For students who have a high school degree and want to further their studies in any aspect of the creative or performing arts, degree programs exist from Maine to Florida and New York to California. In fact, the number of post-secondary schools offering intensive arts programs from which to choose can be almost overwhelming. Programs include these areas of study:
Programs are also available at all levels, including the associate, bachelor, and master’s degree, and graduate certificate. Many schools now offer some of their programs in an online format, which allows students to take classes at times that are convenient to their personal and/or work schedule. Online programs provide the same education as campus programs. Students connect with cohorts and faculty via email and online discussions. Online programs are well-suited to art forms that use computer software to generate the final design: projects can be submitted and stored electronically to create a portfolio of work, which many programs encourage or even require.
Most students looking for a degree or certificate in the arts know what they want to study, but may not be sure of which degree they want to pursue. When deciding whether to go for a two-year, four-year or master’s degree, either all at once or over a longer period of time, students should consider whether an associate degree can provide the right preparation for an entry-level job, or whether a Bachelor of Fine Arts is needed. Is a master’s degree necessary to teach art, for example?
Students who already have some idea of what type of career they want in the arts may have an easier time determining how much schooling they need and be able to map out an appropriate education route. Armed with even a tentative plan, evaluating the best art colleges becomes more manageable. Students who want to become professional musicians, for example, might choose a program such as the Bachelor of Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Those who already know they want to go into the music business might find a program such as the Berklee College of Music’s online Bachelor of Professional Studies in Music Business the most expedient way to jumpstart a career. Visual artists who want to get into the job market quickly might do well going for an associate’s degree in graphic arts, whereas those who want to use their talents to create animated films or games should probably be looking at bachelor’s programs. An art therapist, on the other hand, requires a master’s degree from a program approved by the Educational Program Approval Board (EPAB), such as the Master of Science in Art Therapy from Florida State University.
The variety and number of arts programs may be intimidating but the choices narrow further when other factors come into account — things like location; tuition; proper accreditation; faculty reputation; and how well the school prepares and assists its arts students to find suitable jobs by the time they graduate.
A local community college or other nearby school may allow a student to commute to classes rather than move away from home. An online program allows even more convenience: classes can be accessed via computer from anywhere. Both of these options can save expenses that might put an undue financial burden on some students when added to tuition. The right location culturally, however, can be essential when planning for a career in the arts. Location can be the source for artistic inspiration as well as opportunities to experience highly regarded examples of the student’s chosen art form. Likewise, attending a school in a city where like artists network offers a chance to make career connections for aspiring students of the arts.
Tuition is often a priority on the list of factors that can eliminate some top school choices. Community colleges may provide the least costly options, though not always the most desirable programs. Private colleges and conservatories and for-profit technical schools may appear to offer an exact match for the student’s needs, but be out of reach financially. Before crossing any schools off the list, other factors must be considered. A two-year degree from a community college may kick-start a student’s career and bring in money to offset future education costs. Qualifying for grants and scholarships can put the private conservatory program within reach. All the angles should be explored before scrubbing any schools due to tuition costs.
Students should always research accreditation before applying to any college. The best colleges usually have regional accreditation from the agency that oversees their area. For example, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges accredits post-secondary institutions in California and Hawaii. Furthermore, art colleges, schools and programs can seek accreditation from a number of specialized agencies, including the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) and others, depending on specialty.
Programs with faculty members who have worked and been successful in the disciplines they teach have a lot of real-world know-how to impart to their students. Not enough can be said about the value of professors and instructors who challenge, inspire and offer practical, current knowledge to their students.
It’s a good idea to research the percentage of each school’s graduates who find work related to their studies. In what ways does the program prepare its students for the job search, such as requiring them to build a reel, compile a portfolio, or take an internship prior to graduation?
Finally, the best art colleges not only teach students the fundamentals through the fine points of their chosen crafts, but offer them plenty of opportunity to “make” as much art as possible during their years of study. Arts programs are typically proud of their students’ work. Prospective students should visit the schools they plan to attend, even those that are considering online programs. Most art schools display current and former student projects to show what new students can hope to achieve.
|College Rank||College Name||#Programs||Tuition||Total Enrollment||City||State|
|1||New York University||28||$39,344||50,444||New York||New York|
|4||University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth||19||$1,417||10,663||North Dartmouth||Massachusetts|
|5||Lindenwood University||19||$13,650||17,309||Saint Charles||Missouri|
|7||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||18||$9,700||3,292||Boston||Massachusetts|
|8||The University of Texas at El Paso||17||$5,341||26,232||El Paso||Texas|
|9||University of Iowa||17||$6,436||33,952||Iowa City||Iowa|
|10||Southern Illinois University Carbondale||17||$7,337||22,814||Carbondale||Illinois|
|11||University of Southern California||17||$42,162||40,515||Los Angeles||California|
|12||Florida State University||16||$3,100||45,876||Tallahassee||Florida|
|13||SUNY College at Buffalo||16||$5,270||15,142||Buffalo||New York|
|15||Westminster College New Wilmington||16||$26,712||1,690||New Wilmington||Pennsylvania|
|16||Seton Hill University||16||$27,654||3,126||Greensburg||Pennsylvania|
|17||University of Georgia||15||$6,676||38,822||Athens||Georgia|
|18||University of Oregon||15||$7,551||27,078||Eugene||Oregon|
|19||University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||15||$11,650||64,349||Minneapolis||Minnesota|
|20||Bethany College KS||15||$22,954||1,020||Lindsborg||Kansas|
|21||Maryland Institute College of Art||15||$36,170||2,639||Baltimore||Maryland|
|22||University of Colorado Boulder||14||$7,672||36,946||Boulder||Colorado|
|23||University of Arizona||14||$8,364||42,779||Tucson||Arizona|
|24||University of Wisconsin-Madison||14||$8,592||46,756||Madison||Wisconsin|
|25||Arizona State University||14||$9,208||79,274||Tempe||Arizona|
|26||University of South Carolina-Columbia||14||$9,768||33,503||Columbia||South Carolina|
|27||Point Loma Nazarene University||14||$27,700||4,330||San Diego||California|
|28||School of the Art Institute of Chicago||14||$36,930||3,599||Chicago||Illinois|
|29||Cornell University||14||$41,325||21,437||Ithaca||New York|
|30||Yale University||14||$40,500||12,893||New Haven||Connecticut|
|31||Columbia University||14||#N/A||27,257||New York||New York|
|32||University of North Texas||13||$5,884||44,140||Denton||Texas|
|33||Northern Arizona University||13||$6,514||28,561||Flagstaff||Arizona|
|34||Western Washington University||13||$6,973||16,778||Bellingham||Washington|
|35||Northern Illinois University||13||$7,605||27,287||Dekalb||Illinois|
|36||University of Kansas||13||$7,611||32,343||Lawrence||Kansas|
|37||Ohio State University-Main Campus||13||$8,856||64,425||Columbus||Ohio|
|38||University of Washington-Seattle Campus||13||$9,746||49,554||Seattle||Washington|
|39||University of California-Davis||13||$11,220||33,786||Davis||California|
|40||University of California-Los Angeles||13||$11,220||40,863||Los Angeles||California|
|43||Savannah College of Art and Design||13||$30,510||11,379||Savannah||Georgia|
|44||Syracuse University||13||$36,300||31,780||Syracuse||New York|
|45||University of Miami||13||$38,440||17,797||Coral Gables||Florida|
|47||Carnegie Mellon University||13||$43,160||12,175||Pittsburgh||Pennsylvania|
|48||University of Maine||12||$8,370||13,369||Orono||Maine|
|49||University of California-San Diego||12||$11,220||31,089||La Jolla||California|
|50||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||12||$11,847||47,146||Champaign||Illinois|