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THE BEST COMPUTER GRAPHICS SCHOOLS IN THE U.S. 2017

Computer graphics schools teach students how to utilize computer technology to “render” or draw pictures or designs for multiple purposes. Central to the educational experience is the ability to use software to produce and manipulate pictorial images for projects, such as commercial art, advertisements, movies, scientific and educational modeling, computer programming, and video game development; just to name a few. Categories of study include interactive multimedia production, algorithms for computer animation, the use of Flash, technical animation, computational photography, computer game programming, digital image generation, rasterization, radiosity, physically-based modeling, interactive simulation, human motion modeling and analysis; and many more.

Due to the furiously-dynamic nature of the industry, the very best schools will survey state-of-the-art techniques, as well as require project-based demonstrations of acquired knowledge. If you can master computer technologies and have a talent for artistic design, enrolling in a computer graphics school could determine the trajectory of your career. And, because choosing that school could very well be the most important decisions you will ever make, we have taken the mystery out of the equation. On this page, we provide a list of the nation’s best computer graphics schools, along with guides and links to additional resources for students seeking education or training in a specific area of focus.

  • School Name

    38 schools ranked

  • Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science recognizes the maturing field of data science as leading to increased growth in the technology of decision making. Stressing the role of CMU in the worldwide phenomenon accompanying the re-emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI); the college continues to produce some of the world’s most “in demand” graduates, per independent studies.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 12,963
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 4,408
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,481
  • Purdue University’s College of Technology (Purdue Polytechnic) offers students 7 exciting Departments and Schools from which to choose: Aviation and Transportation Technology; Computer and Information Technology; Computer Graphics Technology; Construction Management Technology; Division of Military Science and Technology; Engineering Technology; Technology Leadership and Innovation Transdisciplinary Studies. Each Department/School provides a state-of-the-art teaching environment and a dedicated, mentoring faculty.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 40,472
  • CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) - School of Film & Video offers 4 Programs from which students can choose: Character Animation, Experimental Animation, Film and Video and Film Directing. The goal of each is to produce “total film and videomaker artists” who are proficient in practicing the art of the moving image in a personal, innovative and evolving manner.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,448
  • The Brigham Young University - Computer Science Department proclaims its mission to be four-fold: to educate the mind and spirit in such a way as to increase belief in God; advance truth and knowledge for quality-of-life-enrichment and contribute to solutions to global problems; extend the blessings of learning to Church members and develop friendships for the university and Church.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 33,469
  • 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.”

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,197
  • Yale University’s Department of Computer Science was founded by visionaries who foresaw the beneficial effects of the Department within the wider scope of the college’s unique spirit, dedication to an unusual undergraduate education and the characteristic interdepartmental collaboration. In addition to its close ties to the Departments of Mathematics and Engineering; increasingly the Department works in concert with each of the other university departments.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 12,385
  • The recipient of a multitude of awards and recognition from across the globe; VCUART demonstrates it student support by having one of the lowest tuition rates of the nation’s Top 10 Art Institutions.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 30,918
  • Famous for developing the oldest algebraic mathematics package (REDUCE) which is still in use; the University of Utah’s Department of Computer Graphics is world-renowned for its major contributions to the field. A few of the University’s accomplishments include: creating the first interactive graphics program, Sketchpad; the Johnson counter logic circuit; developing the first method for representing surface textures in graphical images and the invention of magnetic ink printing technology.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 31,592
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 12,928
  • 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).

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1262
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 11,861
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 50,027
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,133
  • 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

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 10,344
  • With 22 undergraduate degree programs, 12 graduate programs and international study options; California College of the Arts successfully balances tradition with innovation and theory with practice. Students enjoy an 8:1 student/teacher ratio and class sizes averaging 13 students.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,975
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 3,591
  • Established in 1886, MCAD is a not-for-profit, private college conferring both 4 year and postgraduate degrees. A preeminent art and design educational institution, MCAD offers certificate programs, continuing education and hosts numerous exhibitions.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 796
  • 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).

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 43,401
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 41,908
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 16,639
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 4,784
  • The Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences at UC Irvine offers 3 departments: Computer Science, Statistics and Informatics. Additionally, the School has recently developed majors in Game Science and Data Science. Its excellence in education is demonstrated by faculty and graduates in the areas of: obtaining corporate and federal extramural grants; the authorship of leading textbooks; the publication of influential journal articles and their participation in significant conferences and workshops.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 30,836
  • The University of Miami’s Department of Computer Science is the recipient of global recognition for their research advances in the areas of: Algorithm Engineering; Molecular Computation; Automated Reasoning; Multimedia Systems; Bioinformatics; Music Information Retrieval; Computational Complexity; Robotics; Computational Geometry and Computer Graphics Scientific Computing; Cryptography and Network Security; Scientific Visualization; Data Mining; Semantic Web; Data Science and Wireless and Mobile Computing.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 16,825
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 23,539
  • Renowned for faculty excellence and a commitment to student mentoring; the UH School of Art combines academics with real-world experience by increasingly using the city as a classroom.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 42,704
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 20,025
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 58,663
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 607
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 62,953
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 8,961
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 24,554
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 1,076
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 442
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,457
  • 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.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 9,392

HOW TO CHOOSE A COMPUTER GRAPHICS SCHOOL

The fast-paced world of computer graphics combines both technology and art to create computer-generated images and video.  It takes a great deal of artistic ability, technical and analytical skills, time-management skills, and superior computer skills to be successful in this career field.  As a degree is preferred by most employers, students wishing to enter the field of computer graphics can choose from a number of highly-rated colleges, technical schools, universities, and private art institutes to gain industry knowledge and delve deeper into the field of computer graphics much more so than if they tried to learn on their own. The most popular degree programs include Game Art and Design, Animation, Web Design, and Graphic Design, as well as Computer Science. (Those wishing to teach at the postsecondary level must earn a graduate degree). But how do you choose the best program to meet your career goals?

You will find that curriculum, classes, and areas of specialty will vary greatly from one school to the next. However, the focus of most programs will typically include classes in graphic design, broadcasting, illustrating, mass media, documentary production, website design, animation, and computer coding.  Students who wish to pursue website design careers, for instance, will usually become proficient in HTML and CSS.  No doubt, you will also be exposed to any number of software programs, such as Poser, GoAnimate, SketchBook, MudBox, Blender, Flipbook, and many others.

If, at this point, you’ve decided to enter the computer graphics field, then choosing the best school to match your career goals is important.  But, it’s also important to set some personal priories to make the choice easier.

ACCREDITATION

There are about 320 postsecondary colleges, universities, and private schools that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.  Accreditation helps determine if a school meets or exceeds minimum standards of quality and also helps students determine which schools are most acceptable for enrollment.  Accreditation is extremely important if you intend to go on and earn your master’s or doctoral degree in computer graphics, or if you plan to attend a community or technical college and transfer to a four-year university.  You want to be sure that the credits you earn are transferable.

PUBLIC OR PRIVATE SCHOOL

Beyond accreditation, what are the advantages of attending a private college over a public university, and vice versa?  Comparing differences and similarities, as well as all the pros and cons can help students choose the right school for a career in computer graphics. 

Typically, class sizes and teacher-to-student ratios are smaller at private schools, which usually means closer relationships between professors and students. And, although that doesn’t necessarily translate to higher grades, it is a proven fact that students who form connections with their professors do better in school overall.  Private schools are usually more intimate, allowing students to form close-knit friendships with classmates as well. Smaller class size typically also allows easier access to professors and more specialized instruction. A public university is likely to have a larger and more diverse student body and a higher rate of admission, whereas a private institution may have a very small, exclusive population. But, if you want the extracurricular activities, clubs, athletics, etc., that most larger universities offer, or you want to join a fraternity or sorority and take part in all the meaningful activities of college life, than a public university should be your choice, as private colleges have few, if any, on-campus activities outside of class.

GRADUATION RATES

If you’re committed to graduating on time and getting into the job market right away, then a private school may serve you best. When compared side-by-side, 53 percent of private school students graduate on-time, whereas only 33 percent of students who attend a public school graduate on-time. This is due in part because at a larger university it is sometimes more difficult to enroll in all the classes you need for your major. This means that sometimes you will 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. That said, students attending a public university have a wider choice of courses, majors, minors, concentrations, and degrees to pursue. Private schools are tailored for those with a specialized focus, or for students who want to segue into a graduate program. Find out if the courses you need to take are available? What are the graduation rates at the schools on your list? Do you want to graduate as soon as you can, or are you most interested in a wider choice of degrees and specializations?

FRESHMAN RETENTION RATES

Along with graduation rates, it’s also a good idea to check out freshman retention rates (the percentage of freshman who return for their sophomore year) at the schools on your list. A high retention rate usually means that students are satisfied with their first-year experiences, professors, and classes. What are the retention rates at the schools you are considering? What do the students say about their classes?

LOCATION

Many students choose a college, university, or private school based on academic programs, cost to attend, faculty, or because their friends are attending such-and-such school.  But, another thing to take into consideration is location.  Sometimes, attending the school of your choice means moving away from home. This can be an exciting time for many prospective computer graphic students, but it can cause anxiety for others. Larger cities often offer many more opportunities for internships and landing a job after graduation, but they also have their drawbacks. It can be more expensive to live in a city if you choose to live off-campus. Keep in mind too that not all schools, especially private schools, offer housing. Transportation can be crazy, and getting around can be a headache. Larger cities, however, are packed with museums, shows, nightlife, and concerts, all of which can distract even the most committed students from their main purpose, learning and practicing, but can also provide more opportunities to gain insight into the computer graphics industry. Smaller towns are more intimate and don’t have all the distractions of many larger cities, but may not provide the same opportunities for internships and jobs post-graduation.  For example, if you want a job in computer graphics, you’ll likely be better off attending a school in a computer-centric city like New York, San Jose, or Boston (and many others across the US). Additionally, if you plan to stay on-campus or close to school in the summer months, make sure there are internships available in the area.

COST OF YOUR EDUCATION

The primary goal upon graduation from college is to earn money in your chosen career field.  While that’s true, college costs money, and the price tag can vary greatly depending on when you attend – private college, university, online coursework, etc.  Fees may include housing (if offered), meals, and health services.  Many private colleges don’t offer any of these items, so off-campus housing, food, etc., must be considered.  Fees for out-of-state or non-resident students can cost much more than if you are a resident in the state where the school of your choice is located. Keep in mind that for the 2015-2016 school year, the average tuition for a public university was just over $9,000 for in-state students; about $24,000 for out-of-state students, and almost $33,000 to attend a private institute. Does the college or university offer financial aid? Are there grants or scholarships you can apply for offered through the school? Many private schools do not offer grants or scholarships.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A COMPUTER GRAPHICS DEGREE PROGRAM

Computer graphics schools, whether online or on-campus, generally offer a host of different programs to prepare you for your career. The types of degree programs that a school offers might also help you decide which school you should attend. Research the computer graphics schools on your list to ensure each school offers a degree program in the specialization you’re most interested in. But first, you must narrow down your area of intended expertise. The most common broad programs of study are:

Computer Aided Design 

Computer aided design, or CAD, is also sometimes referred to as computer-aided design and drafting, or CADD. CAD is most often used to describe the process by which individuals design and create plans for a structure. For instance, CAD programs are used by architects to design homes and create blueprints. This is one of the most popular routes CAD students take with their degree. However, CAD has many different applications career-wise, including shipbuilding, automotive design, and the aerospace industry.

Computer Animation 

Computer animation is another field many graduates of computer graphics schools pursue. Computer animation entails the creation of animated images through the use of computer graphics. Programming, coding, and an eye for art and design are the backbone of a degree in computer animation, and if you choose this route, you may just find yourself helping to create the next great Pixar film!

Graphic Design 

When you attend a computer graphics school for graphic design, you are setting yourself up for a variety of different career options. Computer-assisted graphic design touches almost every aspect of our society – from credit card offers you receive in the mail and the billboard you pass on the way to work, to the menu at your favorite fast-food joint, the logos on your shoes, and everything in between.

Video Game or Game Art Design 

Video game design is a hot career right now as video games are expanding their reach exponentially because the quality of each game is approaching movie grade. The video game industry is expanding rapidly, and as a result, good programmers and designers are in high demand. If you’re a gamer and you love visual effects, then this may be the career for you. A good computer design school can help you break into this field so you can create the games of the future.

Web Design & Development

Almost every computer design school offers a broad degree in web design. The Internet isn’t going away anytime soon – it’s become as much a part of our daily lives as eating and drinking. As the year’s progress, the World Wide Web will only become larger and more complex, and the need for web designers will increase in tandem. With a degree in web design, you’ll have a hand in creating and expanding the fastest growing network in the world.

Online Computer Graphics Degree Programs

In the age of the Internet, access to anything you want to learn is readily available online. However, it can take much longer to learn things this way because you must locate the information yourself and separate the quality data from inaccurate tutorials. If you want to do freelance work, it’s entirely possible to teach yourself what you need to know. The websites that you create can be listed together and used as a portfolio to lure in potential clients. But, is forgoing attending a computer graphics school a good idea for freelancers? That’s questionable. Degrees from computer graphics schools will give freelancers the right educational background to get the job done right. In addition, the credentials you’ll be sporting after you graduate will attract potential clients in much greater numbers than a resume full of links to all the online videos that you’ve watched.

All said, online schools can be a great choice for people who have other responsibilities that inhibit them from attending class on-campus, such as a job or family obligations. In fact, there are nearly three million students enrolled in online degree programs, and another six million taking at least one online course as part of their degree requirements. Online classes are almost always cheaper than classes offered at a traditional college or university, and online classes are convenient and provide flexibility.

However, if you’re seeking a career in computer graphics with a company, you might as well assume you will need a degree in your field. In general, there are hardly ever exceptions to this rule. Very few companies will hire you based on what you “know” when there are so many other candidates with the educational goods to back it up. If you want to work for a computer graphics firm, it’s in your best interest to seek out computer graphics schools to make that dream a reality. Ultimately, the decision of whether to enroll in a computer graphics school is up to you, however. Weigh your options carefully, and make sure that the field you choose is one you’ll be happy working in for the rest of your life.