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Top School in San Francisco for a Computer Animation Degree

Students interested in studying computer animation in San Francisco have several schools to choose from. Read about the top local schools' degree programs, tuition, and ranking info to find the right one for you.

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School and Ranking Information

More than a dozen schools offer computer animation programs or training in the area near San Francisco. The top three not-for-profit schools, based on program offerings, rankings, tuition and graduation rates, are as follows:

  • Winner: San Francisco State University (SFSU) offers certificates, bachelor's and master's degree programs and is ranked among the top 20 regional public universities in the West.
  • Runner-Up #1: California College of the Arts (CCA) offers bachelor's degrees in the field. However, it had the highest tuition rate of these three schools.
  • Runner-Up #2: Diablo Valley College (DVC) has the third highest graduation rate and the lowest tuition rate. It offers both associate degrees and certificate programs.

School Comparison Chart

Category San Francisco State University California College of the Arts Diablo Valley College
Rankings 15th among regional public universities (West), 50th among regional universities (West), 93rd among graduate fine arts schools, nationwide** N/A N/A
Location San Francisco, CA San Francisco, CA, and Oakland, CA (10.7 miles from San Francisco) Pleasant Hill, CA (22.2 miles from San Francisco)
School Type 4-year, public 4-year, private not-for-profit 2-year, public
Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $6,440 (undergraduate, in-state); $18,098 (undergraduate, out-of-state); $7,706 (graduate, in-state); $17,252 (graduate, out-of-state)* $38,798 (undergraduate)* $1,298 (undergraduate, in-state); $6,758 (undergraduate, out-of-state)*
Computer Animation Award Levels Offered Certificates; bachelor's and master's degrees Bachelor's degrees Certificates; associate degrees
Computer Animation Degrees and Certificates Awarded (All Levels) in 2011-2012 204 (in film/cinema/video studies for all available concentrations; certificate awards not reported)* 13* 22*
Most Popular Computer Animation Program (2011-2012) Bachelor's degree (181 awarded in all concentrations; certificate awards not reported)* Bachelor's degree (13 awarded)* 2-year certificate (11 awarded)*
Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal degree time) 46% (2005 entering class)* 49% (2005 entering class)* 35% (2008 entering class)*
Noteworthy Certificate curriculum established in cooperation with animation professionals from Pixar, Dreamworks, and ILM Alumni include the youngest person to intern at Pixar Art Digital Media department affiliated with Multimedia Design group, a student design business

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), **US News & World Report

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Winner: San Francisco State University

  • Faculty includes working Dreamworks Animation and Pixar animators
  • Award-winning alumni and faculty
  • Internships offered
  • Cutting-edge facilities
  • Student films screened at the on-campus Coppola Theater

SFSU offers a certificate in digital animation, as well as an emphasis in animation associated with the Bachelor of Art (BA) in Cinema but open to students with other majors. Both programs teach drawing and modeling as well as provide animation workshops. Some specific animation topics covered are texturing, body mechanics, and 3D computer animation. The BA also includes animation history and a possible internship. In addition, the cinema department's Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program allows for animation production training. All animation students have access to SFSU's digital cinema lab, 2D animation lab, and new 3D animation lab. Several SFSU animation graduates have gone on to intern at Pixar, and some have won awards, such as alumna Victoria Livingstone, who was the senior animator on the Academy Award-winning Happy Feet and for Window, a project of her own.

Runner-Up #1: California College of the Arts

  • Past undergraduates have been selected for internships at animation studios such as Pixar and Dreamworks
  • Animation faculty includes award-winners such as the director of the film Brave
  • Past guest lecturers include an Academy Award-winning animator and a recruiter for animation studios
  • Student animation is shown annually at a free screening open to the public

CCA's animation program boasts connections with major studios and professional animators. All CCA faculty members are working professionals in the areas they teach. CCA offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Animation, which includes classes in 3D and computer animation, as well as drawing, sound, visual storytelling, and character design. Also required is a foundation of science and humanities classes, including art history. The first-year coursework for all CCA students focuses on basic skills, such as critical thinking and writing, while giving students a chance to explore different media and adjust to campus life. The first year ends with a portfolio review, which includes discussion of each student's readiness to enter a major. Summer internships are available.

Runner-Up #2: Diablo Valley College

  • Only school reviewed that offers an animation associate degree
  • Some classes are offered in the evenings or on weekends

DVC's art and digital media program is intended to prepare students to qualify for entry-level positions in fields including animation, graphic art, web design, computer game design, and multimedia programming. DVC offers an Associate in Art (AA) in Art Digital Media and both 1-year and 2-year certificates. The AA and 2-year certificate both offer a choice of focus on areas such as digital sound or imaging, character animation, 3D modeling and animation, and motion graphics. The 1-year certificate includes a choice of classes from the same areas of focus. The AA additionally requires 60 units of general coursework in subjects including English, math, and the sciences.

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