Top 10 Art & Design Colleges for Future Careers
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Rhode Island School of Design
  2. Parsons School of Design
  3. Pratt Institute
  4. Maryland Institute College of Art
  5. California Institute of the Arts
  6. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  7. Carnegie Mellon University
  8. Massachusetts College of Art and Design
  9. Yale School of Art
  10. University of California, Los Angeles

So, you're on the hunt for the best colleges for art and design, right? Maybe you're a high school senior starting to explore your options, or perhaps you're a seasoned artist looking to take your skills to the next level. Either way, finding the right institution is the key to setting the foundation for your future career in the arts. The right college can provide you with the training, resources, and networks you need to shine in the competitive world of art and design. Here, we've compiled a list of the top 10 colleges for art and design that will help you paint your future in vibrant colors.

Rhode Island School of Design

First on our list is the Rhode Island School of Design, fondly known as RISD (pronounced "riz-dee"). RISD is one of the most prestigious art and design colleges in the United States and is renowned worldwide for its top-notch programs. Here's what you can expect if you choose to study at RISD:

  • Program Variety: RISD offers a wide range of programs, from painting and photography to graphic design and architecture. If you're not sure which direction you want to go in, this variety can help you explore and find your niche.
  • Highly Qualified Faculty: The faculty at RISD includes award-winning artists and designers who are industry leaders in their respective fields. This means you'll be learning from the best and getting tips and insights that you can't find in a textbook.
  • Active Art Scene: RISD is located in Providence, Rhode Island, a city with a vibrant arts scene. You'll have plenty of opportunities to attend art shows, exhibitions, and cultural events — perfect for sparking your creativity and networking with like-minded individuals.
  • Strong Alumni Network: RISD alumni have gone on to achieve great things in the world of art and design. They work in top companies, start their own businesses, and even win prestigious awards. Being part of this network can open doors for you in your future career.

So, if you're looking for a college that offers a rich blend of practical skills, theoretical knowledge, and real-world exposure, RISD might be the right fit for you!

Parsons School of Design

Next on our list is the Parsons School of Design, a part of The New School in New York City. Known as a pioneer in art and design education, Parsons is a dream place for many aspiring artists and designers. Let's see why:

  • Location, Location, Location: Located in the heart of New York City, Parsons offers students a plethora of opportunities for internships, jobs, and cultural experiences. As they say, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!
  • Innovative Programs: Parsons has a reputation for being at the forefront of design thinking and education. Here, you'll be encouraged to challenge conventional wisdom, explore new ideas, and create innovative solutions.
  • Interdisciplinary Approach: Parsons believes in breaking down barriers between different disciplines. You'll have the opportunity to collaborate with students and faculty from diverse fields, which can broaden your perspective and enhance your creativity.
  • Global Opportunities: Parsons has partnerships with art and design institutions around the world. You could find yourself studying in Paris or collaborating with students in Shanghai. If you have a taste for travel and international exposure, Parsons could be your ticket to the world.

So, if you're keen on pursuing a future in art and design in one of the most dynamic cities in the world, Parsons School of Design could be your perfect match!

Pratt Institute

Let's move on to another noteworthy name in the realm of art and design education: the Pratt Institute. Located in Brooklyn, New York, Pratt is often considered a top choice for budding artists and designers. Here's what makes Pratt stand out:

  • Historic Legacy: Pratt has been shaping the world of art and design since 1887. With its rich history and tradition, the Institute is deeply respected in the industry.
  • Wide Range of Majors: From fashion design to architecture, industrial design to digital arts, Pratt offers a wide array of majors for students. This means you can choose a focus that truly aligns with your passion.
  • Stellar Faculty: At Pratt, you'll be learning from some of the best in the business. The faculty includes renowned artists, designers, and industry professionals who bring real-world experience to the classroom.
  • Impressive Campus: Pratt's Brooklyn campus is a mix of historic buildings and modern facilities, providing an inspiring environment for creativity. Plus, you'll have access to state-of-the-art technology and resources to help you bring your ideas to life.

With its blend of history, diverse programs, and top-tier faculty, Pratt Institute is certainly worth considering if you're scouting for colleges for art and design.

Maryland Institute College of Art

Next on our list is the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), a leader in the world of art and design education. Nestled in the heart of Baltimore, MICA offers a unique blend of creative freedom and rigorous academics. Here's why you might want to add MICA to your list of colleges for art and design:

  • Dynamic Curriculum: MICA's curriculum is designed to foster innovation and creative thinking. It's not just about learning techniques—it's about learning to see the world in new ways.
  • Community Collaboration: MICA is deeply connected to the local community. Students often engage in projects that involve local businesses, institutions, and public spaces, providing real-world experience and opportunities for impact.
  • Career Preparation: MICA is dedicated to preparing students for successful careers in art and design. From internships to mentorship programs, MICA provides a plethora of resources to help students transition from college to career.
  • World-Class Facilities: MICA's campus is home to state-of-the-art studios, galleries, and workshops, enabling students to explore, experiment, and create in a variety of mediums.

With its dynamic curriculum, community focus, career-oriented approach, and top-notch facilities, MICA stands out as a compelling option among colleges for art and design.

California Institute of the Arts

Heading over to the West Coast, we find the California Institute of the Arts, fondly known as CalArts. Located in sunny Valencia, California, CalArts is known for its vibrant creative atmosphere and its emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. Here's why CalArts could be the perfect college for art and design for you:

  • Interdisciplinary Approach: One thing that sets CalArts apart is its belief in cross-pollination of ideas across different art forms. Whether you're a painter, a musician, a dancer, or a filmmaker, you'll find opportunities to collaborate and learn from peers in other disciplines.
  • Industry Connections: CalArts is located just a short drive from Los Angeles, the heart of the entertainment industry. This proximity gives students access to internships, networking events, and job opportunities that aren’t available elsewhere.
  • Experimental Atmosphere: CalArts encourages students to take risks and push boundaries. The campus is buzzing with creativity, and students are always embarking on new projects and ideas.
  • Noted Alumni: CalArts boasts an impressive roster of alumni, including famous filmmakers, animators, and artists. This is a testament to the high-quality education and opportunities available at the institution.

With its interdisciplinary approach, industry connections, experimental atmosphere, and noted alumni, CalArts is a top contender in the realm of colleges for art and design. It could be just the place for you to let your creativity soar!

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Now, let's take a journey to the heart of the Midwest — the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Known for its dynamic curriculum and supportive community, SAIC stands tall among the best colleges for art and design. Here are some reasons why SAIC might be the right fit for you:

  • Location, location, location: Based in the heart of Chicago, SAIC gives students access to a vibrant arts scene. This bustling city offers an array of museums, galleries, and cultural events.
  • Freedom to Explore: At SAIC, students are given the freedom to explore their interests. With no set curriculum for the first two years, you'll have plenty of time to discover what truly ignites your passion.
  • Emphasis on Critical Thinking: This isn't just about learning to create art. SAIC emphasizes critical thinking and the exploration of ideas. Here, you'll learn to see the world in new ways and communicate your viewpoints through your art.
  • Community: SAIC is known for its supportive and inclusive community. Here, you'll not only make art, but also friendships that last a lifetime.

With its prime location, freedom to explore, emphasis on critical thinking, and supportive community, SAIC is an excellent choice among the colleges for art and design. If you're looking for a place to grow as an artist and as a person, SAIC might just be the place for you!

Carnegie Mellon University

Next on our list, we're heading to Pittsburgh — home of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Known for its innovative approach in the realm of the arts, CMU is another top-tier choice among colleges for art and design. Here are some compelling reasons why CMU could be your dream school:

  • Interdisciplinary Approach: At CMU, you're not just boxed into one form of art. The School of Art encourages students to cross boundaries and combine different fields. So, if you're an artist who also loves robotics, CMU has you covered.
  • Research Opportunities: CMU is a world leader in research. This means students have the unique opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research projects, even in the arts!
  • Global Experience: CMU also offers study abroad programs. Imagine studying art in places like Italy or Japan. It's a fantastic way to expand your horizons and get a global perspective on art and design.
  • Strong Alumni Network: With graduates in high positions across various industries, a degree from CMU can open doors. You never know when a fellow alum might be the key to your first job or internship.

With its interdisciplinary approach, research opportunities, global experience, and strong alumni network, Carnegie Mellon University is a standout choice for any aspiring artist. If you're eager to push boundaries and explore new frontiers in art and design, CMU could be the perfect fit for you!

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Let's move to the East Coast to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, affectionately known as MassArt. Located in the heart of Boston, this college is brimming with creativity and innovation. Here's what makes MassArt an outstanding choice among colleges for art and design:

  • Public and Proud: MassArt is the only publicly funded art and design college in the United States. This means it offers a high quality education at a more affordable price. You can follow your passion without breaking the bank.
  • Dynamic Curriculum: From traditional art forms like painting and sculpture to new media like animation and game design, MassArt offers a wide range of programs. You can pick the one that aligns with your interests and goals.
  • Real-World Experience: MassArt strongly emphasizes hands-on learning. Students often work on real-world projects, gaining practical experience and building a solid portfolio along the way.
  • Creative Community: Boston is a city known for its vibrant arts scene. By studying at MassArt, you'll be right in the middle of it, surrounded by galleries, museums, and other cultural institutions.

So, are you ready to take your love for art and design to the next level? With its public status, dynamic curriculum, real-world experience, and creative community, Massachusetts College of Art and Design might just be the place for you!

Yale School of Art

Next up on our list of top colleges for art and design is the prestigious Yale School of Art. Now, you might be thinking—Yale? Isn't that a law or business school? Yes, but it's also home to one of the most respected art schools in the world. Here's why:

  • Pedigree: As one of the oldest art schools in the United States, Yale School of Art has a long history of excellence. That's a big plus when you're looking to make a name for yourself in the art world.
  • World-Class Faculty: At Yale, you'll be learning from some of the best in the business. Many of the faculty members are leading artists in their fields. This means you get to learn from the best while building your own skills.
  • Interdisciplinary Approach: Yale encourages students to explore a variety of different mediums and techniques. This helps you to broaden your horizons and develop a more flexible approach to your work.
  • Networking Opportunities: Being part of the larger Yale University community means you'll have plenty of opportunities to network and collaborate with students from other disciplines. This can lead to some pretty exciting projects!

So, if you're aiming high in your art and design career, Yale School of Art should definitely be on your list. With its pedigree, world-class faculty, interdisciplinary approach, and networking opportunities, it's a place where you can truly flourish.

University of California, Los Angeles

Let's jet-set across the country now to sunny California, home of our next highlight in the top colleges for art and design—University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). There's a lot more to UCLA than meets the eye, especially when it comes to art and design:

  • Location, Location, Location: LA is a hub for the arts, from movies and music to fashion and design. Studying here means you're right in the middle of all the action. You'll see firsthand how art shapes the city—and vice versa.
  • Dynamic Curriculum: UCLA offers a wide array of art and design programs, so you can pick the one that best suits your interests and career goals. Whether you're into animation, photography, painting, or graphic design, UCLA has got you covered.
  • Diverse Community: UCLA prides itself on having a diverse student body. This means you'll be learning and creating alongside people from all walks of life, which can only enrich your own perspective and creativity.
  • Real-World Experience: The university has strong connections with local galleries, museums, and design firms. This makes it easier for you to gain practical experience and make valuable connections in the art world.

If you're looking for a college that combines a top-notch art and design program with a vibrant location and a diverse community, UCLA might just be the place for you. Who knows? You might end up designing the next big thing in the LA art scene.

If you're considering a future career in art and design and want to learn more about pursuing a Masters in Fine Art, check out the workshop 'Applying for Your MFA (Masters in Fine Art)' by Ciarra K. Walters. This workshop will provide you with valuable information and guidance on the application process, helping you make informed decisions about your educational journey.