with frequent exhibitions, and several student organizations. Students in all programs in the Department of Art also benefit from engagement with visiting artist and speakers on a regular basis and courses taught by accomplished specialists in their respective fields.

The PennWest Art Department has an Animation BFA Program that prepares students for positions in film, television, games, advertising, and other related areas. Course examples for the program include 2D Design, Animation I-IV, 3D Design, Drawing I-II, Graphic Design Software, and 4D Design. 

Animation BFA students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and software such Maya and the 2D Cintiq Lab, the Animation Club, and the internship program, which provides opportunities to work with local, regional, and national production studios. In addition, the Animation Program welcomes professional animators, storyboard artists, and directors to the campus to present talks to students about the industry. Students will also have opportunities to travel to animation conferences and festivals in Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto, and tour major studios such as DreamWorks, Sony, Disney, Warner Bros, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, Nickelodeon, and Universal.

Graduates of the Animation BFA Program at PennWest Edinboro are Animators, Storyboard Artists, Visual Effects (VFX) Artists, Directors, Character Designers, and Modelers. Program alumni have been hired at major studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Disney, and Blizzard Entertainment.

Pennsylvania Western University, Edinboro has campuses in Clarion and Edinboro, Pennsylvania, and California. Dating back 165 years, the school serves 12,800 students, making it the second largest university in Western Pennsylvania. PennWest provides hundreds of programs across its three campuses and the Global Online Division. PennWest Edinboro is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

5. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania

Stuart Weitzman School of Design at University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) houses the undergraduate program in Fine Arts and Design (FNAR) with an interdisciplinary major in FNAR. The FNAR Major combines seminar courses, studio instruction, and the visiting artist lecture series. Coursework for the program allows students to study animation, 3D modeling, digital design, and more. Course examples include Mixed Media Animation, Hand-Drawn Computer Animation, Environmental Animation, Computer Animation, Digital Figure Modeling, 3D Computer Modeling, Advanced 3D Modeling, Art, Design and Digital Culture, and Cinema Production.

Another pathway to study animation is the Digital Media Design (DMD) Program. Launched in 1998, this interdisciplinary program allows for study in animation, games, interactive technologies, computer graphics, and the design of virtual reality design. Course examples include Computer Animation, Drawing Investigations, Interactive Computer Graphics, Advanced Rendering, and 3D Computer Modeling. Housed in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), the DMD Program leads to a Bachelor’s in Engineering and Science (BSE) with DMD Mahor.

SEAS also houses the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), which has a Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT) Engineering MS (MSE) Program. Established in 2004, this interdisciplinary program provides opportunities to specialize in Animation or Animation and Simulation Technology. Course examples for the program include Physically-Based Animation, Computer Animation, 3D Computer Modeling, Interactive Computer Graphics, Physically-Based Rendering, Digital Figure Modeling, and Advanced Project Animation.

Students in the CGGT Program will spend their first year in the Master of Computer and Information Technology (MCIT) Program. This means, graduates will receive two degrees: the MCIT and MSE CGGT.

Graduates of UPenn’s CGGT and DMD Programs are prepared for careers and entrepreneurship in areas such as animation, design, directing, and game programming. Program alumni are routinely hired by companies and studios such as DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Walt Disney Animation, Activision, Microsoft, Pixar, Zynga Games, Electronic Arts, and Sony. 

University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the nation’s oldest universities. Established in 1740, UPenn houses 189 research centers and institutes, 16 colleges and schools, and more than 400 programs. The school serves approximately 28,040 students from across the U.S. and just about every continent. The University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)