Illustration Graduate Degrees

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Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree

The School of Illustration's MFA program provides advanced study in the illustrative arts with an emphasis on personal style using the most appropriate tools. Art skills and the development of oral, written, and visual presentation skills play a daily role throughout the program. Students graduate with a vibrant portfolio and are well equipped to perform at a high level as they embark on professional careers as illustrators.

MFA Illustration Unit Requirements
Major 27 units
Directed Study 18 units
Graduate Liberal Arts 12 units
Electives* 6 units
TOTAL 63 units
*Per director approval

MFA Illustration Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 63 units

Additional Information

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate students will meet the following student performance criteria:

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

The MFA Illustration Graduate School curriculum emphasizes visual communication and a mastery of technical and conceptual abilities and involves intensive education in the formulation of ideas, problem solving and artistic skill. Students are asked to stretch their talents and refine the skills that will enhance their art, broadening the opportunities for their work. Development of the individual's style and viewpoint is a focus of graduate studies in Illustration.

Graduate students receive classical art instruction and an exposure to new media. The graduate student will develop a portfolio that demonstrates a personal style and a high level of professional skills. A refined illustrative style and voice will culminate in the graduate student's individual focus for their Final Project in areas such as editorial, advertising, graphic novel and children's books. The Final Project is exhibited to the public upon approval of the Final Review committee.

MFA graduates of the School of Illustration will meet the following student performance criteria:

MFA Thesis Project

  • Plan a portfolio of works directed towards legitimate markets
  • Produce a professional-level portfolio consisting of 15 works directed towards legitimate markets

Artistic Ability

  • Demonstrate the skills necessary in the chosen medium or mediums to successfully complete their thesis project
  • Create compelling images
  • Maintain a consistent “language” or “signature style”

Research and Conceptualization Skills

  • Clearly identify their audience
  • Conduct research for reference

Presentation Skills

  • Professionally present and discuss their work with a review committee.

Professional Readiness

  • Develop both digital and print materials to market themselves and their work
  • Demonstrate an understanding of current trends and visual industry standards by describing how their work will address a specific market

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes
Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  2. Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  3. Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  4. Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  5. Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  6. Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  7. Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.


Please see Degree Breakdown for requirements for the program. Explore our course catalog and take classes based on your interests, either online or in our world-class facilities in San Francisco.

Graduate Degree Breakdowns

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The MFA degree provides advanced study for students pursuing a career in Illustration. Studio courses focus on the techniques necessary to develop and master technical skills. Graduate Liberal Arts courses promote the expression of ideas and effective communication utilizing visual, oral and written presentation skills. The program culminates with an independent final project. Students will graduate from the program equipped with a portfolio of work and prepared for professional opportunities in the field of Illustration.

Gainful Employment Information

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William Maughan

Graduate Director of Illustration

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