Top 25 Private Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) Schools in the U.S. – 2021 College Rankings

What are the top private AR/VR schools and colleges in the U.S. for 2021?

Top 25 Private AR/VR Schools in the U.S. – 2021 College Rankings
1Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyMassachusetts
2Stanford UniversityCalifornia
3University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
4New York UniversityNew York
5Rochester Institute of TechnologyNew York
6California Institute of TechnologyCalifornia
7Drexel UniversityPennsylvania
8Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
9Cornell UniversityNew York
10Northwestern UniversityIllinois
11University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania
12Harvard UniversityMassachusetts
13Full Sail UniversityFlorida
14Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteNew York
15Northeastern UniversityMassachusetts
16Parsons The New School for DesignNew York
17DePaul UniversityIllinois
18Dartmouth CollegeNew Hampshire
19University of ChicagoIllinois
20Columbia College ChicagoIllinois
21Chatham UniversityPennsylvania
22Emory UniversityGeorgia
23School of the Art Institute of ChicagoIllinois
24University of DaytonOhio
25Southern Methodist UniversityTexas

Our 2021 list -our first annual- of the Top 25 Private AR/VR School Programs in the US. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) houses several centers, colleges, and departments that offer programs for individuals interested in establishing a career in Augmented & Virtual Reality (AR/VR). Incorporated in 1861 and serving more than 11,500 students, the school is also home to a number of additional centers and labs designed to support AR/VR projects, innovation, and research.

The Schwarzman College of Computing at MIT houses the Center for Computational Science and Engineering (CCSE) and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). The CCSE offers an MS degree known as the Computational Science and Engineering SM Program (CSE SM). This interdisciplinary pathway “prepares students with a common core of computational methods that serve all science and engineering disciplines, and an elective component that focuses on particular applications,” says the school. Hand’s on projects and access to MITs many centers and labs are major components of the CSE SM program.

The CCSE also has a CSE PhD program, offered jointly with eight participating departments. The program focuses on the “development of new computational methods relevant to science and engineering disciplines.” Students in the program have the opportunity to “specialize in a computation-related field of their choice through coursework and a doctoral thesis. The specialization in computational science and engineering is highlighted by specially crafted thesis fields.”

The Department of EECS at MIT says its “rigorous and innovative curriculum,” is “now composed of three overlapping sub-units in electrical engineering (EE), computer science (CS), and artificial intelligence (AI) and decision-making (AI+D).” Known as Course 6, the curriculum is a joint venture between the Schwarzman College of Computing and the School of Engineering. AR/VR related programs offered include a BS in Computation and Cognition, a Minor in Computer Science (72 units), and PhD’s in Computer Science, and Computer science and Engineering. The PhD degree is awarded interchangeably with the Doctor of Science (ScD).

The largest undergraduate program at MIT, EECS offers intensive hands-on coursework and opportunities to engage in independent study or research for academic credit. Students in the BS program can expect to take courses such as Artificial Intelligence: Introduction to Machine Learning, Machine Vision, Mobile and Sensor Computing, and Software Studio.

MIT labs and centers include the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality, MIT Media Lab, and MIT.nano Immersion Lab.

The MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality “pioneers innovation with technologies of virtuality including XR (VR, AR, MR, etc.), videogames, social media, and new forms unanticipated by these platforms. The center, which brings together students, experts, and resources, serves as a studio and a laboratory to support creative projects and research ventures.

Founded in 1985, the MIT Media Lab is an interdisciplinary research organization that allows students, faculty, and researchers to work together on hundreds of projects across disciplines such as social robotics, physical and cognitive prostheses, new models and tools for learning, community bioengineering, models for sustainable cities, and more. The Lab also houses the graduate degree program in Media Arts and Sciences (MAS).

The MIT.nano Immersion Lab connects “scientists and engineers with artists, musicians, and performers through creative projects that bridge multiple disciplines.” Activities include “visualizing data, prototyping advanced tools for augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and developing new software and hardware concepts for immersive experiences.”

The Lab also produces the monthly seminar series—IMMERSED. The series is a “mixture of lectures, demonstrations, and tutorials that explore how immersive technology and new modalities for manipulating and understanding data are shaping innovations across science, engineering, and art.”

MIT graduates go on to work in a variety of sectors including Information and Technology, Government, Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, and many others. Some of the top employers of MIT graduates include Amazon, Apple, Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and the U.S. Air Force.

2. Stanford University, Stanford, California
Stanford University

Founded in 1885 and serving more than 15,000 students, Stanford University consists of seven schools, along with dozens of labs, centers, and institutes. The School of Engineering houses the Computer Science (CS) Department (est. 1965), which offers BS, MS, and PhD programs. A CS Minor is also available.

Department course highlights include How to Make VR: Introduction to Virtual Reality Design and Development, Coding for Social Good (VR component), Interactive Simulation for Robot Learning, Computer Graphics: Animation and Simulation, Character Animation: Modeling, Simulation, and Control of Human Motion, Topics in Computer Graphics: Agile Hardware Design, and Physically Based Animation and Sound. The graduate program highlights nine predefined specialization options. Examples include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Real-World Computing, and Systems.

In addition to offering a variety of specializations and heavy AR/VR coursework, the CS Department houses research groups in the areas of AI, Computer Graphics/HCI, Robotics, Foundations of Computer Science, Scientific Computing, and many others. “Basic work in computer science is the main research goal of these groups,” says the school “but there is also a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research and on applications that stimulate basic research.”

CS students interested in AR/VR have additional opportunities to collaborate on projects and enhance their skills through several centers and labs. Options include the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) Virtual + Augmented Reality Design Lab, the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), and the School of Medicine’s Medical Neurosurgical Simulation and Virtual Reality Center and the Virtual Reality & Immersive Technology Program.

Pronounced "karma" (the first "c" is silent), the CCRMA Virtual + Augmented Reality Design Lab “conducts research in the artful design of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (VR, AR, XR) for music.” The lab also supports collaborations with Computer Science, Art and Art History, and Communication at Stanford, as well as research projects in the CCRMA community.

Founded in 2003, the VHIL studies the psychological and behavioral effects of AR/VR. Just a few of the lab’s current projects include Psychology of Augmented Reality, Virtual Becomes Reality – Immersion and Presence, Medical Virtual Reality, Integrating VR into Classrooms and Curricula, Telepresence, and Design Thinking.

The Medical Neurosurgical Simulation and Virtual Reality Center opened in 2016. It is the “first institution in the greater Pacific Northwest to use patient-specific, 3-D virtual reality (VR) technology across the neurosurgery clinics, operating room, and classroom.” The Center is also one of the “first functional neurosurgery and spine clinics in the world to use patient-specific, 360-degree virtual reality for direct patient engagement.” To date, more than “1,100 Stanford neurosurgery patients have had Surgical Theater 360 VR at some point during their care.”

The Virtual Reality & Immersive Technology program at Stanford is the “first clinically focused academic endeavor dedicated to studying immersive technologies” such as AR/VR “in mental and behavioral health settings in a broad range of disciplines.” The program also manages the Virtual Reality & Immersive Technology (VR-IT) Clinic, which “incorporates the most current and emerging methods of virtual and augmented reality treatments into traditional cognitive behavior and mindfulness-based therapies, taking a holistic, customized, and personal approach to each patient.”

3. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California

The University of Southern California (USC) opened in 1880 with just 53 students. Today, the school serves 46,000 students across 22 schools and units. Founded in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1929, the USC School of Cinematic Arts houses the Interactive Media and Games Division, which offers a BA Interactive Entertainment and an MFA in Interactive Media.

In the BA in Interactive Entertainment Program, students learn about AAA development processes along with experimental and indie “genres of play, from virtual and alternate realities to expressive and meaningful games,” says the school. Course highlights include Reality Starts Here, Alternative Control Workshop, Producing Interactive Projects, Digital Media Workshop, and Video Game Programming.

The MFA in Interactive Media is a competitive program that admits just 15 students in the fall semester only. Program highlights include the opportunity to take twelve 500-level elective units, access to state-of-the-art computer and digital production facilities, and a mandatory internship or summer job in a professional environment.

MFA students can expect to take courses such as Experiments in Interactivity I & II, Foundations of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Interactive Design Production, Motion Capture Fundamentals, and Tangible and Spatial Computing. To enhance this coursework, students in the MFA (and BFA) program can study AR/VR through the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (USC ICT), which houses the Medical Virtual Reality Lab (MedVR Lab), Mixed Reality Lab (MxR), and the ICT Virtual Humans Group.

Areas of specialization for MedVR Lab include Game Based Rehabilitation, Virtual Humans, Neurocognitive Assessment and Training, and Mental and Behavioral Health.

The MxR Lab works with the Interactive Media and Games Division at the School of Cinematic Arts to “improve the fluency of human-computer interactions and create visceral synthetic experiences,” by exploring different “techniques and technologies.” Lab “research and prototypes focus on immersive systems for education and training simulations that incorporate both real and virtual elements.”

The ICT Virtual Humans Group “advances research in computer-generated characters that use language, have appropriate gestures, show emotion react to verbal and non-verbal stimuli.” Research areas include Character Animation and Simulation, Integrated Virtual humans, MultiModal Communication, Natural Language Processing, Emotion, and Cognitive Architecture.

4. New York University, New York, New York
New York University

With more than 53,500 students, New York University (NYU) is the nation’s largest private university. The school has degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai, more than 11 global academic centers and research programs in over 25 countries, and over 19,000 employees, making it one of the largest employers in New York City.

Founded in 1831, NYU houses dozens of colleges, centers, institutes and schools. The Tandon School of Engineering (a Polytechnic Institute) houses the Integrated Design & Media (IDM) Program. Pathways for this research-active program lead to a BS or MS degree. IDM Minor and Accelerated BS/MS Programs are also available.

IDM coursework includes the Tandon Engineering core, media studies courses taken in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication (MCC), and additional courses in math, science, humanities, and social sciences. Courses, which focus on the four areas of Image, Sound, Narrative and Interactivity, are combined with upper-level electives ranging from augmented reality and motion capture to user experience design.

Other program highlights include internship opportunities with companies such as Apple, Google, and Sony Music, study abroad at NYU Shanghai’s Interactive Media Arts (IMA) Program, and direction by instructors who are engaged a range of projects from using motion capture technology to reimagine theatrical performance to developing novel uses of virtual/augmented reality for health and wellness. Students in all programs also have the opportunity to participate in the Future Reality Lab and NYC Media Lab.

The Future Reality Lab “explores how people will use future mixed reality technologies to better communicate and interact with each other when they are in the same physical space,” says the school. Lab participants collaborate in manipulation of objects (real and virtual), in a shared mixed reality.

NYC Media Lab is a consortium colleges and universities including NYU, Columbia University, The New School, CUNY, School of Visual Arts, Manhattan College, and Pratt Institute. The goals of the Lab are to “generate research and development, knowledge transfer, and talent across all of the city’s campuses in partnership with New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.”

Graduates of the NYU IDM Program have gone on to work for “industry giants,” “fast-paced startups,” and some of the “most competitive companies in the world.” Examples include American Express, Apple Corporate, Instagram, HTC China, Major League Gaming, the New York Stock Exchange, Sone, Verizon, and many others.

5. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is the first university to offer an undergraduate degree in software engineering. The school is the first to offer a fully online program and in 2008, it launched the world’s first doctoral program focusing on sustainable production systems. Founded in 1829, RIT serves nearly 19,000 students at its main campus in Rochester, New York, and around 1,700 at international campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai, and Kosovo. Students have access to 11 colleges and schools, including the Golisano College of Computing and Information—home of the School of Interactive Games and Media and the Department of Computing and Information Sciences.

The School of Interactive Games and Media offers a BS in New Media Interactive Development and the Department of Computing and Information Sciences houses the Computing and Information Sciences PhD. The BS in New Media Interactive Development “adapts digital technologies for social software, wearable devices, touch interfaces, virtual/augmented reality, the internet, and more,” says the school. Coursework focuses on “programming and interactive development with classes on mobile development and alternative interfaces, website design and implementation, physical/wearable computing, game design, game development, design and media production, interactive audio,” and many others.

Other program highlights include the New Media Design Capstone (I & II), which provides the opportunity to work on a project for a corporate client, collaboration with students in RITs New Media Design major, and required participation in the cooperative education (co-op) program, which provides full-time, paid career experience working in the industry.

The PhD in Computing and Information Sciences is “a blend of intra-disciplinary computing knowledge areas and inter-disciplinary domain areas.” Intra-disciplinary areas include Infrastructure, Interaction, and Informatics. The Interdisciplinary area of the program focuses on “domain-specific computing, or the interaction between computing and non-computing disciplines, in the areas of science, engineering, medicine, arts, humanities, and business.”

Research areas for the PhD include but are not limited to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, Game Design, Graphics and Visualization, HCI, and Programming Languages.

Students in both the BS and PhD programs have access to RIT’s Frameless Labs. Located at the RIT MAGIC Center, Frameless Labs provides a space for the extended reality (XR) community to collaborate. The goal is to “bring attention to research, innovation and artistic creation in the fields of virtual and augmented reality.”


Current projects and experiences include Digital Docents: Historical NY Stories in Virtual and Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality Theatre (funded by Epic Games), the VR Cary Collection, Color and Material Appearance in AR, and Development and Assessment of Virtual Reality Paradigms for Gaze Contingent Visual Rehabilitation, to name a few.

6. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a science and engineering institute that manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for NASA. The school also owns and operates large-scale research facilities such as the Seismological Laboratory and a global network of astronomical observatories, including the Palomar and W. M. Keck Observatories.

Founded as Throop University in 1891, Caltech sits on a 124-acre campus in Pasadena, California that houses 2,250 students and 300 faculty members. The school is divided into six academic divisions including Biology and Biological Engineering, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Engineering and Applied Science, Geological and Planetary Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.

The Division of Engineering and Applied Science houses the Computing and Mathematical Sciences Department, which offers a BS, MS and a Minor in Computer Science (CS). Course highlights for the Department include Advanced Digital Systems Design, Computer Graphics (including Animation, HCI, and Modeling), Computer Language Shop, Digital Logic and Embedded Systems, GPU Programming, Machine Learning, Making Data Visual (including Virtual/Technological Media), Nonlinear Control, and Operating Systems.

Students in all CS programs have access to Caltech’s Virtual Reality Lab, where they can create projects, conduct research, and collaborate with peers. The Lab also houses Virtech—an “experimental platform for online education.” Virtech, which is also a part of the Center for Data-Driven Discovery at Caltech, give students the opportunity to create their own 3D content, collaborate, and more. Faculty utilize the platform for “online lectures, seminars, group meetings and discussion, and experiments with other online learning modalities and technologies.”

7. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University

Founded in 1891 as Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, Drexel University serves nearly 23,600 students enrolled in hundreds of programs in houses 12 colleges and schools. One of the top colleges at Drexel is the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, which offers predominantly studio-based programs in Design, Media, and the Performing Arts. The College houses its own record label—MAD Dragon Records, lifestyle magazine D&M, and a student-run Graphic Design firm.

Since 1919, Drexel University has been a cooperative (co-op) educational institution, which means all undergraduates work six months at a job in their chosen field as part of their Drexel education. Graduates leave Westphal “with resumes reflecting real work experience,” says the school, along with “an ability to create, to reason and to use technology... and often with jobs lined-up well before graduation.”

Westphal houses Drexel’s BS in Virtual Reality & Immersive Media (VRIM) Program and a 24 credit hour WRIM Minor. Launched in 2018, the BS in VRIM was the first accredited programs of its kind. Students in the program “learn universal principles of storytelling, animation, and design and effective ways to leverage them with the latest technologies including, 3D modeling, virtual production, and use of interactive game engines.” Students use “the latest hardware and software for VR, AR, motion capture, immersive projection, and other technologies that are enabling the rapid growth of the immersive media industry.”

Course highlights for the VRIM Program include Augmented Reality, Immersive Projection, 360° Video Production, Virtual Production, 3D Modeling, Texturing, & Lighting, Computer Animation, Interactive Design, 3D Tracking, Computer Programming, and Visual Effects.

In addition to the VRIM Program, Westphal houses two labs: Animation, Capture, and Effects (The ACE-Lab) and the Immersive Research Lab.

The ACE-Lab houses Westphal’s Digital Animation, Visual Effects, and Immersive Media Programs as well as VR, AR, and other interactive experiences. The Lab includes the latest industry-standard software and hardware technologies for VR, AR, Motion Capture, Projection and other technologies. Within the Lab, students have access to funded grant research opportunities. They also have the opportunity to participate in industry-sponsored projects, and independent, and student-generated projects.

The Immersive Research Lab allows students to “study and develop the latest virtual and augmented reality and immersive media technologies.” The 550-square-foot, glass-enclosed lab features equipment such as HP-ZVR Backpack Workstations, virtual and augmented reality devices from Oculus Go, HTC VIVE and Microsoft HoloLens headsets, Leap Motion hand-tracking and iClone Facial motion capture systems, and a full motion capture studio equipped with OptiTrak and Vicon motion capture devices. Other technologies include 360-degree virtual reality cameras, a custom virtual reality cycle platform, and an x-wing fighter cockpit platform.

Westphal graduates work in Education, Entertainment, the Sciences, Historical Recreation, and much more. Alumni “can often be found at top tier entertainment studios” such as Digital Domain, Disney, DreamWorks, Moving Picture Company, and Pixar. Graduates “are also found working in leading video game development companies,” as animation software developers and many other “diverse career tracks” involving the use of their AR/VR, Animation and Visual Effects skills.

8. Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) houses the School of Digital Media, which offers a BFA in Immersive Reality. Launched in 2018, the 180 credit hours program allows students to explore related fields such as User Experience (UX) Design, Visual Effects, Film and Television, Interactive Design, and more. Students may add an additional major or minor in any of these areas.

BFA Program highlights include collaboration with students and faculty across disciplines, access to panels and presentations from top companies in gaming, including Cartoon Network, EA Sports, and Ubisoft, and study abroad opportunities at SCAD Lacoste, France. Students also have access to Montgomery Hall, which houses “AR/VR resources, a green screen, a motion media lab, and more than 800 computers networked to reduce render times,” says the school. And in The Shed, “immersive reality classrooms and labs host the latest technology for creating groundbreaking visual experiences.”

Course highlights for the BFA in Immersive Reality include Augmented Reality Lab, Immersive Revolution: Augmented to Virtual Reality, Virtual Reality for Motion Media, Visual Effects for Immersive Environments, Integration of Immersive Realities, Visual Storytelling: Virtual Reality to Interactive, Immersive Innovation Lab, and Advanced Application Scripting.

Soon, students in all programs will have access to the expanded Savannah Film Studios. Once completed, the expanded Savannah Film Studios “will be the largest and most comprehensive university film studio complex in the nation.”

Launching in three phases in fall 2021, 2022 and 2023, the 10.9-acre facility will include “a Hollywood-style film backlot, a next-generation XR stage for virtual productions, and new soundstages, among other features.” The existing Savannah Film Studios building is a 22,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2014, and houses three soundstages, green rooms, lighting grids, postproduction suites, a multi-purpose recording booth for ADR and Foley recordings, screening rooms, and production offices for SCAD’s film and television program.

Founded in 1978 and serving more than 15,000 students, SCAD has a high alumni employment rate. “In a recent study, 99% of SCAD graduates were employed, pursuing further education, or both within 10 months of graduation.” Graduates work in Georgia’s entertainment industry and others across the U.S.

9. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Cornell University

Cornell University has campuses across the state of New York and in DC, Doha, Qatar, and Rome, Italy. Founded in 1865, the school serves 23,620 students enrolled in more than 300 majors, minors and graduate fields of study. Programs are offered in 16 colleges and schools, including the Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science (CIS)—home to the Computer Science Department. The Department serves 1,340 students and degree pathways include BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Computer Science. 

Course highlights for the Department include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Topics in Mixed Reality, Developing and Designing Interactive Devices, Interactive Computer Graphics, Python, Computer Vision, Advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI), Applied Machine Learning, Robotics Seminar, Great Works in Programming Languages, and Visual Imaging in the Electronic Age.

Students in all programs have access to the Virtual Embodiment Lab and the XR Collaboratory (XRC) at Cornell Tech.

Established in 2016, the Virtual Embodiment Lab (VEL) explores “how virtual reality affects people who use it—how these people perceive themselves, others, and the world around them,” says the school. The Lab “uses several different devices to research virtual reality, from 360 degree videos to full virtual reality systems that allow a user to pick up objects and interact with others.”

The mission of XRC at Cornell Tech is to “accelerate research & education in XR (Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality) through cross-campus collaborations, hands-on mentoring and rapid research explorations.” In addition, XRC “initiates new research by executing its own exploratory projects on a wide range of XR-related topics.”

XRC partners include Facebook, Verizon Media, and Magic Leap.

Cornell graduates find success in fields such as Computer Science, Engineering, Fine Arts, Technology, Medicine, Mathematics, Entertainment, Communications, and many others.  

10. Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois
Northwestern University

The McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University (NU) houses the Computer Science Department, which heads the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Research Area. Supported topics include AR/VR, Mixed-Initiative Systems, Tangible User Interfaces, Cyberlearning, Ubiquitous Computing, User-Centered Design, Mobile Interaction Design, Interactive Audio, and Multi-Touch Interaction, to name a few.

Students in HCI are enrolled in programs in Computer Science (BA, BS, MS, and a Minor), Communication, Learning Sciences, and Technology & Social Behavior. Students also take courses and attend seminars through the Segal Design Institute.

The BA in Computer Science is offered in the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (est. 1851). The BS and MS are offered in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (est. 1909). Minors are available at McCormick and Weinberg. Undergraduate course highlights include Artificial Intelligence (AI) Programming, Machine Learning, Resource Virtualization, Advanced Digital Design, Designing & Constructing Models with Multi-Agent Language, Tangible Interaction Design and Learning, HCI, Computer Graphics, Computer Game Design and Development, Machine Perception of Music & Audio, Game Design Studio, Software Construction, and Agile Software Development.

MS students have the opportunity to customize the curriculum to “fit their research interests and career aspirations.” Options include courses and research in AI, HCI, distributed interactive systems, Theoretical Computer Science, and Computer Graphics and Human Computer Interfaces for Spatial Applications, Visualization, and Computer Entertainment.

Students in all programs have access to The Garage—NU’s AR/VR Media Lab.

The Garage consists of an 11,000 square foot space that provides programming and resources, and supports projects, networking, and collaboration between students and more than 250 mentors and experts. To date The Garage has helped produce more than 500 student-founded startups and projects.

Northwestern CS alumni are Computer Programmers, Software Developers and Engineers, Entrepreneurs, and more. They work for Google, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, and many others.

Established in 1851, Northwestern University serves 21,000 students enrolled in 12 colleges across three campuses in Chicago, IL, Evanston, IL, and Doha, Qatar. The school also has sites in San Francisco, CA, New York, NY, Washington, DC and Miami, FL.

11. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania

Founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) is one of the oldest universities in the U.S. The school serves around 26,550 students enrolled in 90 majors at the undergraduate level and well over 100 at the graduate level. Among Penn’s undergraduate programs is a Bachelor’s in Engineering and Science (BSE) in Digital Media (DMD).

Penn is also home to the Perelman School of Medicine, which houses the Neurology VR Laboratory. This community of neurologists, psychologists, and other researchers are attracted to VR’s “ability to precisely control stimuli and modify perception.” Current project titles include Phantom Limb Pain, Hemispatial Neglect, Navigation Brain Mapping, Broca’s Aphasia, Arch, Vibrotactile Compass, Hemiparesis, Racial Empathy, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Echocardiogram Visualizer, Hand Magnification, and Affordance Memory.

Created in 1998, the interdisciplinary BSE in DMD in the School of Engineering and Applied Science combines coursework in Computer Graphics within the Computer & Information Science Department and Fine Arts courses from Penn's School of Design. The BSE in DMD is designed for students who have an interest in the “computer programming, mathematics, and design behind computer graphics, animation, games, virtual reality environments, and interactive technologies,” says the school.

The top employer’s for graduates of the program DMD program include DreamWorks Animation, Disney Animation, Pixar, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, and Google.

12. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvard University

Virtual Reality (VR), and the related fields of Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), “has its foundational roots at Harvard,” says the school. “From 1965 to 1968, Ivan Sutherland, an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Harvard, helped create “The Sword of Damocles,” the first virtual reality and augmented reality head-mounted display system. Today, full-time, degree-seeking students have access to Harvard Innovation Labs’ AR/VR Studio, along with several degree pathways that can help prepare them for careers in AR/VR.

The AR/VR Studio “is a dedicated space for the exploration of cutting-edge immersive technologies — physically and imaginatively.” The space is “equipped with technologies that include various software and design platforms, multiple headset configurations, workstations, and filming resources to help students experiment and create innovations in a wide range of industries.”

In the Studio, students can experience the latest AR/VR equipment in an open session, learn about the technology with a dedicated team of experienced TAs, understand how to apply the technology to a specific field and “build deeper learnings with one-on-one meetings,” build MVPs and prototypes through Studio workshops, and attend guest speaker symposiums. Available workshops include Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Storytelling in AR/VR.

Founded in 1636 and serving around 23,730 students, Harvard University houses 12 degree-granting Schools and the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. The John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science is home to the Computer Science Department. Pathways for students interested in AR/VR include BA, BA/MS, and PhD degrees in Computer Science. Course highlights for the Department include Design of Useful and Usable Interactive Systems, Advanced Computer Vision, Computer Science (C, Python, and SQL plus HTML, CSS, and JavaScript), Autonomous Robot Systems, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Advanced Topics in Programming Languages, Systems Programming and Machine Organization, Computing at Scale, and Computer Graphics.

Harvard University CS graduates work in just about every scientific and business-related field. They work at Amazon, Google, Dreamworks Animation, Pixar Animation Studios, Goldman Sachs, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Intel Corporation, CTB/McGraw-Hill, Hyperion Solutions, Hasbro, Inc., Lonely Planet, Facebook, Sun Microsystems, Walt Disney Company, and more.

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

Full Sail University began in 1979 as an audio recording workshop in Dayton, Ohio. The school serves 21,000 students enrolled in Entertainment, Media, Arts, and Technology programs leading to Associate, Bachelor, and Master’s degrees. Programs provide “an immersive, fast-paced, and relevant learning experience that mirrors the workflow and collaboration found throughout today's rapidly evolving industries,” says the school. Options for students interested in AR/VR include a BS in Simulation and Visualization with access to Full Sail’s VR/AR Lab and FabLab.

In the Full Sail VR/AR Lab, students have access to “headsets from a variety of manufacturers, including Oculus, Magic Leap, Microsoft, HTC, and more.” A green screen, which “dominates the back wall of the space,” is used for student’s final projects. “They can go into VR, but we can also see them in VR,” says Lab Head Dan Mapes. “We record them inside a simulated environment, and that video becomes a portfolio piece they can use to show off their work.”

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

Full Sail’s VR/AR Lab and FabLab launched in 2016.

The BS in Simulation and Visualization Program, which launched around two years before the Labs, “combines software and hardware development into one cohesive track focused on emerging technologies,” says the school. The program equips students “with the programming and critical-thinking skills needed to study and design virtual systems.” Students will develop “tech savvy through hands-on experience, in order to keep pace with an ever-evolving industry.” Course highlights for the program include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Programming I & II, Technology in the Entertainment and Media Industries, Simulation and Visualization Software, Computer Graphics and Simulation Production.

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

Graduates enjoy a 92% employment rate. Companies that have hired Full Sail graduates include Universal Studios, DreamWorks, Bunim Murray Productions, HBO Studios, Disney, Rockstar Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar,  MTV, Cirque du Soleil, Nickelodeon, Miramax, NFL Films, and many others.

14. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) launched the Rensselaer Augmented and Virtual Environment (RAVE) Lab in 2019. Housed in the J. Erik Jonsson Engineering Center, the Lab supports experimentation with different types of virtual and augmented reality. Students and researchers have access to state-of-the-art equipment and a flexible physical space.

Degree pathways for students interested in AR/VR include BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Computer Science (CS). A Minor is available as well as Dual Degrees including a CS BS/MS and Accelerated CS BS/PhD. Offered in the RPI School of Sciences, the Computer Science Program focuses on the design, analysis, communication, implementation, and application of computational processes. Optional concentrations include Vision, Graphics, Robotics, and Games, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data, Systems and Software, and Theory and Algorithms.

Course highlights include Interactive Visualization, Computer Vision for Visual Effects, Robot Dynamics and Control, Learning and Advanced Game AI, Computer Graphics, Intelligent Virtual Agents, Cognitive Computing, Modeling & Simulation for Cyber-Physical Systems, Cognitive Modeling, and Parallel Programming.

RPI students and graduates have opportunities to work with Amazon Robotics, Lockheed Martin, ExxonMobil, and many others.

Founded in 1824, RPI “is America’s first technological research university.” The Institute, which encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, and 145+ academic programs, serves more than 7,600 students and over 100,000 living alumni.

15. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern University

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University has a signature cooperative (co-op) education program that recorded more than 9,000 placements with around 2,900 employers around the world from 2019-2020. Serving 37,825 students enrolled in more than 500 programs, the school also integrates global experience into learning at all degree levels.

As an R1 Research University, Northeastern houses 10 research institutes. The Experiential AI Institute, the Experiential Robotics Institute, and the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things are just a few. Northeastern, which also houses nine colleges and schools, has campuses in Boston, Charlotte, Seattle, the Bay Area, Toronto, Vancouver, and London.

The College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) is home to the school’s BS in Design and Mechanical Engineering (BSME) and Immersive Media Minor. The programs are available at most Northeastern campuses.

The BSME Program is a combined major in Mechanical Engineering and Design. Requirements are divided into seven areas: Engineering, Design, Supporting Courses, Writing, Integrative Courses, Professional Development, and General Electives. Course highlights include Experience and Interaction, Interaction Design, Design Process Context and Systems, Mechanical Engineering Computation and Design, Fluid Mechanics, Movement and Time, Professional Issues in Engineering, and Physics for Engineering.  A Senior Capstone Design is also part of the program.

The Immersive Media Minor is an interdisciplinary program that serves students who are interested AR/VR, Augmented Virtuality, Extended Reality, Cross Reality, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and Enhanced Realities. Course highlights include Virtual Environment Design, Immersive Media, Physical and Digital Fabrication, Programming, Animation for Games, Design Analysis and Innovation, and Game Studio.

Students in both the Immersive Media Minor and BSME have access to three labs that support AR/VR learning, projects, and research.

The Immersive Media Labs Suite” includes technologies for design, development, and exploration of virtual worlds, AR/VR/XR, and 360 video,” says the school.” Students have access to individual workstations and a collaboration and teaching area. Current work in the Lab includes design, development, and exploration of immersive data visualization, immersive games to study and build problem solving and collaboration skills, exploration and integration of digital drawing, painting, and sculpting tools, storytelling, media advocacy, and healthcare delivery.

In the Experiential Technologies Lab and User Testing Environment students develop software, and engage in interface development, game testing, and integration of biometrics tools including eye-tracking and wearable sensors. Lab resources include a one-way mirror, camera setups, and high-end computing.

MedVR is produced in partnership with Grassroots Developer Education, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and the College of Arts, Media, and Design. Clinicians, engineers, and creatives collaborate in the lab to talk and learn about the latest AR/VR developments in healthcare and life sciences, invent translational AR/VR solutions, and solve healthcare problems by creating new experiences with AR/VR.

The Immersive Media Labs Suite, the Experiential Technologies Lab and User Testing Environment, and the MedVR Lab are housed in the College of Arts, Media and Design.

16. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, New York
Parsons The New School for Design

Established as The Chase School in 1896, Parsons The New School launched the world’s first programs in fashion design (“Costume Design”), graphic design (“Advertising” or “Commercial Design”), and interior design (“Interior Decoration”). With a student population of 5,100, today the school offers 13 undergraduate degree programs leading to an AAS, BBA or BFA and 20 graduate programs leading to an MA, MS, MFA, MPS or MArch.

Programs for students interested in AR/VR are offered in Parsons School of Design. Options include BFA & MFA degrees in Design and Technology, and a Minor Immersive Storytelling.

Students in the Immersive Storytelling Minor “explore experiential and immersive storytelling in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality, data visualization, 360 spherical film, and interactive theater,” says the school. The program exposes students to “various thought processes, design strategies, and production pipelines such as narrative design, systems and new technologies of interaction, and digital asset creation and implementation.”

The Minor is available to all undergraduate students.

The BFA Program “focuses on emerging art and design practices, media storytelling, and interaction technologies.” Program courses and internships, “emphasize the ways in which media and technology drive and are driven by social and cultural change.” The BFA also offers opportunities to “visit and engage in projects with industry leaders and organizations” such as Apple, Atari, MTV, Nickelodeon, Siemens, UNESCO, Rockwell Interaction Lab, and Eyebeam Art & Technology Center.

Students in the BFA in Design and Technology Program have the option to select a “Pathway” in Creative Technology or Game Design.

The studio-based MFA investigates “visual, interactive, and narrative aspects of design technology, with an emphasis on software programming and computation.” Typical projects involve interaction design, game design, digital fabrication, new media art, data visualization, Web and mobile apps, and critical design.

Students in all programs have access to The New School XReality Center, which houses the XR Reality Lab and XR-related events. The Lab supports research, student projects, and immersive learning as well as workshops and meetups.

New School Design and Technology graduates are prepared for careers in Virtual Reality and Immersion Experience Design, Interaction Design, 2D and 3D Animation, Motion Graphics, Film and Television, Digital Filmmaking, Computer Software and Hardware Design, Graphic Arts, Game Design, Mobile and Application Design, Web/UI/UX Design, New Media Art, and Advertising.

17. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

DePaul University is the nation’s largest Catholic university. The school serves nearly 22,000 students enrolled in more than 300 programs in 10 colleges and schools. The Colleges of Computing and Digital Media and Communication house several Labs that support AR/VR collaboration, learning, research and development, and projects on emerging platforms.

The Virtual and Augmented Design (VAD) Lab is part of the College of Computing and Digital Media. Located on the concourse level of the DePaul Center, the Lab is equipped with AR headsets/visors, VR headsets with hand and foot trackers, iPhones for augmented reality development, Oculus Rifts, iPhones for augmented reality development, Microsoft HoloLenses, HTC Vives, and Macs and PCs.

The Virtual and Augmented Reality Communication Lab (VARC) in the College of Communication serves to advance “ethical communication in VR and VR,” says the school. Equipped with “state-of-the-art” AR/VR equipment, the Lab allows students and faculty to “experience AR/VR technology firsthand and explore how these tools impact society, culture, media and interpersonal relationships.” The VARC Lab also offers classes and workshops, and supports courses at DePaul that utilize AR/VR in the classroom.

In addition to the Labs at DePaul, students interested in AR/VR careers have access to several degree programs that can help them reach their goals. Options in the College of Computing and Digital Media’s School of Computing include a BS in Computer Science (CS), and MS degrees in Computer Science and Software Engineering. BS and MS in Software Engineering students may concentrate in Software and Systems Development. Other noteworthy graduate concentration options include Game and Real-Time Systems, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Graduates of the BS in CS Program have landed positons at Abbott Laboratories, Microsoft, GitHub, Vivid Seats, CME Group, and more. MS graduates have been hired by Argonne National Laboratory, Disney Interactive, Facebook, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, and many others.

18. Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
Dartmouth College

Founded in 1769, Dartmouth College is one of the nation’s oldest institutes of higher education. The school houses more than 75 centers and institutes, more than 40 departments of interdisciplinary programs in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences alone, and six broad areas of study.

The Department of Computer Science offers BS and MS degrees in Computer Science (CS) with heavy AR/VR coursework. A new graduate Concentration in Digital Arts (CS/DA) is available as well as a 4+1 MS in CS/DA that allows students in the Minor in Digital Arts to earn an MS degree in four terms or 12 credits. A 4+1 BA/MS in CS is also available.

The CS/DA Program combines computer science courses, digital arts courses, and research/thesis courses. Research topics within the areas of Visual Computing and Digital Arts include AR/VR, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Vision, Digital Fabrication, Computer Graphics, and Digital Art and Media.

CS Department course highlights include Augmented and Virtual Reality Design, Augmented and Virtual Reality Development, Principles of Robot Design and Programming, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Computer Graphics, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Programming for Interactive Audio-Visual Arts, Game Development Principles Applied In Educational/Serious Games, Computer Animation: The State of the Art, Digital Modeling, and Digital Design.

The Computer Science Department also offers the opportunities for students in all programs to participate with faculty in activities such as assisting in courses, writing a thesis or doing a project under the guidance of a faculty member, and assisting a faculty member in research or in a programming project. Students also have the opportunity to spend a term at AIT-Budapest.

Specifically designed for CS and software engineering students, AIT offers courses beyond computer science and organizes extracurricular activities. Courses at AIT are taught in English. 

Students in all CS Programs also have access to the Digital Applied Learning and Innovation (DALI) and Reality & Robotics Labs.

The DALI Lab at Dartmouth supports the design and development of virtual & augmented reality, mobile applications, websites, digital installations, and more. The Lab partners with educators, researchers, nonprofits, corporations, and students who work in small teams to tackle big projects. Examples include Mindfulness in a Virtual Environment, Treating Space Flight Stress Using VR, Anivision (see through an animal's eyes), Flourish (for chronic illness patients), and Whiteboard (a platform for productivity and planning).

The Reality & Robotics Lab is a group of researchers, professors, and students that study topics “at the intersection of computing and physical reality.” This includes augmented reality, robotics, 3D fabrication, and sensing. Active projects include Assembly: building robust structures from smaller components, Geodesics: efficient motion and planning for robots, and Human motion: technology for teaching humans how to move.

Funding sources for the Lab include Adobe, Google, the Neukom Institute, NSF, and the MBR Center for Accelerated Research.

19. University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
University of Chicago

The University of Chicago (UChicago) was founded in 1890 by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. A private research university, UChicago has hundreds of programs, initiatives, and partnerships in over 48 nations and on every continent. The school serves more than 17,000 students, and enrolls more than 4,400 students each year from nearly 115 countries.

UChicago offers well over 150 degree and academic programs across the undergraduate College, four graduate divisions, seven professional schools, and the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. The College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Computer Science, which offers BS and MS Degrees in Computer Science (CS) and a Minor. The Department also offers three BA/MS and BS/MS degree options (Bx/MS) including a research-oriented option for CS majors, a professionally oriented option for CS majors, and a professionally oriented option for non-CS majors.

Students in the Department may specialize in areas such as Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Machine Learning, Programming Languages, and Computer Architecture. They also have the opportunity to focus in an additional field by following an approved course of study in a related area.

Department course highlights include Emergent Interface Technologies, Planning, Learning, and Estimation for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), Scientific Visualization, Programming Languages and Systems, Natural Language Processing, Robotics, Mobile Computing, Computer Vision, Software Development, and Engineering Interactive Electronics onto Printed Circuit Boards.

In addition to internship and study abroad opportunities at the UChicago Center in Beijing and others, students in the Department of Computer Science have access to the Weston Game Lab.

Housed in the Media Arts, Data, and Design Center (MADD Center), the Weston Game Lab launched in in 2019. MADD Center groups focus on “teaching and research that takes place across digital fabrication, virtual reality, GIS, data visualization, and other cutting-edge technologies,” says the school. Through the Lab, faculty, students and staff “collaborate the research and development of games—whether digital, board, card, or alternate reality—that produce social impact or experiment with form.

Lab participants also “research the history of games from technical and theoretical perspectives, attend workshops that afford new development skills, and organize collaborative groups for game-based experiments.” The 3,800-square-foot space houses classrooms and studio spaces, along with “open work areas for collaborative design and development.”

UChicago graduates secure positions at more than 400 organizations each year. In addition, graduates from past three years are working in over 40 countries across six continents. Graduates work at "leading" organizations in a variety of industries, they are pursuing advanced degrees at top graduate programs, and many start their own businesses.

20. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago

Founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory, Columbia College Chicago (Columbia) offers a BA in Immersive Media (IM), along with more than 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs in areas from Business Management to Music and Sound. Serving nearly 7,000 students, Columbia highlights small class sizes, internship opportunities, and real-world opportunities to display works at a number of conferences and other events.

Students in the BA in Immersive Media Program “develop the creative and technical skills central to producing augmented, mixed, and virtual reality experiences,” says the school. They work “collaboratively to build immersive experiences for a broad range of applications—beyond games and entertainment to healthcare, engineering, the sciences and other fields—and develop a robust portfolio that highlights the value of immersion as a new expressive frontier.”

The Immersive Media Program requires a Minor to complement the degree. Related options include Animation, Game Art, Game Design, Programming, Interactive Media Development and Entrepreneurship, Video Production, and User Experience. The Program also offers an 18 credit hour IM Minor for students in other majors.

During the senior year, IM students will “develop an immersive media experience as part of a student team.” They will take lessons from their Minor course of study “and implement them as part of a public-facing immersive experience.” Immersive Media students may participate in or present at events such as the Augmented World Expo (AWE), the VRAR Association of Chicago (career fairs and events), the Game Developers Conference (GDC), the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (required), and Industry Night and Manifest.

By the end of the IM Program, students will “have a foundation in immersive media theories and practices, from prototyping to deployment on popular platforms.”

Nearly 90% of Columbia graduates report being employed within a year of earning their degrees. Immersive Media graduates advance to positions such as Augmented Reality Designer and Developer, Virtual Reality Design and Developer, Immersive Information Visualization, Immersive Media Artist, Simulation Design and Developer, User Experience Design for Immersive Media, and Immersive Storytelling.

Graduates work at Microsoft, Facebook, Snapchat, Google, Adobe, CNN, NY Times, Steam, Midwest Immersive, Moxie, Edelman, TIME Studios, 8i Studio, Riot Games, Fader360, With.In., and more.

21. Chatham University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Chatham University

Founded in 1869, Chatham University serves more than 2,200 students enrolled in 60 undergraduate and graduate programs in the Arts & Sciences, Business & Communications, and Sustainability & Health. The school offers a BA in Immersive Media (IMM) that Chatham says, “is one of the first programs of its kind in the United States.” Launched in 2019, the BA in IMM focuses on “creating content for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that goes beyond gaming, broadly covering other applications as well.” The program prepares “students to be on the forefront of the technology and development of virtual and augmented reality design.”

Housed in the School of Arts, Science & Business, the BA in IMM allows students to customize their education with electives in Interactive Animation, Healthcare Systems and Design, Instructional Design, Filmmaking, Screenwriting, and more. In addition, students have the opportunity to work directly with “expert” faculty and staff on research and creative projects. 

Students in the IMM Program also have access to “cutting-edge virtual reality and augmented reality hardware,” in the Lab, “including their own VR-ready laptop and Oculus Quest 2 headset, which is theirs to keep after the program ends.” The Immersive Media Studio, which houses state-of-the-art classrooms, studios, exhibition spaces, and one of the few flying machines, is also open to all students.

During the final years of the IMM Program, students will complete a “six-credit project-based studio course in accessibility and ethics, in which they build an AR or VR experience specifically through a lens of designing accessibility features, or designing features to solve for a specific issue, such as privacy or harassment.”

Chatham University offers an additional option for qualified IMM students who are interested in working with immersive media and virtual reality in the healthcare arena. Offered in collaboration with the School of Health Sciences, the Online MS in Healthcare Informatics (MHI) is an Integrated Degree Program (IDP) that “blends technology and healthcare to solve problems and optimize care.” The program allows students to take graduate courses during their senior year in order to graduate in a shorter amount of time with both a BA and MS in MHI.

22. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
Emory University

Founded in 1836, Emory University consists of two campuses—Oxford, Georgia and Atlanta. The Oxford Campus is a residential college consisting of only first- and second-year students. The University serves 15,000 students across the two campuses. Programs are offered in four undergraduate colleges and seven graduate and professional schools.

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

Department course highlights include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Advanced Computer Systems, Adaptive Machine Learning, Machine Learning, Programming Languages and Compilers, Systems Programming, Information Visualization, and Professional Development.

Students in all programs have access to Emory Center for Digital Scholarship’s Digital Visualization Laboratory (VR/AR/MR), which says it “implements emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) to visualize academic content.” Specialists in the Lab “help students and faculty members with interactive, multidisciplinary media design, research insights, visual analytics, educational gaming, and various simulation and training activities.”

Current Lab projects include Apollo 15 Hub, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, and Openworld Atlanta, to name a few.

23. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was founded as the Chicago Academy of Design in 1866. The institution is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Serving nearly 2,500 undergraduate students and 645 graduate students, SAIC provides an “interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries,​and state-of-the-art facilities,” says the school.

SAIC offers nearly 50 formal areas of study and students are free to customize their education among 24 departments or concentrate in one single medium. Students interested in AR/VR typically choose the Art and Technology Studies (ATS) Program—a “Fine Art Department focused on the use of technology as an art medium.” The Department’s roots are the Kinetics area established in 1969 by Steve Waldeck and the Generative Systems area created in 1970 by Sonia Sheridan.”

While ATS students will take courses in VR, AR & Games, Programming, Electronics & Kinetics, Bio Art, Audio, Light, and History & Theory, they may Concentrate in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Games. Topics and classes for the Concentration Include Virtual Reality, Experimental Game Lab, Mixed Reality, Performance, n3w_b0d1es, and Video Game Music Composition.

Other ATS course highlights include Art and Technology Practices, Interactive Art and Creative Coding, Wearables and Soft Computing, Physical Computing: Outside the Box, Robotics, Blockchain: The New Internet, and Video Game Music Composition.

Students in the Concentration will have the opportunity to study and create works that explore virtual or augmented reality, gaming, immersive digital performance and installation, simulation, and many other related forms. The ATS with a Concentration in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Games leads to a BFA or MFA in Studio.

24. University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
University of Dayton

University of Dayton (UD) offers a variety of programs for students interested in AR/VR. Established in 1850 and serving nearly 11,700 students, the school houses five academic units, including the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Computer Science.

In 1961, UD became one of the first schools in the country to develop an undergraduate program in Computer Science. Pathways for AR/VR students include BS degrees in Computer Science (CPS) and Computer Information Systems (CIS), and an MS in Computer Science.

The BS in CPS has a Concentration Virtual Reality and Intelligent Systems and both CPS and CIS have a Concentration Virtual/Augmented Reality and Game Development. The MS in CPS has a Concentration Virtual Reality and Intelligent Systems. Of the schools 80 undergraduate and 50 graduate and doctoral programs, Computer Science is one of the most popular.

CPS students study “algorithms and their implementation as applications (apps)” says the school. “This includes the study of data structures, software design, programming languages, operating systems, and computer architecture.” The CIS Program “emphasizes computer science concepts with particular attention to systems analysis and design, and includes a minor from another major chosen by the student in consultation with the student's advisor.”

The MS in CPS allows students to customize their education. Students have opportunities to gain hands-on, practical experience and research opportunities are available. The culminating experience for the program is a Master’s Thesis, Software Engineering Project, or six semester hours of CPS courses numbered 510 and above. 

Other Department highlights include curricular and extra-curricular activities such as internships, service, and study abroad, as well as access to the Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) Labs.

Launched in 2018, the Department of Computer Science Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) Labs are designed for researching and developing applications for virtual and augmented reality systems. The Labs are equipped with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift virtual reality systems, and the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality system. One of the labs is equipped with “an interactive chair rigged to respond to a virtual environment, such as a computer-generated roller coaster.” A third VR Lab focuses on “researching human language and how it can be integrated into automated chat bots, particularly in a virtual environment.”

In addition to AR/VR in an endless number of fields, Department of Computer Science graduates are prepared to seek positions in areas such as Software Engineering, Gaming, Ambient Intelligence, System Design, Database Management, Data Science, Autonomous Systems, Cybersecurity, Computer Networking, Systems Programming, and Systems Administration.

Graduates have landed positions with Microsoft, Proctor and Gamble, AT&T, Eastman Kodak, General Electric, Mead Corporation, NASA Space Flight Center, Standard Register, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, UD NCR, Teradata, LexisNexis, and many others.

25. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Southern Methodist University

Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University (SMU) serves more than 12,000 students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries. The school offers small classes, hands-on research opportunities, leadership development, community service, international study, and more than 100 majors and 85 minors in eight colleges and schools.

The Lyle School of Engineering (Department of Computer Science and Engineering), Meadows School of the Arts, SMU Guildhall, and Simmons School of Education and Human Development offer a variety of opportunities to study AR/VR.

In the Lyle School of Engineering, students in the BA, BS, MS and PhD Programs in Computer Science have the opportunity to choose courses to satisfy Tracks in Game Development, Networks, Research or Cybersecurity. Many of the Tracks, such as Game Development, consist of a number of AR/VR related courses. Examples include Algorithm Engineering, Programming Languages, Graphical User Interface Design and Implementation, Digital Computer Design, High Performance Scientific Computing, Digital Logic Design, and Game Design.

Meadows School of the Arts houses the Creative Computation Program. Leading to a BA or a Minor, Creative Computation “uses technology as a powerful medium to create 2D and 3D works of art, augmented performance, intelligent physical spaces and real-time interactivity,” says the school. The curriculum combines “engineering, computer science, and the arts and humanities.” This “highly interdisciplinary” program is “inclusive of all areas of study at SMU” and requires students to pursue core coursework in both the Meadows School of the Arts and Lyle School of Engineering.

Launched in 2003, SMU Guildhall is the Southern Methodist University’s Graduate School for Game Design. Specialization areas include Art, Design, Production, and Programming. Depending on the Specialization, key focus areas may include Artificial Intelligence, Game Engine Design & Architecture, Virtual Sculpting, Environmental Modeling, Animation, Rigging and Weighting, Interface and Systems Design, Player Immersion, Memory Management, Scripting Languages, Real-Time Application Performance Analysis & Optimization, Player Psychology, and User Research.

The Simmons School of Education and Human Development houses the Center for VR Learning Innovation (CVRL). The Center is home to the Olamaie Curtiss Graney VR Design Lab and the Mixed-Reality Simulation Lab. Research and development areas here include Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality for STEM Collaborative Learning, Virtual Reality in Medical Education and VR Surgery Simulations, Mixed Reality for Education, and Game-based Learning Literacy Applications. The Labs include classrooms, practice spaces for mixed reality, and teaching spaces.

The CVRL collaborates with students and faculty across SMU, including “ongoing strategic collaboration with the SMU Guildhall, the Institute for Leadership Impact, and the AT&T Center for Virtualization.” The Center also collaborates with other universities such as UNC Chapel Hill, UT Dallas, King’s College, and UT Southwestern, to name a few.