search programs
10Steps

to Starting Your Art Career

Quick Start Guide

The Best Art Schools in the U.S. 2017

Art schools are institutions of higher learning that offer students a variety of majors in artistic disciplines to fulfill their creative potential. Students who attend art school should expect to learn the fundamentals of drawing, painting, 2D and 3D design, art history and visual design principles along with formal concepts such as composition, color, value, and form. After declaring an area of focus, they will learn the formal concepts and advanced techniques needed for successful careers. The best art schools are recognized for having exceptional faculty, world-class instructors, a proven track record of graduate success, superior value, and a commitment to high academic standards. On this page, we provide a list of the nation’s best art schools, along with guides and links to additional resources for students seeking education or training in a specific area of focus:

  • School Name

    25 schools ranked

  • Nestled amidst the picturesque New England seaboard, Rhode Island School of Design has long been one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious colleges offering rigorous art programs at both an undergraduate and graduate level.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,481
  • Unique in its educational approach, Parsons prioritizes humanity and culture; ever-seeking a connection to global urban centers with project-based learning. Founded in 1896, Parsons confers both undergraduate and graduate degrees at 5

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 10,344
  • Founded in 1864, Yale School of Art is one of the nation’s oldest and prestigious of educational institutions. Iconic faculty & distinguished alumni continue to define artistic evolvement on a global scale.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 12,385
  • Since 1866, School of the Art Institute of Chicago has been committed to academic excellence, interdisciplinary exploration and the enrichment of each student’s artistic inquiry and experimentation.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 3,591
  • Located in the heart of one of the world’s cultural centers, the UCLA School of Art emphasizes the necessity of a profound interdependence between the creative arts and academic scholarship. Drawing from the richness of the surrounding culture, the School hosts a distinguished, world-famous faculty who effectively combine studio-based experience with critical studies and liberal arts. As part of a leading research university, students are guaranteed an exclusive and empowering education.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 41,908
  • Educating students since 1970, Newsweek Magazine and The Daily Beast have ranked CalArts as the nation’s top college of the arts. Its six schools offer rigorous graduate and undergraduate degree programs.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,448
  • The School of Art at Carnegie Mellon is ranked globally as one of the world's best art schools and is integral to one of the nation’s leading research universities. The School offers students the experience only a well-respected program can provide by effectively bridging the fundamentals of classical studio practice with leading-edge technology and program-based methodologies. The school’s esteemed faculty fosters a progressive learning environment within state-of-the-art-facilities which remain open for students 24-hours a day.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 12,963
  • The recipient of a multitude of awards and recognition from across the globe; VCUART demonstrates it student support by having one of the lowest tuition rates of the nation’s Top 10 Art Institutions.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 30,918
  • As a graduate professional school with deeply intellectual Ivy League roots, the School of the Arts offers students a faculty known for their Tony Awards, Academy Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, Nobel Prizes and Guggenheim Fellowships.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 28,086
  • An exclusive graduate degree granting institution unlike any other in the United States; the 2-year Academy confers MA degrees in 10 areas. All studies are studio-based & students are mentored by 10 Artists-in-Residence.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 152
  • Pratt Institute utilizes the city of New York as a literal classroom by engaging students in real life experiences including public critiques and internships with top design companies like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and more.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 4,784
  • Founded in Baltimore in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is one of the oldest art colleges in the U.S. For undergraduate education in the fine arts and its MFA programs, U.S. News & World Report has ranked MICA as one of the top colleges in the nation. Parade Magazine has ranked it in the Top 2 Studio Arts Programs in the U.S.; and The Princeton Review consistently names it a “Best Northeastern College.”

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,197
  • With a tradition of learning to create and influence change; the Center impacts its community as well as global society. Its visionary methodology regarding art and design reflects the conservatory approach it embraces.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,133
  • With 22 undergraduate degree programs, 12 graduate programs and international study options; California College of the Arts successfully balances tradition with innovation and theory with practice. Students enjoy an 8:1 student/teacher ratio and class sizes averaging 13 students.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,975
  • Founded in 1860, amidst the turbulence of the Civil War, Bard remains dedicated to the principles upon which it was built: civility, free speech and allegiance to the notions of scientific investigation, speculative inquiry and disciplined dissent. By balancing artistic expression, critical thinking, scholarship and research, Bard epitomizes excellence in education.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,332
  • Stanford offers four undergraduate degrees in art; a Coterminal MA in Art History; three MFA programs and a Ph.D in Art History. Programs utilize academics, studio and museum work to ensure comprehensive curricula.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 16,980
  • The Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts encompasses 3 distinct entities, each rich in history: The College of Art was established in 1879, and is the nation’s only art school to have fathered a major metropolitan art museum. Founded in 1910, the College of Architecture was one of only 10 members who created the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. The third entity is the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum founded in 1881; and is famous for being the 1st museum of art, west of the Mississippi River.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 14,688
  • Founded in 1967, the Visual Arts Dept.is well-known for its unique combination of faculty. Educators include artists, art critics, theorists and scholars who spearhead five bachelors programs and two masters degree options.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 32,906
  • The Tyler School of Art at Temple University is dedicated to providing a progressive education, focusing on student mastery of technique within the framework of a liberal arts education. From bachelors to doctoral degrees, Tyler offers artists, art historians, designers, educators and architects, a rich and diverse selection of programs from which to choose.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 38,007
  • Tisch School of the Arts at NYU is famous not only for its ability to develop scholars, artists and entrepreneurs, but also for the well-known success of its graduates. The accomplishments of alumni are annually recognized by world-renowned achievement at festivals, awards and via fellowships.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 50,027
  • As one of the oldest public colleges in the nation, CUNY has provided exemplary education for over 140 years. The artistic achievement and breadth of the faculty’s academic accomplishments, draws a diverse and uniquely engaged student population. Young scholars benefit from the abundance of learning resources in New York as well as from the dedication of the school’s graduates to give back to the source of its educational roots and subsequent career success.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 22,918
  • Embracing a forward-looking approach to artistic academia, SCAD is a student-centered institution determined to provide educational excellence within the context of a positive learning environment. Students learn to create art, as well as live creatively artistic lives.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 11,861
  • Founded in 197, SVA is a for-profit art and design educational institution located in New York offering 11 bachelor’s programs & 22 graduate options. SVA emphasizes excellence in expression and responsible industry participation.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 4,408
  • US News ranked this Art Department, #1 in Printmaking and #15 for their Overall Fine Arts Program. Its sui generis is the premise that art is the nexus of all the humanities.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 42,716
  • The School of Art in the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts offers students a wide-breadth of disciplines from which to choose, as well as an extensive spectrum of studio art instruction, museum studies, art history and art education. The school emphasizes the importance of innovation and boundry-breaking, risk taking, effective mentoring, artistic vision, academic excellence and affordable tuition.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 51,984

Why Go To Art School?

Is going to art school actually worth it?

That is the question that every student considering a degree in the arts invariably considers when they are thinking about a formal arts education. And while the question has been known to boil the blood of art school graduates who have used their education to jump start their careers, it’s still a difficult question to answer because artists and their works are so uniquely different.

There are successful and famous artists with no formal training or education and there are also professional artists who wouldn’t have a career in the field if it weren’t for the concepts and techniques they mastered in art school. The bottom line is that art school isn’t for everyone, but it does have some obvious benefits.

RESOURCES

Schools give you access to things like fully equipped etching and silkscreen rooms, a photo lab, a computer lab, projectors, digital cameras and, of course, an enormous library. The best part is, that outside of your tuition, you don’t need to empty the piggy bank to pay for access to all of these resources; the school provides them for you instead.

When something may potentially determine your path in life, you should make sure to do your research and seek advice from people you trust. There are people with experience who can answer your questions accurately and then there are forums where unknown Internet commenters are ready to spit out tired clichés at a moment’s notice. It may be true that you are uniquely talented and art school will be a poor investment, but don’t just assume that is the case based on what you have heard. Do your homework and make sure you have all the facts before you make a decision that will impact your career.

ART SCHOOL PROVIDES A ROBUST LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

It is a commonly held belief that because many well-known artists are self-taught, and many famous artists have earned notoriety in their careers without attending art school that a formal education is unnecessary and a waste of money. Some argue that the stereotype of the “starving artist” is, in fact, a cautionary tale for students entering the Arts, and that the responsible approach to one’s career is to study the arts on the side while working towards a more practical degree. While a formal degree in the arts may prove unnecessary for a select and talented few, most students thrive in a robust learning environment where they learn techniques and concepts that they will build on for the rest of their career. Students also gain practical experience, receive guidance about how to succeed in business, and make industry connections that they would never gain access to in a self-guided environment.

TOP ART SCHOOLS OFFER INSTRUCTION FROM ACCOMPLISHED EDUCATORS

At art school, you will have daily interaction and conversation with some of the most experienced and talented professionals in the industry. Professionals who can easily point out your mistakes and help you improve upon them. These are people with real world contacts who want to actively help you not just become a better artist but also help you start a career in the field. They are the people who can give you honest and important feedback on how to improve yourself as an artist and there is little doubt that feedback will do wonders for your skills.

NETWORKING WILL DO WONDERS FOR YOUR CAREER

Over the course of your arts education, you will be exposed to workshops, attend lectures given by industry leaders, go on field trips, work internships, and maybe even get hired for contract or freelance work. As you are set to graduate, you will realize that you are already plugged in to the world of art and design and the connections you have made over the years can be easily leveraged to help you jumpstart your career. People in art school typically don’t have to worry about ending up jobless.

POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS WILL LOVE YOUR RESUME

If you have graduated from art school, employers instantly understand that: your ability has been tested and recognized by art professionals, who will vouch for you upon request; you can work under deadline make a deadline; and you have professional standards for quality and pricing. Someone without an official education is at a disadvantage, because the potential employee is more of an unknown and it takes time and effort to ensure the potential employee can do the job being asked of them.

SCHOOL HELPS YOU LEARN DISCIPLINE

Discipline is not something students can just impose on themselves, they need to learn it from somewhere else. School work is rigorous and amateur artists are never going to do all the work that is required of students in school. In school you will have required readings, mundane projects, tight deadlines, etc. These may seem like frivolous and fruitless endeavors, but self-taught people tend to only learn what they want to learn, but it’s the rest of the learning that helps feed your skill and make you a well-rounded artist. An art career is risky but it’s made safer by versatility and knowledge. When you are forced to learn everything under the moon in school, it can help you in later life if you need to pivot careers quickly.

The Cost of Art School

Obviously the cost of art school will depend entirely on the type of schools students are looking for and the type of degree they are interested in. If students are looking at traditional universities and colleges, they will find that just because they know they want an art degree doesn’t mean they won’t be paying for the full educational experience. The Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) estimated that the average independent art college tuition in the United States in 2011-12 was about $30,300 with a range of about $18,000 to $40,000 being common. In Canada, AICAD estimates the average international tuition at independent art colleges for the same year is $13,600 CAD, with a range from 12,000 to $16,000 CAD. Of course, in-province tuition averages at these Canadian institutions would fall below these ranges. There is also plenty of financial aid available. The average discount in 2010-11 at AICAD member schools was roughly 26% of the published tuition.