career change - engineer to ID

Hello, I am new here so sorry if this is a re-post. I have a BEng(Hons) degree in Civil Engineering and have worked as a building structures design engineer for 15 years. Very keen to change carer to something more ‘creative’ and have been interested in in Industrial Design and Graphic Design fo a long time. I ma 35 years old and live in the UK. Some answers to the following questions would be much appreciated:
-I am intersted in doing a MA in Industrial Design. The course is very project based. Would there be much point in doing this given my work history is so engineering biased?
-One the whole, do you think that the salary for an industrial designer would be better than that for a graphic designer, a few years after graduation? (I have been researching graphic design as a career and the pay looks very low on average).
-How hard is it to get your first job after graduation?
-Anyone who has done a similar career change?
-Is the job genuinley ‘creative’? Structural engineering really is not.



Would really appreciate advice from people in the UK. Is the MA in ID at Sheffield Hallam University any good?



There has been much discussion over engineers, your age, jumping to design. Search the forums and you should find some good discussions. I’m not in the UK, but to answer your questions, in nutshells:

An MA in ID for an engineer is usually not recommended because many of the core skills you need to work as a designer are taught in undergrad and through real world experience (internships / co-ops / employment) It all depends on the program and the individual though, so this one is relative to you. You don’t state what your design skills are right now…

Based on the surveys and data I’ve seen, graphic design has fallen into the commodity trap and is being dragged down by software jockey competition. It’s not that they are all paid low, there are just more low paid people who call themselves GDers. ID potentially pays well, but the range is almost as large (we’re working on that :wink: )

Getting your first job depends on skils, experience, contacts and a little luck. Also, it helps to be in a hiring economy. 2-3 years out, it should be much easier than it is now. I remember reading a statistic that most ID grads land some kind of first gig, but after 10 years less than 25% are still in the field, so for what that is worth.

I don’t know anyone personally.

I would hope so, but the role of IDers is wide and deep, depends where you work and at what level. It’s good to have an area of focus you’re interested in, do a little research and find out what you would actually be doing (medical, shoes, automotive, industrial equipment, consumer goods, packaging, etc.) Ask around here, there are many experienced people on these forums.

and good luck!

Thanks for the reply.

Unfortunately, I will struggle to pay for a 1 year MA. A 3 year undergrad course is out of the question. The tutor on the MA course mentioned that I would be able to attend some undergrad lectures whilst studying my MA. But, I take your point, I am apprehensive about my employment prospects after only doing a 1 year MA. More advice on this especially please.

As for my design skills at present - hard to say. As a structural engineer I do work on different building projects all the time, solve problems and produce the occasional sketch to illustrate a solution to a problem. But, as stated in my original post, as an engineer you are applying the ‘rules’ based on research by others. The role of a structural engineer is very rarely remotley ‘creative’.

Employment prospects in most fields, ID included, are probably pretty bad right now. 25% of grads still in the field after 10 years is bad.

Unfortunately, in all honesty, I do not know which area of ID I would specialise in. It would be quite essential for me to sort this out before beginning the MA course, because the course at Hallam is very ‘project-based’ apparently. Consumer goods or furniture possibly.

I have done quite a lot of research on Graphic Design in the UK and the salary levels for well qualified, dedicated designers looks low.

Any more useful advice is welcome.

Loughborough University, has a strong undergrad and postgrad courses

try Brunel, and Northumbria

You also may want to consider the RCA

As ever, thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunately, studying outside of Sheffield would not be possible due to financial constraints.

If you have any advice on average salaries in the UK, it would be much appreciated. Is it a good idea to jump straight into an MA when my background and bachelor degree is in engineering? Studying an undergrad course in ID would be financially unrealistic for me.

Also, any advice on diffrent areas I could consider specialising in?


Just a brief suggestion. Is it all possible to go o school paid in portion or entirely by your current employer. My current employer pays 100% tuition for any degree program I wish. With this sort of leverage you may be able to start a program part time and in the process develop relationships with people that may aide in your transition.

Unfortunately not. Also, because I already have a bachelors degree (in civil engineering) the UK governement will not give or lend me any more money for study. Also, my employer is highly unlikely to give me any time off to study part-time.

Any more advice/questions/info always welcome - thanks