There has never been a better opportunity for aspiring animators to excel.
The digital revolution has animation companies and studio jobs popping up all over the place – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get a job.
Do You Need an Animation Degree?
For beginners, it can be intimidating to be on the outside of this massive industry, not knowing how to get started.
However, (although difficult) the process is simple enough.
You need experience.
But how do you get experience, when you need experience to get hired?
The answer … a top animation school, of course.
Accredited animation colleges are a great way to get the hands-on training and experience you need to take the next step.
Benefits of attending animation school:
- An accredited degree (you can leverage)
- Hands-on experience
- Networking opportunities
- Time to grow your portfolio
- Career placement opportunities
- Access to latest software and tools
- And much more …
Additionally, most professional studios want to hire animators that can prove they’ve received training and hands-on experience with the latest technology and software programs.
Find the Right Animation School for You
To help you with your college search, we’ve highlighted what we believe to be the 61 best animation schools in the U.S and the top 10 internationally.
We included a wide variety of schools, including: 4-year universities, specialty schools, flexible training programs, and accredited online degree programs.
The factors we used to determine our rankings:
- Graduation rates
- Average starting salary
- Professor reviews
- Tuition & fees
- Reputation and student feedback
Our Favorite Animation Colleges
California Institute of the Arts
The California Institute of the Arts is widely renowned for its 3D animation degree. In addition to music, theatre, dance, and literary arts, they also have two different courses for animators. The first is a BFA in Character Animation, which is a four-year program that offers to teach you the skills you need for both traditional 2D animation as well as more modern CGI animation.
The first year of this computer animation degree covers a lot of ground in terms of drawing, storytelling through animation, and expressions, as well as a rundown on how animations are made. But after that, students will be animating sequences of dialogue with sound effects, advanced painting and illustration, and visual design. There’s a lot to learn, and this, along side CIA’s 2D animation courses covers it all while building an animation portfolio you can proudly show off to employers once your schooling ends.
Finally, in the fourth year, computer animation college students can focus on their own interests by customizing the program with courses that suit their needs. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a BFA and MFA of Experimental Animation program, which, while similar, offers students even more freedom to be creative. A great choice for fans of Stop-Motion or papermation, and for students with even more avant-garde interests.
Ringling College of Art and Design
Now here is a one of few computer animation colleges with an entire catalog of programs to choose from for those interested in animation.
First, there is the “BFA in Computer Animation”. This is often considered to be the best computer animation program in all of North America, where you can learn everything from painting to modeling, texturing, and editing. This computer animation degree has produced talented alumni in the past, such as the creators of the award-winning “In a Heartbeat” short film. You’ll learn the ins and outs of visual development, traditional animation, and 3D animation. But that’s far from the only course available for animators.
The “BFA in Motion Design” course teaches you to do nearly every job in the animation field, such as art director or sound artist and storyboard artists. Then there’s the “BFA in Game Art”, for animators who want to take their skills to the medium of video games.
If all of that doesn’t quite fit what you’re looking for, or you can’t decide between the programs, there is still an option–the “BA in Visual Studies”. This degree in computer animation that allows you to pick and choose your own classes to make sure you’re getting a program specifically to cater to your needs. If you’re looking to become an animator, you’ll definitely want to look into Ringling College.
Savannah College of Art and Design
Consistently rated highly by the “Animation Career Review”, the Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, is a premium choice when it comes to education in this field. Students who apply here get access to impressive digital workstations and top-of-the-line motion capture equipment. You’ll learn rigging, motion capture, stop-motion, 2D and 3D animation techniques, and more.
The animation degrees themselves come in three levels, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master in Animation, and Master of Fine Arts in Animation. Some of these online animation courses can actually be completed online, though you’ll be missing out on the in-house technology that SCAD offers its students, which is one of its best features.
Savannah also hosts the SCAD Animationfest, where multiple industry leaders and guest speakers come to give advice, network, and answer questions about life in the animation industry. There are even a host of majors and minors on offer, such as character technical direction, animation, and motion media design. In other words, animators have an entire buffet of options available, all backed by the latest technology SCAD has to offer.
Rhode Island School of Design
Among the first art schools in the US, Rhode Island’s School of Design is no stranger to animators. Alumni from this school have gone on to work for huge companies such as Pixar and DreamWorks Pictures. With that said, the main program they have on offer for Animators is the “Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film/Animation/Video” program, so what makes this school so special?
To begin with, this school has over 600 faculty members, keeping class sizes incredibly small, with 14 students being the average. That means students here can expect much more engagement with their teachers than in most schools. Plus, don’t worry, students of RISD’s 3D animation course will have the option to choose which category to focus in, but can still learn skills in a range of genres. 2D, 3D animation, and Stop-motion animation are among them.
The facilities themselves have access to a wide range of experimental film techniques and materials, making it a great place for an animator to develop their own unique style.
School of Visual Arts, New York
Working closely with the animation industry for over 40 years, students of the School of Visual Arts have a long track record of success. Part of the reason why SVA differs from other animation academies, is their extremely hands-on approach in comparison to others VFX schools. Through their “BFA in Animation” program, you’ll be learning to use every type of industry-standard software there is; Maya, Photoshop, Toon Boom Harmony, etc.
As a bonus, lessons are taught by professionals who work in the industry, and not just animators. You’ll learn storytelling techniques from writers, how to run an animated production from directors, and how to use 3D modeling software from special-effects artists.
For those musically inclined, there is a recording studio where you can mix your own soundtracks, with complete proprietary rights over them once you’re finished. Finally, the school offers internships and part-time employment opportunities in several independent animation studios, something that many other schools cannot do.
University of Southern California
Working with the nearby School of Cinematic Arts, USC has put together a compelling BA in Animation and Digital Arts program, which combines everything you need from a liberal arts degree with a deep understanding of animation. The education requirements are a bit steep; applicants will need to have eight courses in six core literacies, two in writing, and two in Global Perspectives.
USC’s 3D animation courses will introuduce students to the program by learning all about drawing, animating characters, movement, pre-production, visual effects, and more, and then picking an area of concentration. This is an area your personal program will specialize in, such as character animation, 3D computer animation, visual effects, or science visualization. Your final project will be based on your choice.
USC is a well-known and well-respected university, so despite the requirements, this 3D animation degree can be a massive boon to the resume of any animator.
University of California, Los Angeles
This University has a secret weapon within their 2D animation course – the UCLA Animation Workshop at the School of Theater, Film, and Television. This animation course has been running steadily since 1948 and has churned out countless students and arts. The Animation Workshop offers a 3 year Masters of Fine Arts Degree, with each year taking a different focus.
The first year is all about learning how to make a traditional, 2D animated film. The second year incorporates the technology you need to thrive in animation media. Students will use this year to hone their 3D computer skills before making an animated shorts. The third year focuses on animation when it comes to interactive media, such as video games. What’s neat about this setup, is that animators at UCLA will essentially be producing small works for their portfolio in every area of animation.
As for the facilities themselves, there are 12 animation desks straight from Disney themselves, two types of cranes used for filming animations, individual workstations for students working on their thesis, editing facilities, and more. At the animation workshop, all the technology you need to become a master animator is at your fingertips.
Carnegie Mellon University
IDeATe (Integrative Design, Arts, And Technologies) is Carnegie Mellon’s way of combining technology and creativity. Although the hardware this 2D animation degree program offers is minor, their method of education cannot be overlooked. They have four levels, portal courses, collaborative courses, supportive courses, and micro-courses.
Portal courses help you have a basic understanding not just of the minor you’re interested in, but all the interrelated courses that work with them. So for example, an animator may work with game designers or directors. Having a basic understanding of game design and directing can really help you. Passing a portal course gets you a collaborative course, which allows you to work on projects in a team. Supportive animation courses give you even more information on your specific specialization acting as a supplementary course.
Finally, micro-courses are fast-paced, intense courses that will train you on specific skills. All of these training techniques are brought to full during the Animation & Special Effects Minor.
In this course, you’ll learn all about performance capture, rendering, as well as several types of animation.
You can also implement what you’re learning alongside some of the other courses at IDeATe, such as video games and interactive media. As mentioned, it is only a minor course. However, the unique process of education, and being able to collaborate with many students with different specialties, makes this a program you won’t want to sleep on.
Rochester Institute of Technology
This institute boasts hundreds of alumni with screen credits to their name, some even working on projects as big as The Simpsons and Frozen. It’s also a huge facility with 77,000 square feet of space. But how is its animation program?
Through the Institutes affiliate “School of Film and Animation”, they have two BFA courses in Film and Animation. One of the two is actually an option that more heavily leans towards animation, while the other emphasizes film. Through the animation option, students can choose between three different programs get a 2D animation degree, 3D animation degree, and even includes Stop-Motion courses to their program as well.
Whatever you choose, you’ll learn about all facets of it and how it can be implemented in the modern media landscape. Film, games, VR, digital effects, and even how to animated 2D or 3D characters alongside live-action performers, like in Space Jam or Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Most importantly, the Rochester Institute of Technology offers to help 2D animation degree students find paid coops and internships, so they can get real-world experience in an animation studio. A networking event called “Creative Industry Day” provides an excellent opportunity to get to know professional animators.
If you want even more out of your education, there is also an MFA course in Film and Animation, where you can get the maximum amount of experience and credentials in this field.
Full Sail University
Recognizing that the advent of computers has transformed the face of media forever, this for-profit university built a robust program specializing in computer animation.
In this Bachelor’s Degree program, you’ll learn why Full Sail is considered one of the best VFX schools in the country. This program is all about creating digital characters and environments, as well as grow an understanding of Fine Arts, modeling, and of course animating the models you create. Combining these three categories gives students an understanding of drawing life-like characters and objects with proper weight and proportions. Then students take the next step by modeling their drawn creations using advanced computer software, before finally giving their creations fluid movement through animation.
The course can be completed on campus, or online, providing some room for students who can’t afford to travel. This program is actually fast-tracked, so you can earn a degree in half the amount of time as from most schools, though that does mean you’ll be doing more work in a shorter amount of time. The biggest issue with this program is that it focuses more on 3D animation than on 2D and experimental animation.
Still, this course will provide everything you need to learn CGI animation.
The strength of this online animation school, which operates 24/7, is the experienced professionals with actual industry experience teaching your courses. Students learn everything from character and storyboarding while mastering the latest software programs like Autodesk Maya.
Brigham Young University
BYU’s animation major is offered in collaboration with the College of Fine Arts and Communications, Department of Theatre and Media Arts, and Department of Visual Arts.
You’ll take a strong variety of valuable college courses such as Scripting for Animation, Screenwriting, Drawing for Animation, and 2D Animation Production during your journey toward graduation.
The DAVE School
What makes The DAVE School unique is that the instructors are all experienced industry artists, the curriculum simulates studio environments and pipelines and the curriculum is constantly evolving to meet industry needs based on feedback from studios such as MPC and Double Negative. (Complete DAVE School Review)
One of the best colleges for animation, The B.F.A. in Interactive Arts gives you the option of two different areas of emphasis. One focuses on the production of 2D animation and how it can be used to develop characters and tell a story.
The 3D Animation area of emphasis involves teaching students digital animation techniques for creating believable 3D animations.
New York University
The Digital Art and Design minor at New York University briefly covers everything from technical training and visual communication to digital fabrication skills. You’ll have access to the college department’s digital imaging, design, and fabrication schools where they can make use of the latest software, including 3D printers, CNC routers, and laser cutters.
Texas A&M University
From learning how to sketch to mastering the art of computer-generated animation, the Visualisation degree program teaches you how to share your ideas, content, and messages with your audience. Unique to this curriculum is the requirement that college students study abroad for a semester in a foreign studies program related to their industry of interest.
Ohio State University
Both the M.F.A. and B.F.A. program seeks to give you the skills needed to use the latest and widely-used technology toward the creating of art. You can learn 3D animation and modeling as well as digital imaging, internet art, holography, tactical media, moving images, interactive projects, and more.
Maryland Institute College of Art
You’ll receive hands-on experience with the latest design tools and software used by professional animators across the globe. College graduates leave the school fully capable of producing 2D and 3D animation as well as stop motion for games, movies, and more.
University of Pennsylvania
This Digital Media Design interdisciplinary major is a combination of computer graphics courses that teach you how to use interactive technologies toward the creation of games, films, and more. The school boasts graduates at top animation and gaming companies like Disney, Electronic Arts, DreamWorks, and Pixar.
Academy of Art University
Aspiring 2D or 3D animators have plenty of degrees in animation to choose from at The Academy of Art that match their desired level and prepare them for a rewarding career.
This dynamic program also prepares you if you prefer a role as a storyboard artist or visual effects artist. There are three areas of emphasis: Storyboarding, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, 2D Animation, and Stop Motion, and Visual Effects.
Laguna College of Art and Design
Laguna College boasts a number of degree programs that can lead to a career as an animator, with the B.F.A. in Animation being the best choice to learn 3D animation. Other options are the Game Art and Design + Digital Media programs. Graduates animators from this school are found in top studios like Pixar, DreamWorks, Obsidian Entertainment, Sony, and more.
University of Central Florida
Individuals interested in a career in animation will want to check out either the B.A. in Digital Media or M.F.A. in Emerging Media – Digital Media. Both offer a broad curriculum that spans animation, motion graphics, digital storytelling, visual language, and more.
Participants in the B.A. program can even choose between two specializations: Web Design and Game Design. (Reviews of Florida Schools for Animation)
Columbia College Chicago
Among the many degree program options for future animators, the B.F.A. in Computer Animation is the top choice. The B.A. in Cinema Art + Science, which focuses on the fundamentals of film production, also has a specialization in Animation. A minor in Animation and B.F.A. in Traditional design classes are also available.
University of Texas at Dallas
The University of Texas offers an impressive number of college degree programs useful to people looking to prepare themselves for a career at a game or digital studio. These include B.A., M.A., M.F.A., and even Ph.D. degrees in Arts and Technology with an emphasis in Animation.
The Computer Game Development emphasis can also be useful if students want to work as an animator in the gaming industry.
Parsons The New School for Design
This B.F.A. program was designed to cover everything a professional new media storyteller should know, This includes a strong curriculum covering not just animation but also computer graphics, data programming, motion graphics, physical computing, and game design. You can find our recommended colleges for game design here.
DigiPen Institute of Technology
As one of the best computer animation schools in the country, the rigorous four-year program at Digipen will turn you into a master of the technology needed to create impacting imagery in a professional studio environment.
College graduates end the program with refined drawing and storytelling skills as well as extensive production and studio experience. This makes them well prepared to enter any digital media industry in the role of either an animator or production artist.
Gnomon School of Visual Effects
At Gnomon’s you can choose between two fantastic college certificates that both prepare students for a rewarding career with Gnomon’s VFX schools online. One is a 2-year student program in Digital Production for Entertainment and the other is a 3-year program in Entertainment Design & Digital Production.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
This degree in computer animation gives you access to cutting-edge equipment and technology as they prepare for a career in one of many fields. Students get to choose one of the following concentrations: Film, Video, Installation, New Media, Animation, and Nonfiction.
Both the B.A. and M.A. in Animation involve a host of useful courses such as 3D Animation, Animation Production, Narrative Development, and more. The B.F.A. and B.F.A. 3D animation courses are similar but also involve a concentration in either Cinema or Game Art.
Students interested purely in cartoon schools will find interest in the B.F.A. in Animation, which combines courses that focus on story, art, sound design, technology, and performance. The B.F.A. in Game Art & Design is more designed towards creating 2D and 3D characters, animations, and environments for games.
San Jose State University
The core curriculum of the B.F.A. in Art involves courses in tradition and 3D animation as well as character design, visual development, physics of motion, modeling, and storytelling. You can also further your knowledge of Animation by choosing the Animation concentration. There is also an Illustration concentration.
Loyola Marymount University
LMU’s animation school provides an understanding of both traditional and digital areas of animation, which are needed to apply for jobs in the film, television, video game design, and many other industries. Graduates obtain their own artistic voice while mastering advanced 3D, storytelling and production methods.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Computer animation schools in Electronic Arts consists of a wide range of creative digital media courses and also offers a concentration in Visual Arts and Animation. A B.S. in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication is also there to train futural digital artists and animators.
Art Center College of Design
The Entertainment Design Program builds up students as creative storytellers able to conceptualize and create digital entertainment content. While the Concept Design concentration delves into animation, the Character course is arguably the stronger choice for aspiring animators.
California State University, Fullerton
Students involved in the B.F.A. in Art program can choose an Entertainment Art / Animation concentration. Coursework involves building up the student’s practical, conceptual, and technical skills when students are taking the path to learn VFX using character animation to tell a story and communicate ideas.
Otis College of Art and Design
Digital Media incorporates three useful and popular areas of study: Animation, Motion Design, and Game & Entertainment Design. OTIS alumni can be found at top companies like WETA, Sony Online Entertainment, Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney, and more.
California College of the Arts
Student in a computer animation degree can enroll in an Illustration/Animation program requiring demanding requirements. This 2D animation degree offers you a number of valuable courses, including Drawing Figures in Context, Special Studies in Animation, Character Design, and more.
California State University, Long Beach
Students in the B.F.A. in Arts degree program can enroll in an Illustration/Animation program requiring demanding requirements. The Animation track offers you a number of valuable courses, including Drawing Figures in Context, Special Studies in Animation, Character Design, and more.
North Carolina State University
The Art + Design degree is designed to help you think critically while making use of solid art and design principles to create compelling content. Areas of study include computer imaging, interactive design, photography, and of course, cartoon schools. (North Carolina degree programs for animators)
University of the Arts (Philadelphia)
Animation academies prepare you for a career as an animator in any field of interactive media. A Film + Animation degree is also available that leans more toward creating narratives through the use of computer-generated animation.
Florida State University
The College of Motion Picture Arts has three degrees that aspiring animators should consider. They are – Bachelors in Animation and Digital Arts; Bachelors in Motion Pictures Arts – Production; Masters in Motion Picture Arts – Production.
Students enrolled in Purdue’s 3D animation degree program will receive training in six main areas: 3D modeling, rendering, texturing, lighting, character rigging, and motion. This will be done while you use the latest animation tools and software, including Autodesk Maya.
The B.F.A. in Media Arts Production has a Production Track that features courses useful to a future animator. These include degrees in Computer Animation, Film, Drawing, Photography, Interactive Media, and more.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
You’ll make use of the latest technology while learning how to produce your own 3D, 2D, and stop-motion animations. Top courses include 3D Modeling, Storyboard, Advanced 3D Animation Seminar, Advanced Animation Seminar, and more. Students also get unique training in hand-drawn 2D production.
Kansas City Art Institute
Among the acclaimed cartoon colleges, KCAI’s encourages you to create your own voice while learning all there is to know about computer animation.
This includes extensive training in leading animation programs like Maya, Dragonframe, and Adobe Creative Suite 6.
University of South Florida
Students in the 3D animation degree, 2D animation degree, and computer animation degree program get to use latest digital tools while learning the fundamentals of 2D and 3D animation as well as 3D modeling, Sound, and Digital Media. There is also an Advanced 3D Animation focus. (See more Florida animation schools)
A B.F.A. in Computer Art & Animation classes are available if you’re looking for a well-established college for computer animation, computer-generated images, computer games, and more. An M.F.A. in Computer Art and Minor in Animation are also available.
San Francisco Art Institute
The San Francisco Art Institute offers a Film degree that covers an extensive range of genres, including documentary, hybrid forms, narrative, and animation. You will also get experience with the latest sound and image editing tools.
Cleveland Institute of Art
CIA’s B.F.A. in Animation prepares you for a career in a number of positions, including: 3D Character Animator, Game Designer, Concept Artist, Storyboard Artist, Animator, and Independent Filmmaker. A recent graduate was even a sculptor on Disney’s Big Hero 6.
Montclair State University
The B.F.A. in Animation/Illustration covers the foundations of not just 2D and 3D animation but also figure drawing, color, lighting, and other areas of using animation as a storytelling medium.
Ball State University
BSU prides itself on providing both undergraduate and graduate programs in 2d animation, 3d animation, product design, and animation degrees – or as they call them, illustration degrees. Their Illustration Degree specializes in offering students the ability to branch out into Illustration Design, Surface Design, Motion Design, Entertainment Arts, and more.
10 Amazing Animation Schools Outside The US
Vancouver Film School
VFS has a number of excellent one-year programs to learn 3D animation as a path toward a career as an animator. The best one is the 3D Animation & Visual Effects program, but the Foundation Visual Art + Design path is also worth recommending.
Sheridan’s Bachelor of 3D animation degree will leave you with a solid understanding of not just 3D computer animation but also the fundamentals of 2D movement, performance, and expression. You’ll also take courses in other areas such as storyboarding and scriptwriting.
You have a choice of four different programs at BU that can lead you to a career in animation. These are – B.A. in Computer Visualization and Animation; B.S. in Software Development for Animation, Games, and Effects; A B.S. in Game Technology; B.A. in Computer Animation Arts.
Nanyang Technological University
With the Art, Design & Media program, you’ll cover several areas useful to a professional animator. In four years you’ll cover everything from Digital Animation, Digital Filmmaking, Interactive Media, Product Design, Visual Communication, and Photography & Digital Imaging.
Royal College Of Art (United Kingdom)
RCA offers you a learning and teaching environment designed to help you develop your creative and technical skills to become a good animator. You’ll also take courses covering scriptwriting, storytelling, improvisation, and more.
HKU University of the Arts Utrecht
Bachelor of Design At HKU University offers you a number of different paths in design and media to choose from. They include Animation, Fashion Design, Audiovisual, Media, Illustration, Graphic Design, and Image and Media Technology, Product Design, and Spatial Design.
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
RMIT’s B.D. in Animation and Interactive Media is the best choice if you want to receive a solid education in 2D animation, 3D animation, motion graphics, special effects, and interactive media. There are also two Master’s degrees and one Graduate Diploma in Animation, Games, and Interactivity.
University of Technology Sydney
The B.D. in Animation is perfect if you want to translate your passion for drawing, storytelling, and visual art into a career in animation. There is also a post-graduate Master of Animation program to further your studies.
Teesside University (England)
Teesside University has three excellent programs if you’re determined to serve as an animator for a living. These are – a B.A. in Computer Games Animation; B.A. in Computer Character Animation; and a one-year M.A. in Concept Art for Games and Animation.
Beijing Film Academy (China)
BFA’s Animation School has been preparing the next great animation directors and animation producers since 2000. You’ll be trained by an experienced teaching team and have the opportunity to take part in several animation film festivals in the city.
The Animation Career Outline
Professional animators and graphic artists are at the forefront of a thriving digital industry that continues to grow.
Despite outsourcing minor animation projects, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a 6% increase in the field of animation, graphics, and media design over the next few years.
Too Many Options?
Careers in animation are as diverse and varied as the training programs available to those looking to learn.
Regardless of your background, age, or financial situation, there are many high-quality animation schools available to choose from.
Your Animation Skills Set The Stage
Many (but not all) of today’s top animators started out with some natural talent. Typically memorable illustration skills, superior storytelling abilities, and a natural inclination towards the art.
Bob Godfrey, one of the most talented illustrators to ever grace the field of animation, has spoken often of his passion for bringing his drawings to life.
In one interview, part of what he believed animation to be was summed up, in part, when he said,
“…We want limitations; we want gravity. Basically, there is no gravity in animation. Animation is free, it can fly, and it can go anywhere. I don’t think enough people realize this, they’re too earth bound. It’s not earth bound, it’s fantasy.
You’ve got to have a very whimsical mind for animation, I think; you’ve got to be able to take off and be not of this world.”
It is this passion and drive that brings many to the industry.
Searching for Animation Classes
In order to gain access to the world of animation, you have to pursue an education to learn 2D animation and 3D animation.
The ability to create realistic animation has grown exponentially with new techniques and computer software continually improving.
Depending on where you live, you can explore the many 3D animation degrees offerings and degree tracks to place you where you would like to be in the field.
Typical Animation Courses List
Generally speaking, there are four broad categories of animation training.
- Associate Degree(s)
- Bachelor Degree(s)
- Master Degree(s)
Also worth noting:
- The US doesn’t currently offer a Doctoral Degree in Animation.
- Self-study via books and 2D animation schools online are also gaining in popularity.
In addition to selecting the level of education you desire, choosing the right focus can be even more important.
Common focus areas of animation:
- Animated advertising
- Movies and television
- Video game testing and development
While these categories are not exclusive, they paint the choices with a broad brush for those wishing to narrow down their field of interest.
It May Seem Overwhelming at First
Just as there are many different jobs in the animation industry, there are a myriad of choices available for your training.
There are schools devoted entirely to the pursuit of graphic design and animation as well as universities adding in comprehensive degree tracks in media arts, animation and graphic design.
How to Choose the Right Animation School
Training ranges from the certificate level, where you can train in the core basics and give you enough of an introduction to the field, from cartoon courses all the way to the best 3D animation schools in the world, which can find you teaching in a university or working on the next major animated film.
Level 1: The Animation Certification
There are several schools throughout the country that offer programs that provide a certificate after your training is complete.
These courses provide core basics in the animation field and usually require approximately 17-18 credits.
You can expect to take classes such as:
- 2D animation
- 3D modeling
- Graphic design
- And additional similar courses
These certificates can offer you a glimpse into the complex world of digital media, animation and graphic design.
You can take a certificate course to enhance an already existing degree, or to freshen your skills that might be outdated with emerging and improving technologies.
Level 2: The 3D Animation Associate Degree
Progressing to the next level of education available in the animation field, we arrive at the Associate Degree.
This typically two-year program adds in not just core classes, but other prerequisite courses at the college level that result in a more well-rounded education.
The animation classes that you will take during the pursuit of this degree can vary.
Some schools offer multiple tracks for degree completion that may result in Applied Science or Arts degrees in:
- Graphic design
- Game design
- Animation specialties
Graduates from these types of programs can expect to obtain entry-level employment in animation studios, advertising companies, design firms and other creative artist positions.
As this article points out, just one generation ago, all animation was done by hand. Delving into the history of animation, you discover the incredible talents of those who worked animation magic with pen and paper.
Level 3: The Bachelor Degree
The exponential growth of the industry had lead to an equal rise in educational requirements for those at the top of the field.
For this reason, there are a ton of Bachelor Degrees in Animation available for serious aspiring animators.
When enrolling in a Bachelor of Animation Class or training program you can expect to learn the core skills of animation, the software, and tools used by pros, as well as a specialty to focus on for your career.
The Most Popular Bachelor Degree Programs Include:
Level 4: The Master Degree
At the pinnacle of animation, education sits the Master’s Degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Animation, Design and Production.
These degrees are not as widely offered as certificates, associate and bachelor degrees.
Individuals who take their education to the top with an M.F.A are usually seeking higher-level positions in the industry such as:
- Project Director
- Studio Executive
This advanced degree also adds in unique components (not usually found in less intense degrees) such as:
- Production Skills
Entry Requirements for An Animation Master Degree
In order to gain admittance to these selective programs, one must already possess a valid Bachelor’s Degree in an Animation field and compete for a place in the program.
Upon completion, one can expect to gain a more lucrative position in the field. Some individuals obtain this degree in order to teach at these prestigious CGI schools and transfer their knowledge to up-and-coming animators.
Also worth noting:
To set the record straight, there aren’t any Doctoral degrees in animation currently available in the U.S.
If your passion extends to the height of wanting to pursue your Doctorate degree in Animation, you will have to look outside the US to find a suitable program.
Most people who pursue a degree in digital arts at this level are often seeking to teach at universities or work at the highest level of the industry. This degree is extremely rare and takes years to complete.
Online Animation Schools
There are many reasons students choose to enroll in an animation school online.
Sometimes, it is simply a financial decision.
Online schools are usually less expensive than traditional colleges. As the student is not on campus and provides their own classroom so to speak.
Also, online animation schools offer the student the flexibility of taking the course at their own pace, working around work, family and other obligations.
This can be a very attractive draw to choosing an online path.
Some people wish to obtain their degree in the fastest possible time and at the lowest cost.
High-Quality Online Animation Schools
- Game Animation Fundamentals (6 Week Workshop)
- Game Animation Combat Attacks (6 Week Workshop)
3D Animation Program
- Animation Track
- Animation Program
Academy of Art University
Animation and Visual Effects Program
- Associate’s Degree
- Bachelor’s Degree
- Master’s Degree
- Master’s of Fine Arts
- Certificate Programs
California College of the Arts – Kadenze (Online Courses)
Introduction to 3D Modeling and Animation with Maya: Tradition Meets Technology
- Certificate Program (5 Sessions/11 hours per session)
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
- Bachelor’s Degree
Full Sail University
Computer Animation Degree
- Bachelor’s Degree (20 Months/29 Months)
Southern New Hampshire University
Graphic Design & 3D Animation Degree
- Bachelor’s Degree: 3D Modeling & Animation
Savannah College of Art and Design
Animation Courses & 2D Animation Degree
- Bachelor’s Degree (35 hours)
- Master’s Degree (45 hours)
- Master’s of Fine Arts (90 hours)
The DAVE School
- Bachelor’s Degree (30 Months)
Academy of Interactive Entertainment – Australia
3D Animation & VFX for Film
- 3D Animation Foundations Certificate (2 Semesters – 15 Weeks)
- Game Art Foundations Certificate (3 Semesters – 20 Weeks)
Gnomon School of Visual Effects
- Creature Modeling and Sculpting (10 Weeks)
- Hard Surface Modeling 2 (10 Weeks)
- Introduction to 3D with Maya (10 Weeks)
- Photoshop for Digital Production (10 Weeks)
CG Spectrum Online School for Animation and VFX
- Introduction to 3D Animation (6 Months)
- Advanced 3D Animation Diploma (10 Months)
- Advanced 2D Animation Diploma (10 Months)
- Introduction to Character Rigging (3 Months)
Berkeley College Online
- Bachelor of Fine Arts
Rasmussen College Online
- Associate’s Degree
- Bachelor’s Degree
Liberty University Online
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (8 Weeks)
Downsides to Animation Schools Online
One of the main drawbacks when taking online animation courses is that you can sometimes miss out of the collaborative effort that taking a course in-person offers.
Many 2D & 3D animation courses rely on the concept of teamwork to put together class projects and learn ways that a complete graphic design team sits down and designs the product from conception to completion.
While there are certainly ways to have a discussion online through video conferences, chatrooms, and forums, this can be a drawback for some.
Some animation colleges and universities can alleviate this deficit by offering meet-ups and workshops that tie-in to the course and other collaborative opportunities.
Also, one must consider another important issue. If you are interested in specializing in a particular niche in the animation field, attending a brick-and-mortar school will allow you access to more hardware and software used directly in the industry.
Unless you are fortunate enough to already own or have access to these advanced tools, your best option might be to take at least a few of your animation classes on a campus that can provide you with this interactive environment.
Online animation schools are sometimes the only option if you do not live anywhere near an institution that provides in-person 2D & 3D animation courses and moving to live near or on campus isn’t an option.
How to Pay for School
The cost for animation colleges can vary greatly depending on several factors.
Community colleges tend to have great in-state rates for students and can be a very affordable option to start out with.
Private computer animation degree programs often cost more, however, they are also accredited schools which are eligible for funds like student loans, scholarships and grants.
Don’t forget to consider the state and economic status around the animation academies. If you are looking to attend a brick and mortar animation school, you will need to not only seek out information about the cost of the education program, but the cost of living for housing, food and other necessities needs to be factored in.
If you are taking all of your courses online, you will need to add in additional costs as well.
Will you need to take workshops or participate in internships in order to complete your 3D animation degree? While you may save on program costs, factoring in these additional fees are important too.
Speak to an Advisor
Once you have narrowed down your animation school and program selections, taking the time to speak to an advisor is a crucial step in the process.
They can answer vital questions that will help you avoid signing up for courses you don’t need or guiding you towards a course track that will point you in the direction of the career you seek.
Advisors can also help you figure out the often complicated world of financial aid and get you on the right track.
In addition to traditional funding, there are scholarships that are specifically geared for students pursuing an education in the animation field.
Many of them require that you submit portfolios and other forms of completed work.
You will find that the requirements vary for each scholarship, as is normally the case with most targeted awards.
Some scholarships are available for women pursuing a computer animation degree, while another may target an individual coming from a disadvantaged background.
A different scholarship may require that you maintain a certain G.P.A. in order to apply. If you take the time to do some research on these programs, you may be able to fund a portion of your tuition costs.
List of scholarship opportunities via CalArts.
The Future of Animation
Pursuing your dream of becoming a 3D animator is a great way to turn your artistic background, talents and ideas into a lifetime career.
With so many colleges, tech schools, universities and options to help you realize your dream, you can begin your search to find the best animation schools and degrees that will propel you forward towards your pursuits in the industry.
No one knows what the future of animation looks like. But one thing is certain; animation is here to stay and the demand for content is growing. Take a look at the top 100 best animated movies of all time.
Gaming, film, television and advertising agencies will continue to seek out new talent and story ideas that spark new content and new ideas that push the boundaries of technical limits.
You already know that’s what you want to do, so why not start your search for the perfect animation classes today?
Common Questions About Animation Colleges
Do I need to attend one of these animation colleges to have a successful career?
No, definitely not. However, it’s likely the quickest and most effective way of accelerating your career.
What if I’m only curious about animation?
No problem. You can either check out various free online resources or enroll in a “Beginner’s Certificate Program” via online training from Post University.
All credits from that class are transferrable should you decide to continue your 3D animation degree.
What if I can’t afford college right now?
Check out some of the scholarship and grant opportunities available:
Written by Dustin Tyler [Updated May 16, 2023]
Initially focused on web dev, Dustin was introduced to game design by a friend after college and was immediately attracted to the combination of technical skill and creativity required to make an awesome game.
While not a professional game developer himself, he’s utilized his web dev skills and desire to help others by creating a resource where expert game designers can share what they’ve learned with the next generation of aspiring game makers.
Thank you so much for your informative articles!
My son is in the midst of deciding which college is best for him. He’s been admitted to Parsons and Pratt, both with significant merit scholarship. He loves creating art, and has expressed that he would like to work in “game environments/animation/storytelling/Character design”.
What are your thoughts with regards to Parsons v’s Pratt?