it worth the financial burden?

Serious question here folks. I currently attend a relatively high ranked state college on the east coast. I’m absolutely fixated with the automotive industry. The business side, advertising side, and of course - the design side. I find myself sketching cars on just about every assignment I get during class, and it’s been this way since I was a child.

I got a portfolio together, applied to ACCD and got in. Great. Looked into the program a bit more, got cold feet, never followed through…which is building a cloud of regret inside me. Let me first break down why I didn’t attend:

$17,000 per semester for tuition x 8 terms = $136,000 USD for tuition
$12,500 for living expenses per year x 2.5 years = $30,000+ for living
$1,500 per term on materials x 8 terms = $12,000 +/-
$6,000 for misc. expenses

Factor in student loan interest and this could easily end up costing $200,000. Parents are not offering to help as this doesn’t seem like a worthwhile education.

Industry demand
I understand ACCD has high employment rates, but when the advisor told me 96% I kind of chuckled, especially in this economy. She also mentioned how many students received internships this semester, but struggled to provide me with actual employment numbers.

Now, the student loans wouldn’t concern me as much if this industry was craving talent and continuously hired right out of the school. Lets face it, the graduating class is less than 20 I assume, there is no reason any of them should be unemployed…but from what I’ve heard, only 3 or 4 of the graduating class make it to the larger companies…which really scared the **** out of me considering any joe blow with a business degree can easily find a job making $50-60k per year without much effort or debt.

On top of the low demand, it doesn’t seem like the top talent is being paid much either. This is almost jet-fighter like selection process with extremely average payout, especially if you plan on comfortably living (saving for retirement, buying property, starting a family, etc.) in California - where most of the studios are.

So, those are the two main deterrents that pushed me away from the program. Do I lack balls? Maybe, but I do not want to end up like the majority of my peers swallowed whole and financially crippled by student loans. I only have 3 semesters left @ $4,300 per semester at my current school but have completely lost interest in the program and withdrew this semester. I am tempted to reapply for ACCD because it almost feels like a calling, or brilliant marketing on their part.

Any advice? Tips? Experience? Words of wisdom?

regret can be a terrible thing…

I’m not in trans design so you should go over to that section to post this again.
When I was in school I understood there to be around 0 - 5 job openings a year designing cars, but most all trans design students do get jobs.
Crazy hot sketching skills are always in demand, and if your flexible enough to work in a non-car (boating, mass transit, aftermarket/custom, cycles etc…) you should have no problem paying off the loans.

Can you post some work samples?

All design is hard to break into. If you’re super talented and driven, you can succeed out of most schools. I’ve seen some great talent come out of ACCD but just as much from other, presumably cheaper schools. If you have the baseline talent and it’s your dream to work in Auto design, go for it. But do your due diligence and evaluate all the schools at all the price points where you can study Auto design.

I say for any school, don’t attend unless you can somewhat afford it. The student loan debt after graduation will take a toll on your body.

As for Art Center, I think it will be worth your money IF you can get sufficient scholarships. If you don’t get any scholarships or too little, either try applying again later or find other sources of income such as working before attending.

That’s the problem, I wouldn’t be able to afford it right now and would have to default to loans - which is something I am desperately trying to avoid. I’ve had friends who willingly signed away their life to Sallie Mae and regret it now and they went into far more “in demand” careers than auto design. I did not get a scholarship, although I did get 85% on my portfolio review which doesn’t make sense.

One trend that really scares me about automotive design is how streamlined the design process has become. Ten years ago, you’d walk into a BMW dealership and every car would look vastly different yet still have the BMW look and feel. Now, almost every car looks exactly the same. A lot of auto companies are moving towards this singular “corporate look” approach, which I imagine - besides being cheaper - reduces the size of their design departments. Not to mention this new trend of releasing 1.5 version of vehicles instead of designing an entirely new platform.

However, 0-5 trans jobs a year sounds insane…seriously, wow…can’t imagine how many applications they must receive for each posting. Even if the top school’s graduate 12-15 people per semester, thats over 100 people looking for entry-level jobs per semester in the US! I’ve gone on these automotive websites and none of the list any openings for design either - most are looking for marketing/business side of things.

Blah - what to do. On one hand I want to tell myself “F*** it” and just do the program and find out what happens but I just can’t look past the price tag/employment numbers.

Most of us have had loans, just the simple math of it.

On BMW, I’d say just the opposite actually. Their line pre Bangle was “One sausage, 3 lengths” … they only had 3 models at the time. Now the surfacing is incredibly complex and they have a dozen models.

This reads more like you are talking yourself out of it.

If you look deeper into the matter you might find that some universities world wide
can match ACCD with much lower cost (dept) resulting out of it. But you’d need to
leave the US and their prohibitivly costly educational system.

For sure an M5 might very well be the best and most desireable sedan in the world.
But if you don’t have the dough it is no use keeping looking at it.

If you watch closely where the actual designers in trans come from you’ll see a rather
diverse background. The companies hire different talent for their team and it looks as
if they would not even want a bunch of ACCD graduates taking over completely.

It might be advisable to envision your role in one of those teams and lay a managable
route to that. (including the money issues)

It takes a lot of confidence and persistance to get there, but some of my classmates did,
despite coming from an ID background.


One of my instructors, whom is an Art Center graduate, told his students this week that if they have the money, go to Art Center. According to him it’s that simple.

Talking myself out of it? Not necessary, just taking a rational approach to the situation. These design school’s aren’t cheap, in fact, they’re more expensive than most regionally accredited universities, so it sort of begs the be questioned and examined more carefully (IMO) - their tuition seems to be on a constant rise and I doubt employment numbers are increasing at the same rate.

As much as I’d love to do a program out of the US, due to language barriers, I probably won’t go through with it. I’m sure this is a long shot, but do automotive companies hire designers from non-industrial design backgrounds (graphic design, fine art, etc.) ? I’m thinking about going into our school’s Graphic Design program (BFA) as it seems to be very good - plus as a fall back I could always do freelance work, work at an ad agency, design websites or even work for myself. Although I tend to think in a 3D median, I do pretty well in 2D.

Time to flip a coin?

Might want to talk to current students there and get there perspectives on the job outlook. They will give you the most honest and direct feedback about the program.

I went to UC and we had a fairly strong Trans program. Not as strong as Art Center of CCS but still a good program. We had one designer move directly into the auto industry. However he was super talented. Also quite a few who are now class A surfacers in an auto industry as well. Again near the top of the class. Jobs are limited, but there are openings.

Also there are lots of tangential jobs. Car interiors, Boats, Bikes, etc.

As for hiring non automotive designers, I doubt that is a possibility considering the large amount of automotive trained designers to pick from. But I don’t have any direct sources to back that statement up.

$200K in debt buying you no tangible guarantee of enjoyment or success - no thank you. At a 3% rate (low) that’s 20 years of $1,100 a month. For the ‘love’ of inanimate objects and sheet metal you will almost certainly hobble your ability to go on vacations, buy a house (or car for that matter), take dates to a nice dinner, heck even get a new iPhone every release cycle.

There are people/parents/students out there for whom that kind of money is no big deal - and perhaps some do go to ACCD.

Sorry - do they not offer a MA program, for half the semesters/time/money? Are there other schools that have competent trans depts and cost less?

One of our lead designers at the company I work at is an Art Center grad. He says that companies like GM and Boeing come and scout students in their junior and senior year (sort of like NFL scouting in college football) and offer jobs based on their student work. I think there’s so few automotive designer positions advertised because the companies just go to Art Center and fill the positions before they even see the light of day. That was back in the late 90s/early 2000s so things may be different now.

You have a much, much better chance of getting an automotive design job out of Art Center than most other places in the US, but it’s not like you can’t get into the industry at all if you go somewhere you can more easily afford. I work in the aviation design industry and I went to a state school, so it’s not entirely impossible to break into transportation from elsewhere.

This is the main factor that is putting me off. It seems like the pay is in line with most other creative jobs - so it’s not like the top talent is pulling in some outrageous salary figures. One thing I’ve realized at school is I’m not driven by money like most of my other classmates. However, I realize going to a private design school is an investment and I won’t fall for the “play now, pay later” scam of student loans that are offered these days.

They say you should make 6 times your annual tuition amount per year after graduation to be financially “healthy”. For a state university, this is about $60,000 per year (2(5,000) x 6). Easily attainable after 1 or 2 years out of school with a decent degree (economics, finance, engineering, computer-science, etc.)

For a private design school, like ACCD (which has a trimester setup), your salary should be $315,000 (3(17,500) x 6). This is a figure I feel is only reserved for maybe 2-3% of those in the automotive industry (directors, VP, CEO, etc.) - which is great - but how long does it take to get to that level? 10-15 years if you DO make it to creative director?

Again, this factors in saving for retirement, buying property, owning a car, having kids, etc. while still being able to pay back your loan in a decent amount of time.

So, I don’t know, financially it seems like a train wreck but I still want to do it. :laughing: Apparently, they do offer a Masters program…I’m not sure how you would hit the ground running with something like this though.

Hey there,

My 2 cents worth. I have been working in the auto industry for 15 years (first interiors and now seating). Most of my friends graduated from either CCS, Art Center, Cleveland Institute of Art, and Univ. of Cincinnati. Back in the 90’s I think it was a little bit easier to justify the costs of the tuition but most of what people have been posting in this forum is correct. The top level jobs(if you view top level as in exterior designer) are few and your chances are higher if you attended Art Center or CCS. In addition to that, they will pick only the top 15% or so in the class. Needless to say it is competitive.

I wrote an article about this months ago comparing public and private schools relating to design.

That said, I have to say that tuition in general for these private schools are out of control. If you have the ambition and drive, you CAN indeed make it. We have hired students in the interiors business from U of M and other schools but a lot depends on your portfolio and work. It would be very difficult to get an exterior design position with a Graphic Design background…not impossible, just nearly :wink:

Hope this helps. Best of luck!

I really think that you are being completely rational and smart in thinking through the financials of it. My wife has just about that same situation (except she is a lawyer), and the loans kill us. Here is the problem with 200k in debt making 40-60k. Basically you will go on income contingent loans (without it you will be paying roughly 2400/month, which after taxes will leave you with an unlivable amount). This means that you will pay out enough to keep you 20% over the poverty line (roughly 1100/month). Paying income contingent is very manageable. You will be able to live in a decent place and not have to eat spam everyday. However, that 1100 wont even cover your interest so your loan will actually grow even though you are paying as much as you can. After paying over $1000/month for 2 years, my wifes loan has actually grown $800 from the day she graduated.

I really dont want to deter you from making a decision, but I do know what it is like to be going through these massive loans.

Thanks for the advice, I decided against it…unfortunately. Maybe 10-15 years ago, things would’ve been different but as of now, it seems like financial suicide.I’ve also heard the reputation of ACCD is questionable recently…allowing most students in, increasing class sizes, hiring less industry staff, cutting scholarships, etc.

Is graphic design a decent major if one wants to work in advertising (creating ad campaigns, commercials, etc.)? My university offers it as a BFA and i’d get in-state tuition. I know it doesn’t go hand-in-hand with creating ads, but very few schools offer “Advertising” unless you go to to a private design school.

Graphic design is a good place to start. Some schools also have the more granular ‘Advertising Design’ majors. At Syracuse two different colleges had very similar advertising majors but one was a bit more media and business focused, and the communication design major was more like graphic design.

Right, I know Penn State has an advertising program as well but it looks more like a communications degree (mainly comm classes). I’m assuming a design degree would be best for a creative job at an agency, but how much weight does the actual school carry? I know my school doesn’t have much (or any) brand recognition as far as art/design goes. It is a very well respected state school though.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

While I do understand your decision against going that deeply into dept I’d like
to question your black/white decision making. You COULD do Trans in a lot
of other places and still land a job at a car maker. The next closest thing to trans
design would be industrial design, not graphics design. (This is why so many IDers
still do car doodles… _:wink:

So, why is it graphix, now?