Students who spent more time doodling in their notebooks rather than taking notes in class may be able to make their artistic creativity pay off by earning a degree in animation. From Disney to Warner Brothers to Nickelodeon, animators work on some of the most popular animated content in film and television. They also work on many of the most widely played video games, including Halo, Call of Duty and other popular titles.
Students who want to enter the field of animation can use the list below to learn more about the 10 best colleges for animation degrees. Programs range from diplomas to a Master of Fine Arts in animation, although a bachelor's degree in animation or digital media arts is the most common educational path for aspiring animators. Students who complete a campus-based or online degree in animation may gain the artistic and technical skills necessary for entry level employment in the field.
Keep reading to learn more about our 10 featured institutions, as well as career outlooks, scholarship information and the most common career paths for graduates of animation degree programs.
Best Colleges for Animation Degree Programs 2018-19
We compiled this list below of the best animation degree programs from 10 U.S. colleges and universities to help students gain valuable insight before enrolling in campus-based or online animation degrees. This list was created using our unique methodology and data gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics. Read on to learn more about these featured universities, or click the button below for more information on how we generated this list.
Indian River State College offers a Bachelor's of Applied Science degree in digital media with a concentration in animation, gaming and modeling. The college offers guided pathways for both full- and part-time students — coursework follows a planned pathway so students complete all prerequisite courses before taking more advanced subjects during their final years of college. The major requires 39 credit hours of coursework in animation and digital media to complete.
IRSC had the lowest cost of in-state tuition of any institution in our rankings at $2,764. It also had an open admissions policy, and flexible scheduling with evening and weekend classes.
This main focus of this for-profit private college in heart of Chicago is education in digital media arts. The college offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in animation and visual effects, and a Bachelor of Science degree in digital media with a major in digital art. The A.A.S. degree typically takes 60 weeks to complete for fulltime students, while the B.S. degree typically takes 120 weeks.
Coursework includes project-based curriculum where students collaborate on real-world projects. Students also use high-end animation and special effects software such as Houdini, Cinema4D, Maya and Zbrush.
Tribeca Flashpoint College makes our rankings in the second spot based on its high 71 percent graduation rate, best among our 10 featured institutions. The college also had a favorable 89 percent admissions rate, also best among the three schools in this list without an open admissions policy.
Academy of Art University is located in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood, home to many of the city's famous museums and companies such as Pintrest, LinkedIn, Yelp, Salesforce, Uber and Airbnb.
The university offers Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in animation and visual effects. The A.A. degree requires 66 units to complete, while the B.F.A. degree requires 132. While the A.A. degree focuses on general animation and visual effects coursework, the B.F.A. pathway allows students to focus on one particular segment of the industry, such as:
- 2D and 3D animation
- Animation production
- Compositing, Dynamics, Lighting or Matte Painting
Academy of Art University also offers M.A. and M.F.A. degrees in animation and visual effects. All four programs can be completed online, and AAU has the second-highest number of students enrolled in distance education programs of any institution in these rankings.
Located on Florida's Emerald Coast, Gulf Coast State College serves residents of Bay and Franklin counties through its flagship campus at Panama City and additional locations at Port. St. Joe and Southport.
Gulf Coast State College offers associate and bachelor's degrees in digital media and multimedia technology. Students in the A.S. degree can focus on coursework in video production, sound editing and motion graphics to prepare them for a wide range of careers in digital media. The B.A.S. degree takes that foundation further with deeper study in creativity, design and multimedia production. The associate degree requires 60 credits to complete, while the bachelor's degree requires 120.
The college makes our rankings in the fourth position due to its low cost of in-state tuition — $2,765, second-best among our top 10 — as well as for its open admissions policy.
This private art and design college has a main campus located at Tucson, and a second campus at Albuquerque, N.M.
SUVA's Bachelor of Arts program in animation teaches students foundational principles of design, editing, production, 2D and 3D modeling and animation. The program requires 125 credits to complete. The university also offers a Master of Fine Arts degree with a focus on motion arts for students who want to take their education past the baccalaureate level. The program requires 63 credits to satisfy graduation requirements.
Southwest University of Visual Arts at Albuquerque had the highest graduation rate among our featured schools at 88 percent. It also has an open admissions policy, and an excellent 6:1 student to faculty ratio.
Lynn University is headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla. The university purchased Digital Media Arts College in late 2017. Lynn's design and media arts center has four start dates per year: Jan. 8, March 12, April 30 and June 25. Students can choose from either computer animation or visual effects animation programs.
The university's Bachelor of Fine Arts in computer animation program includes study in 3D modeling, storyboarding, digital imaging and painting, cinematic lighting and related subjects. The Master of Fine Arts in visual effects animation program expands upon these topics with advanced study in visual effects and compositing, motion capture and motion tracking, rotoscoping, industrial and automotive design and more.
Lynn University makes our rankings in the sixth spot based on its open admissions policy, favorable 13:1 student to faculty ratio, and flexibility of scheduling with evening and weekend classes. It also had the highest number of animation degrees conferred to students of any university in our top 10.
RMCAD is a small private institution that has been providing education in art and design to students in the greater Denver metropolitan region since 1963. In spring of 2017, the college had a total enrollment of 760 students, with more than 50 percent taking distance education classes.
The college offers an on-campus B.F.A. degree in animation with concentrations in either 2D or 3D animation. The program focuses on 2D and 3D drawing, line of action, stop motion, storyboard, character design and modeling.
RMCAD lands in the seventh spot in our rankings due to its favorable cost of tuition compared to other colleges in these rankings, its open admissions policy, and low 10:1 student to faculty ratio.
This private non-profit institution in New York has a 25-acre campus in Brooklyn and additional campus locations in Manhattan's Chelsea District and at Utica. Total enrollment in 2017 was 4,829 students.
Pratt's undergraduate program in digital arts has three concentrations:
- 3D animation
- 2D animation
- Interactive arts
The program provides students with an educational foundation to master techniques of animated filmmaking. Pratt Institute also offers a M.F.A. in digital animation and motion arts. The college had the second-highest graduation rate of any institution in our rankings, as well as an excellent 8:1 student-faculty ratio. Tuition, however, was the highest in our top 10 at $46,586.
This small private institution is located at Raleigh, N.C. Living Arts College offers diploma programs in animation and game design, as well as a three-year studio track bachelor's degree program in animation and game design.
The B.A. degree requires 180 credits to complete, including 56 credits in general education and elective courses. The program is delivered over the course of 12 quarters consisting of 10 weeks each. The diplomas in game design and animation or animation and special effects production require 76 credits to complete.
Living Arts College features a solid 64 percent graduation rate, open admissions policy, and low 10:1 student to faculty ratio.
This private evangelical Christian college located on a 107-acre campus on Lake Johanna north of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn. rounds out our list of best colleges for animation degree programs. The university has a 66 percent graduate rate, as well as an 87 percent admissions rate.
University of Northwestern-St. Paul's department of art and design offers a Bachelor of Science degree in animation and illustration. The program provides students with an educational foundation in principles of computer animation, digital design, storytelling and production, visual arts and 3D multimedia taught within a Christian context. The degree requires 125 credits to complete, including 20 credits in animation and 26 credits in digital media.
Animation Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
A bachelor's degree in animation or related field typically is a precursor for employment as an animator. However, a solid portfolio of impressive work that demonstrates mastery of artistic and technical skills also can help students gain employment from prospective employers. Below is a look at the most common career paths for students who complete campus-based or online animation degrees.
Although the skills that make animators successful can be sharpened through experience, students who are considering enrolling in an animation degree program should have strong artistic ability. Those who lack the ability to create stunning hand-drawn illustrations and effects can compensate for their shortcomings by boosting their technical acumen with computer-generated animation and similar areas of the field. Although college degree programs can teach many of these skills to students, they still must possess a high level of creativity to truly excel in the field.
Career Outlook for Animation Majors
Consumer demand for new video games and animated movies is expected to be a primary driver of increased employment for animators. Additionally, demand for new mobile games and apps is another driver of employment in the field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the field to increase by 10 percent, or 7,700 new positions, between 2016 and 2026. Animators who specialize in a specific area of the field, such as computer programming or drawing, should have the increased job prospects.
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Animation
Animation degree programs can be costly. Students can turn to federal financial aid for help with tuition, or they can pursue any number of scholarships intended for students enrolled in animation and digital arts programs. A few of those scholarships include:
- Animation Career Review's Aspiring Animation Professional scholarship
- Society of Illustrators' Student Scholarship, Zankel Scholarship and Will Eisner Scholarship
- Women in Animation's Phyllis Craig Scholarship
Increased demand for talented animators and digital artists has led to a rise in scholarships for aspiring animators. These are but a few of the many scholarships available to students enrolled in on-campus or online degree for animation.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Digital Media, Indian River State College, https://www.irsc.edu/programs/pathways/pathwaysprogramlist/pathwaysprogramlist.aspx?id=4294977239&careercoach=4294977638
- Animation and Visual Effects, Tribeca Flashpoint College, https://www.tribecaflashpoint.edu/aas-animation-vfx/
- Animation and Visual Effects, Academy of Art University, https://www.academyart.edu/academics/animation -- -visual-effects/undergraduate-degrees
- Digital Media, B.A.S., Gulf Coast State College, https://www.gulfcoast.edu/academics/programs/digital-media-bas/index.html
- Animation B.A., Southwest University of the Visual Arts, http://www.suva.edu/programs/animation
- Computer Animation, Lynn University, https://www.lynn.edu/academics/colleges-schools/computer-animation-bfa
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, https://www.rmcad.edu/program/on-campus/animation-school/
- Undergraduate Digital Arts and Animation, Pratt Institute, https://www.pratt.edu/academics/school-of-art/undergraduate-school-of-art/ug-digital-arts/
- Bachelor of Arts in Animation and Game Design, Living Arts College Course Catalogue, page 9, http://www.living-arts-college.edu/catalog/
- Animation and Illustration, University of Northwestern St. Paul, https://undergraduate.unwsp.edu/animation-illustration
- Multimedia Artists and Animators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.