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2021 Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts

Approximately 133,705 visual and performing arts degrees were granted to students last year in the United States. With so many options it can be difficult finding the best fit for you. This year's Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts ranking analyzed 510 colleges and universities that offer a bachelor's degree in visual and performing arts. We look at over 20 factors to determine the top 15% of colleges for Visual & Performing Arts students.

Choosing a Great Visual & Performing Arts School

Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts The visual and performing arts 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 43% of our overall quality ranking.

Overall Best Colleges Rank  ( 803 to 204 )
Lowest Ranked Overall
Top Ranked Overall

Above Average Earnings After Graduation

A visual and performing arts degree from colleges on this list usually results in higher than average salaries following graduation. A visual and performing arts bachelors degree from a school in the United States helped students who graduated in 2015-2017 earn $25,086 a couple years later.

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 Visual & Performing Arts students vs. other majors.
  • Major Popularity - How many other visual and performing arts students choose this school.
  • Accreditation - Whether a school is regionally accredited and/or a recognized visual and performing arts related accrediting body.

Our full ranking methodology documents in more detail how we consider these factors to identify the best colleges for Visual & Performing Arts students.

Best Schools to Study Visual & Performing Arts in the United States

The following list ranks the best colleges and universities for a Visual & Performing 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 Visual & Performing Arts Colleges

Every student pursuing a degree in visual and performing arts needs to check out University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Located in the medium-sized city Winston-Salem, UNCSA is a public school with a small student population. A Best Colleges rank of 168 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means UNCSA is a great school overall.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, UNCSA offers a Master's Degree in visual and performing arts.

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It's hard to beat California Institute of the Arts if you wish to pursue visual and performing arts as a major. CalArts is a small private not-for-profit school located in the large suburb of Valencia. This college ranks 555th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of California.

A preferred choice for visual and performing arts undergrads, there are roughly 358 students enrolled in this degree at CalArts.

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School of the Art Institute of Chicago is a wonderful choice for students interested in a Visual & Performing Arts degree. School of the Art Institute of Chicago is a small private not-for-profit school located in the city of Chicago. This college ranks 520th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Illinois.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers a Master's Degree in visual and performing arts.

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Maryland Institute College of Art is a great choice for individuals pursuing a Visual & Performing Arts major. Located in the large city Baltimore, MICA is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. A Best Colleges rank of 425 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means MICA is a great school overall.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, MICA also offers a Master's Degree in visual and performing arts.

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Located in the large city Seattle, Cornish College of the Arts is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly small student population. This school ranks 652nd out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Washington.

There are approximately 145 visual and performing arts undergraduates studying this degree at Cornish College of the Arts.

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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.

With 228 undergrads, College for Creative Studies is one of most popular colleges to study visual and performing arts in United States.

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Berklee College of Music is a moderately-sized private not-for-profit school located in the large city of Boston. This school ranks 517th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, Berklee College of Music also offers a Master's Degree in visual and performing arts.

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Located in the city Boston, Massachusetts College of Art and Design is a public college with a small student population. This college ranks 547th out of 1,715 schools 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 visual and performing arts.

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#9

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

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 school overall.

Carnegie Mellon University is a fairly popular school to study visual and performing arts in United States exceeding 311 graduates last year.

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Located in the large city Los Angeles, USC is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 40 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means USC is a great school overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, USC also offers 2 different higher degree levels in visual and performing arts, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree.

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#11

The University of the Arts

Philadelphia, PA

UArts is a small private not-for-profit school located in the city of Philadelphia. This school ranks 838th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Pennsylvania.

There are about 395 visual and performing arts undergraduates studying this program at UArts.

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#12

The New School

New York, NY

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

There are roughly 1316 visual and performing arts undergrads studying this degree at New School University.

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#13

Otis College of Art and Design

Los Angeles, CA

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 schools for overall quality in the state of California.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, Otis Art Institute offers a Master's Degree in visual and performing arts.

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Located in the midsize city Pasadena, Art Center College of Design is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. A Best Colleges rank of 367 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Art Center College of Design is a great college overall.

A favorite major for visual and performing arts undergraduates, there are approximately 317 students enrolled in this degree at Art Center College of Design.

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Columbia is a very large private not-for-profit school located in the city of New York. A Best Colleges rank of 32 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Columbia is a great college overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, Columbia also offers 2 different higher degree levels in visual and performing arts, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree.

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Rutgers New Brunswick is a very large public school located in the small city of New Brunswick. A Best Colleges rank of 183 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Rutgers New Brunswick is a great college overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, Rutgers New Brunswick also offers 3 different higher degree levels in visual and performing arts, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree.

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#17

Pratt Institute - Main

Brooklyn, NY

Located in the city Brooklyn, Pratt Institute is a private not-for-profit school with a moderately-sized student population. A Best Colleges rank of 355 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means Pratt Institute is a great college overall.

A popular major for visual and performing arts undergrads, there are about 789 learners studying this degree at Pratt Institute.

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#18

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 college with a small student population. This school ranks 552nd out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of California.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, California College of the Arts also offers a Master's Degree in visual and performing arts.

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#19

Emerson College

Boston, MA

Emerson is a small private not-for-profit school located in the city of Boston. A Best Colleges rank of 240 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means Emerson is a great college overall.

There are roughly 575 visual and performing arts undergrads enrolled in this program at Emerson.

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Located in the large city Portland, Pacific Northwest College of Art is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. This school ranks 1135th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Oregon.

A preferred choice for visual and performing arts undergraduates, there are roughly 95 learners enrolled in this degree at Pacific Northwest College of Art.

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#21

Rhode Island School of Design

Providence, RI

Located in the medium-sized 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 colleges nationwide means RISD is a great college overall.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, RISD offers a Master's Degree in visual and performing arts.

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#22

Kansas City Art Institute

Kansas City, MO

Located in the city Kansas City, Kansas City Art Institute is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This college ranks 622nd out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of Missouri.

A preferred choice for visual and performing arts undergrads, there are approximately 136 learners enrolled in this degree at Kansas City Art Institute.

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#23

New York University

New York, NY

Located in the large city New York, NYU is a private not-for-profit school with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 130 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means NYU is a great college overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, NYU also offers 2 different higher degree levels in visual and performing arts, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree.

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Montserrat College of Art is a fairly small private not-for-profit school located in the large suburb of Beverly. This school ranks 1099th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.

A popular major for visual and performing arts undergrads, there are roughly 57 learners studying this program at Montserrat College of Art.

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#25

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL

Florida State is a fairly large public school located in the medium-sized city of Tallahassee. A Best Colleges rank of 160 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Florida State is a great college overall.

There are about 576 visual and performing arts undergraduates studying this program at Florida State.

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Rest of the Top 50 Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts

#28

Lawrence University

Appleton, WI
#30

University of Utah

Salt Lake City, UT
#33

Chapman University

Orange, CA
#34

Laguna College of Art and Design

Laguna Beach, CA
#35

Loyola Marymount University

Los Angeles, CA
#36

Manhattan School of Music

New York, NY
#37

Belmont University

Nashville, TN
#40

Bennington College

Bennington, VT
#42

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL
#43

Oberlin College

Oberlin, OH
#44

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL
#46

University of Houston

Houston, TX

Remaining Award Winners

This list represents the rest of the colleges awarded a Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts badge. Showing in this list means the school was ranked in the top 15% of the 510 different United States visual and performing arts schools we analyzed.

Rank College Location
51 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
52 Columbus College of Art and Design Columbus, OH
53 Brown University Providence, RI
54 Ithaca College Ithaca, NY
55 Southern Methodist University Dallas, TX
56 University of Virginia - Main Campus Charlottesville, VA
57 Pennsylvania State University - University Park University Park, PA
58 George Mason University Fairfax, VA
59 University of California - Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA
60 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN
61 Syracuse University Syracuse, NY
62 School of Visual Arts New York, NY
63 Purchase College Purchase, NY
64 University of Oklahoma Norman Campus Norman, OK
65 University of Washington - Seattle Campus Seattle, WA
66 Arizona State University - Tempe Tempe, AZ
67 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA
68 Vassar College Poughkeepsie, NY
69 Maine College of Art Portland, ME
70 Fashion Institute of Technology New York, NY
71 Ohio State University - Main Campus Columbus, OH
72 University of Colorado Boulder Boulder, CO
73 University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison, WI
74 University of Oregon Eugene, OR
75 University of Cincinnati - Main Campus Cincinnati, OH
76 American Academy of Art Chicago, IL

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 Visual & Performing Arts award.

Rank College Location
77 University of Maryland - College Park College Park, MD
78 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
79 Boston University Boston, MA
80 Temple University Philadelphia, PA
81 University of Nebraska - Lincoln Lincoln, NE
82 University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign Champaign, IL
83 California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo, CA
84 University of Georgia Athens, GA
85 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA
86 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
87 DePaul University Chicago, IL
88 American University Washington, DC
89 Skidmore College Saratoga Springs, NY
90 Luther College Decorah, IA
91 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS
92 Oklahoma City University Oklahoma City, OK
93 American Musical and Dramatic Academy New York, NY
94 University of Nevada - Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV
95 University of California - Irvine Irvine, CA
96 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY
97 California State University - Long Beach Long Beach, CA
98 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College Baton Rouge, LA
99 West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, PA
100 Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA
101 Columbia College Chicago Chicago, IL
102 University of California - San Diego La Jolla, CA

Visual & Performing Arts by Region

View the Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts for a specific region near you.

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

Visual & Performing Arts Majors to Study

Major Annual Graduates
Fine & Studio Arts 40,751
Design & Applied Arts 36,179
Music 26,968
Drama & Theater Arts 17,726
Film, Video & Photographic Arts 16,756

View All Visual & Performing Arts Related Majors >

Related Major Annual Graduates
Liberal Arts / Sciences & Humanities 547,539
English Language & Literature 59,299
Foreign Languages & Linguistics 34,386
Theology & Religious Vocations 32,172
Philosophy & Religious Studies 16,252

View All Visual & Performing Arts 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 Bonnielou2013. More about our data sources and methodologies.

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