For nearly 90 years, artists and designers have called the Academy of Art University their home. Founded in San Francisco and family-owned since 1929, it is the largest private art and design university in the nation.
We are first and foremost a professional school—a specialized place that helps you master your craft as you prepare for professional roles as artists and designers. Our hands-on, no-nonsense curriculum is taught by some of the finest minds working in today’s creative and innovative industries. They will help you develop your talent and acquire skills sought by the creative marketplace.
All are welcome here. Our inclusive admissions policy is rare among art schools. We’ve found that our students’ potential doesn’t depend on their past elsewhere, but on their future with us. Find your place and your purpose at the Academy of Art University, as you prepare for your professional career.
Academy of Art University / Academy of Art University
Student Life at the Academy
Academy of Art University is an absolutely amazing place to be a college student. One of the world’s great creative capitals, San Francisco has been our home since 1929. Our neighbors include giants in everything from advertising, animation, and architecture to communications, game development, and web design.
Our Vision and Mission
Our Vision: To be the first choice for students seeking a world-class education in the arts and the first choice for those seeking to employ artists globally.
Our Mission: Academy of Art University prepares aspiring professionals in the fields of design, communication, and the arts by delivering excellent undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificate and portfolio programs.
The Academy of Art College was established in San Francisco in 1929 by Richard S. Stephens, a fine art painter and Creative Director for Sunset Magazine. Assisted by his wife, Mrs. Clara Stephens, he opened the new school in a rented loft at 215 Kearny St. to teach advertising art.
Richard S. Stephens
The Academy of Art College was established in San Francisco in 1929 by Richard S. Stephens, a fine art painter and Creative Director for Sunset Magazine. Assisted by his wife, Mrs. Clara Stephens, he opened the new school in a rented loft at 215 Kearny St. to teach advertising art. Within a few years, a distinguished faculty of practicing art and design professionals helped formulate the school’s philosophy—hire established professionals to teach future professionals. In 1933 the curriculum was expanded to include fashion illustration, and in 1936 a fine art department was added.
Dr. Richard A. Stephens
Richard and Clara’s son, Dr. Richard A. Stephens, moved into the role of President in 1951, and his guidance led to the expansion from 50 students to more than 5,000, with a significant expansion of department majors. In 1966 the school was incorporated and granted authority to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education of the State of California. The graduate program was inaugurated in 1977 and approved by 1983.
Dr. Elisa Stephens
Dr. Elisa Stephens, a granddaughter of our school’s founder, succeeded her father as President of the Academy of Art University in 1992. Dr. Stephens has been committed to expanding the Academy’s curriculum to stay current with new technologies and industry trends, as well as developing state-of-the-art facilities and resources.
In 2004, the name of the school was changed from the Academy of Art College to the Academy of Art University in recognition of its depth, scope, and quality of education.
Today the University is the largest private school of art and design in the country. Students now have the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Architecture, Associate of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Architecture, Art Teaching Credential, certificate programs, and continuing art education courses in 28 areas of study.
Academy of Art University prepares aspiring professionals in the fields of design, communication and the arts by delivering excellent undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificate and portfolio development programs.
Council for Interior Design Accreditation
The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) is an independent, non-profit accrediting organization for interior design education programs at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.
The BFA Interior Architecture & Design and the MFA Interior Architecture & Design programs are both accredited by the CIDA. CIDA is located at 206 Grandville Ave., Suite 350, Grand Rapids, MI 49503-4014. Tel. 1-616-458-0400
California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Accreditation
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) is an agency in the Executive Branch of California State Government. The major purpose of the agency is to serve as a state standards board for educator preparation for the public schools of California, the licensing and credentialing of professional educators in the State, the enforcement of professional practices of educators, and the discipline of credential holders in the State of California. CTC accredits the Academy of Art University’s Single Subject Art Teaching Credential Program.
They are located at 1900 Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95811. Tel: 916-322-6253.
NOTE: The online Art Teaching Credential and the Masters in Art Teaching requires fieldwork assignments in observing and teaching art to pupils in local Bay Area public schools.
The National Architectural Accrediting Board
In the United States, most registration boards require a degree from an accredited professional degree program as a prerequisite for licensure.
The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which is the sole agency authorized to accredit professional degree programs in architecture offered by institutions with U.S. regional accreditation, recognizes three types of degrees:
- Bachelor of Architecture
- Master of Architecture
- Doctor of Architecture
A program may be granted an eight-year term, an eight-year term with conditions, or a two-year term of continuing accreditation, or a three-year term of initial accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established educational standards.
Doctor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree programs may require a non-accredited undergraduate degree in architecture for admission. However, the non-accredited degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.
The Academy of Art University, School of Architecture, offers the following NAAB-accredited degree programs:
- Bachelor of Architecture (162 undergraduate credits)
- Master of Architecture (pre-professional degree + 63 graduate credits)
- Master of Architecture (non-pre-professional degree + 87 graduate credits)
National Association of Schools of Art and Design
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) is the national accrediting agency for art and design and art and design-related disciplines. The Academy of Art University is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) to offer degrees of:
- Associate of Arts
- Bachelor of Arts
- Bachelor of Fine Arts
- Master of Fine Arts
- Master of Arts and Certificates.
All Academy of Art University AA, BA, BFA, MA, MFA and Art Teaching Credential programs are accredited by NASAD except for the programs offered by these schools:
- School of Acting
- School of Architecture
- School of Communications & Media Technologies
- School of Landscape Architecture
- School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media
- School of Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media
- AA in Automotive Restoration offered by the School of Industrial Design
- BS in Game Programming offered by the School of Game Development
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) is located at 11250 Roger Bacon Drive, Suite 21, Reston, VA, 20190. Tel. 703.437.0700
WASC Senior College and University Commission
Academy of Art University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), one of the seven regional associations that accredit public and private colleges and schools in the United States.
WSCUC is located at 985 Atlantic Avenue #100, Alameda, CA, 94501. Tel. 510.748.9001.
WSCUC Accreditation for Online Programs
Both onsite and online degree programs at the Academy of Art University are accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The following degree programs are not currently offered online:
- AA, BFA, MA, and MFA in Acting
- MA in Advanced Architectural Design
- AA in Automotive Restoration
- BFA and MFA in Footwear & Accessory Design
- BFA and MFA in Knitwear Design
- BFA and MFA in Textile Design
- MA in Writing & Directing for Film