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2021 Best Design & Applied Arts Schools

391 Colleges
$29,542 Avg Salary
$27,114 Avg Student Debt

Finding the Best Design & Applied Arts School for You

Design & Applied Arts is the #35 most popular major in the country with 36,179 degrees and certificates awarded in 2018-2019.

There are so many programs in today's world that it can tough to figure out which one is the right one for you. With more and more schools offering online options, you could even register for a great program on the other side of the country. On top of that, there are a considerable number of trade schools that offer fast-track entry to many fields.

To assist you in seeing some of the education options that are available to you, Course Advisor has created its Best Design & Applied Arts Schools ranking. Our analysis looked at 391 schools in the United States to see which programs offered the best educational experiences for students. To come up with a school's ranking, we analyzed numerous factors related to post-graduation wages, the quality of education offered by the school, average accumulated student debt, and more.

View our full ranking methodology.

2021 Best Design & Applied Arts Schools in the United States

The following schools top our list of the Best Design & Applied Arts Colleges.

Top 25 Top Schools in Design

#1

The Creative Circus

Atlanta, GA

Our 2021 rankings named The Creative Circus the best school in the United States for design and applied arts students. Located in the city of Atlanta, The Creative Circus is a private for-profit school with a fairly small student population.

After completing their degree, design graduates from The Creative Circus carry an average student debtload of $21,010. This translates to an average monthly loan payment of $218, based on a 10-year repayment plan.

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#2

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY

Out of the 391 schools in the United States that were part of this year’s ranking, Cornell University landed the # 2 spot on the list. Cornell is a very large private not-for-profit school located in the city of Ithaca.

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#3

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN

You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend University of Notre Dame. It ranked #3 on our 2021 Best Design & Applied Arts Schools list. Notre Dame is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in the suburb of Notre Dame.

The average amount in student loans that design majors at Notre Dame take out is $18,975. The average monthly payment of a loan this size is about $197, assuming that the borrower is on a 10-year repayment plan.

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#4

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around you if you attend Carnegie Mellon University. The school came in at #4 on this year’s Best Design & Applied Arts Schools list. Located in the large city of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly large student population.

After completing their degree, design graduates from Carnegie Mellon carry an average student debtload of $23,000. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $239.

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You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus. It ranked #5 on our 2021 Best Design & Applied Arts Schools list. Located in the city of Atlanta, Georgia Tech is a public college with a very large student population.

The average amount in student loans that design majors at Georgia Tech take out is $26,874. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $279.

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With a ranking of #6, Northeastern University did quite well on this year’s best schools for design and applied arts students. Located in the city of Boston, Northeastern is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly large student population.

After completing their degree, design graduates from Northeastern carry an average student debtload of $29,000. Assuming that a graduate chooses a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly loan payment is $301.

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Sessions College for Professional Design did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best schools for design and applied arts students. It came in at #7 on the list. Located in the midsize city of Tempe, Sessions College is a private for-profit school with a small student population.

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University of Delaware landed the #8 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best design and applied arts programs. U of Delaware is a fairly large public school located in the suburb of Newark.

The average amount in student loans that design majors at U of Delaware take out is $24,500. For students who choose a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly student loan payment is $254.

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With a ranking of #9, Illinois Institute of Technology did quite well on this year’s best schools for design and applied arts students. Illinois Tech is a medium-sized private not-for-profit school located in the large city of Chicago.

Design majors at Illinois Tech take out an average of $142,414 in student loans while working on their egree. For students who choose a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly student loan payment is $1,659.

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#10

Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, VA

Virginia Tech ranked #10 on this year’s Best Design & Applied Arts Schools list. Located in the city of Blacksburg, Virginia Tech is a public college with a fairly large student population.

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University of Wisconsin - Madison came in at #11 in this year’s edition of the Best Design & Applied Arts Schools ranking. Wisconsin is a very large public school located in the city of Madison.

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Wentworth Institute of Technology came in at #12 in this year’s edition of the Best Design & Applied Arts Schools ranking. Located in the large city of Boston, WIT is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population.

While working on their degree, design majors at WIT accumulate an average of around $27,000 in student debt. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $280.

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With a ranking of #13, University of Washington - Seattle Campus did quite well on this year’s best schools for design and applied arts students. Located in the city of Seattle, UW Seattle is a public school with a fairly large student population.

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#14

American University

Washington, DC

With a ranking of #14, American University did quite well on this year’s best schools for design and applied arts students. The American University is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in the city of Washington.

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#15

Endicott College

Beverly, MA

Endicott College did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best schools for design and applied arts students. It came in at #15 on the list. Endicott is a small private not-for-profit school located in the suburb of Beverly.

After completing their degree, design graduates from Endicott carry an average student debtload of $27,000. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $280.

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Lawrence Technological University came in at #16 in this year’s edition of the Best Design & Applied Arts Schools ranking. Located in the small city of Southfield, Lawrence Tech is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population.

The average amount in student loans that design majors at Lawrence Tech take out is $27,000. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $280.

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#17

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL

University of Florida landed the #17 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best design and applied arts programs. U of F is a very large public school located in the medium-sized city of Gainesville.

Design majors at U of F take out an average of $16,500 in student loans while working on their egree. Assuming that a graduate chooses a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly loan payment is $171.

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Advertising Art Educational Services DBA School of Advertising Art ranked #18 on this year’s Best Design & Applied Arts Schools list. Located in the small city of Kettering, Advertising Art Educational Services DBA School of Advertising Art is a private for-profit school with a small student population.

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Northeastern University Professional Advancement Network landed the #19 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best design and applied arts programs. Located in the city of Boston, Northeastern University Professional Advancement Network is a private not-for-profit college with a large student population.

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#20

Taylor University

Upland, IN

With a ranking of #20, Taylor University did quite well on this year’s best schools for design and applied arts students. Located in the town of Upland, Taylor U is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population.

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With a ranking of #21, The University of Texas at Austin did quite well on this year’s best schools for design and applied arts students. UT Austin is a fairly large public school located in the large city of Austin.

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#22

Clemson University

Clemson, SC

With a ranking of #22, Clemson University did quite well on this year’s best schools for design and applied arts students. Clemson is a very large public school located in the large suburb of Clemson.

While working on their degree, design majors at Clemson accumulate an average of around $23,000 in student debt. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $239.

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Alexandria Technical & Community College ranked #23 on this year’s Best Design & Applied Arts Schools list. ATCC is a small public school located in the remote town of Alexandria.

Design majors at ATCC take out an average of $12,000 in student loans while working on their egree. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $125.

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With a ranking of #24, Art Center College of Design did quite well on this year’s best schools for design and applied arts students. Located in the midsize city of Pasadena, Art Center College of Design is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population.

After completing their degree, design graduates from Art Center College of Design carry an average student debtload of $31,000. Assuming that a graduate chooses a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly loan payment is $322.

Full Design & Applied Arts at Art Center College of Design Report

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#25

Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, TX

Texas Christian University came in at #25 in this year’s edition of the Best Design & Applied Arts Schools ranking. Located in the city of Fort Worth, TCU is a private not-for-profit college with a large student population.

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Rest of the Top Schools for Best Design & Applied Arts Schools

#27

Stonehill College

Easton, MA
#30

Chapman University

Orange, CA
#32

Marist College

Poughkeepsie, NY
#33

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY
#35

San Jose State University

San Jose, CA
#37

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA
#38

Purdue University - Main Campus

West Lafayette, IN
#40

Boston University

Boston, MA
#45

Bellevue University

Bellevue, NE
#49

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, TX
#50

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI

Additional Award Winners

This section represents the rest of the schools awarded a Best Design & Applied Arts Schools badge. Showing in this list means the school was ranked in the top 15% of the 391 different United States design and applied arts schools we analyzed.

Rank College Location
51 Rutgers University - New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ
52 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, MO
53 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
54 Bradley University Peoria, IL
55 University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
56 University of Houston Houston, TX
57 University of Nebraska - Lincoln Lincoln, NE
58 North Dakota State University - Main Campus Fargo, ND

Honorable Mentions

These are some additional schools worth mentioning that are also great but just didn't quite make the cut to earn our top Best Design & Applied Arts Schools award.

Rank College Location
59 Seattle Pacific University Seattle, WA
60 Century College White Bear Lake, MN
61 Washington State University Pullman, WA
62 University of California - Davis Davis, CA
63 Saint Cloud State University Saint Cloud, MN
64 Maryville University of Saint Louis Saint Louis, MO
65 University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, IA
66 West Texas A&M University Canyon, TX
67 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
68 Pennsylvania State University - University Park University Park, PA
69 Fashion Institute of Technology New York, NY
70 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS
71 George Washington University Washington, DC
72 Susquehanna University Selinsgrove, PA
73 University of Kentucky Lexington, KY
74 Texas A&M University - Commerce Commerce, TX
75 Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania Shippensburg, PA
76 Ball State University Muncie, IN
77 SUNY Oneonta Oneonta, NY
78 Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI

Design & Applied Arts by Region

View the Best Design & Applied Arts Schools for a specific region near you.

Region
Southeast
New England
Rocky Mountains
Plains States
Middle Atlantic
Far Western US
Southwest
Great Lakes

Design & Applied Arts is one of 9 different types of programs to choose from.

Majors Similar to Design

Related Major Annual Graduates
Fine & Studio Arts 40,751
Music 26,968
Drama & Theater Arts 17,726
Film, Video & Photographic Arts 16,756
General Visual & Performing Arts 5,720

Notes and References

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

  • Read more about our ranking methodology.
  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of the rest of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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