The Best Art Schools 2021

November 15, 2021 • 6 Min Read

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The best art schools online train students how to create and analyze art. Learners explore art history and studio practice. They also study contemporary issues in art. Graduates may work as artists, museum curators, or art directors.

Applicants to a bachelor's in art program need a high school or GED diploma. Prospective enrollees may need to submit a portfolio that shows skill in their chosen art form. Applicants to graduate programs in art need a bachelor's degree in art or another field.

This guide lists the best art schools online. Read on to learn about typical courses and fees. You can also explore various art careers.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Art Degrees

true Q. What can you do with a college degree in art?

The best art schools online train students for jobs such as fine artist, art director, or photographer. Art students can also enroll in graduate school.

true Q. What are the different types of art degrees?

Art programs usually focus on either studio art or art history. Studio majors can specialize in mediums such as painting, sculpture, and photography.

true Q. Does an art degree pay well?

Some art degrees can lead to careers with above-average salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), art directors earn a median annual salary of $97,270. This figure more than doubles the annual median salary of $41,950 for all occupations.

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Why Get an Art Degree?

Earning an online art degree can lead to careers in diverse fields. Graduates may work as artists, historians, critics, or curators. Students gain the skills to create and interpret works of art in various mediums.

Most students pursue art out of a passion for it. They do not choose the degree to earn a high salary. However, many art careers offer competitive wages. According to the BLS, craft and fine artists earn an annual median salary of $49,120. Special-effects artists earn $77,700.

By enrolling in art schools online, learners do not need to relocate or pause their careers.

How Much Does an Art Degree Cost?

The cost of an art degree varies by school and program. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduates at public schools paid an annual average tuition of about $18,380. Undergraduates at private schools paid about $47,420. These figures include room and board costs. Learners pursuing an online art degree do not pay for campus housing.

The cost of an art degree also depends on how long students spend in school. Learners can complete a bachelor's program in four years. A master's program takes 2-3 years. Studio art students may need to pay additional fees for materials and other in-person requirements.

How Much Do Art Majors Make?

Students who earn online art degrees can pursue a variety of careers in their specialization. Common careers include craft or fine artist, art director, and animator. Management and leadership positions usually pay the highest salaries.

Earning an advanced degree can help artists move into high-paying careers. For example, most museum curators need a master's degree.

Courses in an Art Program

Students at the best art schools online explore art history, theory, and practice. Most programs cover major art periods, movements, and techniques. Learners may also explore general concepts such as artistic practice and color theory.

Enrollees in a studio program study different artistic mediums. Most programs allow students to explore mediums before choosing 1-2 specialization areas. Common mediums include painting, sculpture, and ceramics.

Students pursuing an online art degree may take the courses below. Keep in mind that specific titles and course content vary by school.

  • Introduction to Western Art

    Most online art degrees include many courses introducing key periods in Western art history. Courses cover topics such as gothic, baroque, and neoclassical periods. Art history courses give students a broad understanding of art movements and the historical development of art.
  • 2-D Art Foundations

    This course introduces the fundamentals of 2-D art and design. Students explore visual language, organization, and color. Learners also study 2-D art media and techniques. These include painting and photography. Many courses include lecture components and studio practice.
  • Issues in Contemporary Art

    Both studio and art history students should understand the various issues affecting contemporary art and artists. This course highlights major concepts that affect the art world. Enrollees study new media and new art styles. The course may also explore issues of identity in art, such as race, gender, and class.

The Best Art Schools 2021

Harvard University true View School Profile Cambridge, MA

Harvard offers 22 total fine arts and design programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Programs fall under the Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies (AFVS); the Office for the Arts; or the Graduate School of Design. Through Harvard, students can earn a professional art degree without compromising on a liberal arts education.

Students wishing to major in studio arts declare a concentration in AFVS during their sophomore year. By the end of junior year, AFVS majors establish a media focus to develop a professional-level portfolio. Students choose to complete either a two-semester senior thesis or a project representing their third year body of work.

The graduate school offers professional and post-professional master's programs in design, architecture, and urban planning. Admission to the design master's program requires two years of professional experience. However, undergraduates may apply to the architecture and urban planning programs with a portfolio demonstrating their aptitude for three-dimensional design.

University of Pennsylvania true View School Profile Philadelphia, PA

The University of Pennsylvania's Weitzman School of Design offers 28 programs in fine arts and design focused on the interdisciplinary study of art as a response to societal challenges. UPenn awards bachelor's-level art degrees in fine arts or design.

The fine arts program focuses on artmaking technique and requires six studio courses with options such as printmaking, sculpture, and animation. The design program explores the integration of design with science and the humanities. Studio courses under this major offer instruction in the application of contemporary design theory and prototyping and fabrication.

Both undergraduate degrees include a two-semester capstone senior seminar in the final year. The seminar culminates in a public showcase of the student's portfolio. Prospective students applying directly to the art program may submit a supplemental portfolio. Current students enter the program without a separate application by meeting with an advisor to declare a major.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor true View School Profile Ann Arbor, MI

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design (Stamps) at the University of Michigan hosts 14 undergraduate and graduate level programs with options tailored toward either a studio or an academic focus. Undergraduates choose from four art degree options: BA or BFA in art and design, BFA in interarts performance, and dual-degree options.

In all programs, Stamps requires studio courses in drawing, design, and inquiry methods. Students must pass a sophomore review in which they present a portfolio of college work to a faculty committee. Students must also complete one course outside the United States in an approved international program unless they declare a minor.

All Stamps applicants need to complete the Common Application or Coalition Application for U-M. Recommendations must include letters from both an academic and an art instructor. Portfolios should include 12-15 pieces representing both conceptual work and direct observation drawings.

Carnegie Mellon University true View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA

A private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University offers 17 programs in art and design through The College of Fine Arts. This includes a BFA and a BXA intercollege degree programs.

The BFA program contains four media-based concentrations. Students can choose a specific concentration or create an individualized hybrid curriculum.The first year curriculum includes courses from all four concentrations. After sophomore year, students gain more freedom to choose their major coursework. A year-long senior studio course serves as the program capstone. Each school year ends with an exhibition showcasing senior studio work.

When making a decision, admission officers consider an applicant's portfolio, transcripts, and test scores holistically. Portfolios must include 12-20 pieces with artist statements. Faculty recommend including work done outside of assignments to represent independent ability.

Duke University true View School Profile Durham, NC

A private research university in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University features 11 art and design programs through the Trinity College of Art and Sciences. Undergraduate students can pursue one of three BA tracks: art history, visual arts, and visual and media studies. Art history specializations include architecture and museum studies. The program also offers a combined art history and visual arts major.

Visual arts majors choose courses from six subdisciplines for introductory and intermediate studios. The program culminates in a required theory course and a studio capstone. Visual and media studies majors must take two gateway courses within their first year. Students choose from a list of preapproved courses to serve as their capstone.

Art program applicants only need to complete the general Duke application, but students may submit a portfolio and statement as a supplement.

New York University View School Profile New York, NY

The private research university hosts two schools catering to visual arts. The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development offers art degrees in studio art, visual arts administration, art therapy, and art education. Tisch School of the Arts provides undergraduate and graduate level tracks in art and design for film.

The BFA in studio art program begins with a year-long foundation program and ends with a senior studio capstone course. In this course, students develop a portfolio and plan their gallery showcase in small groups. The Tisch film program covers four primary stages: introductory, fundamental, intermediate, and advanced. After completing a bachelor's program, students interested in production design can apply to the MFA program.

Applicants to the Steinhardt School must submit a 12-15 piece portfolio with a statement of purpose. Tisch portfolio requirements include a one-page resume and the choice of 10-15 images or a five-minute short film. Students must also answer three creative prompts in visual and script format.

Tufts University View School Profile Medford, MA

Located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Tufts University offers 32 degree and certificate programs in art and design through the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The first year for BFA students consists of a heavy studio course load and an introductory theory course in visual and material studies. Over four years, students participate in eight review boards, presenting their semester work to a team of faculty and students. The review process helps students recognize the connection between their research projects and studio work while developing their own artistic direction.

Applicants can choose either a BFA or a combined degree program on the Tufts application. Both programs require a portfolio submission of either 15-20 images or up to 10 minutes of timed material.

Lehigh University View School Profile Bethlehem, PA

A private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University offers 13 major and minor programs in art, design, and architecture. The four main BA programs provide students with a foundation for a career in art or a smooth transition to graduate studies.

The art major centers on the principle disciplines of drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography. Art majors can combine studies with a theatre major to specialize in costume design or pursue a minor in education to receive a teaching certificate. The design major includes studios combining communication through digital media with traditional artmaking. Both majors include five foundation courses in art history, two and three dimensional design, and drawing.

Applicants need to complete the Common Application or Coalition Application for Lehigh and a writing sample. Students earning a five on the AP Studio Art exam apply eight credits toward the first year foundation courses.

Drexel University View School Profile Philadelphia, PA

Drexel University, a private research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, awards degrees from 22 art and design programs. These programs include bachelor's and master's level instruction in design, production, and media management.

All BS majors begin with a foundation in studio art which aims to foster student creativity and solidify design fundamentals. As students continue within their chosen discipline, they will gain professional experience through the university's cooperative education program. Students can choose a four-year study track with one co-op, usually during the third year, or a five-year track, with three co-op placements.

The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design application includes an essay expressing the student's interest in their intended program. Some majors, such as animation, fashion design, and photography, require an 8-12 piece portfolio.

Georgetown University View School Profile Washington, DC

Georgetown University's Department of Art and Art History offers BA options in art and art history and an MA in art and museum studies. Students can choose one of eight media specializations in a combined studio and liberal arts curriculum.

After completing two introductory courses, students take three intermediate studios within a concentration. The four concentration options include drawing and printmaking; painting; sculpture; and photography, graphic design, and new media. Students must complete a senior art seminar to fulfill the university integrated writing requirement. The department hosts a senior art major exhibition in the spring.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions bases decisions on a student's general application. Applicants can submit a supplemental portfolio of up to 20 images to convey substantial artistic talent not demonstrated on the general application.

Purdue University-Main Campus View School Profile West Lafayette, IN

Purdue University houses the Patti & Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance, a top-ranked design and applied arts school. The Department of Art and Design offers a selection of 12 BFA, MA, MFA, and Ph.D. programs

The BFA in integrated studio arts offers a hybrid approach to studio and media studies. Concentrations explore interdisciplinary artmaking using traditional methods and new technologies. Design-based programs, such as the BFA in visual communication design, feature in-depth, conceptual study of medium and message.

All BFA programs require a portfolio review before the end of sophomore year to progress in the program. Degrees culminate with a senior studio and a student-led gallery exhibition. Students applying to the integrated studio arts program must submit a portfolio. All majors within the Department of Art and Design receive programmatic accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Providence College View School Profile Providence, RI

Providence College in Rhode Island offers 10 art and design specializations through the Department of Art and Art History. The studio art major centers on developing two- and three- dimensional design and drawing fundamentals through advanced concentration studies. Concentrations include drawing, painting, printmaking, and ceramics. Other areas of study consist of sculpture, photography, and digital imaging.

Art majors complete a degree program consisting of liberal arts electives; art history lectures; and gateway, concentration, and elective studio courses. Students choose their concentration by the end of sophomore year. In their senior year, students complete a capstone studio seminar and a senior thesis exhibition. Work presented in the thesis exhibition appears in the department's Providence College Art Journal.

Students with a substantial art background may submit a supplementary portfolio with their application. Portfolios should include 10-20 images of a student's best thematic work.

University of Miami View School Profile Coral Gables, FL

A private research university in Coral Gables, Florida, University of Miami hosts 13 art and design programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can pursue an MFA in studio art, a BA in studio art or art history, or a BFA with studio courses in five subject areas.

The BA and BFA programs require introductory courses in electronic media, three-dimensional design, and drawing. Students on the BA track must complete six upper-level studio courses and three art history classes. The BFA track requires students to select a primary and secondary studio concentration, complete elective credits, and take five art history classes. The BFA requires less general education classes and confers an automatic minor in art history upon completion.

The College of Arts and Sciences uses a holistic admissions approach based on transcripts, recommendations, and essays.

George Washington University View School Profile Washington, DC

The Corcoran School of the Arts & Design at George Washington University offers 22 programs in visual arts and design. Curriculum in the art programs incorporates the neighboring galleries and museums to provide students with professional opportunities after graduation.

BFA students spend their first year in close-knit cohorts within a four-course foundation program. Subsequent semesters feature content-driven studio and theory courses within the student's choice of media. Students complete a six-credit thesis seminar in their final year. The thesis project combines research, group discussions, and critiques with a thematic body of work.

Applicants to the BFA program need to submit a portfolio of 12-20 completed works. The portfolio should include a student's best and most recent work, relevant to their intended concentration if possible.

University of Wisconsin-Madison View School Profile Madison, WI

University of Wisconsin-Madison boasts a top-ranked art department that centers creative processes in critical thinking and collaboration. The department offers BS, BFA, MA, and MFA degree tracks in studio art.

First year students enter the art program as either BS-Art or art education. Students first complete the foundations year, covering courses in art history, drawing concepts, and design fundamentals. If students continue in the BS program, they will take 45 total studio credits. This offers greater flexibility to pursue other majors, minors, or certificates at the university.

Students wishing to transition to the BFA program can apply during sophomore or junior year. Applicants must maintain a 3.0 GPA in all studio courses, including introductory level studios in all four design areas.

Completion of the BFA degree requires 72 studio credit hours and a successful portfolio review before their final semester. Successful BFA candidates participate in a capstone exhibition during the spring of their senior year.

University of Denver View School Profile Denver, CO

The School of Art & Art History at University of Denver offers 11 art and design programs connected to the university's museum and gallery network. Degrees include a BA or BFA in art, a BA in art history, and a BFA in pre-art conservation.

First year applicants can apply directly to the BA program. Degree requirements include 16 credits in art fundamental courses, 12 credits in art history, and 32 credits in studio art. Students will choose a primary area of interest within their studio courses. To encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, art majors pursuing a BA must also choose either a minor or second major.

Once enrolled in the School of Art & Art History, students can apply for the BFA program. Applicants receive a faculty advisor to guide them through the application process, including a portfolio review. BFA students must complete at least 70 studio art credits, including introductory courses in each discipline. Students participate in a senior year capstone project culminating in an exhibition.

Bradley University View School Profile Peoria, IL

A private university in Peoria, Illinois, Bradley University provides students with 11 art program options. Bradley's Department of Art and Design encourages students to pursue leadership in visual culture and contribute to the contemporary creative experience.

The studio art major offers BS, BA, and BFA degrees in seven concentration options. Each concentration requires courses in studio fundamentals, required concentration studios, and studio electives. The BFA track requires more studio credit hours and a capstone course, providing students with professional development and career preparation opportunities. BFA students end their degree with a gallery showcase.

Bradley's art program connects current students with area professionals and alumni to help students find work in creative fields. Students must also attend at least two presentations from the Visual Voices Lecture Series as a fundamental requirement.

University of Florida View School Profile Gainesville, FL

University of Florida awards degrees in 11 art and design programs through the School of Art and Art History. In the studio art major, students can expect a contemporary, interdisciplinary approach to developing their artistic identity.

Degree options include a BA track in art and BFA programs in art or graphic design. BFA students complete a foundation curriculum during their first two years then develop conceptual skills and explore contemporary design theory. The BA track follows a similar curriculum with fewer required studio courses. BA students enjoy the flexibility to pursue double majors, minors, and certificate programs outside of the arts.

Students can enroll directly in the art program after acceptance to the university. At the end of their sophomore year, students undergo a portfolio review in order to progress in the major.

University of California-Los Angeles View School Profile Los Angeles, CA

The School of the Arts and Architecture at University of California-Los Angeles offers ten specialized program paths in art and design. The top-ranked studio art program provides students with professional artistic training within the context of a liberal arts degree.

The BA in art requires foundation courses in six subdisciplines, including one course in either video, installation, or performance art. Each class maintains a 17-student limit to ensure personalized guidance from instructors. The program ends with a senior studio capstone course emphasizing group analysis and critiques. Throughout the program, instructors encourage students to engage with UCLA affiliate museums and interdisciplinary projects.

For consideration, applicants must indicate art as their first choice major on the UCLA application. The art department also requires a portfolio of 8-10 images, an artist statement, and a short essay outlining the student's career goals.

Northeastern University View School Profile Boston, MA

Northeastern University's College of Arts, Media, and Design combines academic inquiry of design theory with experiential learning. As a result, students leave with a professional art or design degree and a personalized liberal arts education.

Students design their own program path through a combination of courses, co-ops, and independent research opportunities. The studio art BFA program spans multiple Boston area institutions. Northeastern administers the art history and theory courses, but students take their studio courses in the nearby School of the Museum of Fine Arts through Tufts University. The BFA program also offers study abroad options through the university partnership with University of the Arts London.

Applicants to the studio art BFA must submit a portfolio of 10-15 images with an artist statement. Students without a portfolio can apply to the BA program through Northeastern's general application.

University of Delaware View School Profile Newark, DE

The Department of Art & Design at University of Delaware offers 12 undergraduate and graduate programs in art and design. Art degrees from UD equip students with goal-oriented professional experience necessary to pursue careers after graduation.

The BA and BFA programs feature a two-year core credit curriculum. Students pursuing a BFA in studio art spend their final two years exploring subdisciplines in upper-level studio electives. Studio art seniors use the techniques developed in their junior year to complete a portfolio in a capstone course. The studio capstone continues in an exhibition the following semester.

Visual communications BFA students follow a regimented curriculum in their final two years to master design industry standards. Coursework includes a mandatory internship and participation in the BFA senior exhibition.

Students can apply to the BFA track after completing the core curriculum experience. The application process involves a portfolio review and an advising session.

University of Washington-Seattle Campus View School Profile Seattle, WA

The School of Art, Art History, and Design fosters interdisciplinary collaboration for art and design majors within 13 specialized programs. Undergraduates develop technical mastery in visual communication while receiving a rigorous liberal arts education in four BA tracks.

Students take 20 credit hours in introductory studio courses before enrolling in advanced studios within their concentration. The major's art history curriculum can easily transition to a minor and fulfill the UW writing proficiency requirement. Each concentration ends with a senior capstone to develop oral presentation skills and present work in the BA thesis exhibition.

Students can declare an art major after completing an intermediate level studio course with at least a 2.5 GPA. To progress in the program, students must maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA.

University of Georgia View School Profile Athens, GA

Lamarr Dodd School of Art offers 30 fine arts programs including BFA, BA, and MFA tracks. Students can choose from 11 studio concentrations for a comprehensive, studio-intensive curriculum.

All BFA concentrations include the studio core curriculum spread across four years. In the first year, students take two art history surveys and three introductory studio courses. At the intermediate level, students start to focus on their studio concentration.

The upper-level studio core courses serve as a thematic and practical capstone. In the exit studio course, students develop work for a thesis exhibition. At the same time, students take a professional development course to practice interview skills, personal branding, and networking in the creative field.

First-year students interested in the art program should speak to a Dodd School advisor at orientation.

University at Buffalo View School Profile Buffalo, NY

The Department of Art at the University at Buffalo provides a broad survey of art fundamentals through a studio art BA program or a specialized BFA program.

In both degree programs, students pursue a media concentration. The BA program offers concentrations in graphic design, photography, or interdisciplinary studio. The BFA program includes the same concentrations with additional options in painting, sculpture, print media, and emerging practices.

All art students benefit from the university's involvement in the art community through the fall visiting artist lecture series. Students must attend two semesters of the lecture series to complete either program. BFA students complete an additional senior studio capstone requirement and gallery exhibition.

Prospective BFA students can indicate their intended major on the general application. Students that pass the first year fundamental courses with a 2.5 GPA or above automatically enter the art department. Students with a GPA below 2.5 can still enter the department by passing a portfolio review.

Rutgers University-New Brunswick View School Profile New Brunswick, NJ

The BFA art and design programs at the Mason Gross School of the Arts prepares students for careers as professional artists and designers.

All BFA students complete introductory studio courses in each concentration. Students declare a concentration at the end of their sophomore year after passing the department portfolio review. Faculty review portfolios again at the end of junior year before students begin a year-long senior thesis project.

The BFA in visual arts offers six media concentrations or a thematic focus on design. In addition to a thesis project, students on the design track complete a design practicum or internship as part of their capstone.

After indicating their interest in the BFA program on the general application, students will receive the supplemental Mason Gross application. Students must submit a 15-20 piece portfolio and a personal statement.

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