Industrial design blends the art with the science of product design and development. Also known as product designers, industrial designers are experts at the tactical planning of product concepts, prototypes, and models, mainly in commercial contexts. These artisans are among society's most productive inventors, brainstorming the ideas for items from mobile apps and school campuses to weapons systems and children's toys.
Like other designers, industrial designers create draft representations to support product modeling, either by hand or via Computer-Aided Design. They work both as self-employed consultants and on teams for major manufacturers, large corporations, and design firms. Successful industrial designers, whether employed or entrepreneurial, enjoy rosy salaries and benefits. Despite their title, less than one third of these professionals are directly employed by manufacturers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
To get into this field, the U.S. BLS recommends students earn a college education at least to the bachelor's level. Relatively few industrial designers acquire graduate degrees, but doing so can enhance job applicants' employability. It is recommended that students attend an ID program accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) or another government-approved institutional entity.
Associate degrees in industrial design are available, especially online, but a sub-baccalaureate degree may lead only to an assistant or technician position. A 4-year bachelor's is considered entry-level for industrial designers, and can be used to obtain gainful employment. After graduation, success for bachelors is a matter of acquiring solid experience through years of hard work.
Industrial design overlaps a great deal with mechanical engineering, and professionals in both fields may compete for the same jobs. More often, however, they work together, with mechanical engineers developing internal components and technology based on product specifications written by industrial designers. This close professional relationship makes mechanical engineering coursework at the bachelor's level an asset for fledgling industrial designers.
Applicants may need to attend a portfolio interview in order to gain admission to some programs. The choice of undergraduate major is somewhat flexible. Students may major in, for example, Commercial Art, Design and Visual Communications, Product Design—even Packaging Science. Bachelor-level classes in Industrial Design typically include:
A Bachelor of Industrial Design (BID) can enter the workforce as a:
Industrial design is notably open to those with no design experience at even the graduate level. Students can enter many master's programs in ID as long as they have a bachelor's degree, regardless of their background—although this may extend how long it takes to finish school. Of course, having a bachelor's degree in industrial design can be beneficial, allowing students to begin building on the fundamentals and deepening their designing skill set right away.
Regardless of one's undergraduate background, graduate school is a uniquely in-depth opportunity to build a professional portfolio that will appeal to employers and clients. Additionally, industrial designers commonly focus their expertise on a very specific niche. The master's level is an excellent opportunity for developing advanced skills in one's desired specialty.
Master designers learn how to move from concept to prototype to mass manufacture or real-world implementation, one step at a time. Moreover, industrial design is becoming computerized, and good jobs can be had in the digital space. The best industrial design schools teach students to create systems, software, and digital tools as much as manufactured objects.
Master programs usually take 2 years to complete, including both structured coursework, studio time, and independent research. The top industrial design schools expose students to quality internship experiences and offer a variety of electives from which to narrow down a specialization. A master's thesis with a portfolio presentation is typically required for graduation. Some programs provide students financial support through assistantships, grants, or scholarships.
ID coursework at the master's level may include:
Which jobs are available to graduates of a Master of Industrial Design (MID) program?
The doctorate in industrial design is a new degree in the field, first introduced in the 1990s. It is designed primarily for those who wish to conduct design research. The Ph.D. credential also qualifies one to teach in a university setting as a professor. Doctoral programs take from 4 to 6 years to complete and require students to defend a dissertation before earning the doctorate.
Core doctoral courses at the Ph.D. level may focus on:
Someone with a Ph.D. in Industrial Design can become a:
We found 56 schools offering industrial design degree programs in the U.S.
|Appalachian State University||Boone||NC||13227|
|Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus||Tempe||AZ||44126|
|Art Center College of Design||Pasadena||CA||1459|
|Art Institute of Colorado||Denver||CO||2090|
|Art Institute of Philadelphia||Philadelphia||PA||2516|
|Art Institute of Seattle||Seattle||WA||2561|
|Art Institute Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||PA||2497|
|Auburn University Main Campus||Auburn University||AL||21860|
|Brigham Young University||Provo||UT||32554|
|California College of the Arts||Oakland||CA||1180|
|California State University - Long Beach||Long Beach||CA||30918|
|Campbell University Inc||Buies Creek||NC||5880|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Pittsburgh||PA||8514|
|Cleveland Institute of Art||Cleveland||OH||553|
|College for Creative Studies||Detroit||MI||1086|
|Columbus College of Art and Design||Columbus||OH||1416|
|David Wolcott Kendall Memorial School||Grand Rapids||MI||744|
|Fashion Institute of Technology||New York||NY||10813|
|Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus||Atlanta||GA||14805|
|Highline Community College||Des Moines||WA||6327|
|ITT Technical Institute||San Bernardino||CA||817|
|ITT Technical Institute||Fort Wayne||IN||510|
|ITT Technical Institute||Murray||UT||503|
|Jackson Community College||Jackson||MI||5069|
|Massachusetts College of Art||Boston||MA||2328|
|Metropolitan State College of Denver||Denver||CO||17688|
|Middlesex County College||Edison||NJ||10398|
|Milwaukee Institute of Art Design||Milwaukee||WI||646|
|North Carolina State University at Raleigh||Raleigh||NC||28619|
|Northern Michigan University||Marquette||MI||8427|
|Northwest Technical College||Bemidji||MN||4638|
|Oakland City University||Oakland City||IN||1418|
|Oakland Community College - Bloomfield Hills Campus||Bloomfield Hills||MI||23188|
|Ohio State University - Main Campus||Columbus||OH||47952|
|Pratt Institute - Main||Brooklyn||NY||4272|
|Rhode Island School of Design||Providence||RI||2086|
|San Jose State University||San Jose||CA||26698|
|Savannah College of Art and Design||Savannah||GA||4923|
|Siena Heights University||Adrian||MI||1972|
|The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Inc||Fort Lauderdale||FL||3145|
|The Art Institute of Portland||Portland||OR||666|
|The University of the Arts||Philadelphia||PA||2037|
|University of Bridgeport||Bridgeport||CT||2973|
|University of Cincinnati - Main Campus||Cincinnati||OH||27327|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||Chicago||IL||24942|
|University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign||Champaign||IL||38465|
|University of Louisiana at Lafayette||Lafayette||LA||15742|
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor||MI||38103|
|University of Washington - Seattle Campus||Seattle||WA||36139|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||Blacksburg||VA||27869|
|Wayne County Community College District||Detroit||MI||9008|
|Wentworth Institute of Technology||Boston||MA||3187|
|Western Michigan University||Kalamazoo||MI||28657|
|Western Washington University||Bellingham||WA||12307|