Graduate School

Hi, I am interested in going to graduate school for product design. My hope is that getting a higher degree will help me possibly reach a design management position quicker. I was wondering if to get into such a position would I need to study only product design or would I need to have product design with a business concentration. The schools I am looking at are the program at Carnegie Mellon, which is a one year product development program and also has a focus on the business side of things. I am also looking at RCA, this has been my top choice since I started school since I am from England and I would love to go back for school but I am nervous that a purely product design degree would not allow me to do what I want. Anyways any help would be extremely useful, thanks!!!


A related question to everyone out there, how many of your bosses have masters or degrees in design management?

Personally, in the past 13 years, I’ve worked for 3 Design Directors, 4 Creative Directors, 2 Design Managers, and 2 Presidents of Design… only one had a Masters and that was a One Year MBA.

Hi Greg,

First things first, I think that the prevailing industry opinion is that an MA (especially in regular ID/PD only) won’t help you get to a management position faster. As I think Yo is pointing out, very few designers in the industry do MAs - which may make it tough for you to make a case for why yours was worthwhile. I know I’ve found it hard. For the record, two of my three Heads of Design have MAs as do I - maybe we all stick together?!

I think that if you went to the RCA, you’d have to be doing Innovation Design Engineering and you’d have to be super-careful to keep focused on your desired professional outcome and not disappear up your own backside - it happens to many people. In the UK, Brunel are probably the industry favourites for MAs like Design Strategy that people see value in and gain obvious career benefit from. Also remember that the industry thinking is that the two years you spend at, say, the RCA don’t make you as useful as the 2 years you spend on the job…

But, you learn an incredible amount on an MA, you’ll actually be thinking about what, why and how you go about design rather than just the process. You’ll be in control, you can take your career wherever you want and you’ll love it. But I’m not sure it will give you immediate career acceleration unless you are really focused and develop a good network while you’re studying

Best of luck!


VP’s : 2 for 2 - Masters degrees
Directors : 1 for 6 - Master degrees
Managers : 0 for 5 - Masters degrees

IDiot: I assume that is the general hierachy? Manager being the lowest up to director and then VP?

I should mention, the one VP I worked for with a masters got that masters while being a VP.

correct on hierarchy

I should also mention that these numbers are a collective from three different employers

My friend got his master’s as a way to change careers from ME to ID, and he get’s down with research. He is teaching now.

I am getting mine because I want to go from ID to interaction design and work on user interfaces in medical products, and I want to teach. I also like research.

So, I think in ID a master’s in mainly associated with serious research and teaching, at least that’s why I’m doing it.