Is grad school worth it?

I graduate Spring 2016.

I have an internship with a really prestigious company this summer, and am going to try to get another internship this fall to get some professional experience before I graduate.

My question to you guys is, when is grad school worth it, and when is it NOT worth it?

If I did go, it would be for industrial design I think… I can’t see myself doing anything else besides maybe being in a management position in terms of industrial design later on and perhaps teaching.

In my opinion, if you have an undergrad in ID and you want to do ID there is really no reason to go to grad school. Experience trumps everything. Design is not an academic activity. le corbusier said something like that. I think I butchered it but you get the idea :slight_smile:

In my opinion, if you have an undergrad in ID and you want to do ID there is really no reason to go to grad school. Experience trumps everything. Design is not an academic activity. le corbusier said something like that. I think I butchered it but you get the idea

I’ve read this a lot and I disagree. Graduate school provides the opportunity to explore Industrial Design on a more intellectual level and to delve deeper into problem solving. All things being equal, experience does not trump everything. There are aspects of design that are academic, problem solving, strategy and leadership being a few. If you have ever thought about a teaching career in a university (at least with professor in the title), a terminal degree is a requirement no matter how much experience you have.

Don’t jump to graduate school directly out of college, get a few years of experience then go back. Graduate school is about learning from the other students and contributing back – you have nothing to contribute right out of college.

If you see your future as being more than ID, get your graduate degree.

Shocker, Dan you disagree with me. Nothing new there :slight_smile:

To continue the point-counterpoint: all of the things you mention can be learned while on the job (and bonus, they pay you). If you want to teach, and you have been a successful experienced designer, a school will let you teach, even give you an honorary masters (perhaps with a donation).

Personally, I could never imagine going back. I regularly participate in board meetings, meet with partners like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel and Qualcom, and run cross disciplinary design thinking workshops at my company. Never have I felt I needed a graduate degree to contribute.

But each person is unique and whatever helps get you to the next level is the right thing for you. I’m a bit cynical about schools in general. They are tuition collection real-estate machines. Well intentioned, but they are not judged by or responsible for your success, only you are.

Would agree with Michael on this one — can’t think of a reason to go back to school unless you’re trying to pivot a career (i.e. you’re working in ID, but want to be in interaction design, design research, strategy, etc.).

The way I see it, if you work your ass off and are one of the successful ones, your initial ID degree gives you just barely enough skill to land a job. Your actual education begins day one of your first ID job or internship and never really ends.

If I was playing devils advocate, I’d argue that too much education can sometimes raise flags for hiring (at least in ID consulting). Not a brick wall, of course, but 2-3 degrees within the same body of work definitely makes me wonder what’s going on.

If you are already getting internships, try to get the most out of them and see if you can land a junior position at one of those companies. If not, rebuild your portfolio after with what you’ve learnt during that time.

I agree with Mike and Eddie, you are probably going to learn more working than studying (unless is a totally different subject, but you already said ID is what you want to do). Most people I’ve met and most of my colleagues don’t have master degrees and it has never been a handicap or a problem for them.

Being European, I see it differently. Top schools in Germany, Austria, Denmark or Sweden (And some other countries) have a no tuition at all, so it’s more a public service for me than a collecting money machine.


But … (come on, you knew there was going to be a but)

The key word is can. The alternative is cannot. If ethnographic research really floats your boat and your company does not do it, you are more likely of cannot than can.

More schooling is capable of offering you something the work world cannot. And of course, vice versa. An individual must first have a clear objective of what they want, only then can decide on the correct path.

I’ll sound like my usual broken record, ID is only a small part of the entire NPD process. If you want to work other areas, you need an entirely different knowledge base. You can get exposed to that through ID, but without the specialized knowledge, you will be looking from the outside. School can be the door to inside. (I’d like to nominate that as the dumbest metaphor. Ever.)

I’d love to stoke the conversation hotter, but good points :slight_smile:

Still I’ll try for the sake of discussion. You can change jobs if your current company doesn’t offer the area you want to grow in but a new company might want the knowledge base that you have while be strong in an area you want to learn. At Nike we didn’t really do much formal ethno (at least at the time). We did lots of immersion research, trend identification, and guerrilla informal intercepts, but not a lot of deep ethno. Writing a research plan, creating a screener and an interview script, and doing formal synthesis were all things I learned at frog, so I got that through changing positions. It is all pretty obvious when you read a little a spend a few cycles working with others who have done it.

Doing is learning… end every post with a three word truism that doesn’t really mean anything and is highly conditional.

(Gonna use this as a way to field my personal thoughts on the subject.)

Another option is to not pivot into a different field, but a different focus within ID too. For me I’ve toyed with the idea a bit. I have a lot of experience doing lifestyle goods and CE. My portfolio and skill sets have been tuned to that. But grad school would allow me to pivot my design mentality more dramatically.

Grad school would essentially allow me a sabbatical from my current field and would allow me the opportunity to explore other areas of design. All while having access to great resources and being able to dedicate myself fully to the endeavor. (As opposed to a few hours after work, spread out over a long time)

Royal college of Arts has seems to have strong focus on design process and materiality. Something I would really love to explore more deeply.

But for others grad school could mean going to MIT media lab, or its high tech low tech field. Where you would have the opportunity to shift mindset into a different direction than what its “traditionally” taught as ID.

Emmanuel brings up a great point.

In the rest of the professional world, the professional societies offer continuing education. So if I in medical design wanted to get into car design, I could take a course or two with IDSA. But since IDSA sucks so hard, I would need grad school. Without it, the transition to car design would be more difficult.

Raise of hands, how many did an ID masters here in the thread?
That’s what I thought :wink:

From my own experience, as I did d an ID Masters, I have to say that it has been one of my best career decisions.
Mostly because it removed the “for profit” restraint.
The lack of connection between industry and education can be frustrating in undergrad as the experience isn’t there.
In grad school, this is liberating and offers great opportunities to explore, seek advice and experiment, as opposed to what the clients might need.
If during your grad studies, you sit 8 hours a day, drawing sneakers and spaceships, yeah… I don’t think you are doing it right and spending this time getting paid will probably be the better option.
I also don’t think that doing a Masters because you can’t find a job is the answer. I doubt that will help, if working as an Industrial Designer is the goal.

For me it was an amazing learning experience. Possibly because I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to be doing.
What I then got to do during these 2 years, I would have never found anywhere in the professional world.

That being said, obviously a Masters isn’t a requirement or guarantee for a good ID job.
I do feel however that there can be merit to dig deeper academically in the field and not just see it as a craft that once learned only has to be practiced to be honed.

Interesting to hear all the different opinions. TSE2 is there a reason why grad school is even on your radar right now? It seems like with the coming post-grad internship, and your willingness to pursue another that you’re pointed in the right direction. We can all give personal opinions based on our situations but more context from you will probably lead to more helpful suggestions.

I realize that you’re speaking from personal experience but just wanted to point out that this completely depends on where you go for undergrad.

Really, the main reason being… I’m afraid of not landing a job after college. I feel as though a Master’s Degree may give me some more time to develop skills, such as sketching, build up my portfolio, and the degree possibly being a resume booster if it is from a top school to help land a job.

If that’s the main reason I would say it’s not worth it. You’ve better off putting your energy and focus right now into wrapping up school strong, performing at your highest level at your internships and prepping your portfolio for interviewing.

It’s completely normal to be worried about whether you are good enough, and something every designer deals with in school and on the job. If you’re concerned about where you stack up I would post up your portfolio here for some feedback and spend time looking at the level of work of other top grads/recent grads on Behance/Coroflot.

Sketching, building technical skills and working on your portfolio are all things you can effectively improve at internships and in your free time with dedication. If you need motivation posting to the boards is a great way to keep you on track and get feedback.

Save grad school for when you have some industry experience and really want to deep dive back into design. The decision shouldn’t be motivated by fear but genuine interest and curiosity.

I would guess that in this case, we here on the boards are pretty much agreed. This seems to be the wrong reason to go to grad school.

I’d definitely recommend doing another internship if scoring a fulltime gig straight out of school is a challenge.
Work on your skills and develop your portfolio.
No need to commit to a 2 year, potentially expensive education in that case.

I wouldn’t recommend a Masters as extra time to develop core skills. It misses the point and I am pretty sure you’ll be missing out of the great development and discovery a good Masters can offer.
In my opinion, a well developed repertoire of skills are essential for a successful Masters course.

Really, the main reason being… I’m afraid of not landing a job after college. I feel as though a Master’s Degree may give me some more time to develop skills, such as sketching, build up my portfolio, and the degree possibly being a resume booster if it is from a top school to help land a job.

Wrong reason, wrong place and wrong time.

I would say work for a couple of years for both a consultancy and a corporate job. After that you can revisit the idea of a Masters degree.

I’m sure there are great schools with great faculty and programs that would provide a great Masters degree education, on the flip side, I’m sure there are schools that offer it for the sake of offering it.

Right now you don’t have any professional experience so I think it would be a mistake. If you have an internship lined up congratulations, you’re one step ahead of a lot of other students. Try to get the other one as well and after those two I’m confident you should be able to find a full time job next year.

After a couple of years look up Masters programs and decide if it’s worth it to you. Good luck.

You can do that without going to grad school. I didn’t land a design gig until about 2 years after graduation. In the meantime I worked at The Home Depot, as a mortgage temp agent, and a furniture repair tech. In my free time I took 2 classes at CCS and worked on my design projects and my portfolio.

Of course aim for a design job out of school, but don’t put off other methods of making an income, especially if you have zero work experience in general.

Completing your Graduation makes a Sense.As it would add an additional qualification to your resume and after your Internships,you have many other opportunities available if you are going for an ID.
Thank you