Bachelor of Arts in Visual & Critical Studies

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Visual and Critical Studies degree program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) allows you to pursue in-depth academic study in the creative environment of an art school. During your work, you will draw connections between the visual arts and history, philosophy, psychology, and the natural sciences.

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Alumni of this program go on to graduate work in the humanities, museum studies, arts administration, art-related law, or pursue careers in communications, teaching, public service, social activism, media production, or journalism.

You will share most classes, including a minimum of 39 hours of studio courses, with students in the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program, yet also follow a distinct sequence of courses, seminars, and personal research. Core courses provide you with diverse critical methods for exploring the cultural meanings of visual phenomena as they relate to social, economic, and material circumstances. You may choose from a variety of courses in studio practice, art history, writing, and the liberal arts and sciences, with special attention to topics such as visual and media literacy, cultural history and theory, and global studies.

Admissions Requirements and Curriculum

Use the accordions (+) below to learn more about the admissions requirements and curriculum.

  • To apply to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), you must fill out an application and submit your transcripts and letters of recommendation. And most importantly, we require a portfolio of your best and most recent work—work that will give us a sense of you, your interests, and your willingness to explore, experiment, and think beyond technical art, design, and writing skills.

    To apply, we must have the following items:

    • Online application
    • Artist’s Statement
    • Transcripts
    • Letter of Recommendation
    • Portfolio
    • Test Scores

    View our Portfolio Requirements by Degree Program for more detailed information regarding portfolios.

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Visual and Critical Studies students follow a curricular pathway that shares many classes with Bachelor of Fine Arts students before diverging into a unique course of study. Here are the requirements you must meet to earn a BA in Visual and Critical Studies.

    Total Credit Hours


    Core Curriculum 


    • VCS 2001 Issues in Visual and Critical Studies (3)
    • SOPHSEM 2900 (3)
    • VCS 3001, 4010, & 5000 Topics in Visual & Critical Studies (including 6 credits global/comparative) (18)
    • PROFPRAC 3900 Junior Seminar (3)
    • VCS 3010 Tutorial in Visual and Critical Studies (3)
    • VCS 4800 Undergraduate Thesis Seminar I: Research & Writing (3)
    • CAPSTONE 4900 VCS Undergraduate Thesis Seminar II: Research and Writing (3)

         PROFPRAC and CAPSTONE are now required for new incoming students beginning in the 2015-16 academic year.




    • CP 1010 Core Studio Practice I (3)
    • CP 1011 Core Studio Practice II (3)
    • CP 1020 Research Studio I (3)
    • CP 1022 Research Studio II (3)
    • Studio Electives (27)    


    Liberal Arts 


    • ENGLISH 1001 First Year Seminar I (3)
    • ENGLISH 1005 First Year Seminar II (3)
    • Humanities (6)
    • Social Science (6)
    • Natural Science (6)


    Art History 


    • ARTHI 1001 World Cultures/Civilizations: Pre-History to 19th-Century Art and Architecture (3)
    • Art History Elective at 1000 level (3)    
    • Art History Elective (3)


    General Electives 



Transfer Students

Transfer students must complete at least 66 credit hours of coursework at SAIC in order to earn a BA in Visual and Critical Studies degree here. Please see the breakdown of credits required for minimum residency below.

Total credits required for minimum residency


Minimum Studio credit


Minimum Visual and Critical Studies Core Curriculum



Take the Next Step


Visit the undergraduate admissions website or contact the undergraduate admissions office at 800.232.7242 or