Objective education/career advice

I am in need of some objective advice regarding decisions I need to make about continuing my education or starting my career.

The background goes as followed:
B. Environmental design (2003) - Architecture
B. Environmental design(2004) - Industrial Design
M. Industrial Design (2006)- currently finishing

I am scheduled to graduate in August and am applying for jobs right now, however without much success yet. Although I’m not completely discouraged, I know there is “plenty” of time before I graduate. I have an internship that dates back to when I was pursuing my first degree. Since then, I have either been in school or studying abroad, leaving no time for additional internships. I have been employed but just not in Industrial Design.

The current problem/dilemma is, I’m being recruited and am considering entering a PhD program in Integrated Textile and Apparel Sciences sponsored by the Dept of Consumer Affairs and Textile Engineering. Because I’ve logged so many hours in my Masters, the program should take about half as long, 1.5-2 years. I’ll most likely have a teaching position as well to keep me employed and my tuition waived.

Oh, my design interest are varied, not just to industrial design.

I understand that for my short term career, there is going to be very little advantage to having such an advanced degree. Especially in the pay. My Masters is probably too advanced for some. I do see myself teaching after working and gaining that “practical experience”. As well, I don’t see myself as just a designer. Sure, I do have some talent, or I wouldn’t have gotten so far but I’m probably more suited for product development, research and management.

Are there advantages to just finishing my education while I have the contacts I have now and the financial ability to do so? Or do I forget about it and focus on trying to get a job right now and then maybe someday go back to school? The problem with that is, am I really going to come back to school? The unknown is unsettling.

I know there are critics out there who don’t see the value in advanced degrees in our creative field, so try to give me some valid points if your going to be critical. I’m trying to get a variety of advice from a variety of people. So I appreciate what you have to say.


This reads like you are searching for someone to tell you to get the PHD?

Everyone is different. If you feel it is calling you, go for it. But it will definitely hamper your ability to get a traditional ID job designing products…the longer you suspend yourself with in the bubble of academia, the harder it will be to get a job practicing design professionally IMO, especial with only 1 internship in almost a decade of studies!

I may be wrong but I do not think that a masters is too advanced for some. It is usually the salary requirements that are too advanced. I am not very familiar with the corporate side but for consultants the problem is often that a person with one year of working experience may be 23 years old and looking to start at around 40K-45K. While a person with a year experience and a PhD is usually at an age where they can’t really get by on that salary. The other down side is that it is not uncommon for there to be a difference between the tools and schedule of an acedemic project and what is going on in the field. It is, of course, something that can be overcome but not everyone is up to that kind of change. Also not to be understated is the learning curve when you switch from designing to please yourself to designing to please yourself, a boss, a client, a consumer, a buyer, manufacturing, etc.

There is a huge positive side to the advanced degree. The candidate is usually more articulate, more knowledgable about design history and has typically developed their own creative processes. They also usually know more about what they want out of their career.

I think that a good balance might be to continue at school and try to take on some freelance work. Hope this helps, it is a tough decision.

Thanks for the advice. All are valid points. I appreciate the experience your answers bring. While I have faculty, (non-designer) friends and family to ask these questions to, I don’t have design professionals at hand, so I really appreciate you taking some time to provide some advice.

I’d still like to hear what additional people have to say. I’m just trying to figure out if my short term career (practicing design) or my long term career (goal) (teaching + working at the University level) is more important. Which do I focus on?

I suppose the advantage is that I’m young and have few commitments (I do have a cat, so wherever I go, he goes) but other than that, I can go and do whatever I want. But is that a job? Or more school?

Any designers with a Masters or PhD out there? Advice please!


The Masters is still the terminal degree in design, and is all that’s needed to get tenure.
You wouldn’t believe how many Indian Phd’s are looking for teaching jobs here - right out of school - never built anything.
However, if you’re dissertation and post tenure plans include working closely with non design proffesors, you may find a Phd gets you more respect…