Do you want to immerse yourself in a culture and community of artistic visionaries? Do you want two to three sustained years of concentrated work on your craft? Finally, do you desire a career that offers both creative freedom and job stability? The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree will help you get there. Though arguments against the degree proliferate, the stigma of the MFA is allocated solely to its perceived lack of practicality, despite studies that have proven the MFA not only provides vocational flexibility and adaptability, but it can, in fact, lead to long-term job stability and sustainability. The MFA also doesn’t have to break the bank. Many of the best programs (below) cover the student’s full tuition, offer stipends, and provide teaching and research opportunities to make graduate study in the fine arts affordable. We’ve been sure to note which schools have funding options.

Other incentives to pursue a MFA include access to a number of high class museums, exhibition spaces, studio labs, studio equipment and supplies, and more. But perhaps the biggest reason to consider the MFA is its known curriculum that emphasizes mentorship. Not only will you have the opportunity to work with renowned artists in your field, you will also develop close working relationships with faculty during your studies, and after. Many students remain close with advisors, faculty members, and their program directors far beyond graduation.

In a century marked by code and data, the arts are needed now more than ever, and exponentially expanding graduate programs reflect that need and growth. Whether you want to write the next great American novel, perform on Broadway, teach, or get involved in non-profit work, a Master of Fine Arts degree will serve you throughout your life. 

What are the Best MFA Programs?

One can get a MFA in a diverse range of mediums and genres, from poetry to contemporary dance. While some universities may be known for having strong graduate programs in a single specific area, the programs we’ve chosen to include below have strong MFAs across departments and disciplines. This is no little thing.  

Below are the twenty-five best Master of Fine Arts programs in the country. Here at College Choice we’ve collated and compared the academic reputation, student satisfaction, affordability, and average annual salary of early career artists from MFA programs across the country to create a definitive ranking of the nation’s twenty-five best. We first chose programs with the most renowned academic reputation and from those pared the list down to those with high retention rates—a reflection of student satisfaction—added those with the most economical accessibility, and finally we included the averages of early career salaries (care of PayScale) to arrive at a list distinguished by thorough research and extensive data aggregation.  

Our figures come from the university and colleges’ websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.

1

Carnegie Mellon University

CC Score: 100

Annual Tuition: $36,000-$39,000

Program Website

Pittsburgh is a great place to continue your arts education, as it is home to multiple museums, a vibrant and growing art scene, and the top-rated MFA program in the country: Carnegie Mellon University. For those pursuing studio arts—painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.—CMU’s program is consistently ranked among the top five in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. And it tops our list for early annual income; on average, graduates go on to make nearly $70,000 annually in their first years after earning their degrees. And with a relatively competitive tuition rate, CMU makes for a solid return on investment.

Most MFA programs consist of approximately two years of study and art-making; however, Carnegie Mellon’s program is three years long and takes students through an innovative curriculum that monitors the role of art in the public sphere. As a CMU student you will not only take studio courses, but academic classes, writing seminars, integrative studios, and more. This highly interdisciplinary approach to making and understanding art isn’t necessarily for everyone, but if socially engaged art projects, tactical media, institutional critique, culture hacking, and relational aesthetics are what you’re looking for, then Carnegie Mellon offers that and more.

MFA tracks offered:

Visual Arts

2

Yale University

CC Score: 99.25

Annual Tuition: $39,800

Program Website

Yale University offers, in addition to its prestigious name and its reputation for having the top-ranked MFA program in the country (U.S. News & World Report), a studio- and mentor-based approach to artistic training. The Yale School of Arts gives its students hands-on instruction and guidance to art-making as well as a broad introduction to intellectual integrations of aesthetics. With an emphasis on quality, creative freedom, critical insight, and formal and technical innovation, students at Yale learn how to make substantive and impactful inquiries into visual arts while honing their crafts.

Whatever your medium, you can expect courses that span the aesthetic experience, from drawing and filmmaking to the relativity of color, gender dialectics, and critical theory. And in addition to the studio and mentorship focus of Yale’s MFA curriculum, students also engage in the School of Art’s lecture series, a program that brings in visiting artists and professionals from around the world for track-specific counsel, campus-wide lectures, and even work critiques. Finally Yale offers its students access to a renowned exhibition space, open year-round, that allows them (as well as faculty and visiting artists) to display their work.

MFA tracks offered:

Visual Arts

Film, Video, and Interdisciplinary

3

University of California–Los Angeles

CC Score: 97.25

Annual Tuition: $11,220

Program Website

Los Angeles is a mecca for artists whose mediums range from fine visual arts to screenwriting and film production, and UCLA’s MFA program offers concentrated studies in each. With over half a dozen tracks to choose from, students are encouraged to specialize even more through elective studies, media exploration, and cross-departmental study. The curriculum itself, whether you’re studying ceramics or photography, emphasizes current critical and theoretical thought and it addresses contemporary issues in the art world, both through the classroom and through the Visiting Artists Lecture Series.

The seventy-two credit hours required to complete UCLA’s MFA are divided into courses covering studio time, group critique, art history, and theory, and the degree culminates in a formal exhibition. Not only is the UCLA MFA one of the more affordable programs on our list (California residents can expect to pay just $16,325 annually), it is ranked as the second best MFA program in the country by U.S. News & World Report. UCLA is also home to two prestigious, renowned art museums, and in local proximity to dozens more in the Los Angeles metro area.  

MFA tracks offered:

Visual Arts

Drama

4

Cornell University

CC Score: 97

Annual Tuition: $29,500

Program Website

Cornell University offers two kinds of MFAs, one in writing and the other in visual arts. Both are renowned programs that pair its students with faculty members who are internationally recognized artists and writers. The creative writing MFA allows students to choose a specialization in either poetry or fiction while training them on the literary, theoretical, and cultural contexts of literature through one of four areas: English or American literature, comparative literature, literature in the modern or classical languages, or cultural studies. MFA writing students at Cornell can anticipate a small cohort, generous financial support, and teaching experience.

Through the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Cornell University offers a MFA in Creative Visual Arts that eschews a solely Western approach to art, instead stressing a global and interdisciplinary approach to art making and aesthetic questioning. Unique to the Cornell experience is the opportunity students have to organize and work closely with a special advisory committee, that is, a group of faculty members from across the university who oversee and mentor the students’ process. The MFA in Visual Arts—with specialization in painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, or studio art—at Cornell takes two years to complete.  

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Visual Arts

5

Columbia University

CC Score: 96.35

Annual Tuition: $57,296

Program Website

Columbia University and its MFA programs are ranked as among the top five best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. With its prestigious faculty and access to one of the best art and writing scenes in the world, New York, getting your MFA at Columbia will serve you throughout your art career. The School of the Arts at Columbia offers both a MFA in creative writing (with specialization in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) and in visual arts. The former is workshop heavy, with a curriculum (created for writers by writers) that examines literature from a practitioner’s viewpoint, rather than that of a scholar of theorist.

The visual arts MFA, however, combines studio practice with critical approaches to contemporary art theory. Columbia’s students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty members inside the Visual Arts Program while also taking electives offered outside the school, including courses on art history, philosophy, architecture, writing, theatre, and more. Columbia thus seeks to develop in its students a broad foundation of art history and aesthetic theory, upon which they are able to build their own personal practice.  

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Visual Arts

6

University of California–San Diego

CC Score: 96

Annual Tuition: $16,630

Program Website

The University of California–San Diego, recognized for its excellence in arts education, offers three kinds of Masters of Fine Arts programs, in theatre and drama, creative writing, and in visual arts. Each division then offers specializations in a number of mediums and areas. For example, MFA students in the theatre and dance department can choose from acting, dance, set design, directing, playwriting, or stage management concentrations. For both creative writing and visual art MFA students, the UCSD program is specifically designed to promote a cross-departmental and interdisciplinary approach to artistic applications. Those students thus engage in workshops and studios while also developing a broad base of critical theory.

Furthermore, visual art MFA students at UCSD have specialized in everything from painting, sculpture, and photography to installation, environmental art, film, video, and computing. The writing students are equally encouraged to blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction prose and between prose and poetry. In addition to its competitive annual tuition (around $16,600), UC San Diego is known for its high annual early career salary among graduates, averaging around $54,400, making this a great return on investment.

MFA tracks offered:

Theatre and Drama

Writing

Visual Arts

7

University of Michigan

CC Score: 95.25

Annual Tuition: $10,942-$22,111

Program Website

Like many other schools on our list, the University of Michigan offers a number of MFA degree options, in creative writing, art and design, and music, theatre, and dance. Each are two years long and mostly fully funded. For creative writing MFA students, they can choose between concentrating in fiction or poetry, while also taking graduate level literature courses. Likewise, visual art students are able to choose between a scholarly or studio-focused track of study. Though, whichever concentration they opt into, they will learn how to integrate creative and academic work as well as take part in international study, community engagement, and teaching assistantships.

Unique to the University of Michigan MFA experience is the opportunity to take part in one of the many certificate programs that can be paired with the full degree program. The range of certificate options is huge and contains everything from LGBT studies, sustainability, and ecology to museum studies, translation, and African studies. By including the certificate program into your MFA studies you will be able to set yourself apart upon graduation. The University of Michigan is not only one of the more competitively priced schools on our list, they offer the most fully funded programs, and graduates make, on average, over $60k a year in their early careers.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Dance and Theatre

Visual Arts

8

University of Virginia

CC Score: 94.13

Annual Tuition: $15,224-$25,174

Program Website

Known most for its MFA in literature and creative writing, the University of Virginia also offers a MFA in drama that includes specialization in one of several areas: acting, scenic design and technical production, lighting design, and costume design and technology. MFA students who study drama are privileged to a curriculum that blends traditional and innovative stage practices and emphasizes the importance of questioning, engaging, and truth seeking. For that reason, as a MFA drama student you can anticipate close mentorship with faculty who will push you to place your art in a global context.

Situated in its world renowned English department, the creative writing program at the University of Virginia is equally prestigious. MFA creative students can specialize in literary prose or poetry, and they are almost always fully funded. In addition to the creative work, UVA students also study form and theory, develop independent writing projects, and engage in workshops with peers and faculty. Because of the university’s long history with literature, MFA students are exposed to many opportunities to attend lectures and readings, to network among the English and literature communities, and to hone their craft under the tutelage of globally recognized scholars and writers.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Drama

9

Johns Hopkins University

CC Score: 93.5

Annual Tuition: $50,410

Program Website

The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University offers a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program with two tracks of study: fiction or poetry. For admitted students (of which there are approximately eight each year), financial aid is given in the form of full tuition and a teaching assistantship, making this both a competitive and competitively priced program. The Johns Hopkins curriculum specifically stresses genre-informed discussions, conference participation, independent study and craft, and interactions with visiting writers and speakers.

In addition to cultivating and developing a manuscript as well as attending workshops, students of the Johns Hopkins’ Writing Seminars also take literature classes that span diverse literary and theoretical topics, such as translation, women in literature, literary imitation, and world literature. They, likewise, teach courses and work closely with faculty to develop pedagogical principles and implementation. If you’re looking to teach after earning your MFA in writing, then the seminars at Johns Hopkins University may be the best fit for you. They also boast an early average salary of approximately $61,500 annually for graduates.  

MFA tracks offered:

Fiction

Poetry

10

Brown University

CC Score: 93.25

Annual Tuition: $50,224

Program Website

With an emphasis on creative and intellectual time and freedom, the MFA programs at Brown University strive to give their students the space to explore their craft. Thus, students only have two courses per term, a workshop and an elective, which may be chosen from among the full curricular offerings provided by Brown and include philosophy, theatre, history, religious studies, modern culture and media, foreign language, and literature courses. Brown University proffers a Master of Fine Arts degree in either creative writing, with specialization in fiction, poetry, digital language arts, or cross-disciplinary writing.

Brown also offers two drama-related fine arts degrees, one in playwriting (which takes three years to complete) and the other in acting and directing. The former is a program defined by the university and the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies as civic, chaotic, strange, and queer, meaning it is global in its outreach, post-disciplinary in its promotions, and subversive in its guidance and pedagogy. While the acting and directing MFA program is similar, it takes a more technical and rigorous approach to training its students, preparing them for real-world experiences.

MFA tracks offered:

Theatre Arts and Performance

Literary Arts

11

Tufts University

CC Score: 90.15

Annual Tuition: $49,892

Program Website

Through the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) Tufts University offers a Master of Fine Arts degree that prepares students to become professional artists. By blending practical and critical skillsets across both mediums and disciplines, the curriculum at Tufts helps its students develop both creatively and vocationally. As a Tufts MFA student you will collaborate with peers and faculty, take part in mentorships and academic discourse, participate in group critiques, teach and apply for exhibitions and grants, and explore art history and theory, all while working on your individual projects.

This two-year, Boston-based MFA program is comprised of studio time, four graduate seminars, two electives, and two art history courses. Students are given their own semi-private studio space as well as access to the school’s supplies, equipment, and faculty. SMFA is affiliated with the Museum of Fine Arts and is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, meaning as a Tufts MFA student you will have access to a large network of artists and their communities.

MFA tracks offered:

Visual Arts

12

University of California–Irvine

CC Score: 88.38

Annual Tuition: $11,220

Program Website

Recognized as a Public Ivy, the University of California Irvine is consistently ranked among the best schools in the country, as are many of its individual academic and creative departments, including its prestigious MFA programs. UC Irvine offers graduate degrees in a number of creative areas, including writing (which is part of the equally reputable UC Irvine English department), visual arts (through the Claire Trevor School of the Arts), and drama, which includes specialization in acting, directing, stage management, design, and music direction.

The two-to-three-year MFA in writing program at UC Irvine allows students to train in either poetry or fiction. Through workshops, graduate seminars offered by the Department of English, the Department of Comparative Literature, and other humanities programs, and concentrated work on a creative thesis, this writing MFA fully prepares students to become professional writers. Similarly, the visual arts MFA is for students pursuing careers in contemporary arts. This program is especially experimental and interdisciplinary with a curriculum combining independent study with critique courses and seminar classes. Finally, the MFA in drama prepares students to work on Broadway, in regional theaters, in TV, or in feature films.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Visual Arts

Drama

13

Cranbrook Academy of Art

CC Score: 84.5

Annual Tuition: $34,375

Program Website

The visual arts MFA through the Cranbrook Academy of Art—based in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan—is unique in that the curriculum is self-directed and unscripted; there are no “courses.” Students create and implement the kind of graduate education they desire while being guided, supported, and encouraged by the larger community. Cranbrook Academy of Art is one of the best art, design, and architecture graduate schools in the nation, and it works in close relationship with the renowned Detroit Institute of Arts.

Cranbrook offers Master of Fine Arts degrees in the following mediums: 2D design, 3D design, ceramics, fiber, metalsmithing, painting, photography, print media, and sculpture. Since there is no set curriculum, students participate in critique rotations, reading and discussion groups, presentations, travel, and visits with guest artists and critics. Students are also privileged to have access to the Cranbrook Art Museum and to the Detroit art scene, which not only has a long history but is booming again right now. Cranbrook’s open, dynamic graduate experience isn’t necessarily for everyone, but it’s absolutely the best of its kind.

MFA tracks offered:

Visual Arts

14

New York University

CC Score: 86.75

Annual Tuition: $47,880

Program Website

New York University is globally recognized for its academic standards, research achievements, and its commitment to the arts. Located in the middle of one of the greatest art, drama, and literary scenes in the world, New York University boasts one of the best Master of Fine Arts programs in the world. They offer MFA degrees in creative writing, studio art, film, acting, and more. Each takes approximately two years to complete and each pairs students with nationally recognized artists, writers, actors, and directors to cultivate an education marked by mentorship and relational guidance.

The NYU experience differentiates itself in many ways, one of which is its one-of-kind MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish degree. Lead by prominent Latino/a, Latin American, and Spanish writers, this program offers three areas of study: fiction, poetry, and essay, all of which are taught in Spanish. In addition to this unique program, NYU’s other MFAs are consistently ranked by Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Review as some of the best in the country.

MFA tracks offered:

Drama and Film

Visual Arts

Creative Writing

15

University of Texas

CC Score: 85.25

Annual Tuition: $5,062–$9,232

Program Website

This three-year MFA in Creative Writing program is one of the most affordable on our list, with competitive tuition that is, in most circumstances, fully paid through the Michener Fellowship. And on top of that, a stipend of $27,500 is offered per academic year. This MFA is not only affordable, it’s nationally ranked again and again by U.S. News & World Report. Though UT students concentrate in fiction, poetry, playwriting, or screenwriting, the curriculum is notably interdisciplinary, allowing students to develop work in a second field of study. The rest of the program is comprised of approximately three courses per term in addition to workshops, reading and critical studies classes, and thesis work.

The faculty board at the Michener Center for Writers is made up of faculty members from across many UT departments, including the Department of English, the Radio, TV, and film departments, and the theatre and dance department. A number of visiting writers and artists also take part in the annual UT reading and writing series each year, making this program a highly relational one.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

16

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

CC Score: 85.25

Annual Tuition: $47,400

Program Website

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers two kinds of Master of Fine Arts degrees: one in writing and the other in art and design. The former is a two-year program that is distinctly not workshop-driven, but emphasizes and prioritizes graduate projects. Furthermore, SAIC brings students into an “old-world” style of mentorship, that is, one defined by a deep and dialogical relationship between student and faculty. There are still workshops, though they do not weigh as much in the curriculum as the writing projects, interdisciplinary seminars, and relationships among peers, faculty, and the greater SAIC community at large. MFA writing students can concentrate in (and freely combine) poetry, fiction, play/screenwriting, nonfiction, and even work with other departments within the school.

Similarly, the MFA in Studio program at SAIC promotes student work that crosses departments and disciplines. The specializations abound at SAIC and include everything from art and technology studies to ceramics, fiber, performance, print media, sound, and more. Almost all the programs on our list require full residency, but at SAIC the fine arts MFA students have the option of enrolling in the low-residency program, studying at a distance and visiting campus only a couple times a year.

MFA tracks offered:

Visual Arts

Creative Writing

17

CUNY Hunter College

CC Score: 85

Annual Tuition: $10,130

Program Website

The Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at Hunter College, part of the CUNY system, offers free tuition to all of its students by way of teaching opportunities, research fellowships, internships with celebrated New York fiction writers and poets, and internships as editors and proofreaders at Threepenny Review. Hunter offers three specializations—memoir, poetry, and fiction—and has a curriculum comprised of workshops, craft seminars, and literature classes that include topics ranging from Greek tragedies and Chaucer to post-colonial and contemporary literature.

Hunter College also offers a MFA in Studio Arts that is in New York City’s historic Tribeca neighborhood, placing you in direct proximity to some of the world’s most innovative and ground-breaking artwork. As a Hunter student you will also have access to their renowned gallery program, diverse lecture series, and exhibitions, as well as their woodshop, ceramics studio, digital workspace, photography studio, metal shop, printmaking studio, and more. Students are given five concentrations to choose among: sculpture, painting, photography, combined media, and works on paper.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

18

Boston University

CC Score: 84.75

Annual Tuition: $49,176

Program Website

The Atlantic has recently ranked the MFA in Creative Writing program at Boston University as among the top 5 percent of all creative writing programs in the country. For those interested in studying playwriting, fiction, or poetry, this program is the only on our list that can be completed in one year (which includes summer study). Also unique to Boston’s program is the world language study, the only of its kind on our list. This allows students to take part in the translation seminar and earn a Global Fellowship, which gives students the opportunity to study, write, and travel for up to three months anywhere outside of the United States.

Boston University’s other MFA programs, each offered through the College of Fine Arts, are equally as reputable and distinct. There are MFAs in theatre and visual arts, and both have their own specializations: theatre MFA students can choose from among concentrations in theatre education, directing, production, playwriting, production management, and design; and visual art MFA students can concentrate in sculpture, painting, and graphic design. BU is also home to several art labs, research centers, a global music concert series, a prison education program, community projects, and much more.

MFA tracks offered:

Theatre

Visual Arts

Creative Writing

19

University of Wisconsin–Madison

CC Score: 84.13

Annual Tuition: $11,942–$17,454

Program Website

The University of Wisconsin in Madison is home to one of the nation’s best English departments, based in which is their prestigious MFA in creative writing. For students pursuing careers and craft development in fiction or poetry this program gives a generous financial aid package and opportunities for its students to teach, work on literary journals, take workshops in other genres (including playwriting, creative nonfiction, and screenwriting), and enroll in cross-departmental courses in an array of subjects (eg., foreign languages, book-making, music, dance, etc). Notable to the UW Madison MFA is the two-to-one student-teacher ratio, which is unmatched by any other program on our list.

The University of Wisconsin in Madison’s MFA in Studio Art program also provides many funding options for their students, in the form of fellowships, teaching, or project assistance positions. In fact, over 80 percent of their art students receive funding. This program is distinctly interdisciplinary and flexible, encouraging its students to work with faculty from a diverse range of mediums and departments. Whether you’re attending UW Madison for writing or studio art, the city itself is known for its strong literary and arts scene, often considered one of the best up-and-coming art cities in the nation.

MFA tracks offered:

Studio Art

Creative Writing

20

Rhode Island School of Design

CC Score: 82.88

Annual Tuition: $47,110

Program Website

Ranked first in “The World’s 25 Best Design Schools” by Business Insider, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), located in Providence, is a globally renowned art and design school that offers a number of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the MFA. Students can specialize in ceramics, digital and media art, furniture design (the only on our list to offer such a specialization), glass, graphic design, jewelry and metalsmithing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and textiles.

Additionally, as a RISD student you can take electives in a diverse array of topics and mediums, including design and the developing world, the ethics of humanitarian design, late modernism and postmodernism, from immaterial to material, studio languages, and much more. As a RISD student you can also expect a high degree of community involvement, as MFA students work closely with the undergraduate population, as instructors in workshops or departmental courses, and through other professional development opportunities. This program is truly one of the best in the country for its visual arts MFA and is known for its post-graduation placement rates.

MFA tracks offered:

Visual Arts

21

California Institute of the Arts

CC Score: 82.25

Annual Tuition: $43,986

Program Website

The consistently well ranked California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) offers a MFA for artists of all genres and mediums; one can pursue a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, choreography, studio art, graphic design, photography and media, art and technology, film and video, experimental animation, film directing, performer-composing, composition, jazz studies, instrumentals (in winds, brass, percussion, guitar, harp, piano/keyboard, strings, or voice), African music and dance, Balinese and Javanese music, north Indian music, world percussion, music technology, acting, stage directing, writing for performance, scene design, costume design, lighting design, sound design, technical direction, and producing. There are even more concentrations available within certain disciplines.

CalArts is committed to nurturing and challenging the aesthetic vision of its students. For that reason the university goes to lengths to connect its students with working artists and professionals as well as offering access to career services, workshops, global initiative opportunities, and more. CalArts is also home to the Walt Disney Modular Theatre, Pixar University, the Center for New Performance, and much more.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Dance and Performance

Music

Studio Art

Graphic Design

22

Bard College

CC Score: 73.75

Annual Tuition: $30,205

Program Website

Based in the beautiful Hudson River valley and on the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, Bard College is a liberal arts institution that is consistently well ranked by The Princeton Review, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and more. Bard campus is comprised of a renowned art museum, a conservatory, multiple research and cultural centers, and is known for its interdisciplinary approach to its undergraduate education, but also in its structuring of the MFA programs, of which there are six: film and video, music and sound, painting, photography, sculpture, and writing.

Though all admitted MFA students are expected to prioritize one medium and to build a broad foundation consisting of the methodology and philosophy of that medium, they are also encouraged to combine other mediums and are given access to the entire university’s many studios, art labs, and equipment. Whichever specialization and focus you choose, at Bard you can anticipate a hands-on approach to learning and working closely with faculty to develop and direct your craft. Plus, you’ll also get to take part in the Bard experience, that is, immersion in a distinct pedagogical and cultural scene that promotes intentional living and learning.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Film

Music

Visual Arts

23

Indiana University–Bloomington

CC Score: 71.88

Annual Tuition: $21,718–$45,576

Program Website

The Department of English at Indiana University–Bloomington is one of the best in the country, ranked among the top twenty, and it is home to their creative writing program, which gives students the opportunity to hone either their fiction or poetry under the mentorship of nationally recognized writers. This program is a three-year degree for those who either want to become professional writers or who wish to teach at the college level. Consisting of workshops, faculty mentorship, small classes, and a creative thesis, MFA students are given access to one of the, hands down, best writing communities in the country.

Likewise, the MFA in Studio Art degree through IU Bloomington trains students on a number of mediums, including ceramics, digital art, graphic design, metalsmithing and jewelry design, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and textiles. These MFA students are guided through a curriculum marked by a liberal arts experience and influenced by the resources of a top research university. You’ll study with accomplished artists and designers, and you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with a diversity of students, peers, faculty, and visiting artists from across disciplines and mediums.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Studio Art

24

University of Iowa

CC Score: 66.38

Annual Tuition: $28,559–$46,193

Program Website

It is hardly disputed that the Iowa Writers Workshop is one of the best writing MFA programs in the country. Not only do world renowned novelists, poets, and memoirists teach in the program, but they earn their MFAs there: graduates have won nearly every literary prize there is, including (seventeen) Pulitzer Prizes and national Laureate recognition. As an Iowa Writer you will gain teaching experience as well as have the opportunity to work as a research assistant during the course of your two years of study and manuscript development. Finally, this is also the oldest program on our list, boasting over eighty years of training writers and fostering a literary community.

The University of Iowa also offers MFAs in theatre and contemporary dance, acting, design and technology, and studio arts, the latter offering further areas of concentrations: ceramics, graphic design, 3D design, drawing, intermedia, jewelry and metal arts, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. Students are also expected to supplement their studio hours, workshopping, and thesis making with classes on theory, history, criticism, and philosophy courses.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Studio Art

Performance

25

California College of the Arts

CC Score: 66.25

Annual Tuition: $47,430

Program Website

The only school on our list to offer a Masters of Fine Arts in Comics program, the San Francisco-based California College of the Arts (CCA) is a distinguished institute and leader in arts education. In addition to the comics MFA, they also proffer MFAs in design, film, fine arts, and writing. CCA also has a dual-degree program, which allows students (who prove exceptional creative vision and ambition) to integrate two discrete degrees, completing them in three years under direct mentorship and guidance. Under this unique program students can supplement creative work with a visual and critical studies degree. Moreover, CCA MFA students can also take part in the distinct Design MFA/MBA in Design Strategy dual degree option.

The teaching assistantships at CCA help augment the cost of attendance as well as providing MFA students with meaningful and influential teaching experience. Furthermore, CCA students are not only privileged to work among world-class artists, designers, and writers, their proximity to the Bay Area art scene and community plays an influential and developmental role in both art making and community building. Indeed, graduates from CCA have gone on to work in fields of art, publishing, design, architecture, criticism, film, curation, and business.

MFA tracks offered:

Creative Writing

Design

Film

Fine Arts

Comics

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