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2021 Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts

Approximately 133,705 visual and performing arts degrees were awarded 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 schools 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 schools on this list typically results in higher than average salaries following graduation. A visual and performing arts bachelors degree from a college 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.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The visual and performing arts school you choose to invest your time and money in matters. To help you make the decision that is right for you, we've developed a number of major-specific rankings, including this list of the Best Visual & Performing Arts Schools.

In addition to College Factual's rankings, you may want to take a look at College Combat, our unique tool that lets you pit your favorite schools head-to-head and compare how they rate on factors that most interest you. Test it out when you get a chance! You may also want to bookmark the link and share it with others who are trying to make the college decision.

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

Any student who is interested in visual and performing arts has to check out University of North Carolina School of the Arts. UNCSA is a small public university located in the city of Winston-Salem. A Best Colleges rank of 168 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means UNCSA is a great university overall.

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

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

With 358 students who completed this degree in the most recent data year, California Institute of the Arts is one of the most popular schools to study visual and performing arts in the United States.

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School of the Art Institute of Chicago is a wonderful option 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 large city of Chicago. This school ranks 520th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of Illinois.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, School of the Art Institute of Chicago also offers a Master's Degrees in visual and performing arts.

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Maryland Institute College of Art is a wonderful option for individuals interested in a Visual & Performing Arts major. MICA is a small private not-for-profit college located in the city of Baltimore. A Best Colleges rank of 425 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means MICA is a great college overall.

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

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

There were approximately 145 visual and performing arts individuals who graduated from this degree at Cornish College of the Arts in the most recent year we have data available.

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CCS is a small private not-for-profit college located in the large city of Detroit. This college ranks 504th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Michigan.

A popular major for visual and performing arts undergraduates, there were about 228 students who graduated from this program at CCS in the most recent year we have data available.

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Located in the city of Boston, Berklee College of Music is a private not-for-profit college with a medium-sized student population. This college ranks 517th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, Berklee College of Music offers a Master's Degrees in visual and performing arts.

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Massachusetts College of Art and Design is a small public college located in the large city of Boston. This college ranks 547th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, Massachusetts College of Art and Design offers a Master's Degrees in visual and performing arts.

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#9

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

Located in the large city of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon is a private not-for-profit university with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 33 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Carnegie Mellon is a great university overall.

Carnegie Mellon University is one of the most popular universities to study visual and performing arts in the United States with roughly 311 graduations in the most recent data year.

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

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

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

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#12

The New School

New York, NY

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

There were approximately 1316 visual and performing arts individuals who graduated from this degree at New School University in the most recent year we have data available.

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#13

Otis College of Art and Design

Los Angeles, CA

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

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, Otis College of Art and Design also offers a Master's Degrees in visual and performing arts.

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Art Center College of Design is a small private not-for-profit college located in the city of Pasadena. A Best Colleges rank of 367 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means Art Center College of Design is a great college overall.

Art Center College of Design is a fairly popular college to study visual and performing arts in the United States with about 317 graduates in the most recent data year.

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

With 394 students who graduated from this program in the most recent year we have data available, Columbia University in the City of New York is one of the most popular universities to study visual and performing arts in the United States.

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Located in the small city of New Brunswick, Rutgers New Brunswick is a public university with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 183 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Rutgers New Brunswick is a great university overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, Rutgers New Brunswick 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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#17

Pratt Institute - Main

Brooklyn, NY

Located in the large city of 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 schools nationwide means Pratt Institute is a great school overall.

Pratt Institute offers visual and performing arts degrees as low as an Associate's and all the way up to a Master's.

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#18

California College of the Arts

San Francisco, CA

California College of the Arts is a small private not-for-profit college located in the city of San Francisco. This college ranks 552nd out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of California.

A preferred major for visual and performing arts undergraduates, there were roughly 281 individuals who completed this degree at California College of the Arts in the most recent data year.

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#19

Emerson College

Boston, MA

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

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

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Pacific Northwest College of Art is a fairly small private not-for-profit college located in the large city of Portland. This college ranks 1135th out of 1,715 colleges for overall quality in the state of Oregon.

Pacific Northwest College of Art is a fairly popular college to study visual and performing arts in the United States with roughly 95 graduates in the most recent data year.

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#21

Rhode Island School of Design

Providence, RI

RISD is a small private not-for-profit school located in the medium-sized city of Providence. A Best Colleges rank of 195 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means RISD is a great school overall.

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

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#22

Kansas City Art Institute

Kansas City, MO

Kansas City Art Institute is a fairly small private not-for-profit school located in the city of Kansas City. This school ranks 622nd out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Missouri.

Kansas City Art Institute is one of the most popular schools to study visual and performing arts in the United States with about 136 graduates in the most recent data year.

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#23

New York University

New York, NY

NYU is a very large private not-for-profit university located in the large city of New York. A Best Colleges rank of 130 out of 1,715 colleges nationwide means NYU is a great university 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 college located in the large suburb of Beverly. This college ranks 1099th out of 1,715 schools for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.

A preferred major for visual and performing arts undergraduates, there were roughly 57 students who graduated from this program at Montserrat College of Art in the most recent year we have data available.

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#25

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL

Florida State is a very large public university located in the city of Tallahassee. A Best Colleges rank of 160 out of 1,715 schools nationwide means Florida State is a great university overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, Florida State 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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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 schools 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 33,643
Design & Applied Arts 29,541
Music 25,623
Drama & Theater Arts 16,329
Film, Video & Photographic Arts 14,870

View All Visual & Performing Arts Related Majors >

Related Major Annual Graduates
Liberal Arts / Sciences & Humanities 458,966
English Language & Literature 55,609
Foreign Languages & Linguistics 31,173
Theology & Religious Vocations 29,245
Philosophy & Religious Studies 15,993

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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