What are the top AR/VR school programs in the South?

Top 10 AR/VR Schools and Colleges in the South – 2022 Rankings
1Georgia Institute of TechnologyGeorgia
2University of North Carolina at Chapel HillNorth Carolina
3University of Central FloridaFlorida
4Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
5University of FloridaFlorida
6Full Sail UniversityFlorida
7North Carolina State UniversityNorth Carolina
8Duke UniversityNorth Carolina
9Ringling College of Art + DesignFlorida
10Emory UniversityGeorgia

Our 2022 rankings -our second annual- of the Top 10 AR/VR School Programs in the South. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) launched in October 1888 as the Georgia School of Technology. When it opened, the school had just 84 students. Today, Georgia Tech serves nearly 40,000 students from 50 states and 149 countries. The school also has three campuses—the main campus in Atlanta, Georgia Tech-Lorraine in Metz, France, and Georgia Tech-Shenzhen in China.

Majors and degrees at Georgia Tech are offered through the Colleges of Design, Computing, Engineering, and Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

A number of programs for students interested in AR/VR are housed in the Ivan College of Liberal Arts, the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, the College of Computing, and in the Schools of Computer Science, Interactive Computing, and Computational Science & Engineering. The Computer Science programs at Georgia Tech provide opportunities for students to select from research areas such Virtual & Augmented Environments, Ubicomp & Wearable Computing, AI and Machine Learning, Robotics and Perception, and Geometry, Graphics, and Animation.

Students in all Georgia Tech programs have access to the school’s GVU Center, which supports Artificial Intelligence (AI), AR/VR, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Robotics, Wearable Computing and other research. Within the GVU Center is the Augmented Environments Lab, which focuses on building interactive computing environments that directly augment the users senses with computer-generated material.

Also located in the GVU Center is the Prototyping eNarrative Lab. Also known as PeN Lab, the Lab focuses on emerging platforms such as AR/VR, experimental television, and the intersection of storytelling with simulation and game design.

Examples of Lab projects include The Lights of St. Etienne: An AR/MR (Mixed-Reality) Experience in the Cathedral in Metz, France, Bringing Interactivity to Static Data Visualizations through Augmented Reality, Escape Room VR, WebXR: Experiences in AR and VR for the Web, Pipping: Exploring Passive Haptics in Virtual Reality, and Interaction Techniques for Children's AR Education, Invisible Cities: Multi-User AR Public Monuments.

Specific degree programs for students interested in AR/VR include the BS in Computational Media, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science, and Minors in Computing & Devices, Computing & Intelligence, and Computing & People.

With 300 students, the BS in Computational Media is one of Georgia Tech’s fastest growing programs. Students have opportunities to focus in Interaction, Games, Narrative, and more. Course examples include Constructing the Moving Image, Interaction Design, Computer Animation, and Experimental Media. Sample careers include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Special Effects Creation, Interactive Game Design and Simulation, Robotics, and Animation.

Georgia Tech graduates work in leadership positions in areas such as consulting, engineering, financial services, healthcare, law, manufacturing, retailing, transportation, and humanitarian logistics, among others. Georgia Tech alumni have been hired by companies such as Apple, Disney, Tesla, Boeing, IBM, Intel, Cisco Systems, Google, Delta Airlines, and Microsoft.

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) was established 1789, making it the only public university in the U.S. to award degrees in 18th century. The school offers 74 bachelors, 104 masters, 65 doctorate, and seven professional degree programs across 14 schools. A member of the UNC System of 16 universities, UNC-Chapel Hill serves more than 31,500 students.

For individuals interested in a career in AR/VR, UNC-Chapel Hill has a variety of programs, organizations, and labs to support their goals. All students may participate in the Carolina Augmented and Virtual Reality Club (CARVR), where they have the opportunity to work on XR projects and work with real clients. Students may also participate in the UNC Augmented and Virtual Reality Interest Group, which consists of more than 250 people from across campus. The Group focuses on training, research, learning and more through the use of immersive technologies. Soon, the Group will launch two additional groups that focus in AR/VR—a Faculty Group and Student Group.

In addition to these organizations, students interested in AR/VR at UNC-Chape Hill have access to the Graphics, Imaging, and Robotics Lab and the Graphics and 3D Vision Laboratory. The Graphics, Imaging, and Robotics Lab is a 3,500 sq. ft. space located in J. Carlyle Sitterson Hall. Most of the Lab is dedicated to work in effective virtual environments. The remaining area, which houses a variety of robots, focuses on robotics research.

Housed in the Frederick P. Brooks Jr. Computer Science Building and Sitterson Hall, the new Graphics and 3D Vision Laboratory is situated in a noise-controlled, 2,500 sq. ft. space divided into three research zones by floor-to-ceiling blackout curtains for light and sound suppression. Zones include Projective Display Research, Computer Vision and Optical Tracking Research, and Physical Simulation and Audio Synthesis Research with a focus on GPU processing. The space has 11-foot ceilings and a Unistrut mounting grid.

Across facilities and labs, projects and groups have included the Ultrasound/Medical Augmented Reality Group, Effective Virtual Environments Project, Geometric Algorithms for Modeling, Motion, and Animation Group (GAMMA) Project, and the Walkthrough Group (simulated walkthroughs of architectural models).

Specific program options for AR/VR students are housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Computer Science. Established in 1964, the Department was one of the first independent computer science departments in the U.S. Pathways include BS and MS degrees in Computer Science with a Computer Graphics or Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Research Area. Computer Graphics sub-areas include Animation & Simulation, Virtual Environments, and Visualization. HCI offers a Virtual Environments subarea. A PhD in Computer Science is also available.

Course examples across programs include 2D Computer Graphics, Connecting Language to Vision and Robotics, Digital Culture, Digital Logic and Computer Design, Human Robot Interaction, Machine Learning, Models of Languages & Computation, Scientific Programming, and Software Engineering Laboratory.

Graduates of the Computer Science Programs at UNC-Chapel Hill graduates hold a variety of positions in companies ranging from small start-up operations to government laboratories and large research and development corporations.

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

Serving just over 70,400 students, University of Central Florida (UCF) is the largest university by enrollment in Florida. Students at UCF have access to 240 bachelor’s degrees, 214 master’s degrees, and 81 doctorate degrees across 13 colleges. The College of Engineering and Computer Science houses the Department of Computer Science, which has several pathways to study AR/VR. Options include a BS in Computer Science (CS), an Accelerated BS/MS in CS, and MS and PhD degrees in Modeling and Simulation.

The Department of Computer Science at University of Central Florida also houses several labs that allow students to create, collaborate, and conduct research related to AR/VR.

The Synthetic Reality Lab known as SREAL is part of several larger UCF entities, most notably the Institute for Simulation & Training (IST), which houses it. SREAL (pronounced Surreal) is a center for researchers, software developers, artists (modelers/animators), interactors (digital puppeteers), PhD students, and affiliated faculty members. With 7,000 square feet of experimental and office space, SREAL houses areas for the development of AR/VR, mixed reality experiences, the delivery of interactive training using digital avatar technology, human surrogate and robotics research, and developing cultural heritage and STEM experiences.

The Interactive Systems and User Experience Lab focuses on the development of innovative applications, tools, and techniques that enhance the overall experience between humans and machines.

The Computer Science BS at UCF consists of courses such as Advanced AI, AI for Game Programming, Algorithms for Machine Learning, Computer Architecture, Computer Graphics, Game Programming, Robot Vision, and Software Engineering. Graduates of the program are prepared for careers in AR/VR, Computer Architecture, Computer Gaming, Computer Vision, Evolutionary Computing, Media Convergence, Robotics, and many others.

The Computer Science MS at UCF allows students to specialize in a research area. This includes options such as VR, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Mixed and Virtual Reality Mobile Computing, Machine Learning, and Modeling and Simulation. Pairing (combining two research areas) is also an option. In addition a specialization, students CS MS students will study and master programming systems and languages, computer architecture, and computer science theory.

In addition to AR/VR, graduates of the Computer Science MS Program at University of Central Florida work in Computer Science, Aerospace, Computer Systems, Software Development, Defense, Cyber/Information Security, and Software Engineering, among other areas. UCF CS alumni are routinely recruited by Lockheed Martin, Amazon, Siemens, NASA, IBM, Google, Apple, Cisco, IBM, YouTube, Intel, Oracle, and Accenture, among top companies and organizations.

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

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to the SCAD Digital Media Center. Launched in Fall 2009, the Center houses majors within the School of Digital Media and the School of Entertainment Arts. The School of Digital Media is home to an Immersive Reality Program that leads to a BFA. Launched in 2018, the 180 credit hour program allows students to explore related fields such as User Experience (UX) Design, Visual Effects, Film and Television, and Interactive Design, among others. Students may add an additional major or minor in any of these areas.

Program features include access to panels and presentations by top companies in gaming such as EA Sports, Ubisoft, and Cartoon Network, collaboration with students and faculty across disciplines, and study abroad opportunities at SCAD Lacoste, France. Students also have access to Montgomery Hall, which houses AR/VR resources, more than 800 computers networked to decrease render times, a green screen, and a motion media lab. In The Shed at SCAD, immersive reality labs and classrooms house the latest technology for creating innovative visual experiences.

Course examples for the Immersive Reality BFA Program include Augmented Reality Lab, Immersive Revolution: Augmented to Virtual Reality, Virtual Reality for Motion Media, Immersive Innovation Lab, Visual Effects for Immersive Environments, Integration of Immersive Realities, Visual Storytelling: Virtual Reality to Interactive, Immersive Innovation Lab, Advanced Application Scripting, and Game Engine Applications for Immersive Computing. Fifteen credit hours of additional electives allow students to enhance the degree.

Soon, students in all programs will have access to the expanded Savannah Film Studios. Once completed, the expanded Savannah Film Studios will be the largest and most comprehensive university film studio complex in the nation. Launching in three phases between 2021 and 2023, the 10.9-acre facility will include a next-generation XR stage for virtual productions, new soundstages, and a Hollywood-caliber film backlot, among other features.

The existing Savannah Film Studios building is a 22,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2014. The current Studios house three soundstages, green rooms, lighting grids, postproduction suites, a multi-purpose recording booth for ADR and Foley recordings, screening rooms, and production offices for SCAD’s film and television program.

Founded in 1978 and serving more than 15,000 students, SCAD has one of the nation’s highest employment rates. In a recent study, 99% of SCAD graduates were employed, pursuing further education, or both within 10 months of graduation. Graduates work in Georgia’s entertainment industry and many other industries across the U.S. Some of the school’s top employer’s include Microsoft, Adobe, Spotify, Deloitte, Delta Air Lines, and Starbucks.

5. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
University of Florida

In 2021, University of Florida (UF) enrolled more than 61,000 students, making it one of the largest universities in the U.S. and the third largest in Florida. More than 300 programs are available across 16 colleges and schools. The College of the Arts at UF is home to the Digital Worlds Institute, which houses Master’s in Digital Arts & Sciences (MiDAS). This one-year, accelerated program explores emerging technologies, specifically AR/VR, and it accepts individuals from all backgrounds.

The MiDAS Program covers Technical Skills: Game Engines and Development (i.e. Unity 3D) and Software and Hardware Integration; Design and Interactivity: Visual Design Tools/Tech, 3D for VR/AR UI-UX, Audio, Digital Compositing, and Digital Storytelling; and Professional Skills: Project Proposals, Production Pipelines, Project Management, and Critical Thinking and Analysis.

Other MiDAS Program features include opportunities to work on real-world projects within the industry-standard, a collaborative environment, personal attention from faculty and content area experts, and professional portfolio development. UF MiDAS Students also have access to the UF Reality Lab at the Digital Worlds Institute.

The Lab explores and promotes research and educational endeavors in AR/VR. Sample courses in the Lab include Production of Immersive Environments, Digital Storytelling, Movement, Media, and Machines, and Interdisciplinary Research Seminar. Past student projects include Metrolia VR Multiplayer Mech Duel, Space Mail, ScootVR, SpArc: Animate Using Your Hands in Virtual Reality, HoloTouch, Virtual Standardized Patient, and WonderLab.

Graduates of the MiDAS Program and other University of Florida graduates have been hired at Boeing, Walt Disney, the U.S. Department of Defense, Aramark, ESPN, Cox Media Group, the U.S. Navy, Glaxo Smith Klein, 22squared, Reed Exhibitions, GE Digital-Meridium, and Spirit Airlines, among others.

6. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail University

In 1979, Full Sail University (Full Sail) launched as an audio recording workshop in Dayton, Ohio. Today, Full Sail  provides Entertainment, Media, Arts, and Technology programs to around 21,000 students. Programs lead to Associate, Bachelor, and Master’s degrees.

Options for students interested in AR/VR include a BS in Simulation and Visualization with access to Full Sail’s VR/AR Lab and FabLab. Course features for the BS Program include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Programming I & II, Simulation and Visualization Software, Simulation Production, Computer Graphics, and Technology in the Entertainment and Media Industries.

Throughout the program, students will complete a project and build a portfolio through a series of seven courses including Project and Portfolio I-VII: Simulation and Visualization. The BS Program can be completed in just 20 months, on campus.

Full Sail’s VR/AR Lab and FabLab launched in 2016. In the Full Sail VR/AR Lab, students have access to headsets from Oculus, Magic Leap, Microsoft, and HTC, a green screen, and other tolls and equipment to develop AR/VR projects.

The Full Sail FabLab is set up like a workshop. The space includes 3D printers, laser scanners, injection molding machines, and more. Students in the lab can work on projects, collaborate, and network.

Full Sail University graduates enjoy a 92% employment rate. Examples of companies that have hired Full Sail graduates include Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Pixar, Universal Studios, MTV, Cirque du Soleil, DreamWorks Animation, Bunim Murray Productions, NFL Films, HBO Studios, Disney, Rockstar Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Nickelodeon, and Miramax.

7. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University (NC State or NCSU) has several pathways to study AR/VR. Students can earn a BA or MA degree in Art + Design (A + D), with access to several AR/VR and mixed reality labs. Founded in 1887 as the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, NC State has provides more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to 36,000+ students. Programs are housed in 12 colleges and schools and 65 departments. The BA and MA Programs are housed in the College of Design, which also offers a 16 credit hour A + D Minor with a customizable curriculum.

The College of Design is home to the Experience Design (IX) and Mixed Reality Labs (MxR), and the College of Engineering’s Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering houses the Virtual and Augmented Reality Lab (VR).

The IX Lab is a cross-disciplinary community of artists, designers, humanists, scientists, and engineers that focus on expanding worlds through AR/VR and other new and emerging technologies.

The MxR Lab consists of designers, engineers, and individuals interested in experimentation. The Lab focuses on AR/VR and MR technologies. Projects have included Axe One, Morphaces, and Pop’n’Play.

In the VR Lab researchers study the interaction between humans and AR/VR. Projects have included include User Performance Training and Patient Motor Learning. Current projects include Scale Cognition through Advanced Learning Environments in Virtual Reality (SCALE-VR), Virtual Instructor Application using Augmented Reality for Worker Posture Training, and Investigation of Virtual Reality Guided Upper Limb Exercises.

Accessible equipment includes four-sided (C4) Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) with full-body tracking capability, several head-mounted displays (HMDs), and a head-up display (HUD). In addition, a variety of peripheral devices that support movement tracking are available.

In the College of Design’s interdisciplinary, studio-based  A + D BA, students have the opportunity to learn about and develop creative portfolios in areas such as AR/VR, Interactive and Computational Media, Motion Graphics, Visual Effects (VFX), Graphic and Interactive Narratives, Game Design, 3D Modeling, and others. In addition, three Concentrations are available: Gaming + Interaction Design, Animation (2D + 3D), and Fibers + Soft Construction.

Students may also create a focus through required free electives totaling 12 credit hours. Elective examples include Advanced Digital Techniques, Digital Representation, and Art + Design Laboratory.  Course examples for the program include Visualization, Art + Design Laboratory, Creative Technology, Digital Imaging, Advanced Digital Techniques, Digital Motion, and Animation.  Studios include Creative technology, Art and Design International, and Design, Context, and Experience.

The MA in A +D (M.A.D) focuses on Experimental Media Arts. Depending on the student’s academic background and experience, they may enroll in the 30-, 48- or 72-credit Track. Course examples include Sequential Imaging, Visualizing Narratives, Graduate Studio: Immersive and Experimental narratives, Digital Motion, Special Effects, Animation, Dynamic Data, Digital Modeling, and Coding for Designers. Final projects for the M.A.D. Program may explore AR/VR, VFX, Interactive and Computational Media, Graphic and Interactive Narratives, Visual Composition, and Motion Graphics, among others.  

Graduates of the Art + Design Department at North Carolina State University work in fields such as Software Design, Multimedia, Illustration, Textile Design, Fashion and Apparel Design, Art and Design Education, Photography, Filmmaking, Special Effects-Digital, Set Design, Exhibition Design, Museum Education, and Public Art. Some graduates have launched their own businesses and studios. 

8. Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Duke University

Duke University houses the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, home to the Department of Computational Media, Arts & Cultures and the Department of Computer Science. Within the Departments are several degree pathways, studios and labs for students looking to learn about, develop, and experience AR/VR.

Labs include the Institute for Virtual and Augmented Reality for the Digital Humanities (VARDHI), which focuses on the application of VR and AR to humanities research, outreach, and teaching; Duke Immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE) in the Pratt School of Engineering—a large-scale virtual reality facility established in 2005; the Innovation Co-Lab, which explores VR technology; TEC VR at the Technology Engagement Center/Co-Lab, where students can experience VR; and Bolt VR—a space equipped with a state-of-the-art, custom gaming PC, 4K display for remote, and the Vive immersive VR system.

Studios include the Multimedia Project Studio (MPS) at Duke, which offers resources for students and developers to begin their VR projects. In addition, the Dig@Lab within the Department of Computational Media, Arts & Cultures conducts AR/VR research and develops apps, virtual environments, and VR applications.

Established in 1924, Duke University serves 16,780 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across 10 colleges and schools. Duke’s most popular program is Computer Science. Leading to a BA, BS, MS, or PhD, the Program provides access to all of the schools labs and studios. Students may also enroll in an Interdepartmental Major (IDMs), which combines two academic disciplines in Trinity College, with seven courses from each to create a major.

graduates of the Computer Science Programs at Duke University are prepared for careers in all areas of Computer Science, AR/VR, Aerospace, Entertainment, Defense, and Education, among others.

9. Ringling College of Art + Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art + Design

Ringling College of Art + Design is a private, not-for-profit college, established in 1931. Co-founded when it was co-founded by circus baron, John Ringling, the school serves nearly 1,700 students from 54 countries, 45 states, and four territories. Students at Ringling have access to eleven majors leading to a BFA degree, two majors leading to a BA, and minor options in 10 areas.

Among the Ringling College of Art + Design’s programs is one of the nation’s first degree programs dedicated solely to Virtual Reality Development, and the first program of its kind to be offered at an art and design school. Housed in the Virtual Reality Department, the program launched in 2018 and it leads to a BFA.

The Virtual Reality Development Program consists of 120 credit hours. Students in the program will develop the skills in designing, creating, and analyzing immersive experiences. The program also covers communication, collaboration, and professional practices. Course examples include Introduction to Virtual Reality, Concept Development for Virtual Worlds, Immersive Media Design I-IV, Programming for Immersive Media, Iterative Design, Visual Scripting, 3D Technical Art, 2D Design, Visual Development: UI/UX, and History of Immersive Design. Open electives allow students to develop skills in other areas by taking additional courses in the Virtual Reality Development Department or other departments at Ringling.

In the final year of the Virtual Reality Development Program, students will complete two Capstone Projects worth 12 credits and a professional portfolio.

Graduates of the Virtual Reality Development Program at Ringling are prepared for careers in industries that utilize AR/VR. Examples include entertainment, education, aerospace, engineering, architecture, healthcare, advertising, game design, eCommerce, law enforcement training, defense, aviation, corporate training, and disaster management, among others.

Companies that have hired graduates of the Virtual Reality Development Program at Ringling include Epic Games, Google VR, Insomniac Games, Disney VR, Framestore, Oculus VR, Flight School, Rewind Studios, Magic Leap, D3 Creative Studios, BAOBAB Studios, Hoyt Architects,  Ready at Dawn, Kite & Lightning, and Sharecare.

10. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
Emory University

Founded in 1836, Emory University (Emory) consists of two campuses at Oxford and Atlanta, Georgia. The Oxford Campus is a residential college consisting of only first- and second-year students. The University serves 15,000 enrolled in dozens of programs across four undergraduate colleges and seven graduate and professional schools.

Emory College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Computer Science where students can earn a BA, BS, and MS in Computer Science (CS) or a Combined BA/BS + CS MS Degree known as the 4+1 Computer Science Program. A Minor in CS is also available. The programs encourage exploration of other disciplines. This means, CS students may take courses or create a focus in an additional area in Art, Design, Healthcare, Science, or Medicine, among others.

Course examples across CS Programs include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Advanced Computer Systems, Adaptive Machine Learning, Machine Learning, Selective Programming Languages, Systems Programming, Information Visualization, Computer Architecture/Machine Level Programming, Advanced Computer Architecture, Computational Linguistics, Computer Science Practicum, and Independent Software Development.

Students in all programs have access to the Digital Visualization Laboratory (DVL), which is part of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS). The DVL develops emerging technologies such as VR/AR and mixed reality (MR). Lab researchers and specialists work with students and faculty on interactive projects, multidisciplinary media design, research, visual analytics, educational gaming, and a variety of simulation and training activities. Examples of DVL projects include Apollo 15 Hub, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, and OpenWorld Atlanta.

Other ECDS and DVL features include an open workspace and collaboration area, an AV suite for media production, two conference and collaboration spaces, staff workspaces, a phone booth for telephone conversations and web conferencing, staff workspaces and student workstations focused on AR/VR, mapping, and 3D.

Emory graduates enjoy a high job placement/graduate school rate of nearly 90%. They work in just about every industry that utilizes AR/VR. Some of the top employers of Emory University graduates include Amazon, National Institutes of Health (NIH), AT&T, Deloitte, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, EY, Emory University School of Medicine, and Teach for America.