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2020 Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts

Approximately 154,258 visual and performing arts degrees were awarded to students last year in the United States. With so many options it can be a challenge finding the right fit. This year's Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts ranking analyzed 640 colleges and universities that offer a bachelor's degree in visual and performing arts. We look at over 20 factors to determine the top 25 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.

The vast majority of the colleges on this list are in at least the top 34% of our overall quality ranking.

Overall Best Colleges Rank  ( 426 to 1 )
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 after 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 complete ranking methodology documents in more detail how we consider these factors to identify the best schools for Visual & Performing Arts students.

Best Schools to Study Visual & Performing Arts in United States

Below you'll see a list of the best colleges and universities to study visual and performing 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 640 schools analyzed, only 25 earned the distinction of being on this list.

Top 25 Best Visual & Performing Arts Colleges

Rhode Island School of Design is a good decision for students interested in a Visual & Performing Arts degree. Located in the city Providence, RISD is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This school ranks 154th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Rhode Island.

There are about 455 visual and performing arts undergrads enrolled in this degree at RISD.

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Berklee College of Music is a good choice for individuals pursuing a Visual & Performing Arts degree. Berklee College of Music is a moderately-sized private not-for-profit school located in the city of Boston. This college ranks 739th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.

There are roughly 1496 visual and performing arts undergrads studying this program at Berklee College of Music.

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Maryland Institute College of Art is a wonderful choice for individuals interested in a Visual & Performing Arts major. Located in the large city Baltimore, MICA is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. This college ranks 559th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Maryland.

For those interested in something more advanced, MICA 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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#4

The New School

New York, NY

Every student who is interested in visual and performing arts has to check out The New School. Located in the city New York, New School University is a private not-for-profit school with a large student population. This college ranks 510th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of New York.

New School University offers visual and performing arts degrees as low as a Associate's and all the way up to a Master's.

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#5

Pratt Institute - Main

Brooklyn, NY

Located in the large city Brooklyn, Pratt Institute is a private not-for-profit school with a medium-sized student population. This school ranks 471st out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of New York.

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

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Located in the city Pasadena, Art Center College of Design is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This school ranks 385th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of California.

A preferred major for visual and performing arts undergraduates, there are about 376 individuals studying this degree at Art Center College of Design.

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Located in the 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.

There are about 396 visual and performing arts undergraduates studying this degree at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

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#8

The University of the Arts

Philadelphia, PA

UArts is a small private not-for-profit school located in the large city of Philadelphia. This college ranks 1037th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Pennsylvania.

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

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#9

California College of the Arts

San Francisco, CA

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.

A favorite major for visual and performing arts undergrads, there are about 295 learners studying this degree at California College of the Arts.

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#10

School of Visual Arts

New York, NY

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.

With 639 students enrolled, School of Visual Arts is one of most popular schools to study visual and performing arts in United States.

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Located in the city Los Angeles, USC is a private not-for-profit school with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 40 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means USC is a great school overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, USC 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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#12

New York University

New York, NY

Located in the large city New York, NYU is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 129 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means NYU is a great school overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, NYU also offers 4 different higher degree levels in visual and performing arts, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree.

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

There are roughly 235 visual and performing arts undergrads studying this degree at CCS.

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Located in the city Los Angeles, UCLA is a public school with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 49 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means UCLA is a great school overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, UCLA 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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Located in the large city Austin, UT Austin is a public school with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 78 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means UT Austin is a great college overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, UT Austin 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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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 college overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, UIUC 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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UW Seattle is a very large public school located in the large city of Seattle. A Best Colleges rank of 84 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means UW Seattle is a great school overall.

There are about 331 visual and performing arts undergraduates studying this program at UW Seattle.

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Located in the midsize city Ann Arbor, U of Michigan is a public college with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 35 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means U of Michigan is a great school overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, U of Michigan 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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#19

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL

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

A favorite choice for visual and performing arts undergraduates, there are roughly 324 learners enrolled in this program at U of F.

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#20

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY

Located in the midsize 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.

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

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#21

Loyola Marymount University

Los Angeles, CA

Located in the city Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount is a private not-for-profit school with a medium-sized student population. This school ranks 141st out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of California.

With 320 undergrads, Loyola Marymount University is one of most popular colleges to study visual and performing arts in United States.

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

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

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#23

Temple University

Philadelphia, PA

Located in the large city Philadelphia, Temple is a public college with a very large student population. This school ranks 263rd out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Pennsylvania.

There are approximately 616 visual and performing arts undergrads studying this program at Temple.

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#24

Yale University

New Haven, CT

Yale is a large private not-for-profit school located in the medium-sized city of New Haven. A Best Colleges rank of 4 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means Yale is a great school overall.

There are about 386 visual and performing arts undergraduates studying this program at Yale.

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Located in the suburb Dallas, SMU is a private not-for-profit school with a large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 87 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means SMU is a great college overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, SMU 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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Rest of the Top 50 Best Colleges for Visual & Performing Arts

#31

Chapman University

Orange, CA
#32

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA
#37

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL
#38

Academy of Art University

San Francisco, CA
#41

Boston University

Boston, MA
#42

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA
#44

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA
#47

Emerson College

Boston, MA
#49

DePaul University

Chicago, IL

Remaining Award Winners

This section 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 640 different United States visual and performing arts schools we analyzed.

Rank College Location
51 University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT
52 Pennsylvania State University - University Park University Park, PA
53 University of Oklahoma Norman Campus Norman, OK
54 Texas Christian University Fort Worth, TX
55 Ithaca College Ithaca, NY
56 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
57 San Jose State University San Jose, CA
58 George Mason University Fairfax, VA
59 Belmont University Nashville, TN
60 Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus Atlanta, GA
61 University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA
62 Rutgers University - New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ
63 University of California - Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA
64 Butler University Indianapolis, IN
65 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS
66 Oklahoma City University Oklahoma City, OK
67 University of Denver Denver, CO
68 Purdue University - Main Campus West Lafayette, IN
69 Montclair State University Montclair, NJ
70 San Francisco State University San Francisco, CA
71 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
72 University of Oregon Eugene, OR
73 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA
74 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
75 Illinois State University Normal, IL
76 University of California - San Diego La Jolla, CA
77 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
78 University of South Carolina - Columbia Columbia, SC
79 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY
80 Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA
81 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN
82 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
83 Wesleyan University Middletown, CT
84 University of Miami Coral Gables, FL
85 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
86 Princeton University Princeton, NJ
87 Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis, MO
88 Emory University Atlanta, GA
89 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College Baton Rouge, LA
90 Oberlin College Oberlin, OH
91 University of Georgia Athens, GA
92 University of Colorado Boulder Boulder, CO
93 Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia, PA
94 Brown University Providence, RI
95 Baylor University Waco, TX
96 University of California - Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA

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
97 University of California - Irvine Irvine, CA
98 American University Washington, DC
99 University of Rochester Rochester, NY
100 DePauw University Greencastle, IN
101 University of Delaware Newark, DE
102 Miami University - Oxford Oxford, OH
103 Muhlenberg College Allentown, PA
104 Columbia College Chicago Chicago, IL
105 University of Kentucky Lexington, KY
106 Clemson University Clemson, SC
107 University of Connecticut Storrs, CT
108 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
109 Drake University Des Moines, IA
110 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
111 Auburn University Auburn, AL
112 Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art New York, NY
113 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS
114 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
115 University of Nebraska - Lincoln Lincoln, NE
116 Tufts University Medford, MA
117 Wentworth Institute of Technology Boston, MA
118 University of Chicago Chicago, IL
119 Ohio University - Main Campus Athens, OH
120 University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst, MA
121 University of Virginia - Main Campus Charlottesville, VA
122 University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh, PA
123 University of California - Riverside Riverside, CA
124 Middlebury College Middlebury, VT
125 California State University - Fullerton Fullerton, CA
126 University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Stevens Point, WI
127 California State University - Chico Chico, CA
128 University of North Texas Denton, TX

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
The Plains States
Middle Atlantic
Far Western US
Southwest
Great Lakes

Visual & Performing Arts Majors to Study

Major Annual Graduates
Fine & Studio Arts 41,431
Design & Applied Arts 37,428
Music 27,188
Drama & Theater Arts 17,242
Film, Video & Photographic Arts 16,684

View All Visual & Performing Arts Related Majors >

Related Major Annual Graduates
Liberal Arts / Sciences & Humanities 516,754
English Language & Literature 57,989
Foreign Languages & Linguistics 34,883
Theology & Religious Vocations 31,559
Philosophy & Religious Studies 16,163

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.

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