Art Schools in Northern California Located in the SF Bay Area

Jan 14, 2019

There are roughly 16 art schools within the San Francisco Bay Area that have art degree programs. Read about some of the largest schools' programs, requirements, and tuition info, and find out which school is the right one for you.

Essential Information

Students interested in becoming professional artists can choose from associate's, bachelor's, master's, and certificate programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Program lengths vary, but generally, associate's and master's degrees can be earned in about two years, while bachelor's degrees require four years of study. Undergraduate programs include general education in addition to art-specific coursework. Hands-on practice of art skills is principal in fine arts programs, and the development of a portfolio is included in many curricula. Concentrations are possible, and exhibitions are popular in such programs.

The Bay Area offers a wide range of schools from which to choose, including 2- and 4-year, public and private institutions. Below are some of the largest colleges and universities in the Bay Area with fine arts programs.

School Comparison: At A Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Art Degree Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2017-2018)
California College of the Arts 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Fine Arts,
Master of Fine Arts
California State University - East Bay 4-year, public; midsize city Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art,
Bachelor of Arts
$6,834, in-state; $18,714, out-of-state*
Ohlone Community College 2-year, public; large suburb Certificate of Accomplishment in Fine Arts,
Associate of Arts in Art
$1,162, in-state; $6,730, out-of-state*
San Francisco State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Art,
Master of Fine Arts in Art
$7,254, in-state; $19,134, out-of-state*
San Jose State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Fine Arts,
Bachelor of Arts,
Master of Fine Arts
$7,721, in-state; $19,601, out-of-state*
Sonoma State University 4-year, public; large suburb Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art,
Bachelor of Arts in Art
$7,724, in-state; $19,604, out-of-state*
Stanford University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb Bachelor of Arts in Art Practice,
Master of Fine Arts in Art Practice
University of California - Berkeley 4-year, public; midsize city Bachelor of Arts in Art Practice,
Master of Fine Arts in Art Practice,
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Arts
$14,170, in-state; $42,184, out-of-state*
University of San Francisco 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Arts in Art,
Minor in Art

Source: *NCES College Navigator

California College of the Arts

California College of the Arts (CCA) is a private art school with campuses in San Francisco and Oakland. CCA has 18 BFA degree programs. Areas include painting and drawing, animation, photography and sculpture. Core studies in the 75-credit BFA degree programs may include 2-D, 3-D and 4-D perspective and beginning drawing, as well as studio classes.

Five Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree programs are also available, including a 2-year fine arts MFA. Through intensive studio classes, seminars and electives, this program covers a range of visual arts topics, from film and photography to ceramics and textiles. MFA students have access to the Wattis Institute for the Contemporary Arts, a CCA-run organization that presents international exhibitions, symposiums, lectures and a residency program.

California State University - East Bay

Located across the bay from San Francisco is Hayward, home to California State University - East Bay (CSUEB). The university has a 127-credit BFA program in art with options in graphic design, photography, traditional arts and multimedia. The transdisciplinary arts concentration covers drawing, the creative process, modern art and studio classes.

CSUEB also has B.A. degree requiring fewer credits of art coursework. Areas of study available include art history and visual studies, design, and studios arts.

Ohlone Community College

Ohlone Community College in Fremont is a 2-year college offering an associate's degree program in arts and a certificate program in fine arts. The 12-13 credit Certificate of Accomplishment in Fine Arts requires coursework in areas like Western art, life drawing and 2-D design.

The 60-credit A.A. degree program in art prepares graduates for BFA degree programs with coursework in 2-D design, 3-D design, art history, color and drawing. Students also choose 26-28 credit hours of supporting courses from areas such as perspective drawing, graphic design, painting, sculpture, ceramics and photography.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University (SFSU) is located about five miles from downtown San Francisco and has bachelor's and master's degree programs in art. The B.A. program's studio art concentration allows majors to focus on creating art in one of seven concentrations, including painting and drawing, ceramics, photography and printmaking. Program participants take classes in art history, art production and professional practice.

SFSU also offers a 2-3 year MFA degree program in art for those interested in becoming professional artists. Students will take 39 credits in studio requirements and a minimum of 21 units for academic requirements.

San Jose State University

This university, located in San Jose, offers bachelor's and master's degree fine arts programs. The BFA degree program has four concentration options, including photography, digital media art, spatial art and pictorial art. The pictorial art option focuses on painting, drawing, papermaking and printmaking. The spatial art concentration covers such studies as ceramics, metal casting, sculpture and performance art. The BFA program is designed for students planning to apply to MFA programs, so students are required to complete a portfolio of work during the program. B.A. degree programs in studio practice, art history/visual culture and studio practice with a teaching emphasis are also available.

Future studio artists may be interested in the university's 60-credit MFA degree program offered through the School of Art and Design. MFA program specializations include pictorial art, spatial art, digital media and photography.

Sonoma State University

Sonoma State University is situated between San Francisco and Santa Rosa in Rohnert Park and offers bachelor's degree programs in art. The 132-credit BFA program in art has concentrations available in painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. BFA program participants take 34 credits in a concentration and participate in an art exhibition. BFA students also receive regular faculty direction and portfolio review.

The university also has a 120-credit B.A. degree program in art with concentrations in painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, ceramics and works on paper. Students in the B.A. program take core classes, such as life drawing and contemporary art, in addition to 12 credits in a concentration. Students in both the BFA and B.A. programs must complete classes in 2-D and 3-D art and art history.

Stanford University

Stanford University is a private institution just outside of Palo Alto in Stanford. The Department of Art & Art History offers bachelor's and master's degree programs in art practice. The B.A. degree program in art has three field concentrations, including an emphasis on art practice, where students are exposed to the study of several artistic mediums. The 65-credit major includes beginning and advanced studio courses and art history.

The 48-credit MFA degree program in art practice includes concentrations in painting, photography, sculpture and new genres. Students complete a master's project and thesis, take academic coursework, participate as an undergrad teaching assistant and contribute to the university's MFA art exhibition. Visiting artists give lectures and visit individual MFA studios. Each year, two students from the Department of Art & Art History and several other departments are selected for a 6-month residency in Paris.

University of California - Berkeley

Part of the University of California system, this Berkeley school offers undergrad and graduate degree programs in art practice, as well as a post-baccalaureate certificate program in visual arts. The art practice B.A. degree program features lectures and studio work in areas such as painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and digital imaging. An art minor is also available, requiring eight studio classes and one art history class.

Students entering the highly competitive 2-year MFA program in art practice are expected to be technically skilled in an area of focus. In addition to studio courses, grad students also take classes in other departments. Graduate degree candidates have opportunities to teach undergraduate art classes and must complete a thesis exhibit.

UC Berkeley also offers a 24-credit certificate program in visual arts at the San Francisco location through the extension studies division. This program is designed to prepare individuals who have studio art experience and an undergrad degree (in any area) for entry to an MFA program or for a career in the arts. Some of the required courses include art history, portfolio development and portfolio critique, and students can take electives in photography, film, art history, drawing, painting and other media.

University of San Francisco

The University of San Francisco is a private Jesuit school in the Lone Mountain neighborhood of San Francisco. The university's School of Art has a B.A. program in fine arts that requires the completion of 48 units for the major. Topics include Western art history, painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, and digital photography. A 20-unit minor in fine arts is also available, where students will be required to complete art history and drawing courses, in addition to electives.

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