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Special Effects Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

A special effects instructional program helps students prepare for careers working in television, in film and in other visual media. Most schools offering special effects programs concentrate on the animation aspect of the process.

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Special visual effects are often part of an art major and can be listed as animation, computer arts, digital arts or media arts, among others. Programs are available at many 2- and 4-year colleges and at universities.

10 Schools with Special Effects Programs

The following schools offer graphic design/visual arts programs that incorporate special effects coursework.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
Northwest Vista College San Antonio, TX 2-year, Public Associate's In-district $2,088; In-state $5,550; Out-of-state $10,740
New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's In-state $6,094; Out-of-state $19,652
Pratt Institute Brooklyn, NY 4-year, Private Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's $46,586
Long Island University - Brooklyn Brooklyn, NY 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $34,352**
Mercy College Dobbs Ferry, NY 4-year, Private Bachelor's $18,076
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $34,970
Douglas Education Center Monessen, PA 2-year, Private Associate's $18,737
Columbia College Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Bachelor's $24,344
Middle Tennessee State University Murfreesboro, TN 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $8,080; Out-of-state $24,808
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston-Salem, NC 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's In-state $2,025; Out-of-state $6,631

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics, **School website

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects
  • Computer Typography and Composition
  • Graphic and Printing Equipment Operations
  • Platemaker
  • Prepress, Publishing, and Image Design
  • Printing Management
  • Printing Press Operation

School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when looking for special effects schools:

  • Most visual effects seen today are created on computers, rather than optically, incorporating 3D spatial relationships as well as 2D photographic content.
  • Schools should offer the latest software, such as Maya, After Effects, Nuke and 3D Studio Max.
  • Some schools offer students online galleries to show their works.
  • It is possible to transfer some credits from an associate's degree in this field towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Certificate Programs

A 1-2 year certificate program can be found at many community colleges. A certificate can be useful for an entry-level position as a video artist.

Associate's Degree Programs

Also found at many 2-year community colleges are associate's degree programs in the visual arts. Classes are divided between the required general education classes and the selection of computer graphics course work. Students learn about:

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts programs with a focus on animation are widely offered as well. Visual art techniques can apply to print and Web design as well as to more complex live action video and animation. Bachelor's degree programs require a core liberal arts curriculum in addition to immersion in the major, and some also require a thesis.

Those interested in a career in special effects can consider pursuing studies towards a certificate, associate's degree, bachelor's degree or master's degree. Special effects-related programs are offered at a number of public and private colleges and universities with varying program lengths and tuition costs.

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