Before going into the rankings in America, many students have asked us “Should I go straight to art school to pursue an art degree, or should I go to a liberal college that offers art majors?”, or “What’s the difference between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts?” This article will answer all questions that you have!
1. The difference between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Schools in America
TLDR: The main difference between Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Bachelor of Arts is the amount of art practice you receive. A BFA is more about a professional degree, because two-thirds of your time in the BFA will be dedicated to creating and studying your art specialization. While a BA normally dedicates much more time to liberal arts courses, giving you more well-rounded knowledge.
Below is the comparison table from All Art schools to differentiate between a BA and BFA in America:
|Bachelor of Arts (BA)
|Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
|Type of Degree
|Time to Completion
|Type of Coursework
|Your Fine Arts Major
|Examples of Courses
|Math, Physics, English, History or whatever your liberal arts area of specialty is.
|Depends upon the area of the arts you intend to practice. Could be: Photography, Theater, Dance, Art History, etc.
|Ratio of General Ed to Specialty Courses Focus (in program hours)
|50 – 60 hours general ed. The rest in liberal arts specialty.
|30 hours general ed; 60 -70 hours in art specialty
However, we also want to reiterate the nuances between two programs also depend on the college, whether it’s an art school or an art major within a liberal arts college. So, please double check the curriculum for your program of interest to see if that’s the program you want to attend.
Once you choose your degree type and the school you want to attend, you will have to choose an arts specialty. Taking RISD for example, RISD offers a BFA in a variety of applied arts:
- Apparel Design
- Film / Animation / Video
- Furniture Design
- Graphic Design
- Industrial Design
- Interior Architecture
- Jewelry + Metalsmithing
With your art interest, there are various specializations you can choose from. For example, Graphic Design can be a great fit for you if you prefer using your design to communicate ideas, concepts that inspire and inform consumers. Graphic Designers will focus on developing the layout and production design for advertisements, magazines, brochures, etc. If you prefer a broad and well-rounded education related to Graphic Design, you can also consider pursuing Digital Media major.
2. Art Schools vs Fine Arts program at college and universities
Another question we frequently are asked is: “Should I go straight to art school to pursue an art degree, or should I go to a liberal art college that offers art majors?” Art schools and fine arts programs at colleges and universities are two popular options for individuals interested in pursuing a career in the arts. Both have their own set of pros and cons, which should be considered when making a decision.
To keep it short, going to this type of schools in America will give you a fully immersive experience in the art world as well as valuable connections with rising and famous artists. Going to a prestigious art school will provide a great launch to your creative career, because of the school’s reputation and brand name.
On the other hand, a liberal arts college that offers art majors, like Williams College, gives you opportunities to interact with non-artists and use your art skills to work in a cross-disciplinary fashion. You should consider an art major at a liberal arts college if you prefer collaborating with people who are not from an art background and enjoy learning about different fields, not limited only to art.
|Fine Arts Program
|Focused curriculum that is specifically designed for students interested in the arts, so that they can develop their skills and knowledge
|Access to a wider range of courses: Fine arts programs at colleges and universities may offer a wider range of courses and opportunities to explore different areas of the arts. However, students may not receive as much in-depth training in a particular area.
|Students will have access to specialized resources such as studio space, equipment, and materials that may not be available at traditional colleges and universities. However, Because art schools are often focused solely on the arts, there may be limited diversity in terms of course offerings and student population.
|Since Fine Arts Program is in a big university, students may not have access to the same specialized resources as art schools. However, universities often have a diverse student population, which can be beneficial for students who want to learn from individuals with different backgrounds and experiences.
|Art schools have connections with professionals in the art world, which can be valuable for students who are looking to network and find employment
|Colleges and universities may not have the same connections with professionals in the art world as art schools.
|Art schools can be expensive, and may not offer as many financial aid opportunities as traditional colleges and universities.
|Fine arts programs at colleges and universities may be more affordable than art schools, and may offer more financial aid opportunities.
3. School Ranking
In the school ranking table below, we separate the ranking into two categories: Fine Arts Programs at Colleges & Universities and Art School. From renowned universities to specialized institutions, we’ve ranked each school based on academic excellence, resources, and career opportunities. Discover which program is right for you and take the first step toward your dream career.
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is a renowned private art and design college in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. It was founded in 1877 and is considered one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious schools, consistently ranking among America’s top 11 art schools. Rhode Island School of Design is a private art and design school that offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs across 19 majors. RISD is affiliated with Brown University, which shares a contiguous campus. The college has a strong reputation for producing successful graduates who have made significant contributions to various fields of art and design.
Tuition (annual cost): $77,280
Average cost after aid: $44K
Acceptance rate: 19%
2. School of the Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC is one of the country’s oldest accredited independent art and design schools. QS World University Rankings ranks it the #8 art and design program worldwide. SAIC is widely recognized as one of the bests in America and is renowned for its rigorous curriculum and innovative programs. The college offers undergraduate and graduate programs in various disciplines such as fine arts, design, writing, and art history, strongly emphasizing interdisciplinary and experimental approaches to art and design.
Tuition (annual cost): $73,460
Average cost after aid: $46K
Acceptance rate: 81%
SAIC Career Statistics (2019): Outcomes represent 390 out of 540 alumni who completed their bachelor’s degrees six months after graduation:
- 84.3% are employed
- 10.2% are continuing their education
3. Pratt Institute – Manhattan, Brooklyn, NYC
Located in NYC, one of the world’s multicultural epicenters for arts, culture, design, and business, Pratt offers programs consistently ranked among the best in the country, and its faculty and alumni include the most renowned artists, designers, and scholars in their fields. Pratt Institute has a strong reputation for producing successful graduates who have made significant contributions to the art and design industry. Its location in the vibrant city of New York provides students with numerous opportunities for internships, collaborations, and cultural experiences. Pratt Institute is a top choice for students seeking a high-quality education in art and design in the heart of New York City.
Tuition (annual cost): $73,390
Average cost after aid: $46K
Acceptance rate: 68%
Pratt Career Statistics (2018)
4. Savannah College of Art and Design – Savannah, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; and Lacoste, France.
The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a top-ranked art and design college located in Savannah, Georgia, with additional campuses in Atlanta, Lacoste (France), and Hong Kong. S. Its location in Savannah, a charming coastal city with a rich cultural heritage, provides students with numerous opportunities for internships, collaborations, and cultural experiences. It is a private, nonprofit, accredited university conferring bachelor’s and master’s degrees at distinctive locations and online to prepare talented students for professional careers. SCAD offers degrees in more than 40 majors.
Tuition (annual cost): $59,840
Average cost after aid: $44K
Acceptance rate: 81%
SCAD Career Statistics (2018-2019)
5. California Institute of the Arts – Santa Clara, CA
California Institute of the Arts is a private college and a small institution with an enrollment of 1000 students. CalArts today offers more than 70 comprehensive degree programs in the visual, performing, media, and literary arts. With a diverse student body worldwide, CalArts has a strong reputation for producing successful graduates who have significantly contributed to the art and design industry. Its location in Southern California, a hub for entertainment and media, provides students with numerous opportunities for internships, collaborations, and networking.
Tuition (annual cost): $56,074
Average cost after aid: $44,564
Acceptance rate: 29%
CalArts Career Statistics
6. The New School — New York, NY
Located in New York City, The New School include Parsons School of Design, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, the College of Performing Arts, The New School for Social Research, the Schools of Public Engagement, and Parsons Paris. The New School strongly emphasizes interdisciplinary learning, social justice, and progressive education, and encourages students to explore new forms of artistic expression and creative problem-solving. The New School is a top choice for students seeking a high-quality education in art and design with a focus on progressive values and interdisciplinary learning.
Tuition (annual cost): $78,744
Average cost after aid: $30K
Acceptance rate: 66% The New School Career Statistics
Fine Arts Program in College & Universities
Yale College, the undergraduate division of Yale University, offers a Bachelor of Arts degree program with a major in art. Yale School of Art is the first professional fine arts school in the United States. Yale College Arts is renowned for its rigorous academic curriculum, distinguished faculty, and state-of-the-art facilities, which provide students with a comprehensive and immersive educational experience. The program also emphasizes interdisciplinary learning, allowing students to explore connections between different artistic disciplines and other academic fields.
Tuition (annual cost): $72,594
Average cost after aid: $17,373
Acceptance rate: 5%
2. University of California–Los Angeles – Los Angeles, CA
The UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture is a world-renowned institution that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in art, architecture, design, and film. Additionally, there are eight centers located within the school. The school is located on the beautiful UCLA campus in Los Angeles, California, and is known for its commitment to creativity, innovation, and interdisciplinary collaboration. The program is highly selective, admitting only the most talented and motivated students from around the world. UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture also provides students with numerous opportunities to engage with the vibrant arts community in Los Angeles, including internships, exhibitions, and performances.
For students interested in trying out Design Media Arts, Design Media Arts isn’t currently offered as a minor.
Tuition (annual cost): 13K (in-state students), $43K (out-of-state)
Average cost after aid: $12K
Acceptance rate: 11%
UCLA Career Outcome
3. Stanford University – Stanford, CA
The Department of Art & Art History is an interdisciplinary department offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in art history, art practice, documentary filmmaking, and film studies. The program is committed to multidisciplinary research and training, and students are encouraged to explore connections between art and other fields such as science, technology, and social justice. The faculty at Stanford are world-renowned scholars, artists, and educators who bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the classroom. The program offers exceptional facilities, including state-of-the-art studios and galleries, and students have access to a range of resources both on and off campus, including internships, fellowships, and research opportunities.
Tuition (annual cost): $56K
Average cost after aid: $7,200
Acceptance rate: 4%
4. Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts (VCU) – Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts (VCUarts) is first in the country as a public university art school — and second in the country overall. One of many degree-offering schools at VCU, the School of the Arts comprises 18 bachelor’s degree programs and six master’s degree programs. VCUarts offers art history, communication arts, craft and material studies, fashion, graphic design, interior design, kinetic imaging, painting and printmaking, photography and film, and sculpture.
Tuition (annual cost): $16,233 (in-state), $38,817 (out-of-state)
Average cost after aid: $20K
Acceptance rate: 93%
VCU Career Outcome
5. Princeton University – Princeton, NJ
The Program in Visual Arts introduces students to the studio arts in the context of a liberal arts education.
The school offers painting, drawing, graphic design, photography/digital photography, film/video, and sculpture courses, and is considered as the best one in New Jersey area. Students work closely with a diverse and accomplished faculty of artists, designers, and scholars who are active practitioners in their fields.
The program also features a visiting artist lecture series, exhibitions, and other events that bring artists and scholars from around the world to campus. With its rigorous academic curriculum and strong commitment to the arts, the Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University offers students a unique and enriching educational experience.
Tuition (annual cost): $56K
Average cost after aid: $11K
Acceptance rate: 4%
Princeton University Career Outcome
In conclusion, pursuing a career in the arts can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. With so many schools in America to choose from, it can be overwhelming to make a decision. However, by using our comprehensive list of the top 11 art schools in America, you can narrow down your options and make an informed decision. Whether you choose a prestigious university or a specialized institution, finding the program that fits your goals and interests is important. So, take the first step towards your dream career and enroll in one of the best schools in America today.
Taught by a RISD professor, this program covers a series of painting, design, and three-dimensional design projects. Students have a chance to improve their creative research and material experimenting abilities, and finally create an electronic art portfolio.