Best Design Schools in America in 2024

Best design colleges 2024

Our design colleges ranking report includes the “best of the best” for design education in America. Ranking metrics include academic quality, student satisfaction, graduation rate, overall value and post-graduate career success.
Our Methodology

See also:
Top 100 Colleges and UniversitiesTop 100 Most Affordable UniversitiesTop 100 Most Affordable Community CollegesTop 100 Highest AcceptanceTop 100 Lowest AcceptanceTop Colleges by Major

RankSchool NameAccept. Rate1Grad.
Emp. Rate
2 years
Mid-Career Salary4Net Price
Rhode Island School of Design
Providence, RI
33%87%88%$47,300$140 232
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA
25%88%91%$72,000$134 680
Washington University in St. Louis
Saint Louis, MO
17%95%93%$62,300$133 496
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
18%91%92%$66,100$124 756
University of California – Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
19%91%87%$59,200$50 040
Otis College of Art & Design
Los Angeles, CA
66%63%87%$42,000$147 548
Pratt Institute
Brooklyn, NY
53%64%87%$38,200$160 500
Boston University
Boston, MA
35%85%93%$60,600$130 156
California College of the Arts
San Francisco, CA
64%54%85%$35,700$135 052
College for Creative Studies
Detroit, MI
46%62%90%$40,600$137 676
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI
57%84%94%$51,000$64 524
Art Center College of Design
Pasadena, CA
81%67%84%$51,700$172 444
Ohio State University
Columbus, OH
53%84%93%$42,600$72 860
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA
33%82%93%$74,000$48 748
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, NY
57%63%93%$56,900$111 692
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
73%83%96%$57,900$73 592
California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, CA
24%70%85%$32,500$173 828
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT
47%79%76%$57,400$49 340
Penn State
University Park, PA
50%86%94%$47,500$96 880
School of Visual Arts
New York, NY
77%00%00%$40,100$168 828
Northeastern University
Boston, MA
32%82%95%$60,100$122 184
Fashion Institute of Technology
New York, NY
44%74%88%$44,100$40 864
University of Texas – Austin
Austin, TX
40%81%93%$52,800$67 328
Savannah College of Art & Design
Savannah, GA
67%65%90%$35,400$151 784
University of Washington
Seattle, WA
55%84%90%$52,100$41 496
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL
59%84%94%$56,600$64 996
University of Notre Dame
South Bend, IN
21%96%94%$69,400$108 100
Drexel University
Philadelphia, PA
76%67%93%$61,100$148 976
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN
59%73%94%$52,600$52 324
Massachusetts College of Art & Design
Boston, MA
73%70%91%$34,000$87 192
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL
46%88%92%$51,300$59 144
Maryland Institute of College of Art
Baltimore, MD
54%72%89%$31,400$157 196
The New School
New York, NY
60%68%86%$39,400$182 016
Indiana University – Bloomington
Bloomington, IN
76%78%94%$45,300$46 292
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC
52%75%94%$47,500/td>$54 316
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY
53%80%94%$56,600$118 484
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI
66%79%94%$49,800$59 164
University of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
60%70%91%$61,000$131 468
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH
76%60%92%$39,400$78 956
Academy of Art University
San Francisco, CA
100%31%82%$36,100$115 508
DePaul University
Chicago, IL
70%71%91%$50,900$119 024
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
71%79%94%$52,900$46 900
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Minneapolis, MN
45%78%94%$47,800/$62 356
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
Milwaukee, WI
59%54%91%$30,600$94 828
Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, TX
49%75%94%$49,100$124 348
Minneapolis College of Art & Design
Minneapolis, MN
64%64%92%$31,400$103 304
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA
75%59%92%$41,800$77 340
Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design
Denver, CO
100%48%89%$28,100$127 764
Columbus College of Art & Design
Columbus, OH
89%56%89%$32,800$103 780
Lawrence Technological University
Southfield, MI
57%44%91%$53,700$103 296
51Champlain College
Burlington, VT
64%57%94%$40,400$132 692
52University of California – Irvine
Irvine, CA
37%86%87%$55,800$48 288
53Woodbury University
Burbank, CA
56%42%89%$45,600$97 896
54Cleveland Institute of Art
Cleveland, OH
67%65%92%$32,700$129 816
55Appalachian State University
Boone, NC
63%70%93%$36,600$46 032
56Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL
55%79%92%$44,000$66 948
57Clemson University
Clemson, SC
52%82%94%$49,400$67 196
58Auburn University
Auburn, AL
83%71%94%$45,400$74 000
59Chapman University
Orange, CA
47%74%90%$51,800141 032
60University of North Carolina School of Arts
Winston-Salem, NC
43%59%92%$30,500$47 836
61Full Sail University
Winter Park, FL
100%55%89%$34,100$123 456
62George Washington University
Washington, DC
44%79%91%$64,500$131 304
63Cornish College of the Arts
Seattle, WA
86%50%87%$29,900$132 324
64University of Advancing Technology
Tempe, AZ
83%31%88%$42,900$112 180
65SUNY New Paltz
New Paltz, NY
42%74%92%$46,000$55 000
66Ringling College of Art & Design
Sarasota, FL
85%90%66%$32,800$180 720
67Becker College
Worcester, MA
62%31%92%$35,800$119 916
68Saint Edward’s University
Austin, TX
78%67%91%$44,700$87 840
69University of Delaware
Newark, DE
68%79%96%$54,300$61 628
70Kansas City Art Institute
Kansas City, MO
60%53%92%$25,800$112 392
71Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO
80%65%92%$44,300$58 044
72Philadelphia University
Philadelphia, PA
64%66%93%$48,700$118 504
73University of California – Davis
Davis, CA
40%83%89%$57,100$64 924
74The Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumburg
Schaumburg, IL
100%51%88%$34,900$96 848
75University of Central Florida
Orlando, FL
50%70%92%$43,000$58 980
76Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR
78%63%92%$46,400$65 848
77California State University – Long Beach
Long Beach, CA
35%65%90%$46,900$30 688
78Liberty University
Lynchburg, VA
22%50%87%$36,300$93 468
79University of Oregon
Eugene, OR
75%69%90%$41,600$56 716
80Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS
95%59%94%$43,300$63 136
81University of Dayton
Dayton, OH
59%76%96%$52,300$131 860
82Marist College
Poughkeepsie, NY
39%78%94%$54,400$137 020
83Cedarville University
Cedarville, OH
00%00%00%$ 00,000$ 00,000
84University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS
74%70%91%$40,900$93 612
85Columbia College Chicago
Chicago, IL
89%43%90%$32,700$111 356
86Stephens College
Columbia, MO
54%49%93%$30,700$97 288
87Point Loma Nazarene University
SanDiego, CA
70%73%93%$50,300$120 684
88Western Washington University
Bellingham, WA
85%72%91%$43,200$60 736
89University of North Texas
Dentaon, TX
65%50%91%$42,100$43 308
90Temple University
Philadelphia, PA
62%69%92%$46,500$77 740
91Washington State University
Pullman, WA
82%67%92%$46,400$65 708
92University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL
51%66%93%$42,400$75 740
93Oklahoma Christian University
Edmond, OK
64%47%90%$35,600$76 184
94University of Wisconsin – Stout
City, State
85%57%97%$42,000$53 120
(1) Represents the fall admission rate for full-time undergraduate students.
(2) Graduation rate for full-time students who began their studies as first-time degree or certificate seeking students.
(3) Percentage of students employed two years after graduation.
(4) Median earnings of students six years after graduation.
(5) Average net price generated by subtracting grant or scholarship aid from total cost of attendance.

How to Select a Design School

Some students think that one design program is pretty much the same as the next. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Design schools vary in their philosophy about what education is for, the best type of design instructors, and how students should reach their academic goals. Design schools also vary in the type and level of accreditation they possess. Some design schools are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD), others are regionally accredited, some possess national accreditation, and a few are not accredited at all. So what exactly should you consider when selecting a design school?

What is their mission?

Read the mission statement and program description for each design school you’re seriously considering. While some schools don’t put a lot of stock in mission statements, a mission statement can provide you a good idea of how a school defines success. Is a school’s mission statement in line with your own personal and career aspirations? If not, their program may not be a good fit for you. Also look at program descriptions. What claims do they make about what you’ll learn and do? Can they back up their claims with real-world examples and verifiable student success stories? Or are they just telling you what you want to hear?

Review the curriculum.

A school’s curriculum is a good indicator of the quality of design education you can expect to receive. As a prospective student, you may not be familiar with all the terminology, but you should be able to determine if the curriculum offers a cohesive series of relevant courses that builds toward mastery in a specific design discipline. Does the school offer a clear core curriculum? Does the curriculum include liberal arts courses? If so, how do they relate to the core curriculum? Is the structure of the curriculum designed to help you develop a professional competency? Some design schools provide a breadth of program options. As attractive as this might seem, having too many program options can lead to the development of too few professional competencies upon graduation.

Evaluate individual course offerings.

In addition to evaluating a school’s overall curriculum, it’s important to review individual course offerings. Are the courses relevant and up to date? Are courses designed to cover an array of media and design mediums? First year courses should cover a wide variety of design concepts, methodologies, techniques and theory. Beyond the first year, courses should tie concepts together and provide a more focused, competency driven education.

Do courses provide depth of instruction and subject mastery? Do courses help you develop technical and critical thinking skills that can be applied in a modern, real-world environment? How do individual courses compare to those offered at other institutions? Read all course descriptions. If the courses are described as “how-to” or “introductory”, you likely won’t achieve the same depth of education or level of subject mastery as your peers at other schools.

Who are the faculty?

Higher education institutions are no better than the faculty they employ. This is especially true for design schools, where most classes are small and students work closely with their instructors. When evaluating design schools, consider the following: Are courses taught by full-time professors, part-time instructors, or graduate students? Do faculty have MFA degrees? Do instructors possess up-to-date, discipline specific skills and knowledge? Or is their thinking and approach to design outdated. You don’t want faculty who provide outdated critiques, or are out of touch with current trends. At the same time, it can be difficult to connect with faculty right out of the field who are new to teaching. Sometimes a combination of both extremes can provide the perfect balance.

Evaluate the students.

The quality of a design program will be evident in the caliber of students admitted and graduates produced. If a design school accepts all applicants, regardless of qualification, the quality of education is going to be lower than that offered at a design school that only admits qualified applicants.

What is the school’s graduation rate? How successful are it’s graduates? Do most students find jobs following graduation? What is the school’s job placement rate? Where do graduates end up working? How much do they make?

Ask each school you’re considering for a list of recent alumni. Contact alumni directly and find out what they and their classmates are doing? Ask them about their experience at the school. What did they like? What didn’t they like? What would they do differently? Recent alumni can provide you a good indication of whether a design program is right for you. They can also help you develop a clear educational and career roadmap for the future.

What type of support does a school offer?

Does the program have a formal career services department that seems knowledgeable? Is there an academic advisor assigned to each student? Are extracurricular activities available? Will you have access to modern facilities with ample work space and necessary equipment?

How big (or small) is the school?

The size of a design school is an important consideration. Larger schools tend to offer a greater breadth of courses and subject matter. Consequently, larger schools also tend to offer a greater selection of specialized courses than smaller programs. Since the teachers at smaller schools are required to teach a wide range of subject matter, they are often generalists. However, smaller programs, with smaller class sizes, provide students more personalized, one-on-one instruction than larger design programs.

Where is a program located?

Design programs located in large cities may provide students more access to internships, job opportunities, cultural experiences and lectures. However, students attending school in the big city experience longer commutes, less space to work, more sharing of resources, and greater distraction from their studies. While lacking in cultural experience and amenities of the big city, design programs situated in suburban or rural areas provide students a less distracting environment that is conducive to learning.

Consider cost and value.

Cost should be considered when selecting a design school – but don’t get caught up in sticker price. There is a lot to consider when evaluating the true cost of any design program. A seemingly expensive design program may provide its students more scholarship money than a less expensive school. Just because a program has a high sticker price does mean it offers a superior education. “Cheaper” programs (ie. those provided at public institutions) are often less expensive simply because they’re better funded than more expensive programs (ie. private programs that rely on donations and tuition). At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the money you invest in your education produced the desired outcome. Is the education you’re paying for going to help you achieve your near and long-term personal and career goals?

Visit the school.

The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to visit each school and experience their program before enrolling. Ask if you can spend a day on campus and sit in on a few classes. If it’s an online design school you’re considering, ask to participate in one of its online classes. Take the opportunity to get to know, and interact with, the other students. Do they seem to enjoy the learning experience? Are they engaged with each other, the instructor, and the topic of discussion? Do students spend much time with each other outside the classroom? Do students and professors interact with other students outside their program? These are all important questions to ask, and consider, when evaluating a design program.

Is the program accredited?

Accreditation is something to pay attention to when selecting a design school, and it should be a deciding factor in your decision as to which design school to attend. Accreditation ensures that you’ll be attending a reputable school and investing in a quality education. It will also affect your ability to pursue additional education opportunities down the road, qualify for financial aid, and find a good job.

There are three types of accreditation in design education: Regional Accreditation, National Accreditation and Industry Accreditation. While all three types of accreditation are designed to ensure schools adhere to national standards, regional and industry accreditation are preferred. Most major colleges and universities in the United States are regionally accredited. Regional accreditation ensures that the credits you earn are transferable to any other regionally accredited institution. Industry accreditation ensures your design program adheres to the highest industry standards in design education.

Accreditation agencies for arts and design include the following:

You can learn more about regional and national accrediting agencies by visiting Accreditation in Higher Education.