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2021 Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts

Approximately 29,462 design and applied arts degrees were awarded to students last year in the United States. With so many options it can be a daunting task finding the right fit. This year's Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts ranking analyzed 206 colleges and universities that offer a bachelor's degree in design and applied arts. We look at over 20 factors to determine the top 15% of colleges for Design & Applied Arts students.

Choosing a Great Design & Applied Arts School

Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts The design program you select can have a big impact on your future. This section explores some of the factors we include in our ranking and how much they vary depending on the school you select. When choosing a school we recommend considering some of the following factors:

A Great Overall School

A school that excels in educating for a particular major must be a great school overall as well. To make it into this list a school must rank well in our overall Best Colleges ranking. This ranking considered factors such as graduation rates, overall graduate earnings and other educational resources to identify great colleges and universities.

Over 80% of the schools in this list are in the top 31% of our overall quality ranking.

Overall Best Colleges Rank  ( 543 to 138 )
Lowest Ranked Overall
Top Ranked Overall

Above Average Earnings After Graduation

Design & Applied Arts graduates from schools on this list tend to earn more after college than those from other schools. While the average design and applied arts bachelors degree from U.S. schools results in an average starting salary of $31,649, graduates of colleges on this list average $38,352.

Starting Salary  ( 25143 to 51056 )
$0
$87,900

Other Factors We Consider

In addition to the above, you should consider some of the following factors:

  • Major Focus - How much a school focuses on Design & Applied Arts students vs. other majors.
  • Major Popularity - How many other design and applied arts students choose this school.
  • Accreditation - Whether a school is regionally accredited and/or a recognized design and applied arts related accrediting body.

Our full ranking methodology documents in more detail how we consider these factors to identify the best schools for Design & Applied Arts students.

Best Schools to Study Design & Applied Arts in the United States

The following list ranks the best colleges and universities for a Design & Applied Arts degree. Only those schools that rank in the top 15% of all the schools we analyze get awarded with a place on this list.

Top 25 Best Design Colleges

#1

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

Carnegie Mellon University is a good decision for individuals interested in a Design & Applied Arts major. Carnegie Mellon is a large private not-for-profit school located in the city of Pittsburgh. A Best Colleges rank of 33 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means Carnegie Mellon is a great college overall.

Carnegie Mellon University is a fairly popular school to study design in United States exceeding 71 graduations last year. Carnegie Mellon University design and applied arts graduates receive $49,548 more than the typical design graduate.

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Art Center College of Design is a great option for students interested in a Design & Applied Arts major. Located in the city Pasadena, Art Center College of Design is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. This college ranks 367th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of California.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, Art Center College of Design also offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Art Center College of Design design and applied arts students receive $11,548 more than the typical design grad.

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College for Creative Studies is among your best bets if you want to study design and applied arts. Located in the city Detroit, CCS is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. This school ranks 504th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Michigan.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, CCS offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Soon after getting their bachelor's degree, design students typically make around $39,200 in their early careers.

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#4

Pratt Institute - Main

Brooklyn, NY

Pratt Institute - Main is a great option for students pursuing a Design & Applied Arts major. Located in the city Brooklyn, Pratt Institute is a private not-for-profit school with a medium-sized student population. This school ranks 355th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of New York.

There are about 543 design and applied arts undergrads studying this program at Pratt Institute. Grads of the design program report average early career wages of $34,900.

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Located in the midsize city Providence, RISD is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. A Best Colleges rank of 195 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means RISD is a great school overall.

There are roughly 157 design and applied arts undergrads studying this program at RISD. Graduates of the design program earn about $30,200 in the first couple years of their career.

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#6

California College of the Arts

San Francisco, CA

Located in the city San Francisco, California College of the Arts is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. This college ranks 552nd out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of California.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, California College of the Arts offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. After getting their bachelor's degree, design students typically earn about $38,100 in their early careers.

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Located in the city New York, FIT SUNY is a public school with a medium-sized student population. This college ranks 433rd out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of New York.

There are about 1378 design and applied arts undergrads enrolled in this degree at FIT SUNY. Graduates of the design program earn about $38,200 in their early career salary.

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Located in the large city Los Angeles, Otis Art Institute is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. This college ranks 574th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of California.

A favorite choice for design and applied arts undergrads, there are roughly 131 individuals studying this program at Otis Art Institute. Graduates of the design program earn an average of $36,300 in the first couple years of working.

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Located in the city Baltimore, MICA is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This school ranks 425th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of Maryland.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, MICA offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Students who graduate from the design program earn about $22,700 for their early career.

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Georgia Tech is a very large public school located in the city of Atlanta. A Best Colleges rank of 82 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Georgia Tech is a great school overall.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, Georgia Tech also offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Graduates from the design and applied arts major at Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus get $9,148 above the average graduate in this field when they enter the workforce.

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Ringling College is a small private not-for-profit school located in the small city of Sarasota. A Best Colleges rank of 249 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means Ringling College is a great college overall.

There are approximately 113 design and applied arts undergrads enrolled in this degree at Ringling College. Graduates of the design program earn around $24,000 in the first couple years of working.

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#12

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA

Located in the city Philadelphia, Drexel is a private not-for-profit college with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 186 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means Drexel is a great school overall.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, Drexel offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Drexel University design and applied arts majors earn $5,148 more than the typical design graduate.

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Located in the large city Boston, Massachusetts College of Art and Design is a public school with a small student population. This college ranks 547th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, Massachusetts College of Art and Design also offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Students who complete this degree state that they receive average early career income of $30,800.

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#14

Auburn University

Auburn, AL

Located in the city Auburn, Auburn is a public college with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 209 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Auburn is a great school overall.

There are about 147 design and applied arts undergraduates enrolled in this program at Auburn. Grads of the design program report average early career wages of $34,800.

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Located in the large city Austin, UT Austin is a public school with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 91 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means UT Austin is a great college overall.

The University of Texas at Austin is a fairly popular school to study design in United States exceeding 46 graduates last year. Graduates from the design and applied arts program at The University of Texas at Austin earn $6,048 above the average graduate in this field shortly after graduation.

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NC State is a fairly large public school located in the city of Raleigh. A Best Colleges rank of 105 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means NC State is a great school overall.

There are roughly 99 design and applied arts undergrads enrolled in this degree at NC State. Students who complete this program state that they receive average early career income of $38,700.

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#17

School of Visual Arts

New York, NY

Located in the large city New York, SVA is a private for-profit school with a small student population. This college ranks 498th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of New York.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, SVA also offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Soon after getting their bachelor's degree, design students generally make an average of $27,500 in the first five years of their career.

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Located in the large city Minneapolis, MCAD is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly small student population. This school ranks 535th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of Minnesota.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, MCAD also offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Students who graduate from the design program earn around $22,800 in their early career salary.

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#19

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL

U of F is a very large public school located in the medium-sized city of Gainesville. A Best Colleges rank of 85 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means U of F is a great school overall.

A popular choice for design and applied arts undergraduates, there are about 50 students studying this degree at U of F. Graduates from the design and applied arts program at University of Florida earn $6,548 above the typical college grad in this field when they enter the workforce.

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#20

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY

Located in the city Syracuse, Syracuse is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 119 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means Syracuse is a great college overall.

Syracuse University is a fairly popular college to study design in United States exceeding 127 graduations last year. Students who graduate from this program state that they receive average early career earnings of $38,000.

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Located in the city Cincinnati, Cincinnati is a public school with a fairly large student population. This college ranks 341st out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of Ohio.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, Cincinnati offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. University of Cincinnati - Main Campus design and applied arts graduates receive $5,948 more than the standard design graduate.

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#22

Laguna College of Art and Design

Laguna Beach, CA

LCAD is a fairly small private not-for-profit school located in the rural area of Laguna Beach. This school ranks 766th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of California.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, LCAD offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Students who complete this degree report average early career income of $25,700.

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ASU - Tempe is a very large public school located in the city of Tempe. A Best Colleges rank of 276 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means ASU - Tempe is a great college overall.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, ASU - Tempe also offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. After graduation, design students usually earn about $38,800 in their early careers.

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#24

Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, VA

Virginia Tech is a fairly large public school located in the city of Blacksburg. A Best Colleges rank of 88 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means Virginia Tech is a great school overall.

There are roughly 71 design and applied arts undergrads studying this degree at Virginia Tech. Students from the design and applied arts major at Virginia Tech earn $6,248 above the average college graduate with the same degree when they enter the workforce.

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#25

The New School

New York, NY

Located in the city New York, New School University is a private not-for-profit school with a fairly large student population. This school ranks 505th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of New York.

There are roughly 641 design and applied arts undergrads studying this degree at New School University. Soon after getting their bachelor's degree, design students generally earn an average of $31,100 in their early careers.

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Rest of the Top Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts

#27

Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, TX
#28

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL
#30

Clemson University

Clemson, SC

Additional Noteworthy Schools

These are some additional schools worth mentioning that are also great but just didn't quite make the cut to earn our top Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts award.

Rank College Location
31 Purdue University - Main Campus West Lafayette, IN
32 University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison, WI
33 University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign Champaign, IL
34 Wentworth Institute of Technology Boston, MA
35 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY
36 Montserrat College of Art Beverly, MA
37 Northeastern University Boston, MA
38 Ohio State University - Main Campus Columbus, OH
39 Kansas City Art Institute Kansas City, MO
40 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS
41 Brigham Young University - Provo Provo, UT

Design & Applied Arts by Region

View the Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts for a specific region near you.

Region
Southeast
New England
Rocky Mountains
Plains States
Middle Atlantic
Far Western US
Southwest
Great Lakes

One of 9 majors within the Visual & Performing Arts area of study, Design & Applied Arts has other similar majors worth exploring.

Majors Similar to Design

Related Major Annual Graduates
Fine & Studio Arts 40,751
Music 26,968
Drama & Theater Arts 17,726
Film, Video & Photographic Arts 16,756
General Visual & Performing Arts 5,720

View All Design Related Majors >

Notes and References

  • The bars on the spread charts above show the distribution of the schools on this list +/- one standard deviation from the mean.
  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of the rest of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard). More about our data sources and methodologies.

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