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Special Effects Makeup Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Special effects makeup is used in theater, television and film to transform actors into characters. Training programs commonly offer opportunities for participants to practice makeup techniques on fellow students and models.

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The world of special effects makeup is highly competitive and requires skills and techniques that are highly specialized. Selecting the right school that can provide access to jobs in this field can be very important.

Special Effects Makeup Schools

The following schools and programs offer courses and certificates/diplomas in special effect makeup:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)*
Blue Ridge Community College Flat Rock, NC 2-year, Public Certificate, Diploma, Associate's $2,389 (in-state)
$8,533 (out-of-state)
Greensboro College Greensboro, NC 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Course (as part of the bachelor's degree program in theater) $26,900 (for degree program)
Montclair State University Montclair, NJ 4-year, Public Certificate $11,773 (in-state)
$20,320 (out-of-state)
Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas Helena, AR 2-year, Public Certificate $2,593 (in-district)
$2,968 (in-state)
$4,325 (out-of-state)
Shenandoah University Winchester, VA 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Course (as part of the bachelor's degree program in theatre design and production) $30,760 (for degree program)
Stephens College Columbia, MO 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Course (as part of the bachelor's degree program in theatre arts) $29,176
Webster University Saint Louis, MO 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Certificate $25,500
Make-Up Designory New York, NY <2-year, Private, for-profit Certificate $20,682
Elegance International School of Professional Makeup Hollywood, CA <2-year, Private, for-profit Diploma $16,750
University of New Hampshire College of Liberal Arts Durham, NH 4-year, Public Course (as part of bachelor's degree program in theatre and dance) $16,986

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College Selection Criteria

Students interested in attending a special effects makeup school may want to consider the following:

  • Program type and emphasis tends to vary by program, so students may want to consider what specialty, if any, they want to pursue and if a specific program is best suited for them.
  • Considering that most makeup programs with a special effects focus are available through private, for-profit schools and award certificates upon completion, students may also learn to apply special effects makeup through the theater departments of some community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities.
  • Since this is a highly competitive field, students may want to take into account whether or not a program offers internship opportunities and if there are any production companies nearby.
  • Many programs require students provide their own makeup and tools; verify this before applying.

Special Effects Makeup Program Overview

Certificate in Special Effects Makeup

Completion of a special effects makeup program can vary from a short, intensive course to a 1-year program. Students typically need to purchase their own makeup supplies. Courses focus on performance makeup techniques, including those used to simulate a certain age or expression. Students learn to apply prosthetics and other body alteration molds. They also create fake hair, bruises, wounds and skin textures and learn how these skills vary between film and the stage. Other subjects instructors may teach include:

  • Skin care
  • Color theory
  • Traditional makeup applications

Programs offering special effects makeup courses are typically at the bachelor's degree level or through diploma or certificate programs through independent, private schools. There are several items to take into consideration when choosing a program, such as internship opportunities or areas of emphasis.

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