Three insider secrets to a lighting portfolio that lands your dream job.


Three Insider Secrets to a stand-out portfolio


The Best VFX Schools in 2024

by | Jan 23, 2024

If you’re looking to learn VFX or attend a VFX school this year, you’ve come to the right place.

Today, we’ll take a look at the best VFX schools in the world:

  • Academy of Animated Art
  • Gnomon School of Visual Effects
  • Think Tank Training Centre 
  • SF Film School
  • Lost Boys School of VFX 
  • FX Animation Barcelona 
  • Savannah College of Art and Design
  • University of Southern California
  • School of Visual Arts
  • Academy of Art University
  • The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School
  • ArtCenter College of Design
  • ESMA
  • University of California
  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • New York Film Academy
  • ARTFX School of Digital Art
  • New York University 
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Vancouver Film School
  • Bournemouth University

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!


Academy of Animated Art




After years in the industry, we founded the Academy of Animated Art to arm future animators with the skills to launch their careers.

Our courses focus primarily on lighting and include Introduction to Photorealistic Lighting and Character Lighting for Animated Films. Students will create a demo reel, use programs like Maya, Katana, and Unreal, and participate in lighting challenges. Courses are self-study with mentoring elements.

Online courses offer more flexibility than traditional degree programs. You’ll learn the necessary skills to get a job at your own pace, with a community to support you, and at a more affordable rate than college courses.  

Cost: $238.80 to $2,398.80

Gnomon School of Visual Effects


Los Angeles, California 


While it offers vocational certificate programs and several 10-week courses, Gnomon is renowned for its degree programs. 

It offers students two degree paths: a BFA in Digital Production with a concentration in Visual Effects and a Certificate in Digital Production Program. The BFA track can be completed in three to four years, full-time, while the Certificate Program takes two years, full-time.

Students will learn to use in-demand industry software, including Houdini, Maya, and Nuke, and will graduate with an eye-catching demo reel. 

The school has an almost 100% employment rate, and students have gone on to work at studios such as Netflix, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Cost: The BFA in Digital Production Program is $140,575. The Certificate in Digital Production Program costs $119,634.50. Financial aid is available.

Think Tank Training Centre


North Vancouver, Canada 

Online, in-person, and hybrid

Think Tank offers programs that can be completed online, in-person, or hybrid in one to four terms (16 to 64 weeks). 

Courses include CG Asset Creation for Film or Games (online), 3D Animation, Visual Effects & Game Art (in-person), and Houdini + 3D for Film or Games (hybrid). Keep in mind that the school doesn’t offer any part-time programs.

Upon completion of your course, you will receive a diploma or certificate. Over 90% of students have a job by graduation at studios that include Disney, Sony Pictures Imageworks, EA, and Industrial Light & Magic.

Cost: Online courses range from CAD 4,050 to CAD 65,750.

SF Film School 

SF Film School

Seoul, South Korea

Online or in-person

Based in Seoul, the Science Fiction Film School has become one of the world’s most well-known CF and VFX schools. Instructors have worked on films such as Life of Pi, The DaVinci Code, Deadpool, and more.

The school offers two types of programs: regular programs and subject programs. Both can be completed online or in person. 

Regular programs offer students a detailed education in their chosen path. For instance, in the Visual Effects regular course, instructors teach things like shading and lighting, rigging and animation, and how to use software like ZBrush and Nuke. 

On the other hand, SF’s subject programs focus on just one element of the VFX process. These courses take 8 to 24 weeks to complete and include access to Maya, ZBrush, and Unreal Engine.

Students who have graduated from SF have gone on to work at studios like Walt Disney, Pixar, Fox Entertainment, and Lucas Film.

Cost: Upon request

Lost Boys School of VFX 


Vancouver, Canada


Because it offers project-based and practical training, Lost Boys calls itself “a studio that teaches.” 

Students will learn how to use relevant software, manage data and workflow, and assemble the kind of demo reel to help them get their foot in the doors of studios like DreamWorks, Walt Disney Pictures, and Netflix.

Lost Boys offers three programs: Advanced Visual Effects Compositing Diploma, Effects Technical Director Diploma, and Digital Lighting Artist Certificate. Each lasts between 5 and 12 months, but only the Digital Lighting course can be taken online.

The application process calls for materials such as a personal statement, recommendation letter, portfolio, and interview. You can see the requirements here.

Cost: CAD 9,945.34 to CAD 51,900.00. Financial aid is available.

Savannah College of Art and Design


Savannah, Georgia


Also known as SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design is one of the best known art schools in the United States.

VFX students will get first-hand experience with software like RenderMan, Autodesk Maya, Resolve, and Houdini in SCAD’s School of Animation and Motion. The building also includes a digital media center with a green lab, movie theater, and studio. 

The school offers three degree programs: BFA, MA, and MFA. 

Courses include Modeling for Visual Effects, Visual Effects Theory and Application, Visual Effects Studio I and II: Preproduction & Production, and Digital Visual Effects. 

Regardless of the degree path, each program must be completed in person, including electives and an optional internship. 

SCAD has an 86% employment rate, and former students work at studios like Disney, Pixar, and Microsoft.

Cost: $41,130. Financial aid is available.

University of Southern California


Los Angeles, California


USC’s John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts – known as Hench DADA – offers courses in visual effects, real-time animation, visual production, motion graphics, performance capture, and more.

Hench DADA offers a BFA in Animation and Digital Arts with a Concentration in Visual Effects (four years) and an MFA in Animation and Digital Arts (three years).

Courses include Studio Careers: Story to Screen, Fundamentals of 3D Character Animation, Writing for Animation, and Design Fundamentals for Animation.

Graduates of USC’s VFX programs have gone on to work at studios like DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and Digital Idea.

Cost: $66,640. Financial aid is available.

School of Visual Arts


New York, New York


Based in New York City, SVA’s Computer Animation and VFX program spans four years. What’s unique about SVA is that students work directly with studios owned by former SVA students, such as Titmouse, Augenblick, and Plymptoons.

Courses include VFX Animation with Houdini, Advanced Compositing Techniques, and Production Resources in Computer Art. Students will train on industry-leading software such as Maya, Storyboard Pro, and Adobe Animate. 

Upon graduation, each student will participate in a thesis showcase. Graduates have worked for Lucasfilm Animation, Disney Animation Studios, Warner Bros. Animation, and more.

Cost: $24,570 per semester plus department fees. Financial aid and scholarships are available.

Academy of Art University


San Francisco, California


Housed at the Academy of Art University, the School of Animation & Visual Effects offers four animation programs: AA, BFA, MA, and MFA in Animation & Visual Effects. Each program provides a comprehensive foundation in animation principles, storytelling techniques, and the latest industry software and technologies.

An Animation and VFX Certificate is also available for students looking to bypass the liberal arts coursework.

Regardless of whether you choose to skip the coursework or not, you’ll learn to animate games, films, and more in the school’s studio environment called StudioX. This kind of classroom allows students to learn industry equipment first-hand, work with others, and manage production from start to finish. 

An online program is also available. While you won’t be at StudioX, the Virtual Remote Lab will give you the same access to resources and programs that in-person students have.

Students have gone on to work at Sony Pictures Animation, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Nickelodeon Animation, and more.

Cost: $31,836 for domestic students and $37,991 for international students. Financial aid and scholarships are available.

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School


Orlando, Florida


DAVE School’s Visual Effects Production Program offers students the opportunity to learn about every step of the production process while getting hands-on experience with software like Maya, Unreal Engine, and After Effects.

Courses include Emerging VFX Tech & Pipelines, VFX & Compositing, Character, Prop, and Environment Modeling, and Dynamics and Visual Effects for Motion Graphics.

The Visual Effects Production Diploma takes 12 months to complete and must be done in person. During that time, students will learn VFX basics like digital sculpting, motion capture, and facial rigging and animation. They’ll also learn to use software like Maya and Unreal Engine and manage and develop two projects in a VFX studio environment.

DAVE also offers Game Production, a 12-month diploma program, and Virtual Production, which combines VFX and Game courses to ensure a well-rounded education. It takes 18 months to complete.

Cost: $35,000 to $49,750

ArtCenter College of Design


Pasadena, California


While there’s no VFX degree program at the ArtCenter College of Design, the school does offer a BS in Entertainment Design with an Animation Track. This track leads to careers in VFX, film, feature animation, and more.

Courses include Shorts 1, CG (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), 2D (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and Capstone Short Film. Students will also expand on their core skills, including storyboarding, character animation, directing, layout, previs, and lighting. 

They’ll also work in highly collaborative teams to create animation films from scratch, learning to brainstorm, pitch, and build worlds with others. This pipeline will prepare them for work in studios as an animation director, storyboard artist, 2D or 3D layout artist, Unreal Artist, and more.

Graduates have gone on to work at Marvel, Paramount, DreamWorks, Netflix, Mattel, Amazon, and more, and notable alums include Kendal Cronkhite, Mandy Meader, and Jennifer Lundstrum.

Cost: $25,303 per term. Financial available is available.

FX Barcelona 


Barcelona, Spain


For nearly 20 years, FX Barcelona Film School has taught students in a multidisciplinary format that allows them to be at the forefront of industry trends by the time they graduate.

There are two course options for VFX students, both of which happen in person: Career in Visual Effects (4 years) and Superior Master in VFX With Maya, Nuke, and Houdini (2 years). Regardless of your chosen path, you will be immersed in the entire production process, from modeling and texturing to animation and rendering. You’ll also learn about post-production methods and work with Maya, Nuke, and Houdini.

The school boasts a 99% employment rate, and students work worldwide, from Los Angeles to Sydney. Students have worked on films and shows such as Game of Thrones, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Lion King, and Aquaman.

Cost: Upon request



Multiple locations, France


The École Supérieure des Métiers Artistiques, or ESMA, offers a professional CG Animation & FX degree. The degree takes five years to complete but arms students with theoretical knowledge and the technical skills they’ll need to become CG animators, directors, or FX supervisors. 

Year 1 is a preparatory class intended to help students prepare for training. Years 2 and 3 will arm students with the basics before they move into year 4, where they deepen their skills. In year 5, they work on producing their own films.

It’s important to note that the course is only taught in English on the Lyon and Montpellier campuses.

93% of students have a job nine months after graduation, and they have gone on to work on films and shows like The Secret Life of Pets, Minions 2, Doctor Sleep, and Sex Education.

Cost: €7,680. Scholarships are available.

University of California


Los Angeles, California

UCLA’s Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media offers an undergraduate Film Program that allows students to learn about VFX and special effects as they work toward their BA. 

The program comprises three parts: production, film and television craft, and cinema and media studies. Students can focus on VFX during their senior year. 

Course options include Visual Effects, Animation Fundamentals, Motion Picture Lighting, Moving Digital Image, Advanced Film Editing: Post-production Pathways, Advanced Interactive Animation, and more.

Upon graduation, students have gone on to work at Walt Disney Imagineering, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Pixar, and more.

Cost: $18,197 for California residents and $40,771.85 for non-residents.

Rhode Island School of Design


Providence, Rhode Island


RISD’s Film/Animation/Video Program allows students to earn a BFA in FAV with a focus in Live Action Open Media or Animation.

The program allows students to collaborate on projects, attend workshops, visit animation studios, and work with tools like Final Cut, Autodesk Maya, and the Adobe Production Suite. They also take part in a professional internship.

Courses include Computer Generated Imagery 3D, Computer Animation: Integrated Techniques, Lighting For the Moving Image, and Advanced Sound Design and Production.

RISD alumni have worked on projects such as Good Will Hunting, Milk, and The Electric Company and at studios like HBO, DreamWorks, and Pixar.

Cost: $81,810. Financial aid is available.

New York Film Academy


New York, Los Angeles, Miami

In-person and online

Students have a few options when pursuing a 3D & VFX Degree at the New York Film Academy.

The first is a BFA or MFA in 3D Animation & VFX, offered in Los Angeles. Consider the 1-year 3D Animation & VFX Certificate Program or short-term 3D Animation & VFX workshops if you need something more flexible. There are also online 3D Animation & VFX workshops available.

Courses include Particle Dynamics and Visual Effects, Storyboard & Animatic Animation, Character Design, Lighting & Cameras, and more. Technology students train on include Maya, Houdini, and Unreal.

Alums have worked with NBCUniversal, DreamWorks, Gearbox Software, and more.

Cost: $15,522 per semester for the BFA in 3D Animation & VFX. Financial aid is available.

ARTFX School of Digital Art


Lille, Paris, and Montpellier, France


Over five years, students at ARTFX work toward their MA in 3D & Digital Special Effects through practical education and teamwork.

Throughout their time there, students will produce 3D & VFX in films, place 3D inserts, and more. Course topics include basic art skills, visual development, professional workshops, and more while working with software such as Houdini, ZBrush, Maya, and Nuke. Students will also take part in at least one six-week internship.

With a 95% employment rate, Students now work on films like Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Avengers: Infinity Wars, and Black Panther.

Cost: €8,900 in Lille and Montpellier; €9,200 in Paris.

New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts 


New York, New York


Home to the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, Tisch allows animation students to study VFX through required courses and electives. 

VFX-related courses in the BFA program include Animation: From Pitching to Pipeline to Production, 3D Computer Animation, and Advanced 3D Animation Production. There are also study abroad and internship programs available.

Students go on to work at Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, and more.

Cost: $96,172. Aid is available.

Carnegie Mellon University


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Carnegie Mellon’s Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology Network (IDeATe) offers an Animation & Special Effects minor.

In partnership with the School of Computer Sciences’ Robotics Institute, students will take courses that include Storytelling Through Effects, Character Modeling, Technical Character Animation, and Introduction to 3D Animation Pipeline.

Graduates have worked at EA, DreamWorks, MTV, Paramount, and more.

Cost: $83,697. Financial aid is available.

Vancouver Film School


Vancouver, Canada


In just a year, VFS 3D Animation & Visual Effects program graduates will have first-hand experience in visual effects, a demo reel, access to a job board, and industry connections.

The program is spread across six terms in which students learn the animation pipeline, work in a studio, and light, render, and composite their own work. Courses include History of Animation + VFX, Design (1, 2), VFX (1, 2, 3), and Career Prep.

Alums have worked on films such as Spider-Man: No Way Home, No Time to Die, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and Peacemaker.

To apply, you’ll need to submit a visual art portfolio or complete the VFS Foundation Visual Art & Design Program.

Cost: CAD 54,000

Bournemouth University


Bournemouth, UK 


Bournemouth is known for its VFX courses, even winning a Queen’s Anniversary Prize.

There are plenty of paths that students can take, including visual effects, computer animation art and design, digital effects, and 3D computer animation.

BU students go on to work at studios like Pixar, Double Negative, and Framestore, and several have won Oscars for their work.

Cost: £9,250 for UK residents and £17,800-£18,800 for international students.

Is VFX a good career?

VFX is a great career. 

As a VFX artist, you’ll create visual effects that elevate an audience’s experience by creating assets that are otherwise impossible to catch on film, whether it’s something as simple as a change in seasons or an object like a spaceship or aliens.

Not only do you get to be creative, but you get to share your work with thousands of people worldwide when you work at studios like DreamWorks and Disney.

There’s no limit as to what type of job you can have in VFX. Some job titles you might come across include:

  • VFX production coordinator
  • VFX production manager
  • VFX editor
  • VFX producer
  • Concept artist
  • VFX supervisor
  • Modeling artist
  • Lighting artist
  • VFX compositor

And while most VFX artists work in film, you’re not limited just to films – video games, unscripted television, post-production, broadcast engineering, and creative industries all rely on VFX.

Plus, with a projected 8% growth in jobs from 2022 to 2032, you’ll always be in demand.

Above all else, it can be a high-income career.

Special effects artists and animators make an average of $98,950 per year.

Next steps 

There you have it! A look at the best VFX schools in the world.

If you’re ready to jumpstart your animation career, you must create an eye-catching portfolio. 

We’ll tell you just how to do it in this free guide: 


Read more:

The Beginner’s Guide to Learning VFX

The Best VFX Studios to Work For

VFX and Animation: What’s the Difference?


Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

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