What are the top illustration schools in the South for 2022?

Top 10 Illustration Schools in the South - 2022 College Rankings
1Ringling College of Art and DesignFlorida
2Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
3University of Central FloridaFlorida
4University of GeorgiaGeorgia
5University of North Carolina, CharlotteNorth Carolina
6East Carolina UniversityNorth Carolina
7Watkins College of Art at Belmont UniversityTennessee
8Nossi College of ArtTennessee
9Augusta UniversityGeorgia
10University of MiamiFlorida

Our 2022 ranking of the Top 10 Illustration School Programs in the South. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.

1. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design

Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) has an Illustration Program that features a rigorous studio-based curriculum with a liberal arts foundation, networking opportunities with visiting artists from major studios such as DreamWorks, internships at Disney, Hasbro, Pixar, and others, and participation in real-world projects with local businesses.

Leading to a BFA in Illustration with a General Illustration or Visual Development Emphasis, the program also provides access to painting and drawing studios, two Cintiq labs exclusively for illustration, and three additional Cintiq labs with 24-hour access. Every RCAD Illustration student receives a laptop fully equipped with the latest Adobe Creative Suite software.

Students in the General Illustration Emphasis will study illustration as it relates to digital and traditional media, 2D and 3D, techniques used in the industry, and the fundamentals of anatomy, color theory, and composition. The Visual Development Emphasis explores illustration as it relates to games, comics, live-action and animated productions for TV, advertising, graphic novels, film, publishing, toy design, and themed entertainment.

Course examples across emphasis areas include Development of Art and Ideas, Illustration I-II, Illustration Media, Advanced Illustration, Digital Illustration, 2D Design, Figure I-IV, 3D Design for Illustration, Visual Development I-IV, Film & Narrative, and Professional Practices.

To enhance either emphasis area, RCAD offers 10 Minor options consisting of 15 credit hours taken outside the BFA degree program. Examples include Business of Art + Design, Creative Writing, Film Studies, Graphic Design, Realistic Painting, and Visual Development.

In addition to the internship program, Illustration BFA students have the opportunity to participate in RCAD’s semester-long exchange program or a four to five week summer program in Florence, Italy at Studio Arts Center International (SACI), and the student-run annual illustration show known as Illest of the Ill.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Ringling College of Art and Design have been hired at major studios and companies such as Cartoon Network, Walt Disney, Apple, Google, Zynga, American Greetings, Marvel Comics, Hallmark, Riot Games, Lucasfilm, United Airlines, EA Games, and GM, among others. 

Ringling College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Co-founded in 1931 by entrepreneur, circus showman and promoter John Ringling, and Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, president of Southern College (now Florida Southern College), the school had just 75 students and 111 course offerings when it opened. Today, RCAD serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two.

2. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design has an Illustration Program that allows students to declare a Minor and/or take courses in other disciplines such as Animation, Graphic Design, Visual Effects, Architecture, and Interactive Design and Game Development. In addition to these disciplines (all can be taken as a Minor), examples of Minors that complement the Illustration Program include Animated Illustration and Publication Design, Scientific Illustration, Illustration for Entertainment, Storyboarding, and Illustration for Surface Design. The SCAD Digital Publishing Certificate is another option for Illustrators who would like to study publishing and design fundamentals. Consisting of 30 credit hours, the Certificate Program explores Graphic Design, Interactive Design and Web Design, Print Production and Digital Environments, and Media Management. 

Specific Illustration degree options include a BA in Visual Communication with an Illustration Concentration available at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses, a BFA in Illustration (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah), the MA in Illustration (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning), and the Illustration MFA Program (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning).

At undergraduate level, all students will complete the SCAD Core before entering the major. Consisting of general education coursework and foundation studies, the SCAD Core includes courses such as Applied Physics, Visual Culture in Context: Making Modernites, Drawing I/II (Form and Space/ Composition and Media), Design I/II/III (Elements and Organization/3-D Form in Space/Time), Creative Thinking Theories and Processes, Digital Communication, Color: Theory and Application, Psychology of Group Processes, Speaking of Ideas, and The Geometry of Physical Space.

Across the BA and BFA programs, students will take courses such as Digital Illustration, Book  Illustration, Materials and Techniques, Creative Concepting for World Building, Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Animated Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Contextual Character Design, Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, and Color with Intent. Both programs require 180 credit hours to graduate, including 20 credit hours of free electives for the BA Program. Students in both pathways may participate in the SCAD internship program.

The Illustration BFA has four Concentration options: Illustration for Entertainment, Animated Illustration and Publication Design, and Concept Design for Entertainment. This professional degree program includes 10 hours in free electives and advanced courses such as Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Career Strategies for Illustration, and Professional Portfolio for Illustrators.

The 45 credit hour Illustration MA features a Graduate Internship, Directed Projects in Illustration, and the Illustration Final MA Project. The Illustration MFA consists of 90 credit hours and features two Graduate Internships, Advanced Studio Techniques, Illustration for Publications, Professional Practices in Illustration, Directed projects in Illustration, and Illustration Markets. Students in this terminal degree program may choose four electives at the 500 to 700 level.

All SCAD students may spend a quarter abroad at SCAD Lacoste or other study abroad locations. Other SCAD features include access to studio classrooms, state-of-the-art labs, drawing rooms, production studios, cutting tables, and Adobe Creative Cloud; visiting artists and speakers, creative collaborations between departments and with global brands; master classes, panel discussions, and the annual Sidewalk Arts Festival; and participation competitions and exhibits. 

Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Savannah College of Art and Design have been recruited by  Walt Disney Imagineering, ImagineFX, Bento Box Entertainment, A&E, Comedy Central, The New York Times, Game Informer, Revolver Studios, and Converse, among others.

Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1978, the school has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. Serving more than 15,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, SCAD offers more than 100 degree programs and 75+ minors and certificate programs.

3. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

The College of Arts and Humanities at University of Central Florida (UCF) houses the School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD), home to the Studio Art Program. Degree options for Illustrators include a BA with a Studio Track, a Studio Art BFA, and a 24 credit hour Studio Art Minor.

The BA and BFA Programs offer Specializations in Drawing and Illustration, Drawing and Printmaking, Book Arts, Type and Design, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, and Ceramics. Students specializing in Illustration can expect to take courses such as Intermediate Illustration, Advanced Illustration, Art as Interface, Design Fundamentals-Three Dimensional, Advanced Drawing, and Screenprinting.

Students in both pathways have the opportunity to complete an internship and participate in local and international study experiences.

To graduate, BFA students must complete the Portfolio and Exhibit/Seminar courses and BA students must pass the Studio Art Portfolio Review.

Graduates of the UCF Studio Art Programs are prepared to seek positions in the Entertainment, Publishing or Advertising fields, among others. The Studio Art Programs also prepare students for graduate study.

University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1963, University of Central Florida opened in 1968 as Florida Technological University. When it began, the school had less than 2,000 students. Today, UCF serves more than 70,000 students, making it the largest university by enrollment in the State of Florida, and one of the nation’s largest universities. Program offerings include 106 bachelor’s degrees, 95 master’s degrees, 31 research doctorates, three professional doctorates, and three specialist degrees.

4. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
University of Georgia

The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at University of Georgia (UGA) is home to the Lamar Dodd School of Art. This academic unit within Franklin College has a number of noteworthy features including the opportunity to study and live in New York City for three weeks during the month of May through the UGA New York MAYmester Program, and participation in the UGA Study Abroad Program, which has more than 100 options in 75 countries such as Ghana, West Africa; Cortona, Italy; and Costa Rica, Central America).

Other School of Art features include access to state-of-the-art facilities and labs, the opportunity to work and learn in dedicated classrooms and studio spaces, and hands-on experience through the Internship Program.

The UGA Art BFA Program offers a Concentration in Scientific Illustration that prepares students for careers in traditional, biological, and medical illustration. Students who would like to create a focus in traditional illustration may select nine credit hours or more from seven Studio Elective. Courses include Illustration, Design Drawing Techniques, Digital Narrative Systems, Photography & Image Culture, Special Problems in Graphic Design, Advanced Drawing, and Painting.

The Scientific Illustration Concentration also requires Art History coursework, and 27 credit hours of Studio Art courses. This provides additional opportunities for students to develop traditional illustration skills. Anatomy for Figure, Graphic Systems, and Digital Imaging are just a few required Studio Art courses. Other course requirements include Fundamentals of Scientific Illustration, Intermediate Scientific Illustration, and Advanced Scientific Illustration.

Art BFA students must complete the Senior Exit course worth three credits. This culminating experience consists of a Critique, Portfolio, and Evaluation, and participation in the BFA Exit Show: Scientific Illustration.

Graduates of the Scientific Illustration Program at University of Georgia work for advertising agencies, studios that produce serious games, publishers (books, journals, magazines), animation studios, software and app developers, medical education companies, science communication studios, trade and society associations, the U.S. military, hospital, clinics, and medical practices, veterinary schools, medical and legal firms, device and biotech companies, and research institutions.

The University of Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Established in 1785, UGA is the state’s flagship institution. The school serves more than 40,000 students enrolled in 370 fields and areas leading to the bachelor’s, master’s, specialist education, professional, or PhD degree.

5. University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

The College of Arts + Architecture (COA+A) at University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in 33 degrees and concentrations across the School of Architecture and four departments including Art and Art History, Music, Dance, and Theatre. The COA+A Department of Art and Art History has four undergraduate degree programs, three major options, and an Art History Minor. At the graduate level, the Department has a Graduate Certificate Program in Teaching for Art Education. 

Housed in the Rowe Arts Building, the Department of Art and Art History provides access to three exhibition spaces including Rowe Lower Gallery, Side Gallery, and Upper Gallery. Students in the Department also have access to Rowe 3D Studio, Rowe Digital Fabrication Lab (RoFL), the Print Media Lab, Macy Graphic Design Computer Lab, Lighting, Painting, and Ceramics Studios, performance spaces, and Rowe Recital Hall.

All Art and Art History students have the opportunity to join on-campus organizations such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts Student Chapter and Cerama, Art & Mindfulness. UNC Charlotte and the Department also lead a recurring Study Abroad Summer Program in Rome, Italy, and paid internship opportunities at local museums and performing arts centers.

Degree options for Illustrators include a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Illustration. This program requires 120 credit hours with 79 credit hours of courses within the Department of Art and Art History, and 33 credit hours in the Concentration. Course examples for the program include 2D and 3D Design, Topics in Illustration, Drawing I-II, Illustration: Media/Method, Mixed Media Painting, The Figure in Illustration, Digital Foundations, Illustration Sequence/Story, Figure and Anatomy, and Children’s Book Illustration.

In the final year of the program, students will complete the Senior Seminar and Illustration Projects courses worth six credit hours, and the BFA Portfolio Review, worth one credit hour. Final projects will be presented at the BFA Illustration Exhibition.

The Art BFA Programs at University of North Carolina Charlotte are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

University of North Carolina Charlotte is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1946, the school serves more than 30,000 students making it the second largest university in North Carolina and the third largest in the 16-institution UNC System. University of North Carolina Charlotte offers 171 undergraduate majors leading to 79 bachelor's degrees, and 150 programs leading to 66 master's degrees and 24 doctoral degrees across seven academic colleges.

6. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
East Carolina University

The School of Art and Design (SoAD) at East Carolina University (ECU) is part of the College of Fine Arts & Communication. Housed in the Leo W. Jenkins Fine Arts Center (Jenkins Center), SoAD provides access to dedicated to graduate and undergraduate studios, the Wellington B. Gray Gallery, computer labs, seminar and lecture classrooms, and the Burroughs Wellcome Senior Gallery. Specialized production equipment for projects across disciplines is also housed in the Jenkins Center.

The SoAD Art BFA Program has 30-hour concentration in areas such as Illustration, Textile Design, Film and Video Production, Graphic Design, Animation/Interactive Design, and Printmaking. In addition to concentration options, SoAD offers interdisciplinary studios and coursework in Book Arts, Letterpress, and Community Arts. Students in all concentrations may participate in the internship and study abroad programs and the Senior Show.

Graduates of the Art BFA Program at East Carolina University will graduate with a portfolio of their best work.

East Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded as a teacher training school in 1907, ECU serves more than 26,700 students, making it the fourth largest institution in the University of North Carolina System. ECU offers more than 300 degree, minor, and certificate programs across 12 colleges and schools.

7. Watkins College of Art at Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee
Watkins College

Watkins College of Art at Belmont University has a studio-based Illustration Program that leads to a BFA. The program, which consists of the BELL Core (Belmont’s General Education Core), explores the illustration process, traditional and digital media, visual storytelling, graphic design and typography, technical and conceptual development, service learning, and professional practices. The program is also multidisciplinary, allowing students to develop projects and portfolios in areas such as Advertising Illustration, Character Design & Development, Illustration Design, Art Licensing & Surface Design, Editorial Illustration, and Book Illustration & Sequential Art.

Other Watkins BFA Program features include access to fully equipped, state-of-the-art computer, drawing, and printmaking labs, study abroad experiences in places such as Italy, Japan, China, Spain, Hong Kong, China, Greece, Ireland, and England, faculty and guest exhibits, artist workshops, the Belmont USA program, which offers semester-long programs in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., and up to two internships. Watkins students have gained experience at Warner Bros., The Buntin Group, Prosper Press, Advent, Vanderbilt University Creative Services, and Anderson Design Group, among others.

The Illustration BFA Program at Watkins College of Art culminates with the Senior Project and Professional Portfolio of the student’s best work. Projects will be presented at the Watkins Senior Exhibition.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Watkins College of Art at Belmont University are prepared to pursue positions such as Comic Book Illustrator, Fine Art Illustrator, Children’s Book Illustrator, Courtroom Illustrator or Sketch Artist, Graphic Novel Illustrator, Medical Illustrator, Storyboard Artist for Film and Animation, Game Artist, Animation Illustrator, Forensic Animator, Product Illustrator, Fashion Illustrator, and Editorial Illustrator.

Watkins College of Art at Belmont University, formerly Watkins College of Art, was established in 1885. Serving around 200 students, the school merged with Belmont University in 2020. Watkins College of Art at Belmont University is fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The school offers BFA degrees in Art Education, Studio Art, Illustration, Photography, Design Communications (graphic design) and Experiential Design’ BA degrees in Art, Photography, and Art History; Minors in Art History, Design Communications, Painting, Photography and Studio Art; and one MFA in Visual Arts.

Serving close to 7,100 students, Belmont University opened in 1890 as Belmont College for Young Women. The University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

8. Nossi College of Art, Nashville, Tennessee
Nossi College of Art

Nossi College of Art (Nossi) offers a Bachelor of Graphic Arts in Illustration Technology that requires 133 credit hours to graduate. This four year program consists of courses such as Adobe for Illustrators and Advanced Photoshop, Illustration Environments, Motion Graphics, Illustration for Stock Art, Advanced 3D Technologies, Production Art, Success Strategies, Advertising and Editorial Illustration, Graphic Design Processes, Sequential Art, Advanced Typography, Book Publishing Illustration, Alternative Mediums, and Introduction to 3D and Animation.

In the final year of the program, students will complete an Independent Study course, Portfolio and Promotion, and the Capstone. In the Capstone course, students will have the opportunity to create a body of illustrations that can be used in a promotional campaign.

Graduates of the Bachelor of Graphic Arts in Illustration Technology at Nossi College of Art will have the Skills and experience needed to compete for positions such as Editorial/Advertising Illustrator, Political Cartoonist, Book Publishing Illustrator, Fashion Illustrator, Sketch Artist, Comic Illustrator, Multimedia Artist/Animator, 3D Modeling Artist, Package Designer, Sequential/Concept Artist, and Illustrator Agent or Representative.

Nossi College of Art is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Established in 1973 as a Fine Art school by Nossi Vatandoost—an artist listed in Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who in America—Nossi College of Art launched in Madison, Tennessee with painting, photography, and airbrush courses. Today, Nossi provides programs in Graphic Design, Photography, Filmmaking, Culinary Arts, and Illustration to around 300 students each year.

9. Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia
Augusta University

The Katherine Reese Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Augusta University (AU) provides a number of opportunities to study Illustration through the College’s Art flexible BA and BFA Programs. Housed in Pamplin’s Art & Design Department, these studio-based programs offer up to 12 credit hours in studio art electives (student’s choice), up to six additional credit hours from the Drawing/Painting Concentration, and six credits of free electives.

Course examples across AU’s Art and Design programs include Illustration - From Traditional to Digital Media, Visual Storytelling, Independent Study in Visualization, Drawing I-IV, Short Format Storytelling, Previsualization, 2D Animation, Electronic Media I-II, Tactile Graphics: Printed Surface for Books and Limited Edition, Color Experience and Theory, and Multimedia I-II. The Final Project, Senior Exhibition, and Portfolio can be Illustration-based. Other program features include opportunities to complete an internship, participation in workshops and seminars, and the AU Study Abroad Program in Greece.

For students seeking a unique degree that combines Illustration and Science, the College of Allied Health Sciences at AU has a Medical Illustration Graduate Program (MIGP) that can be completed in 21 months. Housed in Allied Health’s Department of Medical Illustration, the MIGP is one of just three programs of its kind in the U.S.

Program features include formal classes, seminars and lectures, and learning by hands-on performance, and participation in project critiques. Students in the program will have opportunities to collaborate with peers, complete an internship, and study abroad. During the first year of the program, all students will study traditional illustration techniques. Throughout the program, students will also explore computer technologies and digital techniques for animation, print, multimedia, and projection.

Other areas explored include interactive communication media, rendering styles, illustration techniques for Medical Illustrators, gross anatomy, and cell biology. Graduate-level science courses are housed in The Medical College of Georgia at AU.  

The MIGP at Augusta University leads to a Master of Science in Medical Illustration (MSMI) granted through The Graduate School.

Graduates of the Art and Illustration Programs at Augusta University are prepared for careers such as Medical Illustrator, Digital Illustrator, Technical Illustrator, Illustrator for Animation, TV, and Film, Storyboard Artist, Book Illustrator, Advertising Illustrator, Comic Book Illustrator, Multimedia Illustrator, Art Director, and Freelance Illustrator.

Augusta University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1828 as the Medical College of Georgia, today, Augusta University is a public research university and medical school with locations throughout Augusta and satellite campuses in Athens, Albany, Rome, and Savannah, Georgia. Augusta University serves 9,565 students enrolled in 155 academic programs across ten colleges and schools—including the state’s 13th-oldest medical school and Georgia’s only dental college.

10. University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida
University of Miami

Serving more than 4,200 undergraduate students, 640 graduate students, and employing 450 full-time faculty, the College of Arts and Sciences at University of Miami is the school’s largest academic unit. The College also houses the Department of Art & Art History—home to the Studio Art MFA Program.

This three-year program provides the opportunity to Specialize in one of five Concentrations including Digital Imaging-Illustration/Photography, Painting, Printmaking, Ceramics, and Sculpture.

Studio MFA students will take 24 credits in the Concentration, 12 elective credits, and nine in Art History. Several seminars are part of the program as well as an Exhibition Preparation course and the Master’s Thesis.

Graduates of the Studio MFA Program at University of Miami will leave the program with a professional portfolio of their best work and the skills and experience to pursue careers in Art Education, Studio Art, and any other area in the Visual Arts, including Illustration.

The University of Miami is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1925, this private research university opened in 1926 with 646 full-time students enrolled in programs across the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Music, and the Evening Division. Today, University of Miami serves more than 17,000 students enrolled in nearly 350 majors and programs across 12 colleges and schools.