What are the top illustration BFA programs in the U.S. for 2022?

Top 25 Illustration BFA Programs in the U.S. - 2022 College Rankings
1School of Visual ArtsNew York
2ArtCenter College of DesignCalifornia
3Ringling College of Art and DesignFlorida
4Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
5Rhode Island School of DesignRhode Island
6Pratt InstituteNew York
7Maryland Institute College of ArtMaryland
8California College of the ArtsCalifornia
9The New School’s Parsons School of DesignNew York
10Otis College of Art and DesignCalifornia
11Fashion Institute of Technology New York
12Columbus College of Art and DesignOhio
13Massachusetts College of Art and DesignMassachusetts
14Brigham Young UniversityUtah
15Minneapolis College of Art & DesignMinnesota
16San Jose State UniversityCalifornia
17College for Creative StudiesMichigan
18Syracuse UniversityNew York
19Cleveland Institute of ArtOhio
20Laguna College of Art and DesignCalifornia
21California State University-FullertonCalifornia
22Kansas City Art InstituteMissouri
23Virginia Commonwealth UniversityVirginia
24Washington University in St. Louis Missouri
25Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design Wisconsin

The 2022 top 25 schools and colleges offering Illustration Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs. For an explanation of the  ranking criteria, click here.

1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) houses the SVA Illustration Department, home to the BFA Program, which offers 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. Graduates of this program are prepared to seek careers in comics, magazine and newspaper publishing, editorial, animation, and web design, among others.

2. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
ArtCenter College of Design

The Illustration BFA Program at ArtCenter College of Design (ArtCenter) is a unique pathway that allows students to choose from six distinct Tracks. Options include Illustration Design, Illustration/Fine Art, Motion Design, Entertainment Arts, Entertainment Arts Consumer Products, and Surface Design. A Designmatters Minor is also available, and includes many of the same courses  as the Illustration Design Track.

Across Tracks, students may take courses such as Illustration Now!, Digital Illustration, Drawing for Illustration, Sketching for Illustration, Illustration Design, Illustration Strategies, Illustration Publishing, Children’s Book Illustration, Data Visualization for Illustrators, Professional Practices, and Portfolio Design Lab. All Tracks and the Designmatters Minor (when added to the Illustration BFA) are 120 credit hours.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at ArtCenter College of Design may continue their studies by enrolling in the school’s Interdisciplinary MFA Program, which features a customized curriculum based on the student’s goals, individual studio spaces, and access to state-of-the art facilities, software, galleries, and project studios. ArtCenter BFA and MFA graduates have been hired at DreamWorks, Google, Disney, Apple, Mattel, and Blizzard, among others.

3. 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. 

4. 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. 

The SCAD Illustration BFA is a 180 credit hours program that is available at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah campuses. Students in this program 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.

In addition to the SCAD Core, BFA 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.

The SCAD 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. An optional internship is also part of the program.

SCAD students may also 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 BFA Program 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.

5. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
 Rhode Island School of Design

The Illustration Department at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has an Illustration BFA Program that serves 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 RISD Illustration BFA program culminates with a portfolio and public exhibition.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program 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.

6. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Pratt Institute

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.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program 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.

7. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Maryland Institute College of Art

Maryland Institute College of Art has an Illustration Program with a BFA option. 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 BFA 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 BFA graduates go on to enroll in MICA’s graduate Illustration Programs.  

8. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
California College of the Arts

California College of the Arts (CCA) has an Illustration BFA Program that features a semester-long thesis project, a Professional Practice course that teaches students how to start and run a freelance or small business, participation in the Senior Show, which attracts local and national design professionals, and courses taught by professional illustrators, fine artists, and designers. In addition, students will participate in classroom critiques (individual and group), studio projects, and lectures.

Consisting of 120 credit hours. The CCA Illustration BFA Program explores emerging animation, AR/VR, and imaging technologies, storytelling, 3D modeling, screenprinting, hand-lettering, drawing and painting. Course examples for the program include Drawing 2D, 3D, and 4D, Painting Workshop, Illustration Studios 1-3, Digital Media, and Writing 1 and 2.

Students in the Illustration BFA Program at California College of the Arts have access to industry-standard software and digital tools, as well as state-of-the-art computer labs, printing studios, workshops, and painting studios.

Graduates of the CCA Illustration BFA Program are prepared to seek careers in traditional publishing (book illustration, editorial illustration), comics, advertising, surface design, game design, technology, animation, motion design, education, exhibition design, printmaking, retail design, and many other industries.

9. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School’s Parsons School of Design

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 BFA 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.

10. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design

The Communication Arts Department at Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) has an Illustration Program with BFA and Minor pathways. BFA students who would like to enhance the program with a specialization may choose from 17 minors. Examples include Advertising Design, Book Arts, Digital Media, Printmaking, and Product Design. Other BFA Program features include participation in conventions, field trips, and student exhibitions, interactions with visiting artists, and experiential learning opportunities such as internships.

Consisting of 120 credit hours, the OTIS Illustration BFA includes courses such as Illustration Communication Studio I-IV, Advanced Illustration Applications, Typography for Illustrators, Creative Action Lecture, Drawing + Painting I-III, Alternative Materials and Procedures for Illustrators, Practicum I-III, and Professional Practice. In the final year of the program, students will complete five upper division studio electives, Senior Entrepreneur 101, Senior Thesis/Research Paper, Senior Project/Seminar, and the Capstone course. 

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at OTIS have been hired by Nike, Disney, Apple, LA Weekly, Davis Elen Advertising, College of the Canyons, Hurley International, Chronicle Books, Disney Consumer Products, Conde Nast Publications, Hallmark, Interscope Records, Mattel, Target, Ogilvy Worldwide, Sony Music, Twentieth Century Fox, WB Network, Von Dutch, Quicksilver, Sony Music, Young & Rubicam, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and GUESS?, among others.

11. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York
Fashion Institute of Technology

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. FIT Illustration BFA alumni have been hired at 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 Bros., DreamWorks, Disney, and LucasArts Entertainment.

12. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art and Design

Columbus College of Art and Design has an Illustration BFA Program that provides the opportunity to specialize in an area of illustration or other creative area through a Concentration or Minor. Minors consists of 15 credit hours and concentrations are nine credit hours. Minor examples include Business, Comics & Narrative Practice, Animation 2D or 3D, Film & Video, Advertising & Graphic Design, Copywriting, Design Research, Photography, Narrative Practice, and Industrial Design.

Concentration options include Animation/Experimental, Fine Arts/Painting, Animation/Game, Fine Arts/Printmaking, Illustration/Entertainment, Fine Arts/Drawing, Design/Modeling, Fine Arts/Glass, Illustration/Illustrative Design, Fine Arts/Sculpture, Design/Drawing, Fine Arts/Ceramics, Fine Arts/Jewelry, and Fine Arts/Sculpture.

Students in BFA Program have access to state-of-the-art labs and equipment such as 2D and 3D illustration labs, a computer lab with Cintiq monitors, ZBrush, and Adobe software, a printmaking lab, and the CCA FabLab, which includes 3D printers and laser cutters, spray booths, and CNC machines. Other program features include visiting artists and scholars, courses taught by industry professionals, projects such as Spitball, which allows students to collaborate with professional writers, and participation in Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, which hosts professional panels and lectures led by animators, cartoon storytellers, and comic artists.

The CCAD Illustration BFA Program culminates with an Illustration Portfolio Project and Illustration Capstone.

Graduates of the Columbis College of Art and Design Illustration BFA Program have been hired for a wide variety of roles at major advertising agencies, companies, and studios such as Hasbro, Cartoon Network, DC Comics, Ogilvy & Mather, Hallmark, Marvel Comics, Disney Consumer Products (DCP), Sony Pictures, Boeing, Pixar, American Greetings, Wall Street Journal, DreamWorks Animation, Williams Sonoma, CBS News, Bath & Body Works, and Forever 21.

13. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts College of Art and Design

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.

14. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Brigham Young University

The Department of Design at Brigham Young University (BYU) is part of the College of Fine Arts and Communications (CFAC), which provides a number of unique opportunities for all majors CFAC majors. Serving close to 5,700 students, the College of Fine Arts and Communications hosts hundreds of performances and student and faculty presentations each year. CFAC students have opportunities to engage in research projects, participate in experiential learning activities in the U.S. and abroad, pursue internships, and exhibit at or access collections in the Brigham Young University Museum of Art (MOA). 

The BYU Illustration BFA is a Limited Enrollment Program (LEP) that accepts just 40 students per academic year. Courses for the program are led by industry professionals and include titles such as Design Theory and Visual Culture, Painting the Human Head, Sketchbook, Interdisciplinary Motion, Three-Dimensional Design Illustration, Character Design for illustrators, Basic Storyboarding, Narrative Illustration, Advanced Life Drawing, Design Lecture Series, Typography, and Special Topics. 

In the final year of the BYU Illustration BFA Program, students will complete Senior Illustration Studio 1 and 2, Professional Practices for Illustrators, BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Research, and BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Implementation.

Graduates of the Brigham Young University Illustration BFA Program work in Advertising, Publishing (books and magazines), Entertainment (animation, games, television and film), Corporate Publications, News Media, Fashion Design, Toy Design and Production, Museums, Murals, and Exhibitions, Architecture, and Medical and Scientific Illustration. Some graduates have launched their own design studios or successful freelance careers.

15. Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
 Minneapolis College of Art & Designv

The Illustration Program at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) takes place in a collaborative environment where students work with peers from all majors. Leading to a BFA, the Illustration Program consists of core required courses, foundation studies, studio electives, and humanities and sciences electives. Studio electives provide hands-on time as well as the opportunity to focus in an area of interest within illustration.

Course examples include Tools of the trade, Concepts and Metaphors, Digital Illustration, Illustration and Products, Illustrated Notebook, Editorial Illustration, Professional Practice, Children’s Book, Illustration Topics, and Advanced Illustration Seminar. In the Professional Practice course, students will have opportunities to work on projects such as promotional materials and art for an advertising campaign, illustrations for a textbook, or a poster for a nonprofit client.

Minor options provide additional opportunities to specialize in an area of interest. Minor options include Advertising, Print Paper Book, Animation, Creative writing, Graphic Design, and Entrepreneurship, among others. Students may also complete the Illustration Foundations Certificate before applying to any BFA or Minor program. 

All MCAD Illustration students may complete an internship, which provides an opportunity for students to gain valuable on-the-job skills and practical experience in a particular career area. The MCAD Study Abroad Program provides additional opportunities fort experiential learning. In partnership with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) Exchange Program, the MCAD Study Abroad Program provides experiences at AICAD schools in the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, China, and Singapore.

The culminating experience for the Illustration BFA Program is the Senior Project course (Capstone). Worth six credit hours, the project allows students to complete a series of illustrations for their portfolio, or undertake a research project, or address an in-depth illustration problem. Capstone Projects may also focus on the advancement of a particular strength or style.

Graduates of the Art and Design Programs at Minneapolis College of Art and Design enjoy a 93% employment rate. Nearly 60% of all graduates find positions in their respective fields. MCAD alumni are Illustrators for the American Harry Potter Books and others, for Advertising Agencies, Comic Books, the Court System, Newspapers and Magazines, Fashion Designers, and in the Medical and Technical fields.

16. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University

The Animation/Illustration Program at San Jose State University (SJSU) is housed in the Department of Design, which maintains close relationships with industry leaders such as Disney, Sony Pictures Animation, Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), DreamWorks, Bento Box Entertainment, Nickelodeon, Hallmark, Pixar, and Warner Bros. Animation, among others. The Program routinely hosts guest speakers from these and other studios, as well as workshops, seminars, and internships.

The SJSU Animation/Illustration (A/I) BFA is a professional degree that explores both traditional and 3D animation, visual development, storyboarding, physics of motion, character design, and modeling.

Upper division courses allow students to specialize in an area of interest and participation in the Professional Internship Program is highly recommended, but not required. The A/I BFA culminates with the Capstone Seminar and Project.

Graduates of this Illustration Program at San Jose State University are prepared for careers in areas such as feature film animation, television, game design, and any other industry that utilizes animation and illustration. Program alumni have been hired at more than 135 animation, film and game design studios. They have worked on films such as Shrek, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, and taught at major colleges and universities.

SJSU Illustration alumni can be found at Lucasfilm Animation, University of Silicon Valley (USV), Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, NBCUniversal Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, 20th Century Fox, Animation Mentor - The Online Animation School, Disney Animation, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Zynga, and Sony/Columbia.

17. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
College for Creative Studies

The Illustration Department at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) has an Illustration BFA Program that consists of 126-127 credit hours including 78 in studio areas, 42-43 in general studies courses, and six in general elective courses. BFA students may add the Art Education Certification curriculum, which requires an additional 27 credit hours. In addition to major coursework, BFA students will take courses in the Foundation Department in the first year of the program where they will study 2D and 3D design, digital tools, and drawing. Students in all CCS majors must also take courses in the Liberal Arts Department. Full-time students can expect to complete six academic hours and 24 studio hours each week.

One of two major components of the Illustration BFA Program is the opportunity to select a Pathway. Each Pathway allows students to create a focused portfolio for studio-based or freelance careers in Illustration. With the Entrepreneurial Studies Concentration, students who choose a pathway will also be prepared to launch their own studios. Pathway options include Comics and Sequential, Gallery Artist, Fashion, Lifestyle, and Licensing, Publishing, and Visual Development.

The second major component of the Illustration BFA Program is the Internship Experience. Upper division students have the opportunity to work some of the top local and global brands, corporations, studios, and museums. Examples include Cartoon Network, Converse, Disney Consumer Products, Hasbro, HoMedics, Insomniac Games, Anthropologie, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Diane von Furstenberg, Fisher Price, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Moosejaw, Reader’s Digest, Museum of Fine Art, Grand Rapids Symphony, WJBK Fox 2 News, the Museum of American Illustration, and Spark Communications.

Graduates of the CCS Illustration BFA Program go on to establish successful careers with industry leaders such as Disney, Nike, The Washington Post, Cartoon Network, Ford, Adidas, ESPN, Blizzard Entertainment, Converse, and The New York Times.

18. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University

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). The VPA Illustration BFA allows students to 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, SU 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.

19. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Institute of Art

Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) has an Illustration BFA Program that is one of only a few BFA degrees of its kind in the United States. Designed for artists who have an interest in art and science, the CIA BFA in Life Sciences Illustration explores topics such as botanical, biological, and zoological sciences, and animation, illustration, and information design. The program also covers areas such as research methods, serious game design, animation, sound design, interactive design, and professional development.

Course examples for the program include Cellular + Molecular Illustration, Life Sciences Illustration: Advanced Problems, Concepts, + Media, Serious Game Design: Theory + Applications, Educational Media Installation, Veterinary Illustration, 3D Animation, Digital Color: Style + Representation in Science, Line: Information Visualization, Surgical Illustration & Media, Gross Anatomy, Principles of Biology I-II, Digital Biomedical Illustration (EP), Life Sciences Illustration: Forensic Imaging/Modeling, Anatomy for the Artist, Applied Portfolio and Professional Strategies, Sound Design Fundamentals, and Natural Science + Zoological Illustration (EP). An internship is also part of the program.

In the Applied Portfolio and Professional Strategies course, students will gain insight into art practice and leadership in the business environment. They will develop applied portfolios in online and offline media, demo reels, and print-related materials relating to professional packages (business cards, resumes, cover letters, etc.). Life Sciences Illustration students will also learn about copyrights, budgeting, contracts, marketing, and presentations as they relate to commercial-based work and freelance careers.

The Life Sciences Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition. Graduates have been hired for positions such as Biomedical Illustrator, 3D Animation Artist/Designer, Illustrator, Forensics Illustrator, and Art Director, among others.

For students interested in a traditional illustration program, CIA has an Illustration BFA Program that focuses on learning by doing. Students will work on a variety of real-world projects with CIA partners and clients—all before graduation. Students in the CIA Illustration BFA will learn how to work with traditional materials and techniques, such as acrylics, oils, and inks, collage, and pencils as well as industry software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The skills learned in the program will prepare student for positions in advertising, animation, publishing, entertainment, gaming, and comics, among others.

Course examples for the program include Picture Book Illustration, Layout Rendering Techniques, Illustration for Publication, Character Design + Development, Professional Standards in Illustration, Graphic Novels + Sequential Art, Illustration: Advanced Illustration Studio Projects, Illustration I-II, Community Projects, and Visual Concepts in Illustration. Students will also complete an internship.

The Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition.

Students in all CIA Illustration Programs will have their own studio space, along with access to Integrated Media Environment Facilities, lighting and shooting spaces, a sound recording studio, and the fabrication studios. Other program benefits include visiting artists, networking opportunities with employers, illustrators, and designers who are invited to CIA each year, small-group seminars, professional writing courses, and travel to professional art studios, advertising agencies, and others.

20. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
Laguna College of Art and Design

Laguna Beach College of Art and Design (LCAD) has several pathways that combine illustration with graphic design, digital media, drawing, and painting. Options include the BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media (GD+DM) and the BFA in Drawing + Painting. Both programs feature small class sizes, courses taught by industry professionals, mentorship programs, internship opportunities, guest speakers, and hands-on design projects with LCAD partners such as Sony, Nike, and UCI.

The LCAD BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media (GD+DM) is a multidisciplinary program that explores traditional and emerging areas such as 3D, iPad development, package design, advertising, print, video, photography, motion, user experience and interfaces, action sport design, mobile apps, the web, virtual reality applications, social media, and motion.

This 122 credit hour program has an Illustration emphasis that allows students to choose electives that match their goals. Examples include Pictorial Design for Illustration, Rendering, 3D Design (ZBRUSH), Animal Drawing, Color Illustration, Words, Images & Ideas, Figure Drawing, and Painting. Examples of required courses and studios include User Interface Design, 3D-1: Animation for Motion Graphics, Brand Strategy, Motion Graphics + Visual Effects, Typography, Computer Imaging, Digital Photography, Graphic Design, Fundamentals of 3D, Communication Design, Digital Videography, and Exhibition Design.

Students in the GD+DM BFA Program will have the opportunity to complete an internship and a professional portfolio before graduating. The program culminates with the Senior Capstone and Thesis Defense.  

Nearly 100% of recent graduates of the Graphic Design + Digital Media Program work in their chosen field, with most securing employment through LCAD prior to graduation. Program alumni work at some of the world’s top companies and studios. Examples include Adobe, Coca-Cola, Sony Pictures, Saatchi & Saatchi, Red Bull, Lexus, Fox Entertainment, Warner Bros., Vans, Disney Interactive, IKEA, Nike, Razorfish, Pixar, Amazon, Capitol Records, Hurley, Sony Music, Meta, Live Nation, R/GA, Taco Bell, AT&T Entertainment Services, and Maserati.

The Laguna College of Art and Design Drawing + Painting BFA provides the unique opportunity to participate in a Spring Professional Mentorship where students have a chance to work with a professional mentor in the areas of museum administration, art conservation, or gallery exhibition. Students also have the option to work one-on-one with an independent artist advisor. Through the LCAD Career Services Office and Internship Coordinator, students will also have the opportunity to Students apply for an internship in their junior year.

The Drawing + Painting BFA has an Illustration Emphasis that explores traditional and mixed media art. Students will work on projects that focus on branding, exhibition design, murals, print, and more. In the Professional Practices course, students will learn about gallery operations, publications, and artist branding. In the senior year of the program, students will have access to their own private studio space, where they will benefit from individual mentoring, and interactions with peers and guest artists.

Course examples for the program include Illustration 1, Fundamentals of Illustration, Pictorial Design for Illustration, History of Illustration, Artistic Anatomy, Fundamentals of Digital Painting, Pop-Surrealism, Experimental Drawing, Mural Painting, and Exhibition Design. The LCAD Drawing + Painting BFA Program culminates with the Senior Portfolio + Senior Capstone and Thesis Defense.

Graduates have been represented at galleries or worked with partners such as Art Miami, LA Art Show, MEAM Museum, Salmagundi Club, Art Renewal Center, Laguna Art Museum, Poets + Artists, Portrait Society of America, Sue Greenwood Fone Art, Gallery 1261, Arcadia Contemporary, LPAPA, and Koplin Del Rio Gallery, among others.

21. California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton, California
California State University Fullerton

The College of the Arts at California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton, CSU Fullerton or CSUF) houses the Department of Visual Arts, home to the Illustration Program, which has  BFA option. Illustration Program features include internship opportunities, workshops and seminars, study abroad experiences, visiting artists, and access to state-of-the-art production studios, labs, and equipment. 

Course examples for the Illustration Program include 2D and 3D Design, Writing in the Visual Arts, Special Studies in Illustration, Cartooning and Caricature, Elements of Sequential Art, Digital Narrative Illustration, Graphic Design, 3D Computer Animation, Art History, and Independent Study.

The Illustration BFA Program culminates with the BFA Capstone Project, which may include works in animation, games, VR, visual effects, exhibitions, and others.

Graduates of the Art Programs at Cal State Fullerton have worked with or been hired by major companies and studios such as Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Lucasfilm Ltd. and The Walt Disney Company, among others.

22. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri

Programs at Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) take place in a professional studio environment where students learn by doing. All programs begin with the KCAI Foundation Program. This immersive experience lasts a full year and includes dedicated industrial studios, collaborative programs, 16 contact hours of studio per week, workshops, collaborative projects and problem-solving, independent work and storage spaces, faculty mentors, and training in the Print Center (digital design and output), Beals Studios (digital fabrication), and Central Shop (woodworking).

During this first-year program, students will also participate in the Foundation Seminar, which provides the opportunity to interact with artists, activists, and alumni.

The Illustration BFA Program at Kansas City Art Institute is housed in the Department of Illustration. Students in the program will complete a mandatory internship and a number of collaborative assignments. KCAI Illustration BFA students have interned at The Kansas City Star, Boulevard Brewing Company, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the American Jazz Museum, and Porter Teleo Design Firm, among others. In addition to an internship, BFA students will have the opportunity to double major in Creative Writing and Illustration.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Kansas City Art Institute have won awards presented by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Print, and Communication Arts. They have been recruited by Nike, Nickelodeon, American Greetings, MTV and Hallmark, and their work has been featured in numerous children’s books and in publications such as Wired, The New York Times, and Women’s Day.

23. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University

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.

Degree 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, 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.

24. Washington University in St. Louis (Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts), St. Louis, Missouri
Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis houses the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Within the Sam Fox School (est. 2006) are the Colleges of Art and Architecture, and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. The Sam Fox College of Art has a BFA in Communication Design with an Emphasis in Illustration that explores Interaction Design, Graphic Design, and of course, Illustration. Students in this collaborative program can focus on illustrating stories, the history of printed images, creating comics, illustrating for advertising, creating pictures for games and motion graphics, or designing printed posters and books.

The Sam Fox Communication Design BFA culminates with a Capstone Project. For this final project, students have created zines, comics, illustrated books, graphic novels, screen-based art, and digital experiences. Capstone Projects are displayed in a public exhibition and reviewed by design professionals.

25. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) has an Illustration Program that leads to a BFA. A major component of the program is MIAD’s Illustration Seminar where students can network through workshops led by industry professionals and alumni. Internships, semester-long study abroad opportunities, and portfolio development courses are part of the program as well as access to MIAD’s new Illustration studios and classrooms and the Emerging Technology Center.

The Illustration BFA Program explores traditional and digital illustration, visual communication, design, and art direction. Course examples Illustration I-IV, Research, Process and Connection, Fabrication, Illustration Seminar I-II, Visual Language, Critical and Creative Forms, Illustration Media, Digital 4D, Computer Studio, Typography, Patterns in Nature, Senior Writing Seminar, and Professional Practice for Illustrators. Students may add a Minor to enhance the degree. Popular Minor options include Book Arts, Advertising, Digital Media Production, Copywriting, Arts Management, Business, and Writing.

The Illustration Program at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design culminates with the Illustration Thesis Project, Portfolio, and MIAD Exhibition. Students are required to be actively involved in the overall preparation of the general MIAD Thesis Exhibition including signage, gallery monitoring, lighting crew, painting crew, etc.

Graduates of the MIAD Illustration BFA Program are prepared to launch their own studios and freelance businesses, or pursue positions in advertising, publishing, animation, fashion, editorial, exhibit design, graphic design, game design, new media, comics, architecture, storyboard art, medical illustration, forensic illustration, children’s book illustration, textile design, and technical illustration.