Are you captivated by compelling narratives and imaginative characters? Do you think animation gives fresh opportunities to tell stories? Are you looking for a way to advance your current creative skill sets and inspire new vision?
Then a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in animation may be for you!
What kind of Master’s in Animation degree should you get?
Each of the 10 programs on our list is an MFA degree. This means you are guaranteed a creative foundation in animation fundamentals. You will hone your technique and craft while working closely with faculty who are internationally and nationally respected artists.
However, each program does still vary in its emphasis. For example, while some colleges focus mostly on animation in film, such as Rochester Institute of Technology, others stress the importance of a broad-based education in digital media, such as DigiPen University.
To find the best fit for you, think about your career goals and creative vision. Then ask yourself which program will provide the right opportunities to make those ambitions come to life.
And though most of the degrees below are traditional, on-campus programs, it doesn’t hurt to consider online education. Distance education is both a flexible and affordable way to earn your degree and advance your career. So, be sure to check out College Choice’s 50 Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees.
How much money do people make with a Master’s in Animation degree?
Depending on your title and level of management, the average salary for an MFA graduate in Animation varies. However, the industry is a lucrative one.
For example, Multimedia Artists and Animators make on average $31 an hour. That translates to over $65,000 a year. And if you’re a Producer or Director that number leaps up to nearly $71,000 annually.
In addition to making good money, a career in animation ensures you a lifetime of stability. In fact, the need for Multimedia Artists and Animators is projected to grow another 8 percent in the next few years. And for Directors and Producers that number expands to 12 percent!
What can you do with a Master’s in Animation degree?
Though a Master’s in Animation degree fully prepares you to work for animation conglomerates such as Pixar and Dreamworks, your options are in fact even broader and more versatile.
For example, an animation MFA program not only teaches you how to best implement cutting edge digital technology. It also supports your artistic vision through coursework covering storylines, characters, and craft development.
Therefore, you will graduate ready to enter various industries, from tech to education. And you’ll be equipped to work in many settings. Whether you want to become an art director, film editor, multimedia specialist, character artist, or production designer, an MFA in Animation can help you get there.
What are the requirements for a Master’s in Animation degree?
To earn a MFA in Animation, you are looking at two years of full time study. During your first year you will take many courses on animation and media fundamentals. In these classes you will learn the history of animation, 2D and 3D art, character animation basics, and maybe even some screenwriting.
In your second year you will take even more specialized courses, including workshops where you will discuss your projects with the class to receive critical feedback. Specialized coursework ranges, encompassing several areas of animation. The work you do in your second year, therefore, directs your future career as you become an expert in your field.
Finally, some of these programs encourage or require you to complete an internship. We’ve been sure to note those.
What are the best Master’s in Animation degrees?
While some of these programs are offered through large universities and others through small arts colleges, all 10 share one thing in common: they are the nation’s best MFA in Animation programs.
To determine the best programs we first examined the reputation of each school across the nation that offers the degree. From there we explored other crucial factors, such as retention, which is a sign of student satisfaction. Finally, we took into account graduate salaries and tuition rates to get an idea of the return on investment.
This thorough research helped us determine the nation’s best programs for advanced training in animation.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Southern California
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $32,932
What better place to earn an arts and tech degree then in California, the West Coast cultural hub? The University of Southern California is located in Los Angeles and is one of the best schools in the nation. Its technology and fine arts programs are world renowned.
The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts at USC offers an MFA in Animation and Digital Arts degree that is unparalleled. Get ready, because this program takes three years to complete and it is specifically for those who want to go into cinema. You will be expected to present a polished thesis at the end of your program, in addition to taking classes such as:
- History of Animation
- Animation Design and Production
- The Business of Animation
- Storytelling for Animation
U.S. News & World Report ranks USC among the 25 best universities in the country. Furthermore, it includes dozens of USC’s individual departments and programs on its prestigious rankings, including the art, tech, and computer science programs.
Savannah College of Art and Design
College Choice Score: 90.31
Average Net Price: $40,856
Located in Savannah, Georgia, Savannah College of Art and Design also has campuses around the world. Around 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend SCAD, enrolled in one of the College’s many fine arts programs.
At SCAD you will become an expert in 2D, 3D, and stop-motion animation. Their MFA program also introduces graduate students to the technical details, such as modeling, rigging, and lighting. You are guaranteed to graduate as a highly trained animator proficient in everything from game development to film and television. Classes include:
- Animation Context and History
- Digital 3D Effects
- Character Animation Basics
- Animation Character Set-Up
SCAD is a leader in design, media, fashion, and communication arts. In addition to its academic and creative reputation, SCAD is also known for its involved student body. Students take advantage of many of SCAD’s extra curricular opportunities, such as the renowned study abroad program.
Rochester Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 86.88
Average Net Price: $29,111
Located in New York, the Rochester Institute of Technology is a premier polytechnic school. RIT is organized into nearly 10 academic colleges that offer degrees in everything from the fine arts to animation design. More than 16,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students attend RIT.
When you earn a Film and Animation MFA from RIT you will work in state-of-the-art labs and full production facilities. While your classes will give you firm footing in the areas of basic sound recording, the aesthetics of animation, business, and 2D mechanics, you will have many opportunities to specialize. There are even four ways to concentrate:
- 2D Animation
- 3D Animation
RIT is one of the most innovative arts schools in the nation. Its promotion and integration of technology and the arts make it one of a kind. In fact, U.S. News & World Report consistently includes RIT on many of its national and regional rankings.
The Ohio State University
College Choice Score: 85.72
Average Net Price: $17,971
The Ohio State University is a mammoth, research-driven university based in Columbus, Ohio. It was originally founded as an agricultural and mechanical college, but today offers hundreds of academic and professional programs to its 65,000 students. OSU is a highly regarded institution comprised of many well-ranked departments.
At OSU you can earn a MFA in Digital Animation and Interactive Media. This program balances history and theory equally with interdisciplinary and collaborative studio time. And at the end of your program you will be expected to complete a writing seminar and thesis project. Plus, there are two formal tracks from which to choose from:
- Digital Animation and Interactive Media
- Design Research and Development
OSU is a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, a flagship university, and a Public Ivy. U.S. News & World Report ranks it 54th among all national universities. It is also globally ranked by numerous publications.
University of Central Florida
College Choice Score: 82.64
Average Net Price: $15,533
Located in Orlando, the University of Central Florida is a sprawling research university. It is one of the largest schools on this ranking with its student enrollment hovering around 66,000. UCF is comprised of a dozen elite colleges through which it provides more than 200 academic programs.
Through the School of Visual Arts and Design UCF offers a unique MFA program in Emerging Media: Animation and Visual Effects. This is an ideal program for those who want to study narrative film structure as well as the business and entrepreneurial aspects of animation. Therefore, you will take classes such as:
- Script and Story Development for Animation and Visual Effects
- Guerilla Marketing and Models of Distribution
- Directing for Animation and Visual Effects
- Media and Music for Animation and Visual Effects
With many rankings, awards, and recognitions to its name, UCF is one of the nation’s best schools. For example, U.S. News & World Report ranks it 90th among all public universities. And The Princeton Review and USA Today consider it one of the most affordable public universities in the U.S.
College Choice Score: 81.73
Average Net Price: $44,244
The Pratt Institute is an internationally renowned art school located in Brooklyn. It is one of the nation’s longest standing art schools, having been founded in 1887 to provide education in engineering, architecture, and the fine arts. Today Pratt offers dozens of degree programs across mediums and fields.
Pratt’s MFA in Digital Animation and Motion Arts program encourages students to explore both narrative and non-narrative films. At Pratt you will learn the ins and outs of 2D and 3D animation as well as live action and motion graphics. You can also study the history of animation, film criticism, and character design for a broad-based education in animation. Classes include:
- Digital Animation Studio
- Storyboarding and Storytelling
- Lighting and Rendering
- Character Animation
Pratt’s interior design, architecture, animation, and industrial design programs are among the best in the country. Likewise, the university as a whole is considered among the top 20 colleges in its region by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review.
School of Visual Arts
College Choice Score: 73.65
Average Net Price: $42,742
The School of Visual Arts is an art and design school based in Manhattan, New York. It offers around a dozen undergraduate degrees and even more graduate degrees in everything from Social Innovation to Art Therapy, Animation, and Critical Theory. Around 3,600 students attend SVA.
The School of Visual Arts offers a general MFA program that is notably interdisciplinary. Through this degree you can specialize in animation. In addition to core classes covering both the technical and creative aspects of animation, you will also have the opportunity to sit in on such unique seminars as:
- The Normal and Pathological: Monsters, Constructions of Race, the Human and Non-Human
- Socially Engaged Art in the Public Realm
- Music, Melodrama, and Performance Art
- Art After the Internet
Recently named one of the “best schools for designers” by LinkedIn, SVA is also highly regarded by PayScale for its salary earning potential, and U.S. News & World Report. SVA owns and runs three prominent galleries throughout New York City, which show a mix of student and professional exhibitions.
Academy of Art University
College Choice Score: 72.14
Average Net Price: $29,301
The Academy of Art University is located in San Francisco, California. Though it was first founded as an advertising university, today it offers 25 degree programs across many subjects and mediums. Approximately 12,600 students attend the Academy.
The Academy of Art offers a Master’s in Animation and Visual Effects degree that takes two years to complete. Whether you want to pursue storyboard art, 3D animation, or visual effects, this program will open many doors. In fact, graduates have gone on to work for:
- DreamWorks Animation
- Walt Disney Animation Studios
- Nickelodeon Animation Studio
The Academy of Art is a vibrant, bustling campus. It is also host to a number of galleries and museums. Among them is the impressive Automobile Museum, which exhibits 200 vintage cars that are deemed the rarest and most valuable in the world.
College Choice Score: 71.16
Average Net Price: $32,084
Located in the heart of Chicago, DePaul University is a private university affiliated with the Catholic Church. It is comprised of numerous prestigious colleges and schools, including the College of Computing and Digital Media. Around 15,000 students attend DePaul.
There are two ways to study animation at DePaul. You can either earn a MA or an MFA in Animation. While the former is considered a stepping stone toward the creative-based MFA program, both will provide you with a sturdy foundation in animation technique, theory, and application. Graduates from DePaul have gone on to become:
- TV and Film Producers
- Production Designers
- Film and Video Editors
- Multimedia Specialists
DePaul often lands on the “College of Year” annual rankings put out by Time Magazine and Princeton Review. The university as a whole is well-ranked with additional strengths in many individual departments. For example, DePaul is a known leader in business, computer science and design, and professional training.
College Choice Score: 68.81
Average Net Price: $33,076
DigiPen Institute of Technology is located primarily in Redmond, Washington with campuses in Singapore and Spain too. It is a private university specializing in computer science, animation, and video game design and development education. Just over 1,000 students attend DigiPen in the US.
When you earn an MFA in Digital Arts from DigiPen you will gain comprehensive insight into 3D production experience and 2D applications. You will also study art history and character design with the option to specialize. Concentrations are provided in modeling, sculpting, or character art. Graduates from DigiPen have found careers as:
- Character Artists
- Senior Animators
- 3D Modelers
- Technical Artists
Because of DigiPen’s long history of unique focus on developing leaders in animation and gaming, the institute is considered one of the best design schools in the nation. The Princeton Review consistently includes it on its lists, and Animation Career Review ranks DigiPen sixth in the nation.