Digital Arts Degree Programs in Los Angeles with School Summaries

Feb 15, 2019

Los Angeles Schools with Digital Arts Programs

There are several school options for digital arts degree and certificate programs within Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. This article looks at three schools that are no more than a half-hour's drive from the city center. Before exploring the degree programs at each school, prospective students can refer to a table of information that may help them make a sound decision on their education. At the end of the article is a little information on other Los Angeles-area schools that offer digital arts programs.

  • The University of Southern California (USC), less than four miles from the heart of downtown Los Angeles, provides a bachelor's degree program and a Master of Fine Arts program in animation and digital arts. It also has a doctoral program in cinematic arts. The USC courses are offered through the school's highly regarded School of Cinematic Arts.
  • On the west side of Los Angeles, about 14 miles from downtown, is the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It offers a bachelor's and a master's degree in design media arts through its School of Art and Architecture.
  • Just about 13 miles northeast of Los Angeles, in nearby Pasadena, the Art Center College of Design has a master's program in media design practices. The program has a 2-year track and a 3-year track for students to choose from, depending on their level of experience.

Comparison of Schools

Individuals who are deciding on a school for their design training must consider many factors, such as school size, tuition and the applicant acceptance rate. The following table compiles all this information in an easy-to-access format.

University of Southern California University of California - Los Angeles Art Center College of Design
School Type 4-year; private not-for-profit 4-year; public 4-year; private not-for-profit
Total Enrollment (2017) 45,687 (19,170 undergraduate)* 44,027 (31,002 undergraduate)* 2,251 (2,005 undergraduate)*
Campus Setting Large City Large City Midsize City
Tuition & Fees (2017-2018) $54,259* $13,261 (in-state);
$41,275 (out-of-state)*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016-2017) 64%* 65%* 60%*
Acceptance Rate (Fall 2017) 16%* 16%* 70%*
Retention Rate (Fall 2016 to Fall 2017) 96% (full-time students)
50% (part-time students)*
97% (full-time students)
80% (part-time students)*
80% (full-time students)*
Graduation Rate (For Students Who Began Studies in Fall 2011) 92%* 91%* 68%*

Source: *College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics

University of Southern California

The Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts at USC's School of Cinematic Arts is a 35,000-square-foot facility that includes an interactive media lab. This facility is the country's only all-digital training center and includes the Electronic Arts (EA) Game Design Lab along with multiple production, post-production, studio and advanced classroom facilities.

Bachelor of Arts in Animation and Digital Arts

With available concentrations ranging from 3-D and character animation to visual effects or visualizing science, this bachelor's program culminates in a completed senior project that may be a fully functional interactive work, a rendered animation piece, an integrated installation or another project approved by the faculty. This is presented along with written and visual documentation of the research put into the project. A 2.0 grade point average must be maintained for all prerequisite courses. A fall semester abroad is available at Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy. The 4-year program requires 128 credits, including general education courses in writing and a foreign language.

Master of Fine Arts in Animation and Digital Arts

This 6-semester graduate program focuses on animation production techniques ranging from hand-drawn character animation to cutting-edge interactive digital animation. The program requires a thesis project and 50 units from the School of Cinematic Arts. Students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average; courses with a grade of C- or lower will not count toward the degree and must be repeated if they are requirements. There is a 3-year time limit for students to complete all the requirements, beginning with the first graduate course taken at USC.

Doctor of Philosophy in Cinematic Arts (Media Arts and Practice)

Open to students who hold either a bachelor's or master's in media arts or a related field, the Ph.D. program requires 64 units past the bachelor's degree level. The program requires a dissertation and at least one year or 24 units completed in residence on campus. A 3.0 grade point average is required and courses with grades below a C are not applicable toward the degree. Students have eight years from the first course taken at USC or six years if they have already earned an applicable master's degree within the preceding five years.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

The Department of Design Media Arts (DMA) is part of the School of Arts and Architecture at UCLA. The department places an emphasis on putting the work of students in context with history and theory, using a combination of lectures and workshops in addition to the primary course curriculum.

Bachelor of Arts in Design Media Arts

Students in this program complete a basic curriculum in graphic arts and interactivity, followed by specialty courses ranging from video to game design to narrative. The student's own interests define his or her senior project as the last phase of the program. Most courses are limited to 22 students or less. Students seeking this 4-year degree must also take general education requirements for the university along with other electives from outside of the program.

Master of Fine Arts in Design Media Arts

This 2-year program calls for a minimum of 80 quarter-unit credits. Emphasis is placed on research and theory in the first year, but switches to studio and seminar courses in the second year to help the students refine their individual thesis project topics and produce their work for exhibition. Students may also work alongside faculty, either as teaching assistants or on collaborative research projects. Specialties of the faculty range from gaming and software to branding, mobility and social design, digital humanities, public art and the connection of art and science.

Art Center College of Design

Housed in a 14,000-square-foot building that used to be a supersonic wind tunnel, the department has workstations and a digital lab in addition to a gallery. The department's focus is to educate students to envision the future and create the world as they want it to be.

Master of Fine Arts in Media Design Practices

In this MFA program, students will study creative technology and take workshops to grasp various design concepts. Students have the option of a 2-year program, designed for more experienced designers who are ready to enroll directly into a specific track. There is also a 3-year program that offers a development year in addition to the chosen track.

Other School Options

California State University, Dominguez Hills is located just over seven miles from downtown Los Angeles and has a Digital Media Arts Department that offers minors and certificates in digital graphics, design, audio technology and television arts, as well as a bachelor's degree in digital media arts. California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) has a 2-year Master of Fine Arts in Art and Technology degree program. Cal Arts is located 32 miles (34 minutes) north of Los Angeles in Valencia, CA.

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