"Walking shadow"by Yann Pinczon du Sel, Rennes
Animation Schools

The Best Animation Schools in the U.S. 2018

Animation is extremely labor-intensive. To be executed correctly, animators must be artistic, innovative, talented, and up-to-date on the latest computer technology and animation software. The best animation schools allow students to experiment and grow as an artist by offering a wide range of programs so they can realize their full creative potential. Students will learn the fundamentals of drawing, computer-generated imagery (CGI), 2D and 3D design, stop motion, computer graphics, video effects, character modeling and rigging, and graphic design. In addition to classroom lectures, students will also have hands-on instruction that will focus their efforts on developing the technical and artistic skills to make them industry-ready.

Aspiring animators should look for a college, university, private institute, or online school with exceptional faculty, a proven track record of alumni success in the field, world-class instructors, superior value, and a commitment to the very highest academic standards. On this page, we provide a list of the nation’s best animation schools, along with guides and links to additional resources for students seeking education or training in a specific area of focus.

  • 01

    CalArts (California Institute of the Arts)

    24700 McBean Pkwy, Valencia, CA 91355

    Educating students since 1970, Newsweek Magazine and The Daily Beast have ranked CalArts as the nation’s top college of the arts. Its six schools offer rigorous graduate and undergraduate degree programs.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,448
    • img Visit School Website
  • 02

    Ringling College of Art and Design

    2700 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34234

    Founded in 1931, Ringling College excels in propelling students into the real world of art through substantive internships, national competitions, cutting-edge technology, and client projects (to name a few).

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1262
    • img Visit School Website
  • 03

    Savannah College of Art & Design

    342 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401

    Embracing a forward-looking approach to artistic academia, SCAD is a student-centered institution determined to provide educational excellence within the context of a positive learning environment. Students learn to create art, as well as live creatively artistic lives.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 11,861
    • img Visit School Website
  • 04

    Rhode Island School of Design

    2 College St, Providence, RI 02903

    Nestled amidst the picturesque New England seaboard, Rhode Island School of Design has long been one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious colleges offering rigorous art programs at both an undergraduate and graduate level.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,481
    • img Visit School Website
  • 05

    School of Visual Arts

    209 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010

    Founded in 197, SVA is a for-profit art and design educational institution located in New York offering 11 bachelor’s programs & 22 graduate options. SVA emphasizes excellence in expression and responsible industry participation.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 4,408
    • img Visit School Website
  • 06

    USC - Roski School of Art and Design

    University Park Campus, Los Angeles, CA 90089

    Hailing as the oldest school of art in Southern California, USC’s Roski was established in 1883. It grants two undergraduate degrees and three master’s degrees ( BA, BFA, MA, MFA, MPAS).

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 43,401
    • img Visit School Website
  • 07

    UCLA School of the Arts & Architecture

    405 Hilgard Ave Los Angeles, CA 90095

    Located in the heart of one of the world’s cultural centers, the UCLA School of Art emphasizes the necessity of a profound interdependence between the creative arts and academic scholarship. Drawing from the richness of the surrounding culture, the School hosts a distinguished, world-famous faculty who effectively combine studio-based experience with critical studies and liberal arts. As part of a leading research university, students are guaranteed an exclusive and empowering education.

    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 41,908
    • img Visit School Website
  • 08

    Carnegie Mellon University School of Design

    5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

    The School of Design is one of the nation's only institutions to offer degrees at 3 levels: BA, MA and PhD, within a multi-disciplinary research context.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 12,963
    • img Visit School Website
  • 09

    Rochester Institute of Technology - School of Film & Animation

    70 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623

    RIT is a private college whose fine arts programs are consistently ranked in the “Top 10” by US News. Conferring associates, undergraduate and graduate degrees, it has 4 galleries and a Center for Design.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 16,639
    • img Visit School Website
  • 10

    Pratt Institute

    200 Willoughby Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

    Pratt Institute utilizes the city of New York as a literal classroom by engaging students in real life experiences including public critiques and internships with top design companies like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and more.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 4,784
    • img Visit School Website
  • 11

    Tisch School of the Arts (NYU)

    721 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

    Tisch School of the Arts at NYU is famous not only for its ability to develop scholars, artists and entrepreneurs, but also for the well-known success of its graduates. The accomplishments of alumni are annually recognized by world-renowned achievement at festivals, awards and via fellowships.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 50,027
    • img Visit School Website
  • 12

    University of Pennsylvania School of Design

    102 Meyerson Hall, 210 South 34th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

    PennDesign hosts a community of scholars, rich in diversity and talent. Emphasizing thoughtful inquiry, innovation and creative expression; the college is committed to local and global well-being in design, art, preservation and planning.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 24,876
    • img Visit School Website
  • 13

    Academy of Art University (San Francisco)

    79 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105

    With 30 distinct areas of study, Academy of Art University is America's largest private accredited art university. Markedly exceptional is their “No-Barrier to Admissions” policy. Applicants need only possess passion coupled with the ability to concretize it.

    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 13,800
    • img Visit School Website
  • 14

    Brigham Young University - Department of Design

    155 East 1230 North, Provo, UT 84602

    With 4 departments and 3 schools dedicated to the arts, BYU offers everything a student could imagine. There are 11 art galleries, 55 practice rooms & performance groups annually tour 8 countries/140 cities.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 33,469
    • img Visit School Website
  • 15

    Full Sail University - Game Design

    3300 University Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32792

    Offering online and on-campus undergraduate and graduate degrees, Full Sail’s game design program was named a "Top Graduate & Undergraduate School to Study Game Design" in 2016 by The Princeton Review and Electronic Gaming Monthly.

    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 20,025
    • img Visit School Website
  • 16

    The DAVE School

    2500 Universial Studios Plaza, Orlando, FL 32819

    Founded by an animator, producer and recruiter in the industry, the DAVE school excels in providing an education steeped in the reality of the career-treks offered. Two online BA’s have recently been added.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • img Visit School Website
  • 17

    Texas A&M University

    3137 TAMU, College Station, TX 77840

    In response to the widespread growth of imaging, media systems and high technology information; Texas A&M developed its Visualization Laboratory and the Visualization Academic Program. Degrees available are BS, MA, MFA-V and PhD.

    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 12,928
    • img Visit School Website
  • 18

    Ohio State University

    128 N. Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210

    Renowned for its excellence in the BA and MA programs; OSU maintains its core values of creative examination and intellectual freedom, while providing students with a rich, people-centered educational environment.

    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 58,663
    • img Visit School Website
  • 19

    Maryland Institute College of Art

    1300 W Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217

    Founded in Baltimore in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is one of the oldest art colleges in the U.S. For undergraduate education in the fine arts and its MFA programs, U.S. News & World Report has ranked MICA as one of the top colleges in the nation. Parade Magazine has ranked it in the Top 2 Studio Arts Programs in the U.S.; and The Princeton Review consistently names it a “Best Northeastern College.”

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,197
    • img Visit School Website
  • 20

    Laguna College of Art & Design

    2222 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

    LCAD offers students a variety of opportunities by conferring BFAs in 7 areas and MFAs in 4 distinct categories. Its affiliation with the Florence Academy of Art allows for summer study in Italy.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 607
    • img Visit School Website
  • 21

    University of Central Florida

    4000 Central Florida Blvd, Orlando, FL 32816

    UCF’s SVAD offers 13 bachelor level degrees and 2 masters level programs. Their amazing gallery presents works in the areas of Film, Photography, Sculpture, Painting, Digital Media and Illustration.

    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 62,953
    • img Visit School Website
  • 22

    Columbia College of Chicago - School of Fine & Performing Arts

    600 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

    The School of Fine and Performing Arts upholds that living a creative life is a calling to be answered with driving force. To that end they offer over 50 programs upon which to build success.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 8,961
    • img Visit School Website
  • 23

    University of Texas at Dallas

    800 W. Campbell Road, Richardson, Texas 75080

    UT at Dallas gives students nonpareil opportunities to immerse themselves in innovative Art & Performance programs providing a unique interdisciplinary context for the study of the visual arts.

    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 24,554
    • img Visit School Website
  • 24

    The New School's Parsons School of Design

    66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011

    Unique in its educational approach, Parsons prioritizes humanity and culture; ever-seeking a connection to global urban centers with project-based learning. Founded in 1896, Parsons confers both undergraduate and graduate degrees at 5

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 10,344
    • img Visit School Website
  • 25

    DigiPen Institute of Technology

    9931 Willows Rd, Redmond, WA 98052

    DigiPen is a committed leader in education & research in the field of computer interactive technologies. They offer undergraduate and graduate degrees; as well as high school programs, continuing education & international opportunities.

    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 1,076
    • img Visit School Website
  • 26

    Gnomon School of Visual Effects

    1015 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038

    Gnomon offers superior educational opportunities whether you are getting a bachelor’s degree or participating in a vocational program, either on-campus or online. Its 96% placement rate proves, graduates are ready for the world.

    • imgSchool Type : For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 442
    • img Visit School Website
  • 27

    School of the Art Institute of Chicago

    36 S. Wabash Ave. Chicago, IL 60603

    Since 1866, School of the Art Institute of Chicago has been committed to academic excellence, interdisciplinary exploration and the enrichment of each student’s artistic inquiry and experimentation.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 3,591
    • img Visit School Website
  • 28

    DePaul University

    2320 N Kenmore Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614

    At DePaul University teaching comes first. Students are taught by esteemed faculty, not graduate students. DePaul raises artistic awareness in its student body and community by emphasizing knowledge and critical thinking skills.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 23,539
    • img Visit School Website
  • 29

    Woodbury University

    7500 N Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, CA 91504

    Woodbury’s School of Media, Culture & Design provides an innovative learning experience within an interdisciplinary environment. Undergraduates can choose from 8 degree programs: animation, communication, filmmaking, game art/design, graphic design, psychology and media technology.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,457
    • img Visit School Website
  • 30

    Loyola Marymount University

    1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045

    Striving for excellence in academia; social justice and transformative education; students enjoy dedicated lab spaces for theatre, art, dance and music; as well as Strub Theatre, Murphy Recital Hall and 2 galleries.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 9,392
    • img Visit School Website
  • 31

    ArtCenter College of Design

    1700 Lida Street #2319, Pasadena, CA 91103

    With a tradition of learning to create and influence change; the Center impacts its community as well as global society. Its visionary methodology regarding art and design reflects the conservatory approach it embraces.

    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,133
    • img Visit School Website

SEARCH OUR PROGRAM DATABASE

Explore art and design programes with our comprehensive list of NASAD accredited colleges and universities. Search by degree level, program type, or state location.

School NameProgram NameDetails
Academy of Art University 79 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Associate of Arts - Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
Academy of Art University 79 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Bachelor of Fine Arts - Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
Academy of Art University 79 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Master of Fine Arts - Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
Academy of Art University 79 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Certificate in Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
Academy of Art University 79 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Associate of Arts - Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
Academy of Art University 79 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Bachelor of Fine Arts - Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
Academy of Art University 79 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Master of Arts - Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
Academy of Art University 79 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Master of Fine Arts - Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
Art Center College of Design 1700 Lida Street, Pasadena, CA 91107Bachelor of Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Bowling Green State University 1000 Fine Arts Center, Bowling Green, OH 43403Master of Fine Arts - 2-D StudiesRequest Information
Bowling Green State University 1000 Fine Arts Center, Bowling Green, OH 43403Master of Fine Arts - 3-D StudiesRequest Information
Brigham Young University Harris Fine Arts Center, A 501, Provo, UT 84602Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
California College of the Arts 5212 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94618Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
California State University, Long Beach 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840Bachelor of Fine Arts - 3-DRequest Information
California State University, Long Beach 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840Master of Arts - 3D MediaRequest Information
California State University, Long Beach 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840Master of Fine Arts - 3D MediaRequest Information
Cleveland Institute of Art 11610 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
College of DuPage 425 Fawell Boulevard, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137Associate of Arts - Applied AnimationRequest Information
College of DuPage 425 Fawell Boulevard, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137Certificate in AnimationRequest Information
College of DuPage 425 Fawell Boulevard, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137Associate of Arts - Applied Game Animation and DesignRequest Information
Columbus College of Art and Design 60 Cleveland Avenue, Columbus, OH 43215Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Cranbrook Academy of Art 39221 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-0801Master of Fine Arts - 2-D DesignRequest Information
Cranbrook Academy of Art 39221 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-0801Master of Fine Arts - 3-D DesignRequest Information
Cranbrook Academy of Art 39221 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-0801Master of Fine Arts - 4-D DesignRequest Information
Delaware College of Art and Design 600 North Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801Associate of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Drexel University 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104Bachelor's in Animation and EffectsRequest Information
Eastern Michigan University 900 Oakwood St, Ypsilanti, MI 48197Bachelor of Fine Arts - Simulation, Animation, and GamingRequest Information
Fashion Institute of Technology Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, New York, NY 10001Bachelor of Fine Arts - Computer Animation and Interactive MediaRequest Information
Kansas City Art Institute 4415 Warwick Boulevard, Kansas City, MO 64111-1874Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Laguna College of Art and Design 2222 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651-1136Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Laguna College of Art and Design 2222 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651-1136Certificate in AnimationRequest Information
Lesley University College of Art and Design 29 Everett Street, Cambridge, MA 2138Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Lesley University College of Art and Design 29 Everett Street, Cambridge, MA 2138Advanced Professional - AnimationRequest Information
Lesley University College of Art and Design 29 Everett Street, Cambridge, MA 2138Bachelor of Fine Arts - Design and AnimationRequest Information
Maryland Institute College of Art 1300 West Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Massachusetts College of Art and Design 621 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-5882Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Memphis College of Art Overton Park 1930 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104-5101Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Middle Tennessee State University 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN 37132Bachelor's in AnimationRequest Information
Minneapolis College of Art and Design 2501 Stevens Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Moore College of Art and Design 20th and The Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1179Bachelor of Fine Arts - Animation and Game ArtsRequest Information
Mount Ida College 777 Dedham Street, Newton Centre, MA 02459-3323Bachelor's in AnimationRequest Information
New York Film Academy - Los Angeles 3300 West Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505Certificate in 3-D AnimationRequest Information
New York Film Academy - Los Angeles 3300 West Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505Bachelor of Fine Arts - 3-D Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
New York Film Academy - Los Angeles Campus 3300 West Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505Certificate in 3-D AnimationRequest Information
New York Film Academy - Los Angeles Campus 3300 West Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505Bachelor of Fine Arts - 3D Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
New York Film Academy - Los Angeles Campus 3300 West Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505Certificate in 3-D AnimationRequest Information
New York Film Academy - Los Angeles Campus 3300 West Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505Bachelor of Fine Arts - 3-D Animation and Visual EffectsRequest Information
New York Film Academy - New York 17 Battery Place, New York, NY 10004Certificate in 3-D AnimationRequest Information
New York Film Academy - New York Campus 17 Battery Place, New York, NY 10004Certificate in 3-D AnimationRequest Information
New York Film Academy - New York Campus 17 Battery Place, New York, NY 10004Certificate in 3-D AnimationRequest Information
Northern Illinois University 1425 Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb, IL 60115Bachelor of Fine Arts - 2-DRequest Information
Northern Illinois University 1425 Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb, IL 60115Bachelor of Fine Arts - 3-DRequest Information
Ringling College of Art and Design 2700 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34234-5895Bachelor of Fine Arts - Computer AnimationRequest Information
Ringling College of Art and Design 2700 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34234-5895Bachelor of Fine Arts - Motion DesignRequest Information
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design 1600 Pierce Street, Denver, CO 80214Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Sam Houston State University 1905 University Ave, Huntsville, TX 77340Bachelor of Fine Arts - Computer AnimationRequest Information
School of Visual Arts 209 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Syracuse University 323 Hall of Languages, Syracuse, NY 13244Bachelor of Fine Arts - Computer Animation and ArtRequest Information
University of Alabama in Huntsville 301 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, AL 35899Bachelor of Fine Arts - Digital AnimationRequest Information
University of Massachusetts, Lowell 870 Broadway St., Suite 1, Lowell, MA 01854-3088Bachelor of Fine Arts - Animation and Interactive MediaRequest Information
University of Oregon 511 Northwest Broadway, Portland, OR 97209Bachelor of Fine Arts - Animated ArtsRequest Information
University of Saint Francis 2701 Spring Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46808Bachelor of Arts - AnimationRequest Information
University of the Arts 320 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information
Weber State University 3848 Harrison Blvd, Ogden, UT 84408Bachelor of Fine Arts - 2-D Media, 3-D Media, Graphic Design, PhotographyRequest Information
Woodbury University 7500 North Glenoaks Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91510-7846Bachelor of Fine Arts - AnimationRequest Information

How to Choose an Animation School

Because of the wide selection of animation programs, degrees, and school choices, students are often confused about what to look for, what makes one school better than the next, what courses to take, etc. The school you choose should provide a broad overview of the field of animation, but also allow you to focus on those skills that will make you competitive in your chosen area of specialization. For each school you are considering, think about what you want to get out of the program, and if the school will help you reach your goals.

Start at the Top

To become a successful animator and work in the industry, you should earn a degree in graphic design, computer animation, media arts, or fine art. Although programs are available at the associate degree level, it is highly recommended to earn at least a bachelor’s degree. Most public universities have animation programs embedded in a liberal arts curriculum, while specialized institutes concentrate less on English, science, and the like, and more on hands-on instruction in animation. Likewise, there are online, community, and technical colleges that offer classes in animation, motion graphics, or character design for students who are not yet decided if they want a career in animation, or who will use the knowledge they learn as a stepping stone into a bachelor’s program. But, no matter how you choose to earn your degree, choose wisely. Some programs offer the world but deliver much less. Make certain too that the program is accreditated by the US Department of Education, or if attending a program outside the US, that all credits earned will transfer if you choose to go on and earn an advanced degree.

Public vs. Private

Some schools offer a degree in computer animation. Some schools offer an animation specialty within a graphic arts or motion graphics program; other schools offer a media arts degree, still others offer a multimedia design or fine arts degree. With all these choices, how can you be sure which programs or which schools – private or public – will offer you the best opportunities after graduation? Each of these degrees will provide the skills and training necessary to become an animator, but some programs will offer concentrations in one or two areas of animation, such as gaming, animation for websites, visual or special effects, and animation and motion graphics for film, video, or online. For example, a degree in fine arts will include structured courses in drawing, filmmaking, and the relativity of color, while a degree in graphic arts will include classes in web design, typography, and digital photography.

Private colleges are the best choice for students seeking a highly-specialized learning environment. At a private school, the majority of students’ time will be spent in their major, with only a portion of their time spent in general education courses. This allows for a much more intense and focused education. Students attending a private college usually know what direction they are heading post-graduation, and which area they wish to specialize in. Private colleges typically have smaller campuses, class sizes, and student-to-faculty ratio, which can often mean closer ties to classmates and faculty. However, costs to attend a private school can be much higher than costs to attend a liberal arts college or take courses online. For the 2015-2016 school year, the average tuition for in-state students attending a public university was about $9,500. Students attending a public college out-of-state paid an average tuition of $24,000. One highly-rated online animation school charged $1,620 per term or $540 per month. Private school tuition, on the other hand, averaged about $33,000 per year.

Public colleges and universities are also an appealing option for many animation students. Most liberal arts colleges offer the same degrees as private art colleges, although the focus on general education curriculum is typically greater. Most liberal arts colleges, and those with animation programs embedded into their curriculum, offer an amazing education, engaging student communities, and superb preparation for the future; typically at a lower cost than at a private school.

Unlike most private schools, liberal arts colleges also offer financial aid, housing, healthcare, a food program, and many student organizations and clubs for students who wish to be actively involved. You will also receive a more well-rounded education at a liberal arts college, and they tend to better prepare students for graduate school upon graduation. Are you more interested in a well-rounded education, or more intense and focused curriculum? Do you like smaller class sizes, or do larger studio classes appeal to you? Does the school you are interested in attending offer concentrations or specialties in the area of animation and motion graphics? Do you know your career goals and which area of animation you are most interested in pursuing? If not, you may want to take a few classes first, or attend community college and earn your associate degree before you take the leap into a private or public school. However, if you have a passion for animation and are sure of your career path, a private school that is focused on your singular pursuit, is best.

Curriculum and Course Titles

Students pursuing a degree in animation or motion graphics learn the foundational and advanced principles behind animation. Coursework will typically be combined with a portfolio requirement, thesis, internship, or all three. Associate degree programs provide introductory classes and are typically geared toward transferring to a four-year program. But, just as degrees vary, so does curriculum and course titles. Even so, you can be assured to take classes in drawing, design theory, and principles of animation. You may also take modeling and rendering, art and animation history, and object and character creation coursework. You will take courses in computer and video game animation (especially if this is a specific area of focus), writing scripts and storyboards, motion graphics, character rigging, and 2D and 3D animation. You will learn computer software, like Adobe Creative Cloud, Flash, Cinema 4D, Maya, Blender, Toonz, and more.

Most programs also place a strong emphasis on traditional areas of art, creative development, analytical thinking and experimental learning – pushing students to explore new areas in the ever-changing world of animation. Find out if the curriculum offers you the opportunity to take a range of courses that you can use in your career. Does the program offer student internship opportunities to gain hands-on experience and network with industry professionals? Are there areas of focus, such as 3D digital art, modeling, and digital texturing or character building? Will you also learn things outside of just ‘button pushing’ like storytelling, narrative, and multimedia?

Faculty

Although it may be true that attending an Ivy League university or private art school might look better on your resume, you can get a great education at a liberal arts college as well, and applying yourself to your studies and doing well is a lot more important than which college you attend. However, there are a few things to look for when researching colleges, especially since there is a great deal of competition in the world of animation, and choosing a highly-regarded school where a degree will provide you an advantage over other applicants is just plain smart.

The best animation schools have well-connected faculty that support students’ career goals, but also mentor and advise on all of the various career options in the field of animation. It’s also important to choose a school that employs instructors who have experience in the industry or have worked at companies like Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, or Blue Sky. And, although having a close relationship with your professors and faculty does not always mean you’ll be at the top of the class, students that do establish a student-professor bond typically perform better in school. That said, not all great animators make good teachers, so ask alumni, recent grads, and current students about their experiences and impressions of the faculty. Do the faculty teach in a way that allows you to learn, but also pushes you outside your comfort zone to experiment in new areas of animation and motion graphics? Are they hands-on or do they have a more lecture-based approach?

In addition to your professors, it is a good idea to review the quality of the animation curriculum in general. Does the program offer opportunities to learn and gain experience, or does it have a mediocre reputation? Look at graduation and freshman retention rates. If you plan to intend to graduate and go on to further your education, find out what percentage of graduates pursue an advanced degree in animation. Are the courses you most want to take available? Keep in mind that sometimes at larger universities it is difficult to fit into your schedule all the classes you need to graduate, which means that sometimes you may have to put off a 200-level course until your third year, or take a 300-level course in your second year. This is where your professors or academic advisors may be able to help, ensuring you take everything needed to graduate.

School Culture

You can only get the feel of a place if you take the time to visit the schools on your list. Sometimes, all you have to do is walk into a classroom or around the campus to know immediately whether or not you want to be there. If the campus is too big, you may feel you’ll get lost in the crowd, or if a classroom is jam-packed with students, you may wonder how you’d ever get a question answered. The opposite is true also. Maybe the campus is small and you’re not sure if there are enough activities to keep you engaged in college life. Or, there are only a dozen students in each of your classrooms, and although you’ll probably get one-on-one attention from the professor, maybe you’d rather be less conspicuous. Do you get the feeling that the staff and faculty care about your career goals and will advise you in a direction that will benefit you individually? Find out too, especially if you’re a social person, if there are opportunities to join clubs and organizations related to your area of study. Check out fraternities and sororities to see if they match your interests and principles. Do you want to join extracurricular athletics and activities, or do you think you would rather just devote your time to your studies? What are the dorms like? Feeling happy on campus is huge, and taking the time to walk around and ask other students about their experiences will give you a sense of whether or not you’ll feel connected.

Larger universities also offer extensive student resources, like housing and athletics, whereas private schools typically do not. Many big public colleges and universities have a large student population, which can be attractive to some students, but overwhelming to others. Smaller colleges usually offer fewer distractions (like dorm parties) than larger colleges, and often provide a more intimate setting where students get to know each other more easily. Smaller colleges and most private institutes also typically have a smaller student-to-professor ratio, which offers students more one-on-one time and personal attention. You don’t want to feel lost in the crowd and left out no matter where you choose to go to college.

Location

Along with everything else you need to consider, like academic reputation, faculty expertise, tuition cost, housing, transportation, etc., the location of the schools you are considering is also one of the most important aspects in choosing a college, university, or private school. Are you willing to move away from family and friends to receive the best possible education? Do you want to live in a big city or smaller community? Near the beach or in the cold tundra? Are you willing to pay out-of-state tuition? (Keep in mind that some state’s offer state-to-state reciprocity programs, which allow you to live in one state but attend school in another state without paying out-of-state tuition). Or, are you open to the increasingly popular distance and online learning opportunities?

Online Degree Options

There are a number of great animation programs offered online. Many offer a bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) in animation/motion graphics, as well as associate degrees and even master’s degrees in animation. Factors that you should consider if thinking about enrolling in an online program include availability of online resources, academic reputation, flexibility of course schedules, variety of courses, and courses relevant to animation careers. Make sure too that the online program(s) is accredited and that any credits you take will transfer if you decide to further your education and earn a degree.

Search through hundreds of schools that offer the Animation programs you are looking for, simply select the program from the drop down below:

What to Expect from an Animation Program

Animators are everywhere….they create commercials, special effects, motion graphics, medical explanations, advertisement on the Internet, recreate crime scenes for forensics, the list goes on.

Whether you choose to pursue an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or further your education and earning your master’s degree in animation; online or on-campus, the goal of any program is to prepare you for a career in the many areas of animation. Courses offer both foundational and upper-level skill development and knowledge, and provide a solid foundation for professional and personal development and educational growth. In class, students learn about art, computer technology and software, modeling, character development, 3D foundations, motion capture, visual effects, character rigging, various kinds of multimedia, design principles, CGI, and often, photography. And because technology is ever-changing, much of what you learn in school will be outdated in a few years, so staying up-to-date through continuing education is imperative in this field.

Curriculum and outcomes vary greatly from one program to the next, but graduates at all levels are expected to demonstrate the ability to creatively problem solve within the field of animation utilizing technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge. They should be able to communicate ideas using oral, written, and visual presentation skills relevant to the field; recognize the influence that cultural and aesthetic trends (historic and contemporary) have on the industry; evaluate work in the field of animation and motion graphics, including their own work; and demonstrate professional skills and abilities to compete in the marketplace, both nationally and internationally.

College will also give you the professional skills needed to succeed in the animation industry. You’ll have the opportunity to work alongside other student designers and professors and learn skills you can only master by doing the work. You’ll learn how to work in a team environment and how to work under pressure. You’ll learn about timelines, budgets, and business practices. The skills you learn in college will help make you ready to enter the job market as a professional animator. And, since animation is a mixture of both art and science, you should have an artistic eye, but also enjoy breaking things down to see how they work. For instance, whereas someone standing in line at a theater may not notice the stranger in line ahead of them. But, a true animator will see the details of that individual, from their posture and clothing, to the way they speak.

The ability to land your dream job in the graphic design industry also relies greatly on your portfolio. Since portfolio class is typically a prerequisite to graduation, most students who attend college will have the opportunity to compile a great portfolio with the assistance of professors and peers. Some employers will choose one candidate over another simply by looking through their portfolios. A portfolio, which can be in print, online or in the form of a website, is a personal record of growth and progress and is used to showcase skills and knowledge within the field of animation. That’s why employers commonly use a portfolio to assess a candidate’s strengths and abilities; to see who they are and what they can do. And, that’s why it’s important to compile a professional-looking portfolio whether you attend college or not.

Search through hundreds of schools that offer the Animation programs you are looking for, simply select the program from the drop down below:

Helpful Resources

  • Interview with Evan Smith, 3D Character Artist, Animator & Graphic Designer

    Kathryn Pomroy
    Kathryn PomroyJan 07, 2014

    If you are interested in the field of animation or design, this article is for you. No one knows the behind-the-scenes secrets of an industry until they have been there, done that. The Art Career Project has tapped into the wisdom of a successful 3D Character Artist, An...

  • Interview with Barbara Bernad, 3D Animator & Video Game Developer

    Tammi Edwards
    Tammi EdwardsNov 06, 2014

    In the 21st century the field of animation covers a wide variety of career options. The field is unique; it is dynamic and ever-changing, making it a fluid vocation. It is also one that may require international travel. In this article you will learn: how to maximize yo...

  • Beginner’s Guide to Animation Techniques

    Tammi Edwards
    Tammi EdwardsMay 24, 2017

    Breathing life into fixed static images and objects through the process of animation is one of the most magical and entertaining of art forms. Here we explore a few basic forms of animation, including Traditional Animation, Stop-Motion Animation, and Digital Animation.

  • 10 Critical Scholarship Mistakes to Avoid

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizJun 14, 2017

    Scholarships can enable you to study at the college or university of your choice without having to take out numerous student loans. However, they are a very competitive source of funding as literally tens of millions of students apply for a variety of scholarships every...

  • 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Art Career

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizJul 19, 2017

    The life of an artist is often glamorized, while the real challenges of being an artist tend to be glossed over. Here we provide a few tips on how to deal with early challenges, like facing criticism, dealing with frustration, and meeting the right people.