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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Art Schools in Illinois

Written by ACR StaffJanuary 25, 2016
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Illinois is home to the nation’s fifth largest population of people working in Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (ADESM) occupations. Nearly 67,000 individuals are members of this creative group and more than 49,000 live in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metropolitan area. This is not surprising. With a population of nearly 2.73 million, Chicago is the state’s entertainment and culture center.

The city is home to the renowned Art Institute of Chicago, The Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, and The David & Alfred Smart Museum of Art as well as the famous Chicago Theater, The Harris Theater, Millennium Park, and museums galore. The city and state are also home to a long list of schools that offer excellent art and design programs. 

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Illinois Art Schools

Illinois is home to 181 Title IV degree-granting colleges and universities, which is more than double the national average. The state’s post-secondary institutions consist of traditional colleges and universities, art and design schools, technical schools, and more. Just a few top art schools include The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College, and American Academy of Art. More than 16,400 students are enrolled in the state’s top art schools alone, and there are many more on the menu.

Take a look at the list below to review the state’s best options for aspiring artists and a sampling of the programs they offer.

American Academy of Art - Degrees Offered: BFA Illustration, Digital Illustration, Graphic Design, Multimedia Design, 3-D Modeling and Animation, Life Drawing, Painting, art Direction

Columbia College - Degrees Offered: BA Art and Design; BA Arts Management, BA Cinema Art + Science with an Animation focus, BFA Traditional Animation, BFA Computer Animation; BA Game Design, Game Art, Game Development, Programming, Game Sound; BA, BFA Graphic Design, Illustration; BA, BFA. Interactive Arts and Media

DePaul University - Degrees Offered: BA Art, Media and Design with Concentration in Art and Design or Media Arts; BA, BFA, MA, MFA, Minor Animation; BS Computer Game Development, Computer Graphics and Motion Technology; BFA Graphic Design; MS Computer Game Development, Computer Graphics and Motion Technology

School of the Art Institute of Chicago - Degrees Offered: BFA with departmental or interdisciplinary emphasis, SAIC departments include Animation, New Media and Visual Communication Design; BFA Studio, MDes Designed Objects, MFA Studio, MFA Visual Communication Design, MFA Visual and Critical Studies

University of Illinois at Chicago - Degrees Offered: BFA Art with a Concentration in Moving Image, BFA Electronic Visualization, MFA New Media Arts, MS Biomedical Visualization

Northern Illinois University - Degrees Offered: BFA Design – Visual Communication, Illustration; BFA, MFA Time Arts (Animation, Video Art, Audio Art, and Interactive Art); MFA Studio Art, Studio Art – Design, Time Arts

Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville - Degrees Offered: BFA Art and Design

Illinois State University - Degrees Offered: BA, BS, MS Arts Technology, BA, BS, BFA Graphic Design

Western Illinois University - Degrees Offered: BA, BFA Graphic Design – Animation and Motion Graphics, Minor Graphic Design; BS Instructional Simulation and Gaming

Bradley University - Degrees Offered: BA, BS, BFA Art with Concentration in Graphic Design; MA, MFA Drawing/Illustration, Visual Communications and Design, BA/BS in Interactive Media with a Concentration in Animation and Visual Effects, Minor Interactive Media Game Design or Web and Application Design

Bradley University - Degrees Offered: BFA Illustration & Design, AAS, BFA Graphic Design, BFA Media Arts and Animation, BFA Digital Filmmaking & Video Production, BFA Game Design

University of Illinois, Springfield - Degrees Offered: BA Visual Arts with Digital Media: Animation coursework

More Illinois Schools with Art related programs:  

Employment and Salary Trends for Illinois Artists

As mentioned, Illinois is home to nearly 67,000 ADESM professionals. This is the nation’s fifth highest employment level in this occupation. The Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL Metropolitan Division has the fourth highest employment level in this occupation of the nation’s top 10 metro areas for ADESM professionals. Illinois-based ADESM professionals average $54,690 per year up from $48,210 in 2008 when the state was home to 71,410 ADESM professionals.

Of the nearly 67,000 salaried ADESM professionals living in Illinois today, more than 1,500 are art directors earning an average annual salary of $89,710, nearly 9,500 are graphic designers earning $51,120 per year (average), 320 are fine artists averaging $55,860 per year, 420 are craft artists earning $44,250 per year, and 1,330 are multimedia artists and animators averaging $68,830 per year.  

It is important to note that many artists and designers are self-employed, so it is safe to assume that the population of ADESM professionals in the state is much higher. These individuals typically earn more as well—especially in larger states and major cities. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the “Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers” ‘industry’ has the highest concentration of employment (not the highest level of employment) in ADESM occupations, and it is one of the highest paying industries for ADESM professionals.

Overall, independent artists average $70,620 per year. Independent artists working in animation average $75,150 per year and those working as art directors average $91,100 per year. Independent fine artists average $43,390 per year, and independent craft artists average $36,590 per year. Nationwide, the median annual wage for ADESM occupations was $43,100 in May 2014, which was higher than the median annual wage of $35,540 for all occupations. 

Employment of art and design occupations is projected to grow two percent from 2014 to 2024, which is slower than the average for all occupations, adding about 16,700 new jobs. Projected growth, says the BLS, will be due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, television, and on smartphones. As companies continue to increase their digital presence, more art and design workers will be needed to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites and other media platforms.

The top five highest paying states for ADESM professionals are:

  • District of Columbia ($89,950)
  • New York ($74,100)
  • California ($70,440)
  • Massachusetts ($58,200)
  • Maryland ($57,330)

The industries with the highest employment levels for ADESM professionals are:

  • Motion Picture and Video Industries
  • Radio and Television Broadcasting
  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers
  • Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools

The states with the highest employment levels for ADESM professionals are California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois. While Illinois did not make the top five highest paying states for ADESM professionals, it did make the top 12.  

Awesome Animation Fact: Sazae-san is the longest running anime. Created in 1969, the show has 6,430+ episodes.