ID Professors - Advanced Design Degree Options

Hi everyone, I am posting because I have an interest in being a design professor later on down the road and was wondering what type of additional education was typical for professors (masters… phd?) and if anyone knew of some interesting (related) fields of study beyond standard studio-based ID programs. This may be a bit preemptive as I plan on working a good while and getting real experience before going towards teaching, but I’d like to get a feel for what’s out there.

I don’t see any reason to get a bachelors AND a masters in standard industrial design programs, but I also don’t want to go after a non-design related degree. Obviously I need to pick something that interests me but I’m finding it difficult to just find some lists of available programs I could read up on. My internet searches generally pull up masters of ID programs for engineers and other students with non-ID bachelors degrees or discussions on whether grad school is necessary to get a job. I suppose I’m just ignorant on how to start hunting for graduate programs and what advanced degrees are available. Any tips or resources would be appreciated!

Generally a masters is a requirement, but in what is up to you. An ID masters is an option and fairly common, as are degrees in similar areas such as product development, or even education.

Be careful what you get your masters in and where you get it from. Yes most schools require full time professor to have a Masters, but they can also be picky about the accreditation of the master program.

Most schools will allow you to be an adjunct or part time prof, without a masters, but you will remain low on the pay scale and never get tenure.

Yes, like said above, be VERY careful about the title of the degree. I know my alma mater only takes MFAs to teach because they give out a BFA design degree. And usually you have to continue the title from your bachelors? EG, I got a BFA so I need an MFA to teach. If you get a BA you need an MA to teach? Not sure about this…

Generally you’ll only need a Master’s to get Tenure.
Art Schools usually don’t offer tenure, and so the Master’s isn’t always needed.
In a University setting, the Masters is recognized as the terminal degree but the nature of the program and your thesis should be related to Design and the research you’ll be publishing in order to get tenure.
(for example, sustainability isn’t strictly design but it’s taught to design students. so you could use a masters in sustainability for your University required terminal degree and teach/publish sustainability once hired on)

Thanks for the replies, all good information. Based on what I’m reading here and elsewhere it definitely sounds like just a masters is the way to go, but I’m still hunting for some more info.

My biggest remaining question is the curriculum for masters degrees. Almost every program that I have read a description for is described as an “advanced studio” that seems project based. Not that I couldn’t learn from doing more projects, but if I continue working till I have 15-20 years of experience for example, is a studio course really going to develop my design knowledge all that much? Or am I thinking about it wrong… Are these advanced studios more like self-guided research studios where you pick a topic of interest like “sustainability” as mentioned above? I certainly don’t mind spending time considering a specific area of interest, I have plenty of years to think about it, but I guess I was thinking there were more specific programs. I seem to recall reading a post on Core77 about a graduate program based on developing design businesses for humanitarian projects, which I would find interesting (too bad I didn’t save the link…ugh). I figured there would also be specialized programs for materials science, human factors, interaction design, sustainability, etc. but are those just the types of things you would personally choose to focus on in an “advanced studio?”

I’ve also been trying to dig up a list of accredited graduate design programs and I haven’t found many decent resources yet. I didn’t even see a list on the actual NASAD site. I’ll include the list I did find below, but it seems incomplete and when I clicked on many of the programs listed, it said “Accreditation: N/A,” leaving me wondering whether their data is incomplete. Also, Virginia Tech at least used to offer an ID masters, but they are not on the list. I could be wrong, but I thought Stanford had a grad program too, but they’re not on the list either. I’ll keep digging though…

Here’s what I found so far, and some of these aren’t even ID from what I can tell:
University of the Arts (Philadelphia)
Philadelphia University
University of Bridgeport (Connecticut) – Design management
Pratt Institute (Brooklyn)
Rochester Institue of Technology (NY)
University of Wisconsin Stout – MFA
Illinois Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology
College for Creative Studies (Detroit) – transportation design
Arizona State University
Chapman University (Orange, CA) – production design
Notre Dame (IN) – art, art history & design
Savannah college of art & Design - service design?
Northwestern university (IL) – master of science, engineering design and innovation
Academy of art university
University of Kansas
Auburn University
Harvard University – engineering & applied sciences
Rhode Island school of design
University of central Florida – design for usability
Art center college of design (Pasadena, CA)
San Francisco state university – design and industrial arts
North Carolina state university
Ohio state university

The emphasis on studio work in grad programs is a result of student demand for a career-change degree without doing a 2nd bachelors. Many engineers, architects, artists and business majors never find out about ID till they get out into the real world. And because of their backgrounds, believe a Masters counts for more and will make it easier to get started.
It doesn’t and it’s not. But that dosn’t stop them from applying for, and schools accomodating them.
Be carefull of these programs since they may not offer the advanced rescources needed to get you into a tenure track position.

Agreed, and that is exactly my problem. What schools do have these “advanced resources?” All I’m finding are studio programs that “will help me to prepare a professional portfolio.” Anyone attend a school that had a good grad program or know of one that does? I may start browsing professor’s bios and trying to develop a list that way…

Honestly a combination of linked in, talking to professors, or the IDSA Education section would probably be able to answer a lot of your questions.

Cool, ill try those out. Should’ve thought of LinkedIn myself


I’m on a search committee for an assistant professor of product design position at a major research university right now, and I see a lot of bad information here.

Most art schools do have tenure tracks, as do universities and community colleges actually.

But what I want to address specifically is that you need a terminal degree in the field. There are 2 options for design, you can do a PhD or an MFA. To be clear, the MFA is unique to the US and is a 60 credit studio program, from the investigation I’ve done, it’s actually very similar to the newer European practice based PhD’s that take 3-4 years to complete.

The MA or MS is not a terminal degree, and will not qualify you for tenure, or anything more than adjunct teaching in many situations provided you have a good deal of professional experience. A lot of people like adjunct teaching though.

The school I am at, and at which we are searching, is a D1 research institution, meaning that we want someone to be able to teach, which oddly every designer thinks they can do with little or no effort (sort of like architects and photography). In addition the person needs to be able to create and drive an agenda of scholarly research and creative production with client work alone not being adequate.

Good luck in your search, I’m finishing the MFA in the spring, and am already interviewing for Assistant Professorships. I think like anything else, the degree is what you put into it. I disagree with a lot of people here, the MFA is worth it, if you are prepared to be serious and open minded about it. It’s not a repeat or substitute for a bachelors in design, I’ve seen some people come through here thinking they are just going to have 3 more senior years of studio, being left along to just perfect their commercial level work, that isn’t really the case though.

One more thing that might be a bit disappointing though. Most PhD and MFA programs have already concluded their application processes for next fall, they tend to be due in Mid December and Mid January. Start studying for the GRE depending on where you want to go, and think about what your goals are for grad school.

Hi Cameron, I don’t mean to call you out specifically, but I don’t understand this to be the case, from my experience.

The BA / BS is a 40 credit degree, and is not a terminal degree. No one will be teaching (more than at the adjunct level) with these degrees.

You can get any degree you want, but if you want to teach, think PhD (5-7 years and research/theory instead of practice) or MFA (3-4 years look for the 60 credit req. this is a terminal studio degree, but still some research and theory).