If you’re looking for something creative, love drawing and animation, or are looking for a way to break into the film industry, a masters in animation might be the right degree for you. But with so many different schools to choose from, each with its own particular focus, it can be hard to find the right degree for you, especially if you’re trying to decide between tradition and online animation degrees.
What Should You Look For in an Animation Degree?
The schools on this list are all offering graduate-level masters degrees in animation — but this doesn’t mean that they’re all identical. Some schools choose to concentrate on traditional film animation while others provide a broader education in digital media. Employers will be looking for graduates with practical, hands-on experience in animation, so look for schools that provide you with industry-specific training and the opportunity to build a portfolio by creating your own digital media and animation projects.
Top 5 Masters in Animation Programs
|1||San Jose State University||San Jose, California|
|2||University of Central Florida||Orlando, Florida|
|3||Bowling Green State University||Bowling Green, Ohio|
|4||Texas A&M University||College Station, Texas|
|5||New York Institute of Technology||Old Westbury, New York|
What Can You Do With a Masters in Animation?
Equipped with a masters in animation, you can choose to focus on creating your own original artwork or to work for major producers including Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks. Potential jobs available to masters in animation graduate include animators, characters designers, editors, art directors, and production designers. Animation degrees can be a lucrative career choice — according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average salary for multimedia artists and animators is $75,270 per year.
We compiled a list of schools around the country that provide masters in animation programs and ranked the top 19 schools. We used annual tuition rates and the number of required credit hours to rank the schools. Check out our rankings below to find the best value master of animation degrees in the United States.
Best 19 Masters in Animation
San Jose State University
The Cadre Laboratory for New Media at San Jose State University offers a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in digital media art. The degree provides opportunities for technical research and project-oriented development of digital media art and emphasizes creative experimentation within a context of historical, cultural, technical, and theoretical study. Faculty and graduate students produce electronic artworks including data visualizations, computer games, net art, interactive art, projection mapping, performance, and data-driven interactive digital media projects.
University of Central Florida
The School of Visual Arts and Design at the University of Central Florida offers a Master of Fine Arts in emerging media — animation and visual effects. This specialized program is designed to emulate both the professional and independent studio environment, providing students with opportunities to assume an artistic leadership role. Principal emphasis is placed on narrative film structure and entrepreneurial aspects of animation as related to independent filmmaking, studio employment, and job creation. Students in the masters in animation program will have opportunities to co-direct a team of undergraduate character animation students and create their own animation or visual effects thesis.
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green State University offers a Master of Fine arts in digital arts with a concentration in 3D modeling and animation. The program is designed to prepare students to become both professional artists in industry and university-level instructors while developing their own studio practice. All supported graduate students are provided with studio space and computers. The masters in animation curriculum includes technical instruction in inverse kinematics, particle systems and dynamics, deformations, scripting, and compositing as well as advanced modeling, rendering, and animation techniques using state-of-the-art software.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University offers a Master of Fine Arts in visualization, a technology-infused visual arts-oriented degree. Students master the use of artistic visual communication and expression through the combined use of digital and analog mediums. The curriculum is highly interdisciplinary and encourages the development of new technologies and creative applications to create deeper insight and understanding. Graduates are equipped with a balance of artistic insight and technical prowess that sets them apart from their peers.
New York Institute of Technology
Students at the New York Institute of Technology can pursue a Master of Fine Arts in digital art and design — animation. In this masters in animation, students will develop a competitive portfolio of innovative computer animation, readying them for careers as leaders on both the business and creative side of the industry. Students have opportunities to hone their personal style through courses in character, storytelling, and storyboard development, digital compositing, and special effects experimentation.
The Master of Fine Arts in digital production arts at Clemson University is a professional degree program aimed at producing technically savvy, artistically talented graduates who are sought after by the growing electronic arts industry, particularly by those companies engaged in visual effects within the entertainment and commercial video, film, and gaming industries. The masters in animation program offers a blend of instruction from art, computer science, computer engineering, graphic communications, performing arts, philosophy, and psychology. Because the MFA is a terminal degree in fine arts, students will also be prepared to accept university faculty positions.
DigiPen Institute of Technology
DigiPen Institute of Technology offers a Master of Fine Arts in digital arts. This terminal degree allows students to hone their craft in digital media and build proficiency in subjects like digital sculpting, digital painting, character design, and other specializations within the digital media industries. The masters in animation program culminates with an advanced thesis project that lets students develop and showcase an original body of work. DigiPen is a certified partner of SideFX, developers of the procedural 3D art software, Houdini, allowing students to gain certification in the industry-leading tool.
The Master of Fine Arts in computer art at Syracuse University is an artistic research and development program situated in the context of technology. The degree is dedicated to a wide range of practices in art media where the computer plays a primary role, including computer-generated images and 3D computer animation. Students in the masters in animation program are expected to develop a strong record of professional practice in a variety of contexts, including exhibition, screenings, public intervention, installation, performance, workshops, gaming events, and viral media.
Pratt Institute offers a Master of Fine Arts in digital animation and motion arts. Masters in animation students create narrative and non-narrative films using 2D and 3D digital animation techniques, live-action, and motion graphics. Recommended electives include history of animation, film criticism, traditional animation, character design, rigging, lighting and rendering, audio and video, compositing and special effects, and advanced digital animation techniques. Past graduates of the program include Zach Hyer, who in 2011 won a Student Academy Award Gold Medal for his animated short film ‘Correspondence.’
University of Southern California
The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts at the University of Southern California offers a Master of Fine Arts in animation and digital arts. The masters in animation program strongly encourages innovation and experimentation and emphasizes imagination, creativity, and critical thinking. Courses include classic character animation, 2D and 3D storytelling, performance capture, visual effects, motion graphics, stop-motion, experimental filmmaking, installations and multimedia, documentary animation, and visualizing scientific research. Graduate students have their own mini studios within the Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Center for Animation where they work on their thesis projects.
School of Visual Arts
The Master of Fine Arts in computer arts at the School of Visual Arts emphasizes creativity and a multidisciplinary approach to producing innovative animation, motion graphics, and experimental art within a collaborative state-of-the-art production environment. The goal of the masters in animation program is to develop artists who will continue to challenge norms, question standards, and surprise people. A combination of small class sizes, working professionals as faculty, and guest lectures provide in-depth exposure to all areas of animation, motion graphics, and experimental art.
North Carolina State University
The Masters of Art and Design at North Carolina State University focuses on experimental media arts and encourages students to explore the intersection of digital and material technologies to create interactive and engaging experiences. The masters in animation program prepares students to be design directors, practitioners, visionaries, and leaders in the field. Students are provided with opportunities for research, experimentation, creative production, and entrepreneurship. Students in the program have the option of doing a final project or completing a more theoretical and research-based paper or study.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offers a Master of Fine Arts in electronic arts. The program is designed for students pursuing artistic and academic careers emphasizing electronic media. The degree emphasizes developing creative skills in digital video, computer music, imaging, animation, interactive media, performance, and installation art. The masters in animation program culminates in a required thesis project, submission of written thesis document, and a thesis defense. Since the program is geared towards preparing students to participate actively in the art and music communities, practical aspects of production and presentation of creative work are emphasized.
Academy of Art University
The School of Animation and Visual Effects at the Academy of Art University offers both a Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts in visual effects and animation. The degree is also available fully online, where students have access to a virtual remote lab allowing them to remotely access a robust computer, software, and other tools they may need for their homework and projects. The Academy of Art University is the only animation and visual effects school that teaches in a studio production environment. Faculty have worked on a number of films including Iron Man, The Lion King, and Shrek 2, and past graduates include Alyce Tzue, whose animated short film ‘Soar’ won gold at the Student Academy Awards, qualifying to enter the race to the 2016 Academy Awards.
California Institute of the Arts
The School of Film and Video at the California Institute of the Arts offers a Master of Fine Arts in experimental animation. In the masters in animation program, students are provided with a comprehensive foundational background and are encouraged to seek out poetic, lyrical, structural, and other modes of experimentation with the materials and forms of the moving image. In addition to coursework in technique and theory, the curriculum includes training in professionalization. Students are expected to become familiar with film festivals and submission processes, attend professional gatherings and events, and become members of related organizations. All masters in animation students are required to complete a first-year project, complete a thesis proposal in the second year, and pass a thesis review.
DePaul University offers a Master of Fine Arts in animation. The masters in animation is a terminal degree program designed for students who are interested in creating original animated films and artwork as their main vocation. During the first year of the masters in animation program, students spend the majority of their time working on a film. They also choose faculty mentors who regularly consult with them on their projects. During their second year, students begin work with one of the Master of Fine Arts co-chairs on their thesis project and assemble their thesis committee for regular feedback. The program uses the cohort model, so students will work alongside their peers throughout their degree.
Columbus College of Art and Design
In the Columbus College of Art and Design masters in animation program, students learn 2D, 3D, and experimental styles, as well as game art, motion graphics, digital modeling, and virtual reality. Graduate students have access to industry-standard facilities, expert guidance from creative faculty, and the support of peers in the Animation Student Collective. Columbus College of Art and Design graduates lead their fields as story artists, character animators for feature films, effect house animators, game artists, live theater effect designers, motion designers, projection mapping artists, rapid prototyping producers, television animators, and architectural visualization producers.
Savannah College of Art and Design
Masters in animation students at the Savannah College of Art and Design illuminate fantastical realms and characters that launch careers, bring joy to fans, and take the world by storm. Students have access to resources that will help them develop their signature style in 2D, 3D, and stop-motion animation, digital modeling, rigging, lighting, and look development. Masters in animation students work with top companies and peers, with alumni joining studios such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Rochester Institute of Technology
In Rochester Institute of Technology‘s Master of Fine Arts in film and animation, students create live-action production, scripts, 2D, 3D, or stop motion animation that is unique. The School of Film and Animation houses state-of-the-art facilities, including full production facilities. The masters in animation program is supported by highly specialized faculty from the university’s photography, imaging science, computer science, information technology, and design programs. Rochester Institute of Technology produces graduates who work at top animation studios, including Disney Animation Studios, Electronic Arts, DreamWorks, Blue Sky Studios, Nickelodeon, and Industrial Light and Magic.
Still looking for a masters in animation program? Use our degree finder tool to help you find the right fit.
Our Ranking Methodology
To determine how to rank each college, we researched and evaluated each school’s estimated annual cost of tuition and the number of required credit hours. We used in-state and on-campus tuition rates where available. We took all information directly from each school’s website. We sorted each school first by the cost of tuition (lower is better) and then by number of credit hours (fewer is better), letting each value make up equal portions (50%) of the final rankings. Where schools were tied in the rankings, we gave additional weight to the cost of tuition.
If you work for one of the schools we ranked and you notice an error in the information we used to rank you, please feel free to contact us and let us know so we can make a correction.