Top 10 Graduate Degrees in Visual Arts for 2020

Top 10 Graduate Degrees in Visual Arts

Earning a master’s degree in visual arts is a great way to hone your technical skills, gain an interdisciplinary arts education, and learn how to market your work as a visual arts professional.
While a graduate degree in visual arts can be expensive, there is immeasurable value in the networking and showcasing opportunities it will provide. The most desired master of fine arts programs are typically affiliated with local and remote art professionals; this opens the door to exciting opportunities and career growth potential.
Below are the top 10 master’s programs in visual arts. This list was narrowed from approximately 30 schools that offered either an MA or MFA visual arts degrees.

The selected top graphic design degrees were ranked by a specific set of criteria that included:

Tuition rate of the master’s degree in visual arts:

  • Below $500 per credit-hour – 10 points
  • Between $500 and $750 per credit-hour – 8 points
  • Over $1,000 per credit-hour – 5 points

Option for both online and on-campus delivery of the master of visual arts degree (5 points)

Level of alumni success of the college’s visual arts master’s degree (1-3 point range)
More than 5 available areas of visual arts master’s specialization (5 points)
More than 10 available areas of visual arts master’s specialization (8 points)

1 point was added for any additional factors considered particularly beneficial to students enrolled in online graphic design programs.

In the event of a tie in points, the online bachelors degree with the lower tuition rate was ranked higher.

1. Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah, Georgia

MFA and MA in Visual Arts: On-Campus and Online

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $830 per credit-hour
Points: 21
Website

Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design has gained notoriety in numerous fields. SCAD has an impressive range of both bachelor’s and master’s degree options. Among the graduate degrees in visual arts include accessory design, advertising, animation, fashion, painting, photography, sculpture, and sequential art. SCAD provides online options for many of these visual arts degrees, making it even more fitting for the non-traditional student. The degrees available range from associates to master’s. Based on recent alumni surveys, SCAD has a high satisfaction rate among recent alumni.

2. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

MFA of Visual Arts: Low Residency

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $1,330 per credit-hour
Points: 20
Website

One of the largest and best-known schools in the country, the University of California at Los Angeles is known for its academics and impressive alumni. UCLA’s MFA in visual arts is a 72 credit-hour program, 24 of which being in the art medium specialization of choice; this master’s program in art’s six available specializations are ceramics, interdisciplinary studio, new genres, painting and drawing, photography, and sculpture. MFA students are provided with a well-rounded course curriculum and elective options. The majority of students complete the MFA program within two and three years.

4. School of Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

MFA in Studio Art: On-Campus or Low-Residency

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $1,800 per credit-hour
Points: 19
Website

School of Art Institute of Chicago has world-renowned faculty members, facilities, and academic programs. SAIC has a competitive masters of arts in studio art; this visual arts MFA has twelve available disciplines, among them including architecture, art and technology studies, film, ceramics, performance, photography, and print media. MFA students complete 60 credit hours and are encouraged to expand their learning beyond one visual art form. Students emerge with an interdisciplinary, well-rounded background in the field. SAIC’s MFA is designed to be flexible to meet the needs of individual students; the program can be completed within four years, if necessary.

5. Cranbrook Academy of Art

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

MFA in Visual Arts: On-Campus

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $1,300 per credit-hour
Points: 18
Website

A prestigious school based in Michigan, Cranbrook Academy of Art has a stellar reputation in the field. Cranbrook’s master of fine arts program is a good choice for students seeking less structure, as there is no set curriculum for the MFA. Cranbrook’s approach challenges students in unique, non-conventional, flexible means; visual arts students are provided lectures, curator critique sessions, workshops, and other means of learning. Cranbrook’s master of fine arts consists of an astonishing eleven departments; these departments include fiber, ceramics, architecture, 2D, 3D, 4D design, metalsmithing, print media, painting, photography, and sculpture.

6. New York University

New York, NY

MFA in Studio Art: On-Campus

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $1,500 per credit-hour
Points: 18
Website

World-renowned New York University is a selective school with high academic standards. NYU-Steinhardt offers a master of fine arts in studio art; this 60-credit, full-time program encourages students to hone their technical skills, develop an individual artistic vision, and apply critical theory to a growing practice. Additionally, MFA students learn to communicate the theories behind their work both verbally and in written form. The master’s in visual arts is completed in top-notch studio art facilities, and students have multiple opportunities to exhibit their work. NYU is also known for its award-winning faculty and guest lecturers.

7. CUNY Hunter College

New York, New York

MFA of Visual Arts On-Campus

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $470 (NY resident) or $855 (non-resident) per credit-hour
Points: 17
Website

Another NYC-based school on our list, City University of New York Hunter College is an affordable, top-notch higher degree opportunity. CUNY’s master in visual arts programs include MFA degrees in art studio or integrated media arts. Both MFA programs are 48 credit-hours and only take place during the fall semester. Students seeking an MFA at Hunter must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0; the art studio MFA requires that 24 undergraduate credits must be in studio art and art history.

8. The University of Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa

MFA or MA in Visual Art

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $42,000 / $1,400 per credit-hour(non-resident) per year
Points: 16
Website

One of the most respected research universities, the University of Iowa has over 32,000 students from around the world. Established in 1936, this top college’s art department has both an MA and MFA option for master’s in visual arts degrees. The MA is a 38 credit-hour degree, and the MFA is a 60 credit-hour degree. Both programs provide specialization options that include animation, ceramics, graphic design, intermedia, jewelry, painting and drawing, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. The graduate department has multiple options for assistantships and other means for reducing tuition costs.

9. University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan

MFA of Visual Arts On-Campus

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $1,300 per credit-hour
Points: 15
Website

University of Michigan is known for its high-value academics and has been ranked among the best schools in the nation. “Stamps” is this top college’s art department, offering two master’s degrees in visual arts. One graduate visual arts program is a master of fine arts in art, the other is a master of design in integrative design. The visual art MFA is a 60-credit, two-year program that implements art history, critique, studio-based inquiry, and more. The MDes is a cross-disciplinary degree that integrates visual design work with addressing societal issues. UMich has state-of-the-art facilities and attracts scholars from around the globe.

10. Lesley University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

MFA in Visual Arts

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $1,300 per credit-hour
Points: 13
Website

Based just outside Boston, Lesley University is a prestigious academic institution. Among Lesley’s degree offerings is a low-residency 60-credit MFA in visual arts; this degree program is completed 80% remotely, with intermittent 10-day campus residencies in January and June. Upon entry to this program, MFA students select an art medium for specialization, and are supplemented with a curriculum in aesthetics, visual culture, art history, and directed independent study. The visual arts master’s degree is designed for professionals striving to refine and broaden their skill set. Students are slated to complete the program in four semesters over two calendar years.

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