What are the top illustration BFA programs in the U.S. for 2024?

Top 25 Illustration BFA Programs in the U.S. - - 2024 College Rankings
1School of Visual ArtsNew York
2Rhode Island School of DesignRhode Island
3ArtCenter College of DesignCalifornia
4Ringling College of Art and DesignFlorida
5Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
6Pratt InstituteNew York
7Fashion Institute of Technology New York
8California College of the ArtsCalifornia
9The New School’s Parsons School of DesignNew York
10College for Creative StudiesMichigan
11Brigham Young UniversityUtah
12Maryland Institute College of ArtMaryland
13Minneapolis College of Art & DesignMinnesota
14Columbus College of Art and DesignOhio
15Otis College of Art and DesignCalifornia
16San Jose State UniversityCalifornia
17Cleveland Institute of ArtOhio
18Syracuse UniversityNew York
19Massachusetts College of Art and DesignMassachusetts
20Kansas City Art InstituteMissouri
21Washington University in St. LouisMissouri
22Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design Wisconsin
23California State University, Long BeachCalifornia
24Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
25California State University, FullertonCalifornia

The 2024 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) is a community of creatives that includes faculty and alumni who were involved in five of the 2024 Academy Award-nominated films as Computer Animators, Illustrators, Producers, and more. Within SVA are a number of departments that provide degree programs at all levels. At the undergraduate level, the SVA Illustration Department has an Illustration BFA and a Comic BFA program. 

Program features across programs include access to faculty and mentors who are professionals in the industry; opportunities to gain hands-on experience through internships and other experiential learning programs; and a senior portfolio curriculum that allow students to develop professional works in an area of focus. 

Illustration BFA students will complete 120 credit hours, including 72 credits in studio art courses. Coursework explores drawing and illustration, painting, storytelling, writing, comics, books and zines, digital coloring, and visual computing. Elective studio courses allow students to explore areas such as motion graphics, web design, and stop-motion animation. Course examples for the program include Creating Unforgettable Characters; Pictorial Projects I-II: Illustration; Cool Books; Digital Collage Illustration: Telling Stories in Layers; Still and Moving: Low-Tech Animation; and Motion Graphics Techniques I-II.

The curriculum for the Comic BFA program is similar to the Illustration BFA curriculum. Comic BFA students will also take other courses such as Principles of Cartooning I-II; Lettering Comics; Graphic Design Solutions for Illustrators and Cartoonists; Comic Book Superheroes and American Society; and Pictorial Projects I-II: Cartooning. 

Before graduating from SVA, all Illustration and Comic students will have opportunities to compete in competitions and work for places such as The New Yorker and The Village Voice. 

SVA Illustration graduates go on to establish successful careers in fields such as Advertising, Textile Design, VFX Art, Animation, Fashion Design, Book Publishing, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Printmaking, Film, Packaging, and Greeting Card Design. 

SVA graduates have launched their own studios such as Augenblick Studios and Titmouse. Some have worked with top studios such as Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks. Others have worked with DC Comics and Marvel, and for brands such as Prada and Vans.

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

Illustration is the largest major at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The program, which serves approximately 300 undergraduates, also launched an MFA in 2022. 

The Illustration program at RISD features access to RISD Museum, Gelman Student Gallery, Woods-Gerry Gallery, and ISB Gallery; printmaking studios and labs such as the Co-Works Research Lab, Nature lab, and Color Lab; and the Fleet Library. 

Collectively, these academic resources provide access to more than 90,000 works of art and 150,000+ circulating books; software such as Maya, After Effects, and InDesign; concerts, lectures, screenings, visiting artists, and art directors; industry leaders from across the U.S. who offer feedback through annual portfolio reviews; and a mix of student and curriculum related exhibitions throughout the academic year. 

The undergraduate Illustration program, which leads to a BFA, requires completion of the Foundation Year. Courses include First-year Literature Seminar; Drawing I-II; Topics in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences; Spatial Dynamics I-II; Theory and History of Art and Design I: Global Modernisms; and Theory and History of Art and Design II: Premodern Worlds. During the Foundation year, students will also select one non-major studio elective. 

Other course examples include Augmented Design; Digital 3D for Illustrators; Illustrator as Designer; Words, Images, and Ideas; Character and Environment Design for 3D Gaming; Type in Motion; Animalia; Editorial Illustration; Merging Worlds; Visual Thinking; and History of Illustration. 

Throughout the RISD Illustration BFA program students will participate in a number of workshops such as Maya Basics, Pigments & Emulsions, and ZBrush Sculpting and Illustration. 

The BFA Program at Rhode Island School of Design culminates with the completion of a professional portfolio and public exhibition. 

Graduates of the Illustration program at RISD have been hired at major studios and networks such as DreamWorks, HBO, Pixar, PBS, and Fox. Some RISD alumni have also gone on to launch their own studios and freelance businesses.

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

The Illustration BFA program at ArtCenter College of Design (ArtCenter) has six different tracks that allow students to train for careers in everything from children’s publishing to VFX. Options include Illustration Design; Entertainment Arts; Surface Design; Fine Art Painting; Motion Design; and Entertainment Arts- Consumer Products. 

Illustration Design prepares students for careers ranging from Storyboard Artist to Scientific Illustrator to Children’s Book Illustrator. 

In Entertainment Arts, students develop animation skills and product development for the entertainment industry (films, TV, and video games). 

In Surface Design, students develop the skills needed to pursue careers in Textile Design and Graphic Illustrated Imagery. Fine Art Painting focuses on craft and technique as a precursor to the conceptual process. Motion Design prepares students for success in the fields of Advertising, Film, VFX, Music Videos, and Public Service Announcements (PSAs). 

Students in Entertainment Arts-Consumer Products will develop product development, animation, graphic design, and children’s book illustration skills, among others.  

The ArtCenter Illustration BFA (with track), consists of 120 credit hours. Illustration Design students will take courses such as Digital Illustration; Children’s Book Illustration; and Illustration Design Lab. Key courses for the Entertainment Arts track include Storyboarding; Visual Development; and Composition for Film. Surface Design features courses such as The Art of Fashion’ Introduction to Textile Design;’ and Craft Techniques. 

Fine Art Painting students will take courses such as Wet Paint; Painting Projects; and Re-Presentation: Narrative and Bodies. Motion Design includes courses such as Sequential Design 3; Advanced Motion Studio; and Type 5 Motion. And finally, Entertainment Arts-Consumer Products focuses on courses such as Character Design; Graphic Design for Entertainment Arts; and Introduction to Maya and 3D Animation. Note that many tracks have overlapping coursework, so have the opportunity to study across tracks.   

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at ArtCenter College of Design may continue their studies by enrolling in the school’s Interdisciplinary MFA program. This option allows students to customize the degree to support any medium. Other program features include individual studio spaces; access to state-of-the art facilities, software, galleries, and project studios; and study abroad opportunities in Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, and Cologne. 

ArtCenter partnerships with major companies and studios across the U.S. have also provided opportunities for BFA and MFA students to intern with or establish salaried employment at places such as Microsoft, Riot Games, Mattel, Blizzard Entertainment, Nike, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Imagineering, Netflix, Apple, Ford, WB, Facebook, BMW, Amazon, and Google. 

ArtCenter Illustration students have also worked with clients such as Pictures Animation, The New Yorker, Wieden+Kennedy (Tokyo), Marvel Studios, Nike, Los Angeles Times, Adidas, Smithsonian Magazine, and Wildlife Conservation Society.

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

The Illustration Department at Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) has a BFA program with two paths including General Illustration or Visual Development. Both options provide a rigorous studio-based curriculum with a liberal arts foundation. Students also benefit from participation in real-world projects with local businesses; networking opportunities with visiting artists from DreamWorks and other major studios; and participation in the Society of Illustrators Annual Competition. 

All RCAD Illustration students have the opportunity to work at RCAD’s In-House Design firm the Design Denter; connect with more than 200 unique companies thru Ringling’s experiential education initiative INDEX (Industry Experience); and internships with major companies and studios such as Disney, Hasbro, and Pixar. 

The RCAD Illustration BFA program also provides access to painting and drawing studios, two Cintiq labs exclusively for illustration, and three additional Cintiq labs with 24-hour access. In addition, every RCAD Illustration student receives a laptop fully equipped with the latest Adobe Creative Suite software. 

The General Illustration path explores illustration as it relates to 2D and 3D; traditional and digital media; and current techniques used in the industry. The program also explores the fundamentals of color theory, anatomy, and composition. Course examples include Figure Drawing; Illustration Media; Advanced Illustration; History of Illustration; Development of Art & Ideas; 2D Design; and Professional Practices. 

Visual Development explores illustration as it relates to animated and live-action productions for film, TV, themed entertainment, advertising, publishing, and graphic novels. This area also explores illustration for comics, games, and toy design. Course examples include Figure Anatomy; 3D Design for Illustration; Visual Development I-IV; Painting I-II; Writing Studio; and Film & Narrative. 

To enhance either path, RCAD provides 10 minor options that require 15 credit hours taken outside the BFA degree program. Examples include Graphic Design, Realistic Painting, Business of Art + Design, Visual Development, Creative Writing, and Film Studies. 

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). Students may also participate in RCAD’s Annual Illustration show Illest of the Ill

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at Ringling College of Art and Design are prepared to pursue careers across industries. Program alumni have been hired at major companies and studios such as Lucasfilm, United Airlines, Riot Games, Marvel Comics, GM, Walt Disney, American Greetings, Cartoon   Network, Apple, EA Games, Google, and Hallmark.

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

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has an Illustration program that provides degrees at all levels. Across options, students have opportunities to gain skills in an additional area of interest and/or a specialized area of Illustration through a minor or single courses. Minor examples include Animated Illustration and Publication Design; Storyboarding; Illustration for Surface Design; Fashion; Themed Entertainment Design; Visual Effects; Advertising and Branding; Scientific Illustration; Animation; Illustration for Entertainment; Graphic Design; Design for 3D Action Figures; and Game UX. 

The Illustration BFA is provided at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah campuses. The program requires successful completion of the SCAD Core before entering the major. Consisting of general education coursework and foundation studies, the SCAD Core includes courses such as Drawing I/II (Form and Space/ Composition and Media); The Geometry of Physical Space; Speaking of Ideas; Digital Communication; Design I/II/III (Elements and Organization/3-D Form in Space/Time); Applied Physics; Color: Theory and Application; Creative Thinking Theories and Processes; Psychology of Group Processes: and Visual Culture in Context: Making Modernites, 

Course examples beyond the SCAD Core include Color with Intent; Animated Illustration; Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience; Digital Illustration; Materials and Techniques; Speaking of Ideas; Creative Concepting for World Building; Book Illustration; Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship; Advertising Illustration; Contextual Character Design; and Editorial Illustration. 

The SCAD Illustration BFA also has four concentration options including Animated Illustration and Publication Design; Illustration for Entertainment; Concept Design for Animation and Games; and Illustration for Surface Design. This professional degree program includes 15 hours of electives and advanced courses such as Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship; Career Strategies for Illustration; and Professional Portfolio for Illustrators. 

All students have the opportunity to participate in the SCAD internship program and spend a quarter abroad at SCAD Lacoste or other study abroad locations. All SCAD students also benefit from access to studio classrooms, state-of-the-art labs, production studios, drawing rooms, and cutting tables; creative collaborations between departments and with global brands; participation in competitions and exhibits; access to Adobe Creative Cloud and master classes; visiting artists and speakers; panel discussions; and participation in SCAD’s Annual Sidewalk Arts Festival.  

The Illustration BFA requires 180 credit hours to graduate. Program alumni are prepared to pursue positions across the entertainment industry, advertising, publishing, games, architecture, design, and many others. Program alumni have been hired at places such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Comedy Central, ImagineFX, Bento Box Entertainment, A&E, The New York Times, Converse, Game Informer, and Revolver Studios.

6. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Pratt Institute

Pratt Institute (Pratt) has several paths to study Illustration for individuals seeking a shorter program and those seeking a four-year degree. Established in 2014, Pratt’s School of Design has a four-year Communications Design BFA that features project-based coursework in a collaborative studio environment, and an Illustration emphasis that explores advanced level storytelling, authoring, image-based communication, and socio-political commentary. 

Other program features include access to maker spaces and labs that feature state-of-the-art equipment; and opportunities to study abroad in Berlin and the UK. 

Consisting of 126 credit hours, the Communication Design BFA at Pratt encourages experimentation, with elective coursework that allows students to develop skills in focused areas. Examples of available topics include Animation, Graphic Novels, Children’s Books, 3D Modeling, Editorial Illustration, Illustrated Typography, Concept Art, and Independent Publishing. 

Course examples for the program include Illustration Intensive 1-3; Dynamic Imagery; Integrated VisCom; Space, Form & Process; Typography and Information Design; Visualization/Representation; Branding and Messaging; Digital Prototyping; Time and Movement; and Professional Practice. The Communications Design BFA at Pratt Institute culminates with the Illustration Senior Thesis. 

Graduates of the Communications Design program at Pratt Institute are prepared to pursue careers across industries. Program alumni have been hired at places such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Amazon, Digital Domain, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Hasbro, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, Pegasus Books, Gameloft, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Penguin Random House, Cricket Media, and Scholastic.

7. 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 provides 17 undergraduate majors in Art, Design and Fashion. This includes an Illustration major leading a BFA. Program features include real-world classes; 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 students also have the opportunity to participate in the FIT Internship Program and/or study abroad in Florence. The BFA has two schedule options: Traditional Daytime and the Evening/Weekend BFA. 

Course examples include Illustration Process I-II; 2D Computer Animation; Visual Storytelling for Evolving Media I-II; Advanced Visual Story Studio; Digital Illustration Techniques; Stylistic Illustration; Illustrating the Written Word; Illustration Process I-II; Illustration Rendering Techniques; Visual Interpretation; Computer Typesetting and Design; and Advanced Pictorial Problem Solving. 

The FIT Illustration BFA culminates with the Illustration Portfolio Thesis presented before faculty and peers. Graduates are prepared for immediate entry into the field or a graduate program. 

FIT Illustration alumni have established freelance careers and full-time employment with a wide variety of agencies, studios, and publications. Examples include DreamWorks, LucasArts, DDB, Revlon, Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, Disney, BBDO Worldwide, Warner Bros., Hallmark, Vogue, American Greetings, and Harper’s Bazaar.

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

California College of the Arts (CCA) houses a cross-disciplinary Illustration BFA that features studio projects and visits; access to state-of-the-art production facilities and labs; a professional practice course that teaches students how to start and run a freelance or small business; lectures; and frequent classroom critiques (individual and group). 

With an emphasis on drawing and painting, this 120 credit-hour program also explores emerging animation, AR/VR, storytelling, 3D modeling, imaging technologies, screenprinting, and hand-lettering. All CCA students will complete the First Year Experience (FYE), where they have the opportunity to participate in studio projects, discussion, and group critiques for two semesters. 

After completing the FYE, students will begin taking courses to fulfill core, studio, major, and other requirements. All courses are led by professional Illustrators, Designers, and Fine Artists. Course examples include Illustration Studios 1-3; Painting Workshop; Drawing 2D, 3D, 4D; Digital Media; Illustration Tools; Writing 1-2; Media History: History of Illustration; and Professional Practice. 

For students looking to enhance the BFA, the program provides the opportunity to minor in Comics or Visual Development. Comics minors are prepared for careers in book and editorial illustration and Visual Development students are prepared for positions such as storyboard artist, character designer, or environment designer for the entertainment industry. 

During the last year of the CCA Illustration BFA program, students will complete a semester-long thesis project and participate in the Senior Show. This culminating event attracts local design professionals and artists from across the U.S. 

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at California College of the Arts can pursue careers in areas such as traditional publishing (book illustration, editorial illustration); animation and game design; film and television; advertising and marketing; exhibition design and installations; comics; graphic design; science and medicine (medical and scientific illustration); architecture; retail; and education. 

Potential job titles include Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, Concept Artist, Exhibition Designer, Graphic Novelist, Textile Designer, Printmaker, Freelance Illustrator, Muralist, Surface Designer, Fine Artist, and Educator.

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

The New School’s Parsons School of Design (Parsons) is home to the School of Art, Media, & Technology (AMT), which has an Illustration BFA program that takes four years to complete, full-time. Students have the opportunity to create an interdisciplinary path of study, which can include adding a minor such as Comics and Graphic Narrative or Immersive Storytelling, or enrolling in a dual BA/BFA. 

Other program features include internships with Parsons partners such as Nickelodeon, The New York Times, Barnes & Noble, and Apple; access to The New School libraries, studios, computer labs, archives, and the state-of-the-art Making Center; Collaboration Studio courses and other collaborative projects; participation in events such as Comic Arts Brooklyn, MoCCA Fest, and Pictoplasma; and study abroad opportunities in Paris, Florence, and London. 

The Illustration BFA program at Parsons also provides access to New York–based professional organizations such as American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators, which helps students connect with professional illustrators, other artists, and publishers. 

Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Parsons Illustration BFA begins with the First Year Curriculum (FYC) requirement, which explores art and design concepts, 2D and 3D processes, digital design, drawing, and critical practices. FYC course examples include Integrative Studio; Drawing/Imaging; Time; Objects as History; Space/Materiality; Integrative Seminar; and Sustainable Systems. Other course examples include Language & Letterform; Core Studio 4D; History of Modern & Contemporary Art: Recitation; Introduction to Visual Culture: Lecture; Topics Studio; and Professional Practices. 

The Illustration BFA program at Parsons School of Design culminates with the Thesis Project, completed over two courses. Graduates are prepared for positions in illustration, publishing, comics, animation, installation design, toy design, advertising, game art, motion graphics, graphic novels, product design, fine art, and surface design. Program alumni have been hired by companies and organizations such as Rockstar Games, The New York Times, Urban Outfitters, Viking Books, LAIKA, Tiffany & Company, The Society of Illustrators, Amplify, Manhattan Youth, Curriculum Concepts, Brooklyn Print House, and Vice Media.

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

The Illustration Department at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) has programs leading to a BFA or a minor. The BFA requires 126-127 credit hours including 78 in studio areas, 42-43 in general studies courses, and six in general elective courses. The Illustration minor consists of 15 credits chosen from courses in the BFA program. Examples include Figure Illustration I-II; Illustration Techniques; and Anatomical Figure Illustration. Electives allow students in the minor to focus in a specific area of illustration. 

During the first year of the CCS Illustration BFA, students will take courses in the Foundation Department. Areas of exploration during the year include Drawing, 2D and 3D Design, and Digital Tools. Students will also take courses in the Liberal Arts Department. 

A major component of the CCS Illustration BFA is the opportunity to select a Pathway. Each Pathway allows students to create a focused portfolio for studio-based or freelance careers in Illustration. Pathway options include Publishing; Comics and Sequential; Visual Development; Gallery Artist; and Fashion, Lifestyle, and Licensing. An additional option is the Entrepreneurial Studies concentration, which is ideal for students who would like to launch their own studios. 

Another major component of the Illustration BFA program at College for Creative Studies is the internship program. Through this experiential learning opportunity, upper division students will work with top brands, studios, corporations, and museums. Examples include Disney Consumer Products, Insomniac Games, Mattel Inc., Reader’s Digest, Cartoon Network, Converse, Hasbro, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the Museum of American Illustration, Ball Aerospace, Diane von Furstenberg, Fisher Price, HoMedics, Museum of American Illustration, Anthropologie, Moosejaw, Museum of Fine Art, Grand Rapids Symphony, FOX News, and Spark Communications. 

Full-time CCA Illustration BFA students will complete at least six academic hours and 24 studio hours each week to graduate from the program. Graduates have gone on to work with major companies, publishers, studios, and brands such as Disney, Blizzard Entertainment, Adidas, The New York Times, Cartoon Network, ESPN, Nike, Converse, Washington Post, and Ford.

11. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Brigham Young University

The College of Fine Arts and Communications (CFAC) at Brigham Young University (BYU) provides a number of opportunities and experiences for all CFAC majors. Serving nearly 5,700 students, the CFAC hosts hundreds of performances, faculty presentations, and student events each year. CFAC students also have opportunities to engage in research projects; participate in experiential learning activities in the U.S. and abroad; exhibit at Brigham Young University Museum of Art (MOA); and pursue a professional internship. 

BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications also houses the Department of Design. Within the Department is an Illustration BFA program that accepts just 40 students per academic year. This Limited Enrollment Program (LEP) requires 120 credit hours, with 72 credits in the major. Courses are led by industry professionals with years of experience in their respective fields.  

Course examples for the program include 3D Digital Illustration; Narrative Illustration; Environment Design; Survey of Illustration History; Game Design; Analog Motion; Character Design; Sketchbook; Directed Studies in Illustration; Basic Storyboarding; Marketing Management; and Career Strategies. 

In the final year of the BYU Illustration BFA program, students will complete Senior Illustration Studio 1; BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Research, and BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Implementation. 

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at Brigham Young University work in a wide variety of fields such as publishing, exhibition design, medical and scientific illustration, advertising, entertainment, architecture, mural production, and fashion design. Some program alumni have gone on to launch their own studios and freelance businesses.

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

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) has several paths to study Illustration. For artists seeking an undergraduate degree, MICA has an Illustration BFA with Preproduction and Sequential Art tracks. At the graduate level, students can choose between the Illustration MA and the Illustration Practice MFA. 

Students in the Illustration BFA program will complete the First Year Experience (FYE) consisting of 18 credit hours. FYE course examples include Drawing: Tradition and Innovation; Form & Face; and Systems & Time. In addition to other required courses such as Sophomore Illustration I-II; Junior Illustration I-II; and Senior Illustration I-II, BFA students may add a Studio concentration in an area such as Book Arts, Animation, Graphic Design, or Printmaking. 

In addition to concentration options, all BFA students benefit from MICA’s relationships with organizations such as Baltimore Comic-Con, the Toronto Comics Art Festival, the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Arts, and the Small Press Expo. 

During the final year of the program, MICA BFA students will develop a professional portfolio, while exploring topics such as business practices, intellectual property, and copyright issues. 

Graduates of the MICA Illustration BFA program have been hired for internships, full-time positions, and freelance assignments at places such as DC Comics, DreamWorks Animation, Johns Hopkins Institute of Nanobiology, National Geographic, LucasArts Entertainment, Pixar, Google, Anthropologie, Apple, The New York Times, and Whole Foods Market. Some Illustration graduates go on to launch their own studios, while others have enrolled in MICA’s Illustration MA or Illustration Practice MFA programs.

13. Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis College of Art & Design

Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) has an Illustration BFA program that emphasizes collaboration across all majors. Consisting of 120 credit hours, the program also provides hands-on coursework with the opportunity to focus in any area within Illustration. Examples include children’s book illustration, illustration for entertainment (animation and games), product illustration, advertising illustration, editorial illustration, comic book illustration, surface design, and courtroom illustration. 

Course examples for the program include Introduction to Illustration; Photography, The Moving Image, and Digital Culture; Digital Illustration; Ideation and Process; Tools of the Trade; Illustration Topics; Editorial Illustration; Illustration and Products; Applied Arts and Designed Objects; and Professional Practice: Illustration. In this course, students have opportunities to work on projects such as textbook illustrations, promotional materials and art for ad campaigns, and posters for nonprofit clients. 

Other program features include the option to select a minor in an area such as Animation, Advertising, or Graphic Design; internship opportunities at local and national studios; and participation in the MCAD study abroad program. In partnership with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) Exchange Program, MCAD study abroad experiences take place at AICAD schools in Canada, the UK, China, and Singapore. 

The Illustration BFA program at Minneapolis College of Art and Design culminates with the Senior Project: Illustration course worth six credits. For this final project, students may complete a research project, solve an in-depth illustration problem, or demonstrate advancements in a specific strength or style. 

Graduates of the Art and Design programs at Minneapolis College of Art and Design enjoy a 93% employment rate, with nearly 60% of all graduates landing positions in their respective fields. MCAD alumni are Fine Artists, Children’s Book Illustrators, Editorial Illustrators, Comic Illustrators, Advertising Illustrators, Concept Artists, Fashion Illustrators, Courtroom Illustrators, Medical and Technical Illustrators, and Surface Designers. 

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

Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) has an Illustration BFA program that gives all students the opportunity to work on the student publication Spitball: A CCAD Comics Anthology. As part of the Comics Anthology Practicum course, which simulates a professional comic publishing practice, students will work on the design, merchandising, and sale of the publication in collaboration with professional comic writers and artists. 

CCAD Illustration BFA students also have the opportunity to and interact with storytellers, animators, comic artists, and professional writers through Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. Highlights include workshops, lectures, professional panels, and more. Other program features include access to state-of-the art facilities such as 2D and 3D illustration labs, the FabLab, and computer lab; opportunities to specialize in a creative area through a minor or concentration; and internship opportunities at businesses in Ohio and across the U.S. 

CCAD minors are 15 credit hours and concentrations are nine credit hours. Minor examples include Comics & Narrative Practice; Animation 2D or 3D; Film & Video; Advertising & Graphic Design; Photography; Copywriting; Design Research; Industrial Design; and Business. An Illustration minor is also available for students in other majors. Concentration examples include Illustration/Entertainment; and Illustration/Illustrative Design. 

Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Illustration BFA highlights courses such as Motion Illustration; Traditional Media Illustration; Character and Environment Design; Historical Art & Design; Digital Design Lab; Illustration Markets; and Illustration Self-Promotion. The Illustration BFA program at Columbus College of Art and Design culminates with the Illustration Capstone. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers across industries. 

Program alumni have been hired at places such as DreamWorks Animation, Marvel Comics, Boeing, Disney Consumer Products (DCP), Sony Pictures, DC Comics, The Wall Street Journal, Hasbro, Cartoon Network, Bath & Body Works, Williams Sonoma, Ogilvy & Mather, Hallmark, Pixar, CBS News, forever 21, and American Greetings.

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

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) has an Illustration BFA program that prepares students for careers such as storyboard artist, illustrator for animation, children’s book illustrator, motion graphic artist, art director, and muralist. Housed in the Communication Arts Department, the program allows students to focus in one or more areas through more than a dozen minor options. Examples include Digital Media, Product Design, Book Arts, Advertising Design, Printmaking, Community Arts Engagement, and Entrepreneurship. 

Other BFA program features include access to state-of-the-art facilities and labs; internship and study abroad opportunities; participation in conventions, field trips, workshops, and student exhibitions; and visiting lecturers and artists.

The Illustration BFA at Otis College of Art and Desing consists of 120 credit hours. Course examples include History of Graphic Design and Illustration; Illustration I-IV; Alternative Materials and Processes for Illustrators; Drawing and Painting I-II; Creative Action Lecture; and Typography for Illustrators. 

In the final year of the program, students will complete several upper division studio electives, Entrepreneur 101, and a final project through several seminar and project courses. 

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at OTIS are prepared for careers across industries. Program alumni have been hired at places such as Disney, Apple, Netflix, Mattel, Young & Rubicam LA Weekly, Nike, Sony Music, WB Network, Hurley International, Conde Nast Publications, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Von Dutch, Hallmark, Twentieth Century Fox, GUESS, Ogilvy Worldwide, Target, Quicksilver, and Davis Elen Advertising. 

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

The College of Humanities and the Arts at San Jose State University (SJSU) houses the Department of Design. Within the department is an Animation & Illustration BFA program that highlights close relationships with major companies and studios such as Sony Pictures Animation, Cartoon Network, Disney, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), DreamWorks, Hallmark, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros. Animation, and Bento Box Entertainment. 

Other department features include access to state-of-the-art production facilities and labs; workshops, and seminars; guest lecturers and speakers from major studios; the professional internship program; and study abroad experiences. 

The Animation and Illustration BFA at SJSU is a professional degree that explores traditional and 3D animation, character design, visual development, modeling, storyboarding, and physics of motion.  Upper division courses for the program allow students to specialize in a focused area of interest within the illustration discipline or other area. Electives allow students to further enhance the degree. 

Course examples for the program include Light and Optics; 2D Animation; Visual Storytelling; Illustration Fundamentals I-III; Visual Development; and Digital Modeling. 

The Animation and Illustration BFA culminates with the Senior Project Animation/Illustration course. Consisting of six credit hours, the project will demonstrate professional competence in area of concentration. Students will present their projects in a gallery exhibition. 

Graduates of the Animation & Illustration BFA program at San Jose State University are prepared to pursue careers in areas such as feature film animation, book publishing, television, game design, comics, and advertising. Program alumni have been hired at more than 135 animation, film, and game design studios. They have worked on films such as A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc. Finding Nemo, and Shrek

Graduates have also taught at major colleges and universities, and they work in a variety of positions at places such as Disney Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), the Cogswell Institute, Sony Pictures, Blizzard Entertainment, Pixar, Animation Mentor, Cartoon Network, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, 20th Century Fox, and Zynga.

17. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Institute of Art

The Illustration program at Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) provides real world experiences through partnerships with external clients—all before graduation. CIA Illustration students also benefit from field trips to advertising agencies and professional studios; interactions with visiting artists; small-group seminars; private, individual studio spaces; and access to Integrated Media Environment Facilities, lighting and shooting spaces, a sound recording studio, and fabrication studios. 

Illustration at Cleveland Institute of Art consists of two paths: the Illustration BFA and the Life Sciences Illustration BFA. Both programs explore traditional materials and techniques such as acrylics, oils, inks, collage, and pencils. Students will also master industry standard software such as Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. 

Consisting of 120 credit hours of study, the Illustration BFA features courses such Layout Rendering Techniques; Illustration I-II; Character Design + Development; Graphic Novels + Sequential Art; Picture Book Illustration; Visual Concepts in Illustration; Sound Design Fundamentals; Illustration: Advanced Illustration Studio Projects; and Professional Practices: Entrepreneurial Ventures. 

The Illustration BFA program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition. Graduates of the program are prepared for carers in areas such as Book and Magazine Publishing, Entertainment, Animation, Game Design, Comic Book Publishing, and Advertising. 

The Life Sciences Illustration BFA program at Cleveland Institute of Art is designed for artists seeking a program that integrates Art and Science. One of the few BFA degrees of its kind in the U.S. the Life Sciences program explores topics such as Information Design, Illustration, Interactive Design, Botanical Sciences, Serious Game Design, Animation, Zoological Sciences, Sound Design, Biological Sciences, Research Methods, and Professional Development. 

Course examples for the program include Interactive Narratives; Advanced Concepts & Methods; Digital Biomedical Illustration; Digital Color: Style + Representation in Science; Line: Information Visualization; Veterinary Illustration; 3D Animation; Natural Science & Zoological Illustration; 3D Modeling; Cellular + Molecular Illustration; and Anatomy for the Artist. 

A major component of the CIA Life Sciences Illustration BFA program is the internship, which provides the opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience in this unique field. Professional Practices courses provide additional insight into how the industry works and how to gain entry. The courses highlight portfolio development for online and offline media, demo reels, and professional packages consisting of business cards, resumes, cover letters, etc. Courses include Professional Practices: Studio to Gallery; and Professional Practices: Industry. 

The Life Sciences Illustration BFA program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition. Program alumni hold titles such as Illustrator, Biomedical Illustrator, 3D Animation Artist, 3D Designer, Art Director, Forensic Illustrator, Scientific Illustrator, Medical Illustrator, and Educator.

18. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University

Syracuse University (SU) is home to the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), which houses the School of Art. Within the school is an Illustration BFA program that provides the opportunity to focus in one or more of the following areas: Editorial, Visual Development, Product, and Sequential. The Editorial Focus is for students who would like to specialize in illustrating for magazines, book covers, newspapers, and online publishing. 

Visual Development is designed for students with an interest in character development for gaming and animation. In the Product Focus, students will explore illustrating as it relates to packaging, patterning, and products. Students in the Sequential Focus will learn to illustrate for comics, graphic novels, and children’s books. 

Other Illustration BFA program benefits include a two-week animation and film industry immersion in LA; participation in on-campus workshops and lectures; access to state-of-the-art production facilities, labs, and studios; participation in the SU internship program; and the opportunity to study overseas through the VPA study abroad program in Italy, or through Syracuse SU Study Abroad. More than 100 programs are accessible across 60 countries.    

The SU Illustration BFA program requires 122 credit hours of study. Students will take courses such as Illustration I-II; Media Arts Techniques I-II; Introduction to Digital Illustration; Observational Drawing Workshop; Intermediate Illustration I-II; and The Business of Illustration. In addition to one or more focus areas, BFA students may complete 18 credits of studio electives. The program culminates with the Senior Portfolio, completed across two courses. 

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at Syracuse University are prepared to pursue roles across many creative industries. Program alumni work in children’s book publishing, visual development for games, editorial illustration, graphic novels and comics, animated films, licensing, advertising, and marketing, greeting card design, and television production.

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

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) has an Illustration BFA program that requires 120 credit hours of study. Housed in the Illustration Department, the BFA program provides opportunities to complete independent study, an internship, and/or a course assistantship. All options are open to upper-division students. Sophomores also qualify for the course assistantship option. 

The curriculum for the MassArt Illustration BFA consists of 18 credits in Studio Foundations, 42 in Illustration, and 18 in Studio Electives. This is in addition to core education and other requirements. Course examples Media Techniques; Narrative Illustration; Digital Painting and Techniques; Word and Image; Advanced Drawing for Illustrators; Virtual 3D Illustration; Book Arts; Experimental Illustration Techniques; Black and White Illustration; Color for Illustrators; and Professional Illustration. 

In the final year of the Illustration BFA program at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, students will complete the Thesis Project I: Research, Thesis Project II: Imagery, Senior Illustration, and Illustration Portfolio courses. Final student portfolios will be presented to professionals from the editorial, publishing, advertising, and corporate markets. 

Graduates of the Art and Design programs at Massachusetts College of Art and Design have been hired at a variety of studios, companies, and organizations. Examples include the Hasbro, Sony Pictures Imageworks, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Time Inc., Discovery Channel, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, New Balance, Boston Children's Museum, PUMA, and the Attleboro Art Museum.

20. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) is home to the Department of Illustration. One of the school’s largest and fastest growing departments, the Department of Illustration has a BFA program with a required internship with potential employer’s such as Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Porter Teleo Design Firm, The Kansas City Star, The American Jazz Museum, and Boulevard Brewing Company.

Students also have access to 21,500 square feet of studios, including the new Tony Jones Studios, that provide the opportunity to learn and work in a professional environment. Through MICRO—KCAI’s in-house agency, students can also gain hands-on experience working on projects with partner brands such as the Kansas City Royals and Children’s Mercy Hospital.

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

During the first-year program, students will also participate in the Foundation Seminar, which provides the opportunity to interact with activists, artists, and KCAI alumni. Upon completion of the first year, BFA students may move on to second year requirements or declare a double major in Illustration and Art History or Illustration and Creative Writing.

All KCAI Illustration students will explore storytelling; 2D and 3D; and traditional and digital media while creating children’s books, video games, comic books, and editorial magazines. Course examples for the program include Organic Perceptions; Paper and Ink; Exploring the Narrative; Analytical Drawing Systems; Covers and Pages; Storytellers-Myth Makers; Graphic Form for Illustrators; Cultural Safari; Conceptual Problem Solving; and US (Collaboration, Teamwork and Flexibility).

In the final year of the program, students will complete Illustration in Action: Networking & Exhibition, and Professional Practice: The Business of Illustration. The KCAI Illustration BFA program culminates with a thesis completed over two courses: Image Thesis I and II.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at Kansas City Art Institute have won awards presented by publications such as Print, Communication Arts, The Society of Illustrators, and American Illustration. Program alumni work has been featured in children’s books and in publications such as Wired, The New York Times, Step-Inside-Design, and Women’s Day. Illustration BFA graduates have also been hired in a variety of roles by industry leaders such as Nickelodeon, American Greetings, MTV, Nike, and Hallmark.

21. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
Washington University in St. Louis

The Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) was established in 2006. Within the school are the College of Art, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, and the College of Architecture. The Illustration program is part of the College of Art and includes a BFA in Studio Art & Design with a major in Communication Design. Students in this program may select the 15-unit Design minor or move between illustration, drawing, book arts, interaction design, and more to match their goals. 

The Communication Design BFA at WashU begins with the First Year Experience, which consists of core studios such as 2D Design, digital studio, and drawing. Students will also attend a weekly seminar. All studios are taught in teams by communication design and studio art faculty, and mentored by a dedicated academic advisor. In the second and third years of the BFA program, students will take advanced courses and select their own major courses.

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

22. 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 BFA program that prepares students for roles such as Illustrator, Designer, or Art Director. The program accomplishes this through features such as the Seminar Series, which provides the opportunity for students to interact one-on-one with outside professionals from all areas within the field. 

Illustration BFA students also benefit from access to MIAD’s new Illustration studios, classrooms, and the Emerging Technology Center; portfolio development courses; internships at local and regional companies and studios; and participation in semester-long study abroad experiences. 

Consisting of 120 credit hours, the MIAD Illustration BFA program begins with the First Year Experience (FYE). Each semester in the FYE consists of 15 required credits including major courses and beginning liberal studies. Course examples include Process of Inquiry; Introduction to the Practice of Art & Design History; Systems Drawing; Digital 2D; Visual Language; Intro to Advanced Study; and Digital 4D. 

Upon completion of the FYE, students will take courses such as Illustration I-IV; Advanced Figure Drawing for Illustrators; Illustration Media; History of Illustration and Communication Design Since 1850; Advanced 2D Digital; Patterns in Nature; Typography; and The Creative Professional in Context.

BFA students may also add a minor to enhance the degree. Popular options include Book Arts, Writing, Digital Media Production, Copywriting, Advertising, Arts Management, and Business. 

The Illustration BFA 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 Exhibition including signage, lighting crew, gallery monitoring, painting crew, etc. 

Graduates of the MIAD Illustration BFA program are prepared to pursue positions in children’s book publishing, editorial, graphic design, comics, advertising and marketing, architecture, exhibit design, animation, game design, forensic illustration, textile design, medical illustration, storyboard art, new media, and fashion illustration. 

BFA program alumni have been hired at places such as Hallmark, Kohl’s Corporate, Harley-Davidson, Kohler, Estee Lauder, Hanson Dodge Creative, Rockwell Automation, Kimberly Clark, Milwaukee Public Television, Santa Fe communications, and Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Graduates have also gone o to launch tier own studios such as THIEL Design and Studio8Design.

23. California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California
California State University, Long Beach

The College of the Arts (COTA) at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) is one of the school’s largest and most popular colleges. Home to six separate departments, COTA employs over 250 faculty members that serve more than 3,000 students. Departments include the School of Art (SoA); Film and Electronic Arts; Design; Bob Cole Conservatory of Music; Theatre Arts; and Dance. 

The School of Art at California State University, Long Beach received designation as a school in 2012. The school houses state-of-the-art facilities and work spaces, along with seven separate and customizable galleries for displaying, critiquing, and viewing student work. School of Art students also have opportunities to interact with professional working artists, as well as international travel options to support their work. 

For students seeking an undergraduate Illustration degree, COTA SoA has an Art BFA with an Illustration option. In partnership with the Department of Biological Sciences, the SoA also houses an interdisciplinary 30-unit Biomedical Illustration Prep Certificate that can be completed in just one year, full-time. BFA students may add the certificate to enhance the degree. 

Course examples for the certificate include Biomedical Illustration; Intermediate Life Drawing; Anatomy for Artists; Illustration 2; Computer Animation; Production for Fine Art; Introduction to Rendering; Foundational Life Drawing; and Special Studies in Illustration. 

The Art BFA at California State University, Long Beach consists of 132 units and opportunities to work with peers in other options such as Animation and Pre-Production in the Digital Lab. Course examples for the program include Core Studio: Illustration 1 and 2; Storyboarding for Film and Television; Introduction Studio: Illustration – Rendering; Advanced Studio: Illustration 3 and 4; Drawing with Perspective; Production for Fine Art; Writing About Visual Art; Experimental Animation; Costumed Figure Drawing; and Illustration Senior Project—the culminating experience for the program. 

Other program features include courses taught by industry professionals; participation in workshops led by faculty and visiting artists; opportunities to complete an internship at a local, regional, or national studio; and study abroad experiences in places such as Ireland, Germany, and Spain. 

Graduates of the Art programs at California State University, Long Beach are prepared to pursue positions in fields such as editorial art, comic book publishing, graphic novels, book art, textile design, newspaper publishing, product and toy design, animation, editorial art, games, educational illustration, live action film, advertising, biomedical illustration, and gallery exhibition production.

24. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) is home to the School of Illustration, which provides an Illustration BFA that explores traditional and emerging techniques in drawing, storytelling, and composition. All School of Illustration students have access to drawing rooms and workshops; computer labs equipped with digital workstations; new media technology and software; and a live model drawing studio. 

Other program features include the option to complete the degree options entirely online; opportunities to collaborate on projects with faculty and peers; collaborations outside of the classroom with professional artists and designers; interactions with guest speakers and lecturers; study abroad experiences in Florence, Italy; and the opportunity to complete a professional internship. 

School of Illustration students also have the opportunity to work with WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS, which produces illustrated, textless books designed to help kid’s self-author their own books. 

Course examples in the School of Illustration include Digital Painting; Process and Illustration; Children’s Book Illustration; Vector Illustration and Motion; Perspective for Characters and Environment; 150 Years of American Illustration; Concept, Technique and Illustration; Concept, Technique and Illustration; The Rendered Figure; Editorial Illustration; Graphic Novel/Comic Book; Digital Media: Digital Manipulation; Character Design for Visual Development (ZBrush); Clothed Figure Drawing; and Chiaroscuro. 

The Illustration BFA program at Academy of Art also features projects and coursework that focus on preparing students to enter the job market or launch their own businesses. Examples include Designing Careers; Surface Design and Licensing; Professional Practices for Illustrators; Collaborative Project: The Agency; Blogging: Content Creation & Promotion; Advanced Art Licensing & Portfolio Building; and Portfolio Preparation and Self Promotion. 

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at Academy of Art University are prepared to pursue roles across industries. Program alumni are Children’s Book Illustrators, Book Cover Artists, Interactive Illustrators, Storyboard Artists, Medical and Scientific Illustrators, Concept Artists, Reportage Illustrators, Comics Artists, and Freelance Illustrators. Examples of companies that have hired Academy of Art Illustration alumni include Marvel Comics, Penguin Publishing Group, Wired, The New York Times, National Geographic, Chronicle Books, and The Atlantic.

25. California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, California
California State University Fullerton

California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton) is home to the College of the Arts, which houses the Department of Visual Arts. Within the department is an Art BFA program with an Illustration Studio concentration. Consisting of a combination of electives and required courses, the concentration prepares students for advanced roles in Illustration. 

Program features include access to courses such as Special Studies in Sequential Art; Digital Narrative Illustration; Writing in the Visual Arts; Computer Assisted Graphics; 3D Rigging and animation; Visual Development and Background Painting; Children’s Book Illustration; 3D Environment Modeling; Animal and Wildlife Drawing; Landscape Painting and Location Drawing; Special Studies: Artists’ Books and Art; Lighting and Look Development; The Digital Studio; Animation Production; 3D Team Production; Cartooning and Caricature; Video Art and Moving Image; and Entertainment Graphics. 

All degree options fin the Department of Visual Arts feature workshops and seminars; unlimited access to state-of-the-art production studios, labs, and equipment; interactions with visiting artists; study abroad experiences; and internship opportunities with companies in California, and across the U.S. 

The Art BFA at Cal State Fullerton requires 132 units to graduate. This includes 30 units in the Illustration studio concentration. The program culminates with the BFA Capstone Project, which may include works in animation, games, VR, visual effects, exhibitions, and others. Graduates of the program have worked with or been hired by major companies and studios such as DreamWorks, The Walt Disney Company, Lucasfilm, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon.