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

Top 5 Washington Animation School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1DigiPen Institute of TechnologyRedmond
2University of WashingtonSeattle
3Evergreen State CollegeOlympia
4Cornish College of the ArtsSeattle
5Academy of Interactive EntertainmentSeattle

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

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

DigiPen Institute of Technology (DigiPen) students have earned more than 300 awards and festival selections and more than 230 awards for game projects and academic papers since the school’s inception in 1988. The school provides programs for talented professionals seeking a degree in art, design, technology or engineering.

For animators, DigiPen has two options: a Digital Art and Animation BFA and a Digital Arts MFA. The BFA program is designed for professional artists looking to enhance their skills. Competitive and challenging, the program covers traditional media, 2D and 3D digital art, animation production, pipelines, and more. Students will work solo and in teams to create animated projects, games, and/or films.

Coursework for the BFA ranges from foundation courses such as Animation Basics and The Language of Drawing to advanced courses such as Conceptual Illustration and Visual Development, Cinematic Production, and Scripting and Programming. BFA students will complete a career preparation course and several projects.

The Digital Art and Animation BFA is available at the main DigiPen campus in Redmond and at the school’s international branch campuses DigiPen Europe-Bilbao, Spain and DigiPen Singapore.

The Digital Arts MFA at DigiPen Institute of Technology provides advanced training in animation, 3D modeling, drawing, and digital painting, among other areas. Free electives and independent study provide opportunities for students to customize their pathway. Course examples include Organic and Hard Surface Modeling, Art Research Methodology, Art Production Process, Character Design, Digital Arts Survey and Analysis, and 3D Concepts and Production.

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

Graduates of the Digital Art Programs at DigiPen Institute of Technology are prepared for positions such as Animator, Character Artist, Simulation and Effects Animator, Art Director, 3D Modeler, Concept Artist, Producer, Environmental/Asset Artist, and UI Designer, among others. To date, more than 600 companies worldwide have hired DigiPen graduates. Examples include Apple, Amazon Games, Walt Disney Imagineering, Google, Blizzard Entertainment, Warner Bros. Games, Zynga, Meta, DreamWorks Interactive, Sony, Riot Games, ArenaNet, Electronic Arts (EA), Microsoft, Nintendo, and many others.

DigiPen Institute of Technology was established in 1988 as a Vancouver, British Columbia-based computer simulation and animation company. The school serves around 1,200 students enrolled in 10 degree programs in Computer Science, Digital Art and Animation, Engineering, Game Design and Development, and Music and Audio.


DigiPen has international campuses in Singapore and Spain, and educational partnerships with Princess Nourah bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Keimyung University in South Korea, The One Academy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Thammasat University in Thailand. 

DigiPen Institute of Technology is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

2. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
University of Washington

The Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) has a Computer Science (CS) Program with several pathways to study animation. Options are highly interdisciplinary, and each provides access to three labs including the UW Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), the Center for Game Science, and Animation Research Labs (ARL). Collectively, the Labs at UW engage in animation, graphics, visualization, computer game science, and vision.

Undergraduate pathways include BS degrees in CS and Computer Engineering (CE). Graduate options include a PhD and Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). Course examples across programs include Computer Animation, Advanced Digital Design, Digital Sound, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Graphics, and Data Visualization.

Serving more than 1,500 students, the Allen School at UW has an active study abroad program that provides the opportunity to study at four partner universities: ETH Zurich, and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland; Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany; and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Allen School students may also fulfill elective and general education requirements through hundreds of other study abroad options.

Graduates of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at University of Washington are routinely hired by some of the world’s top companies. Examples include Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, and Meta.  

Established in 1861, the University of Washington serves approximately 59,725 students across campuses in Seattle (main), Bothell, and Tacoma, Washington. UW offers more than 300 programs and 570+ degree options across in 18 colleges and schools. The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Engineering at the University is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

3. Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
Evergreen State College

Evergreen State College (Evergreen) provides the unique opportunity to design your own program. Student can customize an animation program by selecting courses from more than 40 fields of study. Examples include Visual Art and Visual Studies; Film, Video, and Audio Production; Computer Science; Film and Media Studies; and Music and Performing Arts. Customized undergraduate programs at Evergreen do not require specific courses. This means, there are no specific course requirements to graduate. However, students must complete 180 credits to earn a BA or BS, or 225 to earn a BAS.

Students who choose to focus in Animation have access to two 2D Animation labs, one 3D stop motion lab, and the Multimedia Lab (MML). All programs at Evergreen State College are full-time, with optional (but strongly recommended) internship opportunities that require a year-long commitment through the Fall and Spring semesters. In addition, students can enhance their degree program by adding a Certificate in Computer Science or Media and Design.

While Evergreen offers the flexibility to create your own curriculum, students can select a pre-planned path of study. Examples include Visual Arts; Media Arts and Studies; and Visual and Media Arts (beginning 2023). These pre-planned paths prepare students for careers in animation, advertising, art direction, games, video production, illustration, multimedia arts, television, and graphic design. Program alumni are also prepared to enter a graduate program at Evergreen State College or other institution.

Established in 1967, Evergreen State College is Washington’s only four-year college founded in the 1900s. Serving more than 2,000 degree-seeking students, Evergreen offers BA, BS, BAS, MPA, MiT, and MES programs. Evergreen State College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

4. Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington
Cornish College of the Arts

The Design Program at Cornish College of the Arts (Cornish) has one pathway to study animation—the Design BFA with an Animation Major. Housed in the Department of Design, this 120 credit hour, project-based program requires at least 15 credit hours of Design Studio topics, included within the required 72 credit hours for the Animation major. Course examples include Animation History: Parallel Narratives, Observation + Visualization, Motion Systems, Animation Tools, Time + Motion, Digital Tools for Motion, and Collaborative Studio.

The Cornish Design/Animation BFA also requires six hours of Professional Practices coursework, a Capstone Project, and Animation BFA Exhibition. Eighteen credit hours of college and open electives allow students to take any courses offered in or outside of the Design, Animation, or Illustration Departments. This provides the opportunity for students to work in emerging areas such Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) and User Interface/User Experience Design (UI/UX), and other areas like Game Art, Interaction Design, and Web Design. To enhance the degree, students may add a Game Art of Experience Design Minor.

Graduates of the Performing and Visual Arts Programs at Cornish College go on to establish careers in animation, film and video, animation and visual effects (VFX), game design, advertising, graphic design, theater, and multimedia, among others.

Cornish College of the Arts dates back to 1914 when pianist and music educator Nellie Cornish founded The Cornish School for Drama, Music, Dance. Today, Cornish serves 635 students enrolled in Visual and Performing Arts Programs leading to a BFA or Bachelor of Music. Situated near theaters, museums, galleries, and music venues, and the Space Needle, Cornish College of the Arts has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) since 1977.

5. Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Seattle, Washington
Academy of Interactive Entertainment

Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) offers an Advanced Diplomas in 3D Animation and Visual Effects (VFX) and Game Art and Animation. Both programs are hands-on and industry focused, and students can complete the programs in two years, full-time. Classes take place in a collaborative, studio-environment led by industry professionals. Other program highlights include AIE’s close relationships with many animation and game design studios and a high rate of graduate employment.

Across programs, courses are completed in two stages. Students in the 3D Animation and VFX Program explore subjects such as character animation, storyboards, production planning, modeling and texturing, and digital lighting and compositing during stage one. Stage two covers visual effects, story development, and a specialization. At this stage, students will have the skills needed to complete a short film and online portfolio of their work. 

AIE 3D Animation and VFX graduates work in industries such as animation, game design and development, and filmmaking. Job titles include Character Animator, Surfacing/Texture Painter, Environment Modeler, Digital/Matte Painter, Technical Director, Fur/Feathers or Water FX Artist, 3D Tracker/Match Mover, and Modeler.

Game Art and Animation students at AIE explore everything from 3D modeling to rendering and compositing in stage one of the program. Students will also produce a short, animated film. In stage two, students will work in teams to build a professional showreel of animation, 3D modeling, and a game level. Game Art and Animation students will also produce a playable game.

Graduates of the Game Art and Animation Program at Academy of Interactive Entertainment have established careers at major game studios, independent studios, and as entrepreneurs. They also work in defense, education, and health care (serious games and simulations), and for top mining companies.

Examples of job titles include 3D Animator, Character Animator, Technical Artist, Environment Modeler, 2D Artist, Texture Artist, Level Designer, Rigger, and UI Designer.

Established in 1996, Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) is a non-profit institution that consists of four campuses in Australia, two in the United States (Seattle and Lafayette), and an Online campus. The school serves an estimated 150-200 students enrolled in four Diploma programs and a number of single courses.