Need a New Perspective

I am looking for a fresh perspective. I graduate in April with a BS in Manufacturing Engineering Technology. I have decided that I want to continue and get a masters degree in Industrial Design. I have been accepted into a few schools, but I have narrowed it down to two: Arizona State and Savannah College of Art and Design. I honestly can’t decide which school to go to.

-ASU has a program specifically tailored to those who want to persue ID with a non-design undergrad degree. It is a 3 year program (3 semesters of pre-reqs) with a study abroad and a required internship. SCAD is a year program plus a semester of pre-reqs.
-ASU is more expensive in the long run (about $65k), but cheaper per semester (about $9.28k avg) while SCAD is about $45k total, but $15k per semester.
-ASU is closer to family for both me and my wife.
-SCAD is #2 in the nation for ID grad programs based on how well firms believe they are preparing student for industry while ASU is #9 (last year ASU was #4 and SCAD was #7) (Designintelligence). SCAD was also ranked #13 internationally for their ID program a couple years back (Business Insider).
-Weather isn’t an issue. Living costs are about the same too.

So while SCAD is cheaper, and supposedly better, I’m afraid that since its shorter, and doesn’t have its program tailored to non-design undergrads, I won’t be as prepared for the professional world. However, I don’t want to have to payback over $65K in student loans either. I am also afraid that 3 more years in school would be physically draining on my family on not as helpful as being in industry. I need a fresh perspective.

What are your thoughts?

Are you looking to do anything which leverages your Bachelors degree in the future? Or is the switch to ID a complete change in paths for you?

The reason I ask is most students who finish a BA/BS undergrad in ID are just barely prepared for the real world and that’s with 4 or sometimes even 5 years of schooling under their belt.

SCAD is a great school, but I also question how much you are going to get out of 3 semesters worth of education vs 3+ years. If you go by value per credit, ASU is the better deal there and more time spent working on designing is ultimately going to benefit you as a graduate IMO.

As often with these types of things, it depends heavily on what you want to do in the future. Where is your dream job? What are you actually doing every day?

On the assumption you’d like to pursue a position as an Industrial Designer (within an agency or corporation), Cyberdemon said it pretty well: most undergraduates with 4-5 years of skills + work experience are just barely prepared for the industry. Absolutely no way you’re competitive with 1 year at SCAD. Even with 3 years at ASU’s grad program, you’ll still need to work your ass off (and you honestly might end up back in engineering or a semi-related field like UX or marketing).

I also wouldn’t hold ID rankings as the end-all-be-all for your school choice. Great graduates come out of all programs (as do mediocre ones). You should make your choice based on location of the school, focus of the program, and where/what it’s graduates are employed. For instance, a top 5 grad program might be great for design research, but less good at traditional ID. Learning what each school is good at, as well as your fit there, is more helpful than overall ranking.

Have you considered another undergraduate degree? This tends to be more successful when people want to re-invent themselves for ID. It might sound counterintuitive, but employers see little difference between degrees, but you’ll have a better skill set and portfolio if you do another undergrad. Perhaps at a state school where in-state tuition is lower?

I am a senior in the undergraduate program at SCAD.

I don’t think you need to be enrolled and taking classes for 5 years to become prepared to be an industrial designer. I do think that you need that amount of time, if not more to let your education percolate.

Design is a field that is extremely different from any other. Even though much of the work that students are known for involves a high level of technical skill (sketching, model making, adobe and 3d modeling) the core of good design and consequently a good designer is their way of thinking. Companies like to see finished products, but they are even more interested in your process, the messy drawings in your sketchbooks and the way you talk about what you do. To be a great design thinker it is your responsibility to squeeze everything you can out of your education.

If you are wanting to get into design to be a stylist (someone that designs the outside shell of a product) then I would advise developing your sketching talents, which again will take much longer than a year to bring to a satisfactory level.

However, if you wish to design the experience of a product; not just the way things work, but the way things make you feel, and how a product impacts humanity on a greater level, then you need to find a school that will teach you the basics of design thinking which will become a foundation for all of your future design work.

The SCAD ID program is undergoing a transition right now. Many new professors are being brought in (teaching both undergraduate and graduate programs). This means there is an opportunity at SCAD to really push the boundaries of what industrial design can be. So it is hard to attest to the prestige of the program. SCAD has an MFA program that seems to be geared a little more toward, furniture and marine design in the physical side of things as well as design management and service design in the theoretical side of things.

If there is anything I have learned in time at design school, it is this. You get out what you put in. No matter where you go, your work ethic is what will make you successful.

Hope this made sense and offered some help!