Order of operations: grad school first, or work?

I received my BA a few years ago in the social sciences and went on to work in the non-profit sector.
I gained a lot of useful work experience (non-profit program design, project management, supervision, business development) though it would be somewhat of a stretch to say it was design work.

I’ve learned through that work that I want to gain design skills- particularly service & experience design - and am ready to begin…but should I start by looking for a job or internship? Or head directly to school?

Though I have significant professional experience, I don’t think I have the skills needed to get a job right away. Even if I did I’m sure I’d be competing against candidates who did have design experience or education. This leads me to believe school is the right choice for now.

I’ve heard others say it makes no sense to enroll in a graduate program without at least some design work experience under your belt.
Anyone have any advice for me?

A related question: there are a number of non-degree, year-long programs out there now (Austin Center for Design, Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design, Stanford’s ME310) — would I really suffer for not having the degree itself if I chose one of these programs?

Thanks in advance,


I don’t know how old you are but you could try to get a unpaid job at a service design studio (even in a business or project management related section). Living 4 months while working for $0 It’s cheaper than Uni and would give you more information about what you need in terms of skills and experience.

PD. Have a look at the Domus Academy MA in Service and Experience Design http://www.domusacademy.com/site/home/master-programs/service-and-experience-design/intro.html