What are the top east coast visual effects schools for 2022?

Top 5 Visual Effects (VFX) Schools on the East Coast - 2022 College Rankings
1School of Visual ArtsNew York
2New York University New York
3Rochester Institute of TechnologyNew York
4Carnegie Mellon UniversityPennsylvania
5Rhode Island School of DesignRhode Island

Our 2022 list of the Top 5 Visual Effects Programs on the East Coast, our first annual rankings for VFX. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
SVA logo

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) has a Computer Animation and Visual Effects (VFX) Program that focuses on learning by doing. Leading to a BFA, the VFX Program provides the opportunity for students to develop their skills by working with alumni-owned studios such as Augenblick, Plymptoons, and Titmouse studios. In addition, SVA VFX students train on the latest industry software including Maya, Adobe Animate, Storyboard Pro, After Effects, and Toon Boom Harmony.

Consisting of four years of study, the SVA Computer Animation and VFX program requires 120 credit hours as follows: 72 credits in studio art courses, 30 credits in humanities & sciences courses, 15 credits in art history courses, and three elective credits from any area. Course examples include VFX Animation with Houdini, Production Resources in Computer Art, Modeling and Animation with Maya I, Thesis Preproduction: Visual Effects and Compositing, and Advanced Compositing Techniques.

Upon completion of the program, SVA Computer Animation and FX students will participate in a showcase consisting of their best work, which will be presented to industry professionals and prominent figures at the School of Visual Arts Thesis Celebration.

Graduates of the Computer Animation and Visual Effects BFA Program at School of Visual Arts have gone on to win awards at major festivals and from the Academy of Motion Pictures. Program alumni can be found at independent animation studios worldwide and at Lucasfilm Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Disney Animation Studios, Warner Bros. Animation, Nickelodeon, and DreamWorks.

The degree offerings at School of Visual Arts are accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and/or the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). The School of Visual Arts dates back to 1947, when it was known as the Cartoonists and Illustrators school. When is opened, SVA had just three teachers and 35 students. Today, the School of Visual Arts serves more than 4,000 students enrolled in dozens of BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS programs.

2. New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York
New York University

New York University (NYU) is home to Tisch School of Arts, which houses the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. Producing more than 5,000 films per year, Maurice Kanbar is home to the Department of Animation and Digital Arts, which has a BFA in Film and Television with an Animation Area. Students in the Animation Area have plenty of opportunities to study visual effects (VFX) through required courses and electives. In addition, students may study audio and visual effects through NYU’S School of Professional Studies. Courses examples include After Effects I, After Effects II, and Audio Production and Sound Design. 

Launched in 1979 with just three classes and 80 students, the Animation Area at NYU Tisch provides instruction in 2D Animation, 3D Animation, and Traditional Animation to more than 500 students from nearly every state and dozens of countries. The BFA Program features courses that include VFX such as Visual Effects and Compositing, Motion Design & Titles, Stop Motion Animation, Animation: From Pitching to Pipeline to Production, 3D Computer Animation, Pipeline to Production, Advanced 3D Animation Production, and Animation Techniques. Other program features include guest speakers such as Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Polonski, and Chris Butler, as well as study abroad and internship opportunities.

NYU Tisch Animation Area graduates have been hired at Pixar, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and many others. Some program alumni work as freelancers, while others have started their own studios.

New York University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The school was founded in 1831 and Tisch School of Arts was established in 1956. With an estimated 400+ programs, NYU serves nearly 55,000 students, making it one of the nation’s largest private universities. In addition to the New York campus, NYU has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, along with 11 global academic centers in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America.

3. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology

The College of Art and Design at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) houses the School of Film and Animation. A designated Center of Excellence (COE) by Toon Boom Animation, the RIT School of Film and Animation has a program that explores animating for digital and visual effects, films, AR/VR, and games. Leading to a BFA in Film and Animation, the program consists of courses such as Digital Effects & Compositing, After Effects for Animators, World Building Workshop, Production, Computers and Imaging Technology, and Production Process. 

Program features include internship opportunities, cooperative education, and experiential learning opportunities. RIT animation students also have access to the 52,000 square foot MAGIC Spell Studios, along with labs and classrooms outfitted with industry standard technology and software. At all levels, RIT animation students will have the opportunity to participate in the RIT’s Creative Industry Day, where they get to mingle with representatives of studios, design firms, and other creative companies.

Graduates of Rochester Institute of Technology are prepared to pursue positions such as Visual Effects Supervisor, Effects Animator, Director, Visual Designers, 3D Modeling and Character Designer, and Production Manager. RIT alumni work at major studios such as Lucasfilm, Electronic Arts, Dolby, Nickelodeon, Sony, DreamWorks, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Disney, among others.

Rochester Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Dating back to 1829, RIT serves more than 19,000 students, making it one of the largest private universities in the U.S. With campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai, and Kosovo, RIT offers more than 200 academic programs across 11 colleges and institutes.

4. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University

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

IDeATe Animation & Special Effects classes are led by faculty with expertise in Art and Robotics. Course examples include Topics in Animation: Storytelling Through Effects, Art of Robotic Special Effects, Reality Computing Studio, IDeATe Special Topics in Animation: Character Modeling, IDeATe: Technical Character Animation, Advanced ETB: Video: Experimental Science Fiction, Technical Character Animation, and IDeATe: Introduction to 3D Animation Pipeline.

CMU graduates have been hired at major studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), as Activision Blizzard, Zynga Games, Comedy Central, DreamWorks Animation, Walt Disney Studios,  MTV, Paramount, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Warner Interactive, among others.

Carnegie Mellon University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1900, CMU serves more than 14,500 students and the school has over 400 start-ups to its  credit. With more than a dozen degree-granting locations and over 20 research partnerships in Silicon Valley, Australia, Africa, and Qatar, CMU offers 200+ programs across seven colleges and schools.

5. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has Flim/Animation/Video Program that provides opportunities to study visual effects (VFX). Leading to a BFA in FAV (BFA FAV), the program features a focus in Live Action Open Media, or Animation. Course examples include Digital Effects and Compositing for the Screen, Advanced Stop Motion, Computer Generated Imagery 3D, Advanced Sound Design and Production, Computer Animation: Integrated Techniques, Experimental Film Techniques, Film Practices, Lighting For The Moving Image, and Senior Studio: Live Action.

Other program features include collaborative study, workshops, access to animation and live action studios, studios for green screen and blackout shooting, and Apple workstations equipped with Avid, Final Cut, Pro Tools, Autodesk Maya, the Adobe Production Suite, and a variety of animation software. A professional internship in a studio environment is also part of the program.

Rhode Island School of Design graduates have gone on to create, direct and/or produce a number of films and series, they have been recruited by DreamWorks, HBO, Pixar, Fox, and PBS, among others, and they have launched their own studios or production companies.

Rhode Island School of Design is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). Founded in 1877, RISD is one of the first art and design schools in the U.S. This private, nonprofit college serves more than 2,550 students enrolled in more than 50 degree programs, certificates, concentrations, and focus areas leading to a BFA, MA, MFA, MArch, MAT, MDes, MID, or MLA.