Academy of Art University's School of Illustration offers an innovative curriculum that blends digital technology with classical training to meet the marketplace’s growing need for trained artists in both areas. Learn more.
What are the top East Coast illustration schools?
|1||School of Visual Arts||New York|
|2||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island|
|3||Pratt Institute||New York|
|4||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland|
|5||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York|
|6||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York|
|7||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts|
|8||Syracuse University||New York|
|9||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia|
|10||University of Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts||Pennsylvania|
|11||University of the Arts||Pennsylvania|
|12||Rochester Institute of Technology||New York|
|13||University of Hartford||Connecticut|
|14||University of Connecticut||Connecticut|
|15||Pennsylvania College of Art and Design||Pennsylvania|
|16||Moore College of Art & Design||Pennsylvania|
|17||Maine College of Art and Design||Maine|
|18||University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth||Massachusetts|
|20||George Mason University||Virginia|
Our 2022 list of the Top 20 Illustration Schools on the East Coast. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
School of Visual Arts (SVA) has options for students looking to develop specific illustration skills through a single course or workshop, or artists seeking an illustration degree. Examples of single courses and workshops include Building Fictional Worlds, Children’s Book Illustration, Digital Coloring for Illustrators and Comic Artists, Illustration and Visual Storytelling: Art and Industry, and RISO Printing: Zines and Small Publishing. Courses and workshops can last anywhere from a few days to several months, and some options be completed entirely online.
The SVA Illustration Department has a BFA Program that features opportunities to gain hands-on experience through internships and other experiential learning programs, access to faculty and mentors who are professionals in the industry, and a junior thesis and senior portfolio curriculum that allow students to develop a body of work that best reflects who they are as Illustrators.
Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Illustration BFA Program consists of coursework in drawing and illustration, writing, painting, visual computing, storytelling, comics, books and zines, digital coloring, animation, and motion. Elective studio courses allow students to study stop-motion animation, motion graphics, and website design, among others. SVA students have had the opportunity to work for The New Yorker and The Village Voice, and compete in competitions—all before graduating from the program. Graduates of the program go on to successful careers in industries that utilize illustration
For Illustrators seeking a career in Cartooning, a BFA is available through the Cartooning Department. Often called “the Harvard of Cartooning,” this 120 credit hour program consists of 72 credit hours of studio art courses and elective options that allow students to study everything from animation to web design. Cartooning BFA students will explore traditional and emerging styles such as classic adventure comics, Amerimanga (East-West hybrid), and experimental graphic novels.
Courses for the SVA Cartooning Program are taught by instructors who have worked on projects such as The Dark Knight Returns, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and Daredevil. Course examples for the program include Principles of Cartooning I-II, Digital Collage Illustration: Telling Stories in Layers, Drawing with Ink for Illustrators, Storytelling I-II, History of Cartooning, and Illustration in Motion. Upon completion of the SVA Cartooning BFA Program, students will graduate with a Cartooning Portfolio of their best work.
Offered in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department (est. 1984), the graduate program accepts just 20 students per year. Program features include a classroom-based curriculum, guest lecturers, speakers, and mentors, internship opportunities, personal workspaces with 24/7 access, and participation in gallery shows and exhibits. Students in all SVA programs have access to the school’s active study abroad program as well as SVA offices in Seoul, South Korea, and Shanghai, China, where students can network, collaborate, and attend workshops and lectures.
In addition to coursework and projects in computer illustration, creative writing, storytelling, and visual essay, SVA MFA students will have the opportunity to audit classes in film, animation, and fine arts. MFA students will complete a number of seminars and workshops, an Illustration Business Book Camp, and the Thesis Project: Visual Essay course. Graduates of have worked on major productions such as Sleepy Hollow and for brands such as Prada and Van’s.
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). This private institution launched in 1947 as the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (C&I School). When it opened, C&I had just three teachers and 35 students. Today, SVA employs more than 1,000 faculty serving 7,000 students enrolled in 31 programs leading to a BFA, MA, MFA, MA/MAT or MPS.
2. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
The Illustration Department at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has an Illustration Program with BFA and MFA options. The Illustration BFA enrolls 300 students, making it the largest major at RISD. The program requires first-year studios in Experimental and Foundation Studies and a major course of study in a specific Design or Fine Arts discipline beginning in the sophomore year. Program features include access to RISD Museum; printmaking studios and labs such as the Co-Works Research Lab, Nature lab, and Color Lab; Gelman Student Gallery; Woods-Gerry Gallery; ISB Gallery; and Fleet Library at RISD.
Collectively, these academic resources provide access to lectures, concerts, screenings and visiting artists and art directors; state-of-the art equipment and software such as Maya, After Effects, and InDesign; more than 90,000 works of art; and 150,000+ circulating books; a mix of student and curriculum related exhibitions throughout the academic year; and industry leaders from across the U.S. who offer feedback through annual portfolio reviews.
Illustration BFA students will participate in a number of workshops such as ZBrush Sculpting and Illustration, Pigments & Emulsions, and Maya Basics. The BFA program culminates with a portfolio and public exhibition.
The lllustration MFA at Rhode Island School of Design is a new, 60-credit advanced studio program that consists of seminars, art and design courses, and elective coursework from any department. Studio examples include Perception and the Art of Communication, Social Engagement and Agency, and Narrative Structures. Seminars include Contemporary Visual Narrative and Isms and Illustration—Critical Theory and Illustration History, among others. Environmental Aesthetics, Visible Cities, and Exhibiting Research are just a few elective options. The RISD Illustration MFA Program culminates with the Graduate Thesis.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Rhode Island School of Design have launched their own studios, they run their own freelance businesses, and they work for major studios and networks such as DreamWorks, HBO, Harmonix, Fox, Pixar and PBS.
Rhode Island School of Design is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Founded in 1877, RISD is one of the first art and design schools in the U.S. This private, nonprofit college serves more than 2,000 undergraduates and nearly 550 graduate students enrolled in more than 45 degree programs, concentrations, and certificate programs.
3. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Established in 2014, the School of Design at Pratt Institute (Pratt) has a Communications Design Program with an Illustration Emphasis. Leading to a BFA, the program features project-based coursework in a collaborative studio environment. The Illustration Emphasis explores storytelling, image-based communication, authoring, and socio-political commentary at the advanced level. The program encourages experimentation and elective coursework that allows students to develop skills in focused areas.
Available topics include Children’s Books, 3D Modeling, Illustrated Typography, Graphic Novels, Editorial Illustration, Animation, Independent Publishing, and Concept Art. Course examples for the program include Illustration Intensive 1-3, Typography and Information Design, Branding and Messaging,
Space, Form, Process, Dynamic Imagery, Time and Movement, Integrated VisCom, and Professional Practice. Consisting of 126 credit hours, the Communications Design Program with an Illustration Emphasis culminates with the Illustration Senior Thesis.
The School of Art at Pratt Institute has two additional options for artists seeking a two-year degree program in Illustration. The Associates of Occupational Studies (AOS) in Illustration is a 69 credit hour program that emphasizes hands-on learning and experience through the internship program, courses taught by industry professionals, and intensive portfolio development courses.
Also consisting of 69 credit hours is the Graphic/Illustration Program that leads to an AAS. This option features a liberal arts component that allows students to transfer into the Pratt’s BFA Program in Fine Arts or Communication Design. Both programs explore illustration for print and web, traditional and digital methods, advertising and editorial, professional practices, industry-standard software, drawing, and visualization.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Pratt Institute have been hired at Cartoon Network , Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), DreamWorks, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Gameloft, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Digital Domain, among others.
Pratt Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1887, the school serves 4,875 students across campuses in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Utica, New York. More than 50 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs are offered in the Schools of Art, Information, Design, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Architecture, and Continuing and Professional Studies.
4. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Maryland Institute College of Art has an Illustration Program with BFA, MA, and MFA options. The Illustration BFA has Studio Minors in Book Arts, Sequential Art, and Illustration Studio. The Books Arts Studio Minor is an interdisciplinary focus area that requires 15 credit hours of study. Required courses include Paper-Making and Book Structure, and Letterpress: Chapbooks and Broadsides or Artist’s Book.
Book Arts students may choose any courses from the available list to reach 15 credit hours. Examples include Typography I-II, Book Illustration, Mixed Media Book, Illustrative Print, Advanced Book Illustration, and Visual Journalism. An optional internship is available as well.
Open to all majors, the 15 credit hour Sequential Art Studio Minor prepares students for careers in digital or printed comics. Course examples for the program include Sequential Art, Studio Remix: Storyboards, Advanced Sequential Art, Storytelling and Mythmaking, Motion Graphics, and Advanced Digital Illustration. A major benefit of the program is MICA’s relationships with the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Arts, Toronto Comics Art Festival, Baltimore Comic-Con, and Small Press Expo.
In the Illustration Studio Minor at MICA, students will explore illustration for books, and magazines, newspapers; advertisements, posters and flyers; comics and graphic novels; institutional publications, the web, and graphics for music. The program also explores preproduction, including concept art and character design for animation, film, television, and video games.
Graduates of the MICA Illustration Program have been hired for internships, full-time positions, and freelance assignments at DC Comics, Pixar, The New York Times, Google, LucasArts Entertainment, Apple, DreamWorks Animation, Whole Foods Market, Anthropologie, Johns Hopkins Institute of Nanobiology, and National Geographic, among others. Some Illustration graduates go on to enroll in MICA’s graduate Illustration Programs.
Specific graduate options include the MA in Illustration and MFA in Illustration Practice. The MA is a one-year program for practicing Illustrators seeking career advancement or individuals interested in launching a career in illustration. Consisting of workshops, studios, lectures, and open electives, the 30 credit hour MA Program features an open-plan, state-of-the-art studio environment, courses taught by leaders in the field, and collaborative projects with the Center for Design Thinking and graduate students from other departments at MICA.
The Illustration MA Program at MICA culminates with a capstone portfolio project, exhibition, and review panel.
The Illustration Practice MFA is a two-year, 60 credit hour program that features opportunities to collaborate with Dolphin Press & Print at MICA, the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, the Modern Graphics History Library at Washington University, and the Center for Design Thinking at MICA. Students in this program will also collaborate with industry professionals and fellow students, and they will have opportunities to communicate with artists-in-residence and visiting critics. The MICA Illustration Practice MFA culminates with the MFA Thesis.
Graduates of the Illustration MA and MFA Programs at MICA are Freelance Illustrators, Exhibiting Artists, Entrepreneurs, Curators and Gallery Managers, Designers, Educators, Art Directors, and more.
Maryland Institute College of Art is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Founded in 1826, MICA is nation’s oldest independent, continuously degree-granting college of art and design. The school serves 2,090 students from 45 states and 53 foreign countries. Forty percent are fine arts majors and 60% are design & media arts majors. Programs at Maryland Institute College of Art lead to a BFA, MA, MFA, or MPS degree.
5. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The School of Art, Media, & Technology (AMT) at The New School’s Parsons School of Design (The New School Parsons or Parsons School of Design) provides the opportunity to create an interdisciplinary path of study around any major. For students in the Illustration BFA Program, examples include adding a Minor in Comics and Graphic Narrative, Journalism and Design, or Data Visualization. A BA/BFA Dual Degree option is also an option.
Other program features include study abroad opportunities in London, Paris, and Florence; Collaboration Studio courses and other collaborative projects with peers; internships with Parsons partners such as Nickelodeon, AIGA, Moleskine, Toon Books, The New York Times, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Red Cross, Brooklyn Industries, and Eyebeam; access to The New School libraries, studios, computer labs, archives, and the state-of-the-art Making Center; and participation in events such as MoCCA Fest, Comic Arts Brooklyn, and Pictoplasma.
The AMT Illustration Program also provides access to New York–based professional organizations such as the Society of Illustrators and American Illustration, which helps students connect with professional illustrators, artists, and publishers.
Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Parsons School of Design Illustration BFA Program begins with Parsons’ first year curriculum, which explores 2D and 3D processes, digital design, drawing, and more.
Course examples include Integrative Studio 1-2, Drawing/Imaging, Time, Objects as History, Sustainable Systems, and Space/Materiality. The second year consists of illustration studios and seminars, followed by two years of upper division coursework, studios, and seminars, advanced research, and professional practices. The program, which culminates with a Thesis, takes four years to complete, full-time.
The New School Parsons is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1896 as The Chase School, Parsons serves more than 10,000 students enrolled 100+ degree and diploma programs.
6. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York
Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) houses the School of Art and Design, which has 17 creative majors in design, art and fashion, and customizable minors consisting of five courses in one of dozens of available disciplines. The FIT Illustration Program has two undergraduate options: the AAS and BFA. The AAS is a pathway to the BFA Program.
Both programs feature mentoring workshops led by art directors and professional illustrators, participation in student art exhibitions, and access to the Society of Illustrators—the industry's top professional organization. BFA may take advantage of the FIT Internship Program.
Across programs, course examples include Illustration Rendering Techniques, Advanced Visual Story Studio, Digital Illustration Techniques, Visual Storytelling for Evolving Media, Stylistic Illustration, Illustration Workshop, Advanced Color Rendering, and the Business of Illustration. The FIT Illustration BFA culminates with the Illustration Portfolio Thesis, that will be presented before faculty and peers.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program are prepared immediate entry into the field or a graduate program, such as the 60 credit hour Illustration MFA offered in FIT’s School of Graduate Studies. This program features real-world projects, guest lecturers, field trips to studios in LA and New York, and internship opportunities. Course examples for the program include Integrating Digital with Traditional Media, Creative Writing for Illustrators, Illustration in Motion, Sequential Storytelling, Printmaking and Artist’s Books, Studio Workshop, and Survey of Digital Illustration.
In the final two semesters of the FIT Graduate Illustration Program, students will take Business Practices and Self Promotion Strategies and Visual Thesis Studio. The program culminates with a Visual Thesis Exhibition at a gallery. Past projects have included children’s books, graphic novels, interactive digital media, installations, animation, murals, and concept art.
FIT Illustration alumni have been hired at ad agencies such as Young & Rubicam, BBDO Worldwide, Ogilvy, and DDB, and at corporations such as Hallmark and American Greetings. Program alumni work at magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and at entertainment companies such as Warner Brothers, DreamWorks Pictures, Disney, and LucasArts Entertainment.
Part of the State University of New York (SUNY) System, Fashion Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). The school opened in 1944 with just 100 students, with classes taking place across two floors in the High School of Needle Trades. Today the FIT campus sits on 1.5 NYC blocks, and serves nearly 8,000 students.
Programs at FIT are offered across five academic divisions and range from Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing to Toy Design. Many FIT programs are the first of their kind in the country.
7. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) is home to an Illustration Department that houses an Illustration BFA Program that focuses on narrative techniques and character development. Courses for the program are taught by professional freelance illustrators or artists that own their own illustration studios and firms. Course examples for the program include Media Techniques, Experimental Illustration Techniques, Book Arts, Virtual 3D Illustration, Advanced Drawing Projects for Illustrators, Word and Image, Professional Illustration, Independent Study, Technical Illustration, Black and White Illustration, and Professional Freelance Studio.
Three major, but optional, components of the MassArt Illustration BFA Program are the Course Assistantship, Independent Study, and the Internship. The Course Assistantship allows qualified sophomores, juniors, and seniors to assist a faculty member with set up and assisting with demonstrations and critiques during class. Independent Study is available to juniors and seniors Juniors who have a specific studio project that cannot be accomplished through coursework. This gives students an opportunity to work with a faculty member on an independent basis.
The Internship Program is open to all upper level students. Three studio elective credits may be earned for participating in a supervised professional experience at a local or national company or studio.
In the final year of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design Illustration BFA Program students will complete the following courses: Thesis Project I: Research, Thesis Project II: Imagery, Senior Illustration, and Illustration Portfolio. Final student portfolios will be presented to professionals from the advertising, editorial, publishing, institutional, and corporate markets.
Graduates of the Art and Design Programs at Massachusetts College of Art and Design have been hired at Hasbro, Whitney Museum of American Art, Sony Pictures Imageworks, New Balance, Boston Children's Museum, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), PUMA, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Time Inc., Discovery Channel, and Attleboro Art Museum.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Established in 1873 as Massachusetts Normal School, MassArt provides more than 40 degree, minor, and certificate program options to 1,635 undergraduate students, 115 graduate students, and nearly 150 continuing education students. Noncredit students and others at Massachusetts College of Art and Design have access to 100 classes and workshops in all areas of art and design.
8. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University (SU) houses the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), home to the School of Art, which has an Illustration Program that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). BFA and MFA options are available. Students in the BFA Program may explore one or more focus areas such as Editorial, Product, Sequential or Visual Development. Editorial students will focus on illustrating for newspapers, magazines, book jackets and online publishing.
In the Product Focus, students will explore illustrating as it relates to patterning, packaging, and products. Sequential students will learn to illustrate for children’s books, comics, and graphic novels. The Visual Development Focus is for students who would like to work in character development for animation and gaming.
In addition to choosing one or more focus in one or more areas, Illustration BFA students may participate in the College of VPA study abroad program, study abroad at SU in Florence, Italy or Syracuse University Study Abroad (SU Study Abroad), which offers 100 programs in 60 countries. Students will also participate in on-campus workshops and lectures, off-campus trips to New York City to visit the Society of Illustrators and participate in MoCCAFest, and travel to Los Angeles for a two-week industry immersion in animation and film.
The SU Illustration BFA Program culminates with a final portfolio that will be presented to Art Directors and professional Illustrators.
Graduates of the Illustration Program at Syracuse University Alumni from the illustration program have launched successful careers in advertising, editorial illustration, graphic novels and comics, greeting cards, children’s books, and licensing. They also work in visual development for animated films, television, and games.
Illustration MFA at Syracuse University is a 60 credit hour program that consists of 27 major studio credits, 12 elective credits, nine art history or related credits, and 12 credit hours dedicated to the Thesis. This is the culminating experience for the program.
The cross-disciplinary, research-focused, and experimental Illustration MFA provides opportunities to interact with professionals at New York studios and within the arts and publishing industries. Students in the SU Illustration MFA Program also benefit from elective travel courses during the MAYmester and summer program to gain credits. During the two-week long MAYmester, students take an intensive three-credit course for four hours Monday through Friday.
Graduates of the Illustration MFA Program at Syracuse University are prepared for advancement opportunities in their current careers, teaching positions, research positions, and jobs in advertising, animation, games, architecture, book publishing, newspapers, magazines, and comics, among others.
Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1870, Syracuse University serves around 21,330 students from all 50 states and 120 countries. More than 400 majors, minors, and advanced degree programs are offered across SU’s 13 colleges and schools. In addition to campuses in Syracuse and Manhattan, New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles, Syracuse University operates overseas centers in Chile, London, France, Poland, Spain, and Italy.
9. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is home to the School of Arts (VCUarts), which serves more than 3,000 students across 16 departments. More than 25 degree options and minors are available, with five offered in the Department of Communication Arts. With a focus in Narrative Illustration and Entertainment Design, all programs in the Communication Arts Department provide opportunities to study Illustration.
Department of Communication Arts students will explore traditional and mixed-media illustration, comics and graphic novels, observational drawing, scientific illustration, concept design, digital image making, and storyboarding. Students will complete the Art Foundation Program (AFO) in the first year of all pathways, and they will take courses such as Digital Drawing, Game Design, Theory and Practice, Drawing Studies: The Figure Observed, 3D Modeling for Concept Design, The Figure in Illustration Basic Human Anatomy, Scientific Illustration, Color Theory, Imagery for Science Fiction and Fantasy, Environmental Science, and Imagery for Children. VCUarts students may also apply for an internship and they have the option to study abroad in Florence, Italy.
Program options include a BFA in Communication Arts with the option to create a custom Concentration in Illustration or other related area, a Communication Arts BFA with a Scientific Illustration Concentration, a Minor in Scientific Illustration, and a BFA and Minor in Visual Effects (VFX).
Graduates of the VCUarts alumni are Editorial illustrators, Graphic Novelists, Web Illustrators, Interactive Media Designers, Comic Artists, Art Directors, Digital Animator, Scientific Illustrators, Children’s book Illustrators, VFX Artists, Game Designers, Concept Artists, Character and Creature Designers, Storyboard Artists, 3D Modelers and Animators, and Fine Artists.
Virginia Commonwealth University accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1838 as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College, this urban, public research university serves 28,919 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across 15+ colleges, school, and centers.
10. University of Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) offer a Coordinated BFA Program that combines fine arts training at PAFA and with Penn’s liberal arts curriculum. Students in the PAFA/Penn BFA will take 90 credits of studio art courses across five concentrations at PAFA during their freshman, sophomore, and junior years. During this time, students will have opportunities to study Illustration through required coursework, studios, and electives.
In the third year of the PAFA/Penn BFA, students are assigned their own private studio. In the final year of the PAFA/Penn BFA, students will enroll full-time to complete the liberal arts curriculum at Penn, where they gain access to the school’s Fischer Fine Arts Library, Van Pelt Library, and talks, exhibits, lectures, and performances on Penn’s campus.
The PAFA/Penn BFA is a competitive program. Students who are not selected for the program may enroll in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts four-year BFA Program. Like PAFA/Penn students, Penn BFA students will gain access to private studios—in the fourth year of the program. Studios are accessible 24/7. Students will have the opportunity to invite faculty and Artists from the PAFA Visiting Artist Program to their studios to critique of their work as they prepare for the Annual Student Exhibition at PAFA. The Exhibition allows students to organize, install, present, and sell their work in the PAFA museum galleries.
The PAFA BFA Program begins with the first-year foundation experience, where students will study traditional and contemporary art-forms. In the second and third years, students will complete a combination of liberal arts and studio classes. Students will also collaborate with peers in shared spaces in a group studio. Students can choose an area of study such as Illustration, Printmaking, Drawing, Painting, Animation or Sculpture. Additional program features include access to digital labs and workshops, lectures, and demonstrations, and hands-on critiques—throughout the program.
Led by the Illustration Department at PAFA, the Illustration students can expect to take courses such as Illustration Methods, Digital Print & Web Design, History of Illustration, Narrative and Sequential Drawing, Narrative Projects, Letter Press and Book Arts, Digital Imaging, Illustration I-II, Visual Narration, and Business Practices of Art. All Programs require completion of a Thesis, the Illustration Projects course, and the Portfolio course.
Graduates of the PAFA/Penn BFA and the PAFA BFA are prepared to launch careers in Book and Magazine Illustration, Animation, Poster and Storyboard Art, Graphic Novels, and Medical Illustration, among others.
University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania serves more than 28,000 students enrolled in more than 400 programs in four undergraduate and 12 graduate schools. Since 1929, Penn has partnered with Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA).
Founded in 1805, PAFA is the first art school and museum in the United States. This private, non-profit school serves several hundred students enrolled in BFA, MFA, and certificate programs. PAFA is accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). PAFA is also member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) and The Common Application.
11. University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The School of Design at University of the Arts (UArts) has an Illustration Program with BFA and Minor options for students seeking a career in Illustration or those looking to enhance a creative major such as Painting or Animation. The BFA Program features opportunities to experiment and collaborate with other majors in the School of Design such as Animation, Interaction Design, Fine Arts, Product Design, and Graphic Design.
Students in the program will work and learn in shared studio spaces and in facilities such as the Cintiq Lab and Makerspace. Students will also receive intense training in industry-standard software such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, After Effects, and Illustrator.
Although it is not required, Illustration BFA students have the opportunity to complete a Design Internship at an individual artist studio or major companies and studios such as Cartoon Network, Barnes & Noble, and as Anthropologie.
The Figurative Illustration Minor requires 15 credit hours of study. Courses include Figure Anatomy, Illustration I: Pictorial Foundation, Illustration II: Illustration Methods, Responsive Drawing, and Figure Communication or Figure Painting.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at University of the Arts have been hired at or worked with a wide variety of companies, studios, brands, magazines, newspapers, networks, publishers, and agencies. Examples include DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Marvel Comics, Time Magazine, NASA, Penguin Group Publishing, MTV, Cartoon Network, Disney, American Museum of Natural History, Martha Stewart, Simon & Schuster, ESPN, Oprah, Meta, Nickelodeon, Fortune, 20th Century Fox, Blizzard Entertainment, NPR, Mattel, Hallmark, The Wall Street Journal, NASA, Fisher Price, Ralph Lauren, Scholastic, PBS, Harper-Collins, the United States Postal Service, Random House, Rolling Stone, Fisher Price, Major League Baseball, National Geographic, The New York Times, Hasbro, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and Warner Bros.
University of the Arts is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, UArts serves close to 1,500 students enrolled in more than 40 degree programs in design, fine arts, music, media arts, dance, theater, and crafts. More than 20 minors are available and open to all students. Programs at University of the Arts are housed in the Schools of Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, Theater Arts, and Graduate and Professional Studies.
12. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
The College of Art and Design at Rochester Institute of Technology houses the School of Art, which has Illustration programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. All programs feature small class sizes of no more than 16 students; access to RIT facilities such as Studio 96, the Illustration Studio, and Witmeyer Mac Lab; multidisciplinary projects; lectures and demos led by 15+ visiting artists each year; cooperative education and internships with top companies; international experiences; and networking opportunities through RIT’s industry partnerships.
Students in all programs will also have the opportunity to exhibit their work in one of RIT's gallery spaces and participate in Creative Industry Day where they can interview with company representatives for permanent positions and co-op opportunities.
Specific program options for Illustrators include a BFA in Illustration and BFA and MFA degrees in Medical Illustration. The MFA in Medical Illustration is one of only five programs of its kind in North America and the only program in the northeast.
The Illustration BFA has an 81% employment rate, the Medical Illustration has an 86% employment rate, and the Medical Illustration MFA has a 100% employment rate. Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program work for ad agencies, in corporate art departments, at publishing companies, and in the animation, film, and game industries.
Medical Illustration BFA graduates hold positions such as 2D Medical Animator, Medical Editorial Illustrator, Medical Web Designer, Information Graphics Illustrator, Forensics Illustrator, Medical Interactive/Interface Designer, Ophthalmologic Illustrator, Prosthesis Designer/Anaplastologist, Medical Book/Texts Illustrator, Medical Legal Illustrator/Litigation Support Specialist, and Exhibitor.
Graduates of the Medical Illustration MFA Program at Rochester Institute of Technology often take on leadership roles in Computer Modeling, Medical and Legal Illustration, Animation, and Information Graphics.
Rochester Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Dating back to 1829, RIT serves more than 19,000 students, making it one of the largest private universities in the U.S. With additional campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai, and Kosovo, Rochester Institute of technology offers more than 200 academic programs across 11 colleges and institutes.
13. University of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford Art School (HAS) at University of Hartford (UHart) serves 400 students enrolled in nine undergraduate majors and three low-residency graduate programs. Illustration is offered at both degree levels. The Illustration BFA consists of 122-126 credit hours, including 20 credit hours in the Foundation Year. Examples include Painting, Drawing, Illustration: Landscape Space, 4D Studio, Illustration: Narrative Composition for Illustration, Academic Writing I-II, and Painting/Drawing: Observation to Abstraction.
Students in this professional BFA Program must complete 77–80 studio credits in the major, plus 45–46 academic credits. Coursework for the UHart HAS Illustration BFA explores both traditional and digital mediums. Examples of required courses include Illustration I (Oil), II (Acrylic) and III (Watercolor), Digital Illustration, Figure Illustration, Intro to Illustration, Drawing for Illustration, Sophomore Review, and Junior Review. Elective options include Advertising, Editorial, Book, Portfolio Prep, and Senior Project.
Graduates of the UHart HAS Illustration BFA Program are prepared for careers in Advertising Illustration, Book Illustration, and Editorial Illustration.
The low-residency Illustration MFA program is designed for working adults. In-person sessions take place during the summer semester, with travel during spring and fall to New York City, California, Ohio and Pennsylvania to meet with illustrators, licensing experts, agents, and illustration entrepreneurs. Students will interact with more than 50 professionals from the animation, editorial, comic book, advertising, children’s book, and product design industries.
Other MFA Program features include workshops, business, promotional, and marketing coursework, optional internships and study abroad experiences, and studio and museum visits. UHart MFA students have visited Disney Animation Studios, Norman Rockwell Museum, Electronic Arts (EA), Lucasfilm, DreamWorks Animation Studios, Nickelodeon Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, the Society of Illustrators, Brandywine Museum, and Communication Arts Magazine, and more.
Graduates of the UHart HAS Illustration MFA Program work in advanced or leadership positions in the field of Illustration.
University of Hartford has been continuously accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) since 1961. Chartered in 1957,(Uhart is a four-year private university that serves around 5,925 students from 49 states and 44 countries. Around 200 programs spanning the Arts, Business, Education, Engineering and Technology, Health, and Humanities are provided across seven colleges and schools.
14. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut
The School of Fine Arts at University of Connecticut (UConn) houses the Department of Art & Art History. Fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Department has four degree programs leading to a BA or BFA, seven concentrations, and two education abroad programs. The Art BA and Art BFA Programs offer an Illustration/Animation Concentration that explores traditional techniques, and new and emerging technologies.
Consisting of 120 credit hours, the BA and BFA Programs feature a project-based curriculum with collaborations and team projects, small class sizes, access to state-of-the art computer labs, exhibition spaces, and art-making studios, education abroad, and internship opportunities. Each year, UConn hosts an on-campus Internship Fair to secure internships. Many internships lead to full-time employment upon graduation. UConn students have interned at Disney, Connecticut Museum of Natural History, NASA, The Bronx Zoo, NBC Sports, GE, and the State Department of Education, among others.
The Illustration/Animation Concentration requires 30 credit hours. Course examples across programs include Life Drawing, Animation Fundamentals, Topics in Illustration, Studio Concepts, Introduction to Digital Media, Graphic Design: Process and Thinking, Illustration, Animation Fundamentals, Life Drawing II, and Going Pro (Professional Practices in Illustration and Animation).
The Art BA and BFA Programs at University of Connecticut culminate with the Senior Project course and participation in the Senior Show.
Most graduates of the UConn Illustration/Animation BA/BFA Programs are offered positions within six months of graduation. Program alumni have gone on to successful careers as Illustrators, Educators, Designers, Professional Artists, Curators, Photographers, and Arts Administrators, among others. Some program alumni have been accepted into MFA Programs at the Royal College of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Yale University, Goldsmith's, University of London, and Virginia Commonwealth University, and Yale University.
University of Connecticut is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Founded in 1881, University of Connecticut began as Storrs Agricultural School with just three faculty members and 13 male students. Today, UConn’s more than 18,000 faculty and staff members serve nearly 32,700 students across the main campus at Storrs, and four regional campuses. Programs at University of Connecticut are offered across 14 colleges and schools, and include eight undergraduate degrees in 119 majors, 17 graduate degrees in 88 fields of study, and six professional degree programs across 14 colleges and schools.
15. Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (PCA&D) has an Illustration Program that allows students to specialize in an additional area through a Certificate or Minor. Certificate options consist of four or more classes and include Animation, Business in Creative Industry, Communication Design, Data Visualization, Digital Marketing & Social Media, Entrepreneur: Design and Digital Marketing, Esports Management, Game Art, Print, UX/UI Design, and Web. Minors include Animation & Game Art, Business in Creative Industry, Art History & Visual Culture, Creative Writing, Esports Management, Fine Art, General Humanities, Graphic Design, Literature, Live Experience Design, and Photography & Video. Minors are 18-24 credits. An 18 credit hour Illustration Minor can also be added to any PCA&D program as a specialization.
Additional program features include a required internship component, the PCA&D mentorship program, participation in online community projects, and the chance to create entrepreneur-based projects. Course examples for the program include 3D & Head Figure, Time Based Media, Design in Illustration, Digital Painting, Observational Figure Workshop, Illustration Studio I-II, Typography, Visual Communication, Painting Methods, Digital I-II, and Senior Illustration I-II.
The PCA&D Illustration BFA Program culminates with the Senior Project, which will be presented at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design Senior Exhibition.
Before graduating, BFA student work has been featured in competitions hosted by the Society of Illustrators, 3×3 Magazine, and Spectrum. PCA&D Illustration BFA graduates go on to successful careers in animation, game design, and many other industries. Some program alumni have launched their own studios and freelance businesses.
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (PCA&D) is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1982, PCA&D is a private, non-profit, professional art college that serves more than 200 students enrolled in six majors leading the BFA degree, 12 minor programs, and 11 certificate programs.
16. Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Illustration Program at Moore College of Art & Design (Moore or Moore College) consists of critiques, studio tours, workshops, and mentorship experiences with leading design professionals. Leading to a BFA, the program also provides access to computer labs installed with the latest industry software including Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Fireworks, and Photoshop.
A major component of all Moore College programs is the internship opportunity. Moore is the only art and design college that provides a $1,000 paid internship for every student. Many of these internships lead to offers for full-time employment.
Course examples for the Illustration BFA Program include Digital Imagemaking, Cultural Collisions and Transformations, Illustration Concepts and Practices, Writing Workshop, Digital Painting for Illustrators, Life Drawing for Illustrators, Business for Illustration, and Professional Development. Students may also take a number of studio and open electives to enhance the degree. In the final year of the program, students will complete the Senior Studio course and the Senior Thesis.
Graduates of the BFA Programs at Moore College of Art & Design enjoy a 100% job placement rate. Employers of Moore graduates include Penguin Publishing Group, Dynamite Entertainment, Smithsonian Institution, mock5design, and Bust Magazine, among others.
Moore College of Art & Design is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1848, the school is the nation’s first and only historically all-women’s visual arts college. Moore College of Art & Design serves around 350 students, enrolled in nine BFA majors, 11 BFA minors, two MFA programs, one MA program, and nine 4+1 programs (BFA+MA).
17. Maine College of Art and Design, Portland, Maine
The Illustration BFA Program at Maine College of Art and Design (MECA&D or Maine College of Art) features small class sizes with courses taught by professional illustrators and artists, internship opportunities with a variety of Portland studios, and access to shared workspaces and equipment.
Course examples for the program include Editorial Illustration, Motion Graphics and Animation, Digital Mixed Media for Illustrator, The Picture Book, Portrait Drawing in Illustration: People and Animals, Illustration Majors Studio, Narrative/Sequential Illustration, Selling the Scene, Advanced Techniques Masterclass, Illustration in Context, Intro to Ink for Illustrators, and Methods and Media in Illustration.
In the final year of the program, Maine College of Art Illustration BFA students will complete 3YR Seminar: Motive, Method, Making (GD & IL), Professional Studio, and Senior Synthesis. Graduates of the program are independent contractors, self-employed professional artists, and salaried artists holding positions such as Illustrator, Graphic Designer, and Art Director.
Maine College of Art & Design is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Founded in 1882 as part of the Portland Society of Art, Maine College of Art & Design serves nearly 600 degree-seeking students and 1,500 continuing students enrolled in 11 studio majors leading to a BFA, a low-residency MFA in Studio Art, and a 10-month MAT Program.
18. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Dartmouth, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth (UMass Dartmouth or UMassD) houses the College of Visual & Performing Arts (CVPA), home to the BFA in Art + Design: Illustration and Visual Design MFA: Illustration Programs. An Illustration Minor is also available.
As part of UMass Dartmouth, the BFA and MFA Programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Students in both programs have access to IDEAStudio—a state-of-the-art digital/multimedia space where they can access equipment and software, and collaborate with peers and faculty from across the UMassD campus.
Students also have access to additional digital media labs, the Painting/2D Media Lab, Graphic Design & Illustration studios (graduate students are assigned individual workspaces), the Visual and Media Literacy Hub (HUB), which maintains the largest image and media repository on the UMassD campus, and Textile & Fiber Arts facilities equipped with papermaking studios, a textile media lab, dark rooms, and more.
In the Art + Design: Illustration Program, students will explore color, composition, drawing, painting, rendering, and printmaking, along with specialized areas such as book illustration, concept art, documentary illustration, and character development. The program requires 120 credit hours of study, with 78 credits in the major. The BFA Program culminates with a professional portfolio and participation in the Senior Exhibition. Graduates are prepared for careers in Illustration, Animation, Scientific Visualization, Multimedia Design, and graduate study.
The Visual Design MFA: Illustration Program at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth consists of 60 credit hours of study that can be completed on a two- or three-year schedule. In addition to Illustration, students will have opportunities to explore other areas such as Digital Media, Graphic Design, and Photography. Other MFA Program features include assigned graduate workspaces, individualized attention from faculty who are professionals in traditional, interactive, and time-based media, assistantship opportunities, interdisciplinary projects, visiting artists, access to the Visual Resources Center, which houses more than 150,000 archived images, and exhibition opportunities.
The Visual Design MFA: Illustration Program at UMass Dartmouth requires a Visual Thesis and Thesis Report to graduate. Examples of career paths for graduates of the program include Curator, Art Director, Arts Administrator, Senior Illustration Manager for Publications, Storyboard Director for Advertising, Animation or Film, and Art Educator.
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has been accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) since 1963. The school dates back to 1895, when textile schools launched as New Bedford Textile School and the Bradford Durfee Textile School in Fall River. Today. UMass Dartmouth is a public, four-year, national research university that serves 7,717 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across eight colleges and schools.
19. Marywood University, Scranton, Pennsylvania
The College of Arts and Sciences at Marywood University houses the Department of Art, which has both two pathways for illustrators. The Studio Art BFA has an Illustration Track that explores digital design, printmaking, painting, animation, typography, graphic design, digital illustration, and more. The program requires successful completion of the Foundation Year, which consists of field trips, attending visiting artist talks and exhibits, and participating in the Foundation Portfolio Review.
Other program features include independent study programs, internships, practicums, access to (and participation in) student clubs and organizations such as the Art History Club and Zeta Omicron, and study abroad experiences for a semester, a summer, or several weeks in places such as Italy, Spain, England, Scotland, France, Australia, and Ireland.
At the graduate level, the College of Arts and Sciences at Marywood University has a low-residency Visual Arts Program with an Illustration Concentration, Children’s Book Track, and Sequential Art and Storytelling Certificate. This MFA is designed for full-time, working professionals such as Art Directors, New Media Artists, Illustrators, Art Educators, and others. The program consists of lectures, summer classes, four two-week residential summer sessions, and independent study.
Students will also take six study tours in New York, Boston, and other cities to visit museums, ad agencies, professional organizations, and well-known designers and illustrator’s studios.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Marywood University are prepared to pursue positions such as 3D Illustrator, Caricaturist, Educator, Comic Book/Strip Artist, Courtroom Sketcher, Curator, Children’s Book Illustrator, Fashion Illustrator, Art Director, Game Designer, Greeting Card Illustrator, Researcher, Illustrator for Graphic Novels, Editorial Illustrator, Medical Illustrator, Muralist, Political Cartoonist, Publishing: Book Cover Artist, Stamp Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, and Technical Illustrator, among others.
Marywood University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Founded in 1915, Marywood University was the first college for women in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the first Catholic college for women in the state. Today, Marywood serves more than 3,000 students from all backgrounds. Nearly 150 programs are offered in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Health and Human Services, and Professional Studies.
20. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
George Mason University houses the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). Within the CVPA, is the School of Art (SOA), which has BA and BFA degrees in Art and Visual Technology (AVT) with an Illustration Minor. In the 18 credit our Minor, students will take the following courses: Illustration, Comics or 2D Experimental Animation, Figure Drawing, Digital Printmaking, Entrepreneurship in the Arts, and Professional Design Practices or Professional Practices.
Students must pass a portfolio review and earn a 3.0 GPA in both AVT 222 Drawing I (Mason Core) and AVT 323 Drawing II prior to applying for admission into the Illustration Minor.
The AVT BA and BFA Programs both require 120 credit hours to graduate. This does not include the Illustration Minor. Course examples include New Media in the Creative Arts, Two-Dimensional Design and Color, Art Now, Three-Dimensional Design and Beyond, Interdisciplinary Arts, Aesthetics, Typography, Painting, Printmaking, and Digital Photography.
In addition to the Minor, the AVT BA and BFA Programs provide the opportunity to take a double major or complete a double degree. Students that choose a double major or double degree in AVT and Graphic Design (GD) will have additional opportunities to study Illustration and develop skills in other related areas. Course examples include Comics, Editorial Design, Book Arts: Books Enclosures, Photobook: Concepts Form, Illustration, Advertising Design, Package Design, Advanced Typography, Motion Design, Package Design, and Brand Identity Design.
Students who are interested in Illustration and Arts Management may enroll in GMU’s Accelerated AVT BFA/Arts Management MA with an Illustration Minor. This program requires 150 credit hours of study and is available through a joint cooperation between the School of Art and the Arts Management Program.
Graduates of the AVT Programs at George Mason University work in all areas of Visual Arts, including Illustration.
George Mason University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1949, GMU serves close to 39,150 students, making it one of the largest public universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The school, which also serves 500 students at George Mason University Korea (Mason Korea), offers more than 200 programs housed across 11 colleges and schools.