San Diego, CA Art Classes with Degree Program Summaries

The San Diego area has eight colleges that offer art programs, including three located within ten miles of its downtown. Learn about the degree programs, admission info, and program requirements for these three schools to make an informed education decision.

San Diego Art Schools

Art classes and programs in San Diego can be found at one public and two private universities. Read summaries of the programs below, and use the comparison table to get a big picture look at the three featured schools. Additional colleges and universities in the San Diego area that provide instruction for aspiring artists can be found in the other school options section at the end of the article.

  • San Diego State University (SDSU), a public school located 10.1 miles from the downtown, offers art degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels in a variety of specializations. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits the school's art programs.
  • At 6.5 miles, the University of San Diego (USD) is a little closer to the downtown. This is a private school that offers an undergraduate major and a minor in the visual arts and provides opportunities for art students to travel to Istanbul or Paris for summer study sessions.
  • Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), located 9.7 miles form the downtown, is a small, private university that houses an outdoor studio workspace for art students. This university also offers an undergraduate major in the visual arts, along with a minor in art.

Comparison of Schools

Use this table to compare school size, undergraduate tuition, and school selectivity, figures that vary widely across the three featured schools. Check out the percentages of first-year students receiving financial aid, as well as retention rates for those returning for their second year of study.

San Diego State University University of San Diego Point Loma Nazarene University
School Type 4 year; public 4 year; private not-for-profit 4 year; private not-for-profit
Total Enrollment (2017) 35,158* 8,905* 4,417*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2017-2018) $7,460 in-state; $19,340 out-of-state* $47,708* $34,600*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016-2017) 59%* 85%* 92%*
Acceptance Rate (2017) 35%* 50%* 76%*
Retention Rate (2016-2017) 89% for full-time students, 67% for part-time students* 90% for full-time students* 89% for full-time students*
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (students who began in 2011) 74%* 82%* 74%*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

San Diego State University (SDSU)

San Diego State University's undergraduate- and graduate-level art programs include a number of concentrations, ranging from sculpture to interior design to art history. Graduate students exhibit their work in the school's Everett Gee Jackson art gallery.

Minor in Art

The minor in art at SDSU includes studies in design and drawing, as well as a minimum number of upper-division art classes. These courses may be in painting, multimedia, applied design, or art history, among other topics.

Bachelor of Arts in Applied Arts and Sciences

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) art program in applied arts and sciences includes emphases in interior, graphic, or applied design; painting and printmaking; sculpture; and multimedia. Students in all specializations complete classes in design, drawing, and art history. Within the painting and printmaking specialization, students may choose a sub-concentration in book arts, painting, printmaking, or photography. In the applied design track, areas of further specialization include furniture design and woodworking; metals and jewelry; fiber; and ceramics.

Students pursuing an emphasis in sculpture take courses like figurative sculpture, as well as one course in another area of emphasis, such as painting or metals. Painting and printmaking majors pursue classes in life drawing and digital media, while the requirements for interior design students include courses in visual presentation and residential environments. Classes in typography and specialized software are required for students concentrating in graphic design; multiple courses in the chosen sub-focus are mandatory for applied design students. Art majors pursuing an emphasis in multimedia complete coursework in Internet design and photographic imagery.

Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences in Art

In the liberal arts and sciences program, students can concentrate in studio arts or art history. Studio arts majors receive instruction in areas like painting, drawing, and sculpture. Advanced studies in drawing and painting are also required, as are classes in art history and a minimum number of art electives. Art history students complete mandatory coursework in basic drawing and design. In addition, students pursuing this emphasis take a seminar in museum history and a class in art history methodology.

Master of Arts/Master of Fine Arts

Students looking to earn their master's degrees can choose from a 60-credit MFA or a 30-credit MA program. Concentrations exist in areas like applied design, graphic design, interior architecture, multimedia and photography, painting and printmaking, and sculpture. Courses include topics like interactive media, motion graphics, 2D and 3D imaging, and drawing fundamentals.

University of San Diego

The University of San Diego's Department of Art, Architecture, and Art History employs 13 full-time faculty members and a variety of affiliated lecturers and visiting professors. The art program offers emphases in such fields as photography, drawing, and visual communications.

Minor in Visual Arts

Visual arts minors at USD choose four courses from subjects such as photography, new media, and drawing. In addition, students complete two art history classes and 12 units of upper-level art courses.

Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts

Visual arts students at USD pursue focused training in one of the following specializations: art, technology, and critical studies; painting and drawing; new media; sculpture; visual communications; or photography. All visual arts majors select a minimum number of lower-division courses from topics such as drawing, basic space and form, and design. They also study in art history. Students also take ten advanced art courses, including three advanced-level courses in their chosen concentrations.

The art, technology, and critical studies emphasis includes topics in sculpture, the history of urbanism, and acoustic soundscape. All visual arts majors present an exhibition of their work, along with a corresponding written exposition and oral defense, during their final semester.

Point Loma Nazarene University

PLNU's Department of Art and Design has 15 full-time and part-time faculty members. The school offers specialized art instruction in sculpture, interactive arts, photography, and printmaking, among other areas.

Minor in Art and Design

Students will need to take 18 credits in this minor program. Topics include art history, drawing techniques, and 2D and 3D design. Electives will also be required from studio and graphic design courses.

Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts

The visual arts program at PLNU offers emphases in sculpture and installation; video, performance, and interactive media; drawing, painting, and printmaking; photography; and art history. For all tracks, students complete courses in 2-D and 3-D design, art history, and drawing.

The sculpture and installation focus incorporates further study in computer graphics and studio practice, as well as electives in areas such as painting, graphic design, and theatre history. Students in the video, performance, and interactive media concentration take classes in digital photography, film and television production, and web design, and may pursue electives in subjects like acting and movement. Drawing, painting, and printmaking students take courses in life drawing, contemporary art history, and advanced painting and printmaking. The photography emphasis includes courses in modern art history, photographic imagery, and an elective such as painting, sculpture, or printmaking.

Students pursuing a specialization in art history complete coursework in research methodology, non-Western art, and design history, among other topics. Visual arts students in all but the art history emphasis participate in a senior exhibition; faculty and professionals in the field evaluate this exhibition.

Other School Options

The University of California - San Diego in La Jolla, less than 15 miles from downtown San Diego, offers both undergraduate and graduate studies in art. Several 2-year colleges within the city limits also award art degrees or certificates, including San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College, and San Diego Miramar College. Additional programs can be found at Grossmont College, MiraCosta College, and Southwestern College, all within 40 miles of San Diego.


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