Best Animation Schools

Updated on January 3, 2024

Animation is a competitive industry that requires strong technical skills and creativity. For those looking to start a career in animation, whether in 3D, 2D, stop motion, or other techniques, choosing the right animation program is critical. Here are 10 of the top animation schools in the United States based on academics, facilities, industry connections, alumni success, and more.

Ringling College of Art and Design

Location: Sarasota, FL

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 40%

Tuition: $47,460 per year

Website: www.ringling.edu

Ringling College of Art and Design is one of the leading colleges for animation, offering both a major and minor in Computer Animation. The program focuses strongly on storytelling and creativity in addition to the technical skills needed to bring animation projects to life. Ringling’s facilities include a wide range of technology, from motion capture to the latest software. The school also brings in many guest speakers from major animation studios like Pixar and DreamWorks. Notable alumni have worked on films like Toy Story, Frozen, Moana and more.

California Institute of the Arts

Location: Valencia, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 24%

Tuition: $52,242 per year

Website: www.calarts.edu

California Institute of the Arts, known as CalArts, is the top school in the world dedicated exclusively to the visual and performing arts. Its Character Animation program is highly prestigious, taught by leading figures in the industry. As an animation school, CalArts focuses heavily on student films and personal expression. Experimental techniques are strongly encouraged. Alumni have gone on to work for Disney, Pixar, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and other top animation powerhouses.

Savannah College of Art and Design

Location: Savannah, GA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 62%

Tuition: $38,910 per year

Website: www.scad.edu

SCAD offers both a major and minor in Animation, with a focus on traditional 2D and emerging 3D techniques. As an art school, creativity and concept development are stressed alongside technical proficiency. Alumni have worked on films like The Princess and the Frog, ParaNorman, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and TV series like Rick & Morty. SCAD provides an annual AnimationFest event to showcase student work for recruiters.

Rhode Island School of Design

Location: Providence, RI

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 28%

Tuition: $52,980 per year

Website: www.risd.edu

RISD’s Film/Animation/Video department focuses more on short films rather than industry or commercial animation. But for those wanting to develop strong artistic voices and evolve the animation medium, RISD fosters highly creative freedom and experimental techniques. The school has many alumni in animation and continuing rise in reputation.

School of Visual Arts

Location: New York City, NY

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Tuition: $43,000 per year

Website: www.sva.edu

Located in New York City, the School of Visual Arts puts students in close proximity to East Coast animation studios. The Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects program teaches a curriculum focused on storytelling, motion graphics and 3D animation for film and television. SVA hosts an annual Dusty Animation Festival featuring thesis projects from MFA graduates.

Loyola Marymount University

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 52%

SAT Score: 1210-1380

Tuition: $51,105 per year

Website: www.lmu.edu

LMU’s School of Film and Television offers an Animation emphasis within its broader program. Courses cover the spectrum from early Disney techniques to computer animation and gaming. Small class sizes allow for close mentorship. The school provides many internal competitions and showcases to help students prepare to enter the industry, especially in LA.

Rochester Institute of Technology

Location: Rochester, NY

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 66%

SAT Score: 1250-1420

Tuition: $43,292 per year

Website: www.rit.edu

RIT’s School of Film and Animation is focused on classical 2D animation, stop motion and emerging techniques. Students gain experience with film festivals and professional organizations. RIT also has strong ties to interactive gaming and web-based animation related fields. Graduates have worked for companies like Blue Sky Studios, Jim Henson Company and Nickelodeon Animation Studio.

Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 65%

Tuition: $47,952 per year

Website: www.mcad.edu

MCAD’s Animation program stresses drawing fundamentals, motion studies and principles of animation. Students have the freedom to explore a variety of techniques from pixilation to CGI. Upper level electives delve into specialized areas like character animation and design, visual effects and motion capture. MCAD also organizes an Animation Celebration event for recruiters.

Columbus College of Art & Design

Location: Columbus, OH

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 68%

Tuition: $37,440 per year

Website: www.ccad.edu

CCAD offers both a major and minor in Animation & Interactive Media. Courses cover skills needed for animated films, effects, game design and more. CCAD hosts an annual Motion Pictures Symposium bringing in studio leaders. Strong career service support helps connect students with job opportunities across tech, gaming, entertainment and commercial industries.

Maine College of Art

Location: Portland, ME

Rating: 6.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 69%

Tuition: $42,750 per year

Website: www.meca.edu

The Maine College of Art offers an interdisciplinary approach to animation, allowing students to incorporate skills across other programs like Graphic Design, Photography and Printmaking. This fusion of analog and digital techniques provides unique creative perspectives. The curriculum culminates in a senior thesis project tailored to each student’s artistic interests.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What animation techniques are taught in top schools?

The main techniques taught include 2D, 3D, stop motion and digital. But many schools also offer more experimental forms based on student interest like sand, paint on glass, zoetropes, VR/AR and more.

Should I get an animation-specific degree?

Animation degrees demonstrate a focus and depth of technical skill. But schools with broader art or film programs also provide animation pathways. Much depends on the types of projects and studios you want to work with.

Which software programs will I learn?

Programs like Maya, Blender and the Adobe Creative Suite are the most widely used in both 2D and 3D workflows. Many schools now teach real-time game engines like Unity too.

Do I need drawing and artistic talent?

Basic illustration and compositional skills are required. Animation builds upon core art foundations, though specific styles vary greatly across projects even at major studios.

How much does an animation degree cost?

Tuition for top private schools averages $35,000 to $55,000 per year. Public university programs are typically cheaper while intensive trade schools fall somewhere in between.

Should I move to Los Angeles or New York City?

The industry hubs of Los Angeles and New York provide the most job opportunities post-graduation as well as networking events while in school. But exceptional talent worldwide can still break through.

What types of animation jobs are most in-demand?

Beyond key roles like animators and storyboard artists, there is also growing need for compositors, visual effects specialists, modelers, riggers, lighter and more as projects increase in complexity.

Is the animation industry competitive?

Yes, animation is highly competitive, especially at major entertainment studios. But a rise of streaming television, VR platforms, video games and commercial work provides more overall opportunities. A solid animation portfolio is critical.

Should I do an animation internship while in school?

Completing one or more internships provides vital work experience to complement your degree. Building professional connections and credits also improves chances of getting hired post-graduation.

Can I be a self-taught animator?

While possible to learn independently, an animation degree provides crucial foundations as well as access to equipment, expert instructors, collaborative projects and industry pipelines necessary to fully develop your skills.

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Rohit Mittal

Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.