Interested in pursuing animation as a career? This article is your go-to guide for the top animation schools in the US, providing all the insights to turn your aspirations into reality!
Animation, among the highest-paying creative professions alongside graphic design and photography, is thriving in the rapidly expanding entertainment industry.
The animation and visual effects industry is booming, with a projected 8% job increase by 2030. Brace yourself for exciting opportunities! With demand soaring, competition in animation is fierce. This article will spotlight the best animation schools to ensure you're ready for success!
Every person is different, so what school can be considered “best” will ultimately depend on how a college meets your needs as you build your college list. However, if we use the learning opportunities, employment outlook, and resources for education for a rubric, here are the best animation schools in the US:
Founded by Walt Disney in 1961, California Institute of Arts, or CalArts for short, offers one of the best academic programs for animation in the USA.
Many CalArts alumni have been nominated for and won prestigious awards like the Academy and Emmy Awards, thanks to the school's stellar curriculum. CalArts is particularly renowned for its focus on Experimental Animation and Character Animation.
In the first year of the program, students dive into intensive courses covering life drawing, color and design, storytelling, and both traditional and CG character animation.
As students progress into the second year, they delve deeper, integrating dialogue, sound effects, and music into their projects. This hands-on approach ensures students develop a strong foundation in CGI animation while also mastering traditional techniques.
SCAD is renowned as one of the top art schools in the USA, boasting a plethora of awards and an extensive range of academic programs in fine arts, design, fashion, filmmaking, media production, photography, and animation. If you have a passion for the artistic side of animation, SCAD has got you covered.
With an Animation degree from SCAD, you'll dive into the world of 2D and 3D character design, stop motion animation, lighting techniques, spacing, and more. It's the perfect place to hone your skills and bring your creative visions to life!
Many alumni from Ringling have made their mark in renowned animation studios like Disney, Cartoon Network, Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Santa Monica Studios, and more. In the Computer Animation program at Ringling College, students dive into every aspect of animation production.
From crafting characters and weaving their narratives to designing, painting, modeling, texturing, animating, lighting, compositing, and editing original films, it's a hands-on journey geared towards unleashing students' potential and fueling their passion for animation.
Location: New York
SVA is a hub for creative minds, with a faculty of over 1,100 members and a wide range of programs. They really emphasize critical thinking and pushing artistic boundaries, which makes it a fantastic place to learn animation.
Their alumni have achieved big-time recognition, winning Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, Grammys, MacArthur Fellowships, and Guggenheim Fellowships.
In terms of the curriculum, they start by teaching you the basics of 2D animation and cover important parts of the production process like film theory, storytelling, drawing, and animation history. As you progress, you get into more advanced techniques and work on both solo and group projects, preparing you for a career in animation.
USC’s School of Cinematic Arts has a division known as the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts.
Students have endless opportunities to explore and learn various types of animation, including but not limited to 2D and 3D Animation, character animation, storyboarding, motion graphics, VR and/or immersive media, motion capture, and so on.
Many USC alums have moved on to work for some of the most famous media production companies, such as Pixar, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Disney, Sony, and many more!
Location: Rhode Island
RISD's Film, Animation, and Video department is where creativity meets the moving image. Here, students dive into a world of documentary, experimental, and narrative films, alongside animated works using everything from CGI to stop-motion.
Alumni from this department are making waves in top studios like Pixar, DreamWorks, and Harmonix, which speaks volumes about the quality of education here. And don't forget, RISD even has its own museum, showing off the incredible talent of both current students and graduates.
In the studio, it's all about collaboration. FAV majors bounce ideas off each other, exploring the social, cultural, and expressive properties of movement. With cutting-edge tech at their fingertips and a treasure trove of past works to inspire them, students here are shaping the future of film and animation.
Location: New York
As a research institute, Pratt Institute uses the power of digital technology to teach Digital Arts and Animation. From virtual reality to artificial intelligence, Pratt puts technological innovation into artistic creation, allowing students to use technology as a tool to mold themselves into artists, designers, and storytellers.
You'll learn traditional and digital animation techniques, along with storytelling and digital software proficiency. Advanced 3-D animation skills, motion graphics, and character rigging are also covered.
Plus, you'll explore innovative approaches to digital arts and technology. Additionally, you'll gain expertise in game asset creation, design principles, and game development tools.
UCLA is among the top universities in the US for animation enthusiasts. Its School of Theatre, Film & Television offers dedicated workshops covering various aspects of entertainment, including traditional animation.
With a wide range of courses in animation and media production, UCLA provides students with both breadth and depth in their animation education.
At UCLA, students become proficient in essential animation design and video production software like Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro. This hands-on experience equips graduates with the skills needed to succeed in the ever-evolving world of animation and media production.
At Gnomon, students are primed for success in various entertainment industry positions. With an impressive 90% placement rate, graduates often secure positions at prestigious companies like Pixar, LUMA Pictures, and The Third Floor.
Within the Visual Effects program, students immerse themselves in the intricacies of creating dynamic digital assets and complex simulations.
From mastering techniques for rendering smoke, fire, and water to understanding the nuances of destruction and organic growth systems, the curriculum is comprehensive. Utilizing industry-standard software such as Houdini, Maya, Nuke, and After Effects, students gain hands-on experience tailored to industry demands.
Location: New York
At NYU Tisch School of the Arts, aspiring animators find a haven filled with everything they need to flourish. The curriculum covers all the bases, from traditional animation techniques to the latest in 2D and 3D animation.
You'll dive into fundamentals, work your way up to advanced levels, and explore essential areas like storyboarding and digital effects. Plus, there's a solid lineup of classes on animation history and criticism to round out your education.
Tisch also has some great groups like the Student Animation League and Animation Alumni Association. These aren't just clubs—they're communities where you can connect with fellow animators, swap ideas, and maybe even collaborate on projects.
Alias: Full Sail
Full Sail University is known for its expertise in entertainment, media, arts, and technology education. Many aspiring animators have found success thanks to Full Sail's cutting-edge technology and deep knowledge of entertainment media.
Notably, in 2022, Full Sail earned recognition as an Apple Distinguished School, highlighting its innovation and commitment to excellence in education.
The Computer Animation curriculum at Full Sail is all about real-world production processes. From storyboarding and sketching to modeling, character animation, and final compositing, students get hands-on experience across the entire production pipeline.
It's a practical and immersive approach that prepares graduates for the fast-paced world of animation.
Location: New York
RIT is well-known for its computer science, engineering, and art programs, making it a prestigious hub for creativity and innovation. It's recognized as one of the top universities in the country for its blend of technology, arts, and design.
In RIT's animation program, students tackle complex motion imaging challenges. The animation BFA allows students to explore various aspects of animation, including films, games, AR/VR, digital effects, sound design, and merging animation with live-action storytelling.
The School of Animation and Visual Effects at AcademyArt is renowned for nurturing talent. As a certified Houdini school, it's won numerous awards for its top-notch animation programs. Graduates often land positions at major companies like Marvel and Dreamworks.
Specializations include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, stop motion, and visual effects, giving students a comprehensive skill set. With hands-on training and industry mentorship, students are well-prepared for successful careers in animation and VFX.
Location: Provo, Utah
BYU offers a comprehensive education that covers both traditional and digital animation techniques, providing real-world skills in high demand in the animation industry.
This program places a strong emphasis on character design, storytelling, and animation techniques, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared to embark on diverse and exciting careers in animation studios, film production, and game design.
With a balanced approach, Brigham Young University equips students with a well-rounded skill set, making it an excellent choice for those aspiring to excel in the world of animation.
Location: Pasadena, California
ArtCenter College of Design is well-known for its animation program. They focus on teaching students character design, storytelling, and animation techniques thoroughly. It's an immersive learning experience that sharpens artistic skills while also diving into the technical side of animation.
The program aims not only to make students animation experts but also to nurture their unique creative abilities.
Graduates from ArtCenter's animation program often take leading roles in the industry, creating visually stunning animations that resonate worldwide. If you're seeking a transformative animation education, ArtCenter is a top choice.
Location: Rochester, New York
At RIT, animation education isn't just about learning the ropes—it's about mastering them. Their program covers all the bases, from traditional techniques to cutting-edge digital skills, ensuring students are well-prepared for whatever the industry throws their way.
With a curriculum that balances creativity and technical know-how, graduates walk away with a toolkit full of diverse talents. And it's not just theory—students dive into real-world projects, honing their craft and building portfolios that turn heads.
But it's not all about the animation itself. At RIT, students tackle the nitty-gritty, learning how to navigate the complex world of motion imaging workflow with ease.
From films to games, AR/VR to digital effects, and everything in between, RIT's animation BFA opens doors to a world of possibilities. It's the perfect blend of creativity and practicality, setting students up for success in the fast-paced world of animation.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University's animation program is all about blending creativity with tech savvy. It's hands-on and practical, geared towards preparing you for a range of animation careers. Whether you're dreaming of working in a studio or going solo, DePaul has you covered.
Their Bachelor of Arts in Animation is about thinking outside the box while honing your skills. You'll dive into everything from live-action videos to web-based shorts, drawing inspiration from Hollywood and anime alike. It's a program that sets you up for success in the ever-evolving world of animation.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
At SAIC in Chicago, students in the Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA) acquire essential skills, including:
SAIC's programs prepare graduates for careers in animation, film, games, and digital media, with access to cutting-edge equipment, visiting artists, and unique events like Critique Week.
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University's animation program is all about teamwork. Here, students from different fields come together, pooling their skills to create something truly unique. They don't just learn animation; they explore the latest tech, from interactive storytelling to cutting-edge user experience design.
But it's not just about the tech. CMU knows that storytelling is the heart of animation.
So, alongside mastering digital 2D and 3D techniques, students also dive into experimental methods and real-time animation. They get hands-on with motion capture, visual effects, rendering, and more.
In short, CMU's animation program isn't just about making pretty pictures—it's about crafting compelling stories that stick with you. And that's what sets it apart in the animation world.
Alias: Texas A&M)
Location: College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University's animation program covers all the bases for aspiring animators. Students dive into essential skills like 3D modeling, character design, and visual storytelling.
They get hands-on with industry-standard software like Maya and After Effects, mastering techniques for creating stunning animations and visual effects. Plus, they learn how to collaborate effectively and adapt to industry trends. It's a solid foundation for anyone looking to make their mark in the world of animation.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
At Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the animation program covers all the bases. Students become experts in industry-standard software like Adobe Animate and Maya, mastering 2D and 3D animation techniques.
They learn storytelling skills through storyboarding and character development while also honing their problem-solving abilities and collaborating with peers. The program prepares students for the professional world by helping them build portfolios and network with industry professionals.
With a focus on both technical skills and creative expression, graduates are well-equipped to succeed as animators, designers, and artists.
Alias: Columbia College
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago's animation program offers a hands-on approach to learning 3D computer animation. Students dive into industry-standard software and techniques from day one, honing their skills in modeling, rigging, and storytelling.
Through collaborative projects, they develop a keen eye for detail and learn to bring characters to life with emotion and depth. With guidance from experienced faculty, students graduate with a diverse portfolio and the expertise to succeed in the competitive animation industry.
Location: Richardson, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas program sets students up for success in the industry. They learn to craft compelling stories, design engaging games, and explore innovative animation techniques.
Through collaborative projects, they gain valuable experience in project management and teamwork. With access to industry-standard software like Adobe Creative Suite and Autodesk Maya, students graduate equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in animation and game development careers.
Location: Columbus, Ohio
CCAD provides students with the opportunity to explore their creativity through animation. The program at CCAD focuses on hands-on animation production, allowing students to develop a strong portfolio that showcases their skills and artistic vision.
You'll jump into the latest animation techniques, exploring 2D, 3D, and experimental styles, along with game art, motion graphics, digital modeling, virtual reality, and beyond.
With a supportive and collaborative learning environment, CCAD prepares aspiring animators to excel in the animation industry by fostering creativity and technical proficiency.
Location: Redmond, Washington
At DigiPen Institute of Technology, the Digital Art and Animation program gets you ready for the real world of art creation. You start with the basics of art and then move on to digital animation.
Students get hands-on with core animation skills, covering character concept and design, fundamental keyframe animation, motion studies, and both 2D and 3D computer animation.
By the end, you'll know how to bring your ideas to life using computers. You'll also work on projects with others, learning how to be part of a team making films or games. It's all about building your skills from the ground up and getting you ready for a creative career.
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
At Maryland Institute College of Art, the Animation program focuses on providing students with essential skills and tools necessary for success in the field. By fostering partnerships with local organizations and experts in areas such as medicine, science, and cinema, the department offers students real-world experience in various domains.
Through the integration of industry-standard hardware and software, students are equipped with the technical know-how to create original contemporary artwork with precision and depth.
With a curriculum designed to emphasize the fusion of technology and storytelling, graduates emerge as fully-developed artists capable of articulating creative visions across a range of animation techniques, including 2D, Stop-Motion, and 3D.
Location: Tallahassee, Florida
Florida State University's Animation and Digital Arts program is all about teaching students how to weave captivating stories using 3D animation. They're big believers in technology enhancing storytelling, so students get hands-on experience in leveraging visual effects to up their filmmaking game.
Lasting three years within a four-year degree, the program kicks off with the basics before diving deep into the world of 3D animation. Students get to rub shoulders with industry pros, picking up invaluable skills to carve out careers in filmmaking.
The curriculum is laser-focused on digital motion picture production. Think story development, previsualization, directing, 3D modeling, layout, computer animation, texturing, lighting, editing, sound – you name it. Plus, they throw in some film history and theory, as well aslive-action production elements.
Alias: CSU Fullerton
Location: Fullerton, California
The Computer Animation/Multimedia Certificate Program at California State University, Fullerton equips students with essential skills in digital art and technology. Through a series of courses, students gain proficiency in using industry-standard software such as Adobe Creative Suite and Maya for 3D modeling and animation.
The program also delves into web design and multimedia design, preparing students for interactive projects across different media platforms. With a focus on hands-on learning, students develop the necessary tools to thrive in the dynamic field of CGI animation and multimedia.
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
At MCAD's animation program, students dive into a vibrant learning experience focused on honing their skills and kickstarting their careers. They learn everything from classic design techniques to practical studio work, guided by experienced instructors.
With a strong foundation in fine arts, motion design, and both 2D and 3D formats, students graduate ready to collaborate and tell compelling stories in various industries like advertising, gaming, and filmmaking.
Location: Detroit, Michigan
At the College for Creative Studies, the animation program teaches students everything they need to know about making animated characters and stories.
They learn from experienced teachers who work in the animation industry. Students can choose what they want to specialize in, like drawing, computer animation, or storytelling. By the end of the program, they're ready to succeed in the animation world.
To be an animator, you must be savvy in art, innovation, storytelling, and technology. Animation has an extremely wide range of applications in media, entertainment, education, and even in medical fields. The high versatility is one of the reasons why the demand for animators is high and growing.
Most animation jobs have no specific degree requirements, making it entirely possible to get a job within the animation industry without having a Bachelor’s in animation or a related field.
With that said, successful animators will need an impressive portfolio to get hired.
Animation schools provide excellent opportunities to learn how to animate and build your portfolio, all while receiving guidance and feedback from peers and instructors. It is an excellent environment to learn skills and knowledge while enriching your profile as an animator.
When it comes to being an animator, getting your degree should be one of the lower things on your priority list. In any path you take towards being an animator, you should always prioritize learning the skills you need to grow and become an excellent animator.
While getting a degree is ultimately beneficial for many reasons, degrees are meaningless if you don’t back them up with a strong portfolio that demonstrates your capability as an animator. At times, employers might jump straight into looking at your portfolio before they look at your credentials when evaluating you as a candidate.
Your portfolio and projects do a much better job of conveying your capacity as an animator than your degree. Therefore, make sure you cherish the process of learning and animating above the credentials in university.
The above were some of the best animation schools that the USA has to offer at the moment. Do you still have any questions? Perhaps our FAQs will help paint a better picture for you.
Finding the best animation school isn't straightforward because each offers different programs and teaching styles. Some focus on creativity, while others emphasize technology.
It's crucial to research and choose the school that suits you best. While schools like California Institute of the Arts and Savannah College of Art and Design are popular choices, there are many good options.
Most aspiring Disney animators opt for the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Founded by Walt Disney, CalArts offers excellent animation education and networking opportunities with Disney artists.
Pixar animators typically come from Savannah College of Art and Design, Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Rhode Island School of Design, Ringling College of Art and Design, Academy of Art University, UCLA, and Full Sail University.
Yes, animation schools are worth it. They offer a supportive learning environment, specialized programs, project-based learning to improve skills, and networking opportunities with industry professionals.
Other notable animation schools include Art Center College of Design, California College of the Arts, and Otis College of Art and Design, providing quality education and career opportunities for students.
If you’re aspiring to become an animator, hopefully, this article will give you new directions and inspiration.
While those in animation often start off with a strong passion, finding success in animation as a career takes a large investment of time and effort. You must be prepared to dedicate your time, energy, and fortitude to producing many animated projects.
While this can be said about any career path, employment outcomes for animators seem to be more promising than ever. If you stay dedicated, everything you go through will all be worth it in the end–especially if you go to one of the best animation schools in the country.