Does a school's location play a factor in landing a job?

I’m a high school student searching for schools for ID and was wondering how much of a role a school’s location plays in landing a job or internship.

Hi Ilan,

It might seem like a trivial thing but it can help. A school will likely pull in visiting instructors, lecturers, critics from the pool of local professionals. So this will help expose you to possible job opportunities and networking. The school’s alumni network is also likely strongest in that region.

Other things are factors as well of course. When I was at Nike we always had Art Center and University of Cincinnati interns because those schools career relations departments worked hard to have a great relationship with the company. Neither were in the Pacific NorthWest. Yet there were two ID schools in Seattle we almost never had interns from (at the time, not sure if it is different now).

Agreed. Unfortunately location does matter to some degree, but it’s not everything. If you’re dripping with talent and have some ambition, you’ll find a gig regardless, but it’s usually easier to come across work if you’re near a design hub. I worked in Chicago for a while and the majority, but not all, of the interns were from Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio schools.

Being geographically close to design firms/companies makes it easier to meet other designers through various events, school projects, or just asking for a meet and greet. The more design professionals are in an area, the more likely there will be any sort of design community/events even happening as well. ID is a fairly small world, so connections between fellow students, academics, and professionals can go a long ways. Companies who have a good experience with someone from XYZ school will be more likely to recruit from that same school again. It’s also competitive at the entry level, so if you’re on the east coast and want a job on the west coast, it can be harder to convince a company to fly you over for an interview when they have a pile of local resumes/portfolios they can bring into the office the next day.

All that said, I’ve managed to find gainful employment after attending a school surrounded primarily by farms and cows… You just have to be a little more proactive if you’re further away from the hot spots.

I would put reputation over location. If you can find the perfect mix of reputation and location then great. Like yo said, look at the teachers, guest lecturers & sponsored projects. Sponsored projects can lead to internships. Also design reviews, which professionals will be attending the bi-yearly design reviews or what not.

I would agree putting school reputation over location is preferable. I wanted to get into the contract furniture world, and went to school in West Michigan, which has worked out very well for me but definitely not necessary, If I were to do it again I would have probably went to RISD or something.

I should clarify my response… I didn’t mean to come across as saying you should avoid schools that aren’t in NY, Chicago, California, etc. Pick the school that has the best program and where you would be happy living and learning for four years. You can absolutely get a job from anywhere, but different schools will have different opportunities locally available, so just be aware of what opportunities are on your doorstep vs. what you have to take the initiative to be a part of.

I was going to use RISD an an example for the opposite if that is ok :wink: As an alumni, I can attest they have a great reputation, but their placement rate is pretty low. The companies that do tend to take a lot of RISD grads also tend to already have a lot of RISD grads working there and they tend to be in that region. Samsonite, Hasbro, Reebok, and Converse are all close by.

The exception to this might be the furniture department. Not a lot of ID schools have a totally separate furniture design undergrad program. That started after I left (they had a grad program while I was there) and I’ve heard it is very rigorous, so perhaps the contract furniture industry heavily recruits from that. This seems analogous to art center and automotive design. There just are not a lot of programs with such a rigorous and specialized program.

Net/net as they say, both are important, but neither are as important as how much you put into it. Some of the best designers I’ve worked with have been from the schools like Cal State Long Beach, with modest programs. I also think “fit” is important. That is something that is really hard to quantify but comes down to do you feel at home there? Is it a place you feel comfortable learning? This was the biggest reason I chose RISD. It just felt right for me personally…

All of this is so hard to weigh out when you are 18/19 years old. I remember fretting over what accreditation a school had, was it a BFA, a BA, or a BS program… all these things that seem to not even matter now.

Fair enough, Michael. I actually agree with you my point was more from an education perspective I like the type of thinking RISD embodies in their students.

That is definitely something they really stress… this is maybe an arrogant or odd comment that one of the professors told me 25 years ago, not many RISD grads get jobs but the ones that do go far. I think the program has probably changed a lot since then. It was a bit of a strange time, but they always did push us on our thinking and the critic culture pushed everyone to comment on everyone else work. Sometimes it felt like being in a dunk tank with the entire class throwing balls at the same time :slight_smile: but it did push you to think things through.

Shout out to CSULB, even thought there’s been a lot of changes since I went there. On that note, here in Southern California i have seen job postings giving preference to Art Center. But I have also dealt with clients aware of the reputation of CSULB.
However, for what is worth, my impression is that Art Center has a better/bigger network, better job placement resources and better sponsored projects.But I’ve seen really awesome and bad portfolios from both schools.We cannot change the drive of the person, but the quality of the school can have a definite impact.

It’s probably 50% the school, 50% the location, 50% the cohort. You can tell my degree came from the art program.

A location proximate to a good job market or design ‘center’ can’t hurt but it’s no guarantee. In Seattle we have Microsoft and Amazon, a number of good agencies, and a high median designer salary, but the only design school in Seattle is UW. Then there are schools that punch above their weight like SCAD or even Cincy, without a booming intl design ‘scene ‘. Being close to places to get internships definitely helps.

Thanks everyone for your insights!

I can see how a schools location can be a factor in landing a job.

I went to Cleveland Institute of Art, and a lot of the students land jobs around Ohio, Michigan and the Northeast. Companies like Fisher Price, Little Tikes, Chrysler and GM sponsor classes and attend spring shows. I have also seen students apply themselves and get jobs in other parts of the country as well.

Location is a factor, but school reputation and portfolio are other factors as well.