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2020 Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts

Approximately 37,428 design and applied arts degrees were granted to students last year in the United States. With so many options it can be a challenge finding the best fit for you. This year's Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts ranking analyzed 216 colleges and universities that offer a bachelor's degree in design and applied arts. We look at over 20 factors to determine the top 25 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 29% of our overall quality ranking.

Overall Best Colleges Rank  ( 410 to 1 )
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. colleges results in an average starting salary of $31,649, graduates of colleges on this list average $38,452.

Starting Salary  ( 25080 to 50919 )
$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 complete ranking methodology documents in more detail how we consider these factors to identify the best colleges for Design & Applied Arts students.

Best Schools to Study Design & Applied Arts in United States

Below you'll see a list of the best colleges and universities to study design and applied arts. Only those schools that rank in the top 15% of all the schools we analyze get awarded with a place on this list. Of the 216 schools analyzed, only 25 earned the distinction of being on this list.

Top 25 Best Design Colleges

Master Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In RI
$30,200 Median Starting Salary

Rhode Island School of Design is a wonderful decision for students interested in a Design & Applied Arts degree. Located in the city Providence, RISD is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. A Best Colleges rank of 154 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means RISD is a great college overall.

There are approximately 250 design and applied arts undergrads enrolled in this program at RISD. Students who graduate from the design program earn about $30,200 in their early career salary.

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#2

Pratt Institute - Main

Brooklyn, NY
Master Highest Degree Type
3rd Most Popular In NY
14.9% Growth in Graduates

Pratt Institute - Main is a good choice for students pursuing a Design & Applied Arts major. Located in the large city Brooklyn, Pratt Institute is a private not-for-profit college with a moderately-sized student population. This school ranks 471st out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of New York.

Pratt Institute offers design and applied arts degrees as low as a Associate's and all the way up to a Master's. Grads of the design program report average early career wages of $34,900.

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Master Highest Degree Type
3rd Most Popular In CA
20.9% Growth in Graduates

Art Center College of Design is a great option for students interested in a Design & Applied Arts degree. 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 385th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of California.

There are roughly 249 design and applied arts undergraduates studying this degree at Art Center College of Design. Graduates from the design and applied arts major at Art Center College of Design make $11,448 more than the typical college graduate with the same degree when they enter the workforce.

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#4

California College of the Arts

San Francisco, CA
Master Highest Degree Type
5th Most Popular In CA
$38,100 Median Starting Salary

Every student who is interested in design and applied arts needs to look into California College of the Arts. Located in the large city San Francisco, California College of the Arts is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This college ranks 619th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of California.

California College of the Arts is one of the most popular school to study design in United States with more than 168 graduates last year. After graduation, design students typically earn around $38,100 in the first five years of their career.

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Master Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In MD
$22,700 Median Starting Salary

Located in the city Baltimore, MICA is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This college ranks 559th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Maryland.

For those interested in something more advanced, MICA also offers 2 different higher degree levels in design and applied arts, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree. Graduates of the design program make an average of $22,700 for their early career.

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#6

School of Visual Arts

New York, NY
Master Highest Degree Type
4th Most Popular In NY
$27,500 Median Starting Salary

Located in the large city New York, SVA is a private for-profit college with a small student population. This school ranks 648th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of New York.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, SVA offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. After graduation, design students generally make an average of $27,500 in their early careers.

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Master Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In NY
0.1% Growth in Graduates

Located in the city New York, FIT SUNY is a public college with a moderately-sized student population. This school ranks 441st out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of New York.

FIT SUNY offers design and applied arts degrees as low as a First Year Certificates and all the way up to a Master's. Graduates of the design program earn around $38,200 for their early career.

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Master Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In MI
2.7% Growth in Graduates

Located in the large city Detroit, CCS is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This college ranks 591st out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Michigan.

There are approximately 182 design and applied arts undergraduates studying this degree at CCS. After graduating, design students typically earn an average of $39,200 in the first five years of their career.

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#9

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
5th Most Popular In PA
15.6% Growth in Graduates

Carnegie Mellon is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in the city of Pittsburgh. A Best Colleges rank of 28 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means Carnegie Mellon is a great school overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, Carnegie Mellon also offers 2 different higher degree levels in design and applied arts, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree. Carnegie Mellon University design and applied arts graduates earn $49,448 more than the standard design student.

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Master Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In MA
11.1% Growth in Graduates

Located in the large city Boston, Massachusetts College of Art and Design is a public school with a small student population. This school ranks 594th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design offers design and applied arts degrees as low as a First Year Certificates and all the way up to a Master's. Students who complete this program state that they receive average early career earnings of $30,800.

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#11

The New School

New York, NY
Master Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In NY
$31,100 Median Starting Salary

Located in the city New York, New School University is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly large student population. This school ranks 510th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of New York.

There are about 731 design and applied arts undergrads studying this degree at New School University. Soon after graduating, design students typically make around $31,100 in the first five years of their career.

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#12

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA
Master Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In PA
9.2% Growth in Graduates

Located in the city Philadelphia, Drexel is a private not-for-profit college with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 171 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means Drexel is a great college overall.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, Drexel also offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Students from the design and applied arts degree program at Drexel University earn $5,048 more than the standard college grad in this field when they enter the workforce.

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#13

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY
Master Highest Degree Type
8th Most Popular In NY
$38,000 Median Starting Salary

Located in the city Syracuse, Syracuse is a private not-for-profit school with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 107 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means Syracuse is a great school overall.

Syracuse University is a fairly popular college to study design in United States exceeding 139 graduates last year. Graduates of the design program report average early career income of $38,000.

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Master Highest Degree Type
7th Most Popular In NY
$29,400 Median Starting Salary

Located in the suburb Rochester, RIT is a private not-for-profit college with a large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 165 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means RIT is a great school overall.

RIT offers design and applied arts degrees as low as a Associate's and all the way up to a Master's. Graduates of the design program make about $29,400 in their early career salary.

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5th Most Popular In IL
8.8% Growth in Graduates
$40,200 Median Starting Salary

UIUC is a very large public school located in the city of Champaign. A Best Colleges rank of 85 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means UIUC is a great school overall.

With 80 undergrads, University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign is one of most popular colleges to study design in United States. Students who complete this degree report average early career earnings of $40,200.

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#16

Purdue University - Main Campus

West Lafayette, IN
Master Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In IN
$37,600 Median Starting Salary

Located in the city West Lafayette, Purdue is a public college with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 100 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means Purdue is a great college overall.

There are approximately 76 design and applied arts undergrads enrolled in this degree at Purdue. Graduates of the design program make around $37,600 for their early career.

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Master Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In UT
$29,900 Median Starting Salary

Located in the midsize city Provo, BYU is a private not-for-profit school with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 102 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means BYU is a great school overall.

There are roughly 127 design and applied arts undergrads enrolled in this program at BYU. Soon after graduating, design students typically make about $29,900 in their early careers.

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#18

Auburn University

Auburn, AL
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In AL
$34,800 Median Starting Salary

Located in the city Auburn, Auburn is a public school with a fairly large student population. This school ranks 195th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Alabama.

There are roughly 116 design and applied arts undergrads enrolled in this degree at Auburn. Grads of the design program state that they receive average early career earnings of $34,800.

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Master Highest Degree Type
7th Most Popular In GA
17.7% Growth in Graduates

Georgia Tech is a very large public school located in the city of Atlanta. A Best Colleges rank of 69 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means Georgia Tech is a great school overall.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, Georgia Tech offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. Design & Applied Arts majors from Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus get a earnings boost of approximately $9,048 over the typical earnings of design and applied arts graduates.

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#20

Thomas Jefferson University

Philadelphia, PA

Jefferson is a private not-for-profit school located in the large city of Philadelphia. This college ranks 460th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Pennsylvania.More…

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#21

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL
Master Highest Degree Type
9th Most Popular In FL
$44,900 Median Starting Salary

U of F is a very large public school located in the midsize city of Gainesville. A Best Colleges rank of 73 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means U of F is a great school overall.

With 39 undergraduates, University of Florida is one of most popular schools to study design in United States. Design & Applied Arts students from University of Florida earn a boost of about $6,448 over the typical earnings of design and applied arts majors.

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Master Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In OH
$44,300 Median Starting Salary

Located in the city Cincinnati, Cincinnati is a public college with a very large student population. This school ranks 379th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Ohio.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, Cincinnati also offers a Master's Degree in design and applied arts. University of Cincinnati - Main Campus design and applied arts students receive $5,848 more than the standard design grad.

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Master Highest Degree Type
4th Most Popular In IL
14.3% Growth in Graduates

Located in the large city Chicago, UIC is a public school with a fairly large student population. This school ranks 265th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Illinois.

With 91 undergraduates, University of Illinois at Chicago is one of most popular colleges to study design in United States. Students who complete this program state that they receive average early career income of $25,100.

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#24

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN
Master Highest Degree Type
6th Most Popular In IN

Notre Dame is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in the large suburb of Notre Dame. A Best Colleges rank of 13 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means Notre Dame is a great school overall.

With 23 undergraduates, University of Notre Dame is one of most popular schools to study design in United States.

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Master Highest Degree Type
4th Most Popular In NC
11.0% Growth in Graduates

NC State is a very large public school located in the large city of Raleigh. A Best Colleges rank of 121 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means NC State is a great college overall.

North Carolina State University is a fairly popular school to study design in United States with more than 100 graduates last year. Students who complete this degree report average early career earnings of $38,700.

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Rest of the Top Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts

Additional Noteworthy Schools

Here are some additional great schools for Design students that almost earned our Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts award.

Rank College Location
33 Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA
34 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
35 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS
36 Academy of Art University San Francisco, CA
37 Pennsylvania State University - University Park University Park, PA
38 University of Denver Denver, CO
39 California State Polytechnic University - Pomona Pomona, CA
40 University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison, WI
41 Wentworth Institute of Technology Boston, MA
42 University of Oregon Eugene, OR
43 Drake University Des Moines, IA

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
The 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 41,431
Music 27,188
Drama & Theater Arts 17,242
Film, Video & Photographic Arts 16,684
General Visual & Performing Arts 5,302

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).
  • Credit for the banner image above goes to Szilas in the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts.

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