Question about Graduate Schools

I got into a couple schools for a master’s in ID and needed some help to pick the right school. I’m currently a mechanical engineering major.

For me, it boils down to either a 3 year MFA in Transportation Design at CCS, or a 3 year MID in Industrial Design at Georgia Tech.

I’ll number the questions to make it easier:

  1. I’ve heard that Transportation Design is a pretty cut throat field, and if I were to learn it now, I might not be able to cope up with the work done by people who’ve been doing it since high school/undergrad. Will it be hard to get a job in the field after graduating? (I’ve been sketching since middle school, but lack any formal education in design)

  2. Those who have graduated from Georgia Tech, or any other school that offers ID but isn’t really mentioned around much (state schools and such), do you think you’d still match up with those who passed out of Art Center or RISD?

  3. I keep reading about how the portfolio is essentially the only thing a company looks at while hiring, and that the school doesn’t matter. How much of that is true? And how much would the school itself influence the portfolio?

  4. Does anyone know what the design scene in Atlanta and Detroit (Or Michigan in general) is like?

  5. Considering I have a background in engineering, would getting an education from Georgia Tech help me a land a job that requires expertise from both fields (if such jobs even exist)?

  6. Would anyone recommend going to either NCSU, Philadelphia University, RIT or University of Houston. They offer the same 3 year master’s course as well, and it’s considerably cheaper, but I’d rather not jeopardize the quality of my portfolio that I’ll graduate with.

Interested in reading subsequent answers to this. I will provide my relatively uninformed opinions in the meantime.

  1. That’s what I’ve heard, and that finding entry level jobs at a car company isn’t easy. With your background you might find some traction at a auto supplier, rather than graduating and going straight into a hot-shot blue-sky concept car design job. The Trans curriculum seems rigorous; I don’t know what the differences are between a Masters and an undergrad degree for Trans. Are you a ‘car nut’?
  2. I graduated from Syracuse in the 90’s and sometimes wish I went to a better design school. I wouldn’t trade the other valuable classes and university experiences and character-building stuff, but ACCD or RISD or CCS would have been better choices for design at that time.
  3. I’d say its 75% portfolio, and maybe 25% school, but good grades and a reasonable amount of time to finish the classwork does imply diligence and character. A good design school will more likely set a higher bar among classmates for a competitive portfolio but its not guaranteed.
  4. I know of Philips, Kimberly Clark, and CocaCola in ATL. Detroit is automotive and Shinola. So I guess I don’t know much.
  5. Whoa. You should be asking yourself these questions if you are considering going back to three years of school for a degree in a different field. What are you hoping to gain from doing a graduate ID degree? What are the relevant job titles and roles? Is that something you want to do?
  6. RIT has traditionally built a good undergrad portfolio. Don’t know anything about the others.

Hi there, I’m a mechanical engineer with who spent a few years working and then went back for an MS in ID. Currently, I’m working primarily as an ME at an engineering consulting firm. I can only provide insight on a few of your questions:

  1. I have no idea how hard it would be getting a job in transportation design. However, that seems like an easy choice, to me. If the only place you see yourself being happy is transportation… then go to CCS. If not, then it seems to me like a degree from CCS would be unnecessarily limiting your future career path.

  2. n/a

  3. As a MechE, you can get an interview with a 1 page resume. For ID, you’ll need to show a few pages of work to get the interview and then another 20-40 pages of work to get the job. The school will definitely influence the portfolio, but your sense of style and project work will ultimately shine through.

  4. n/a

  5. I don’t think going to a specific school will get you a job that requires expertise from both fields. The job does exist, but from my job search experience, it seems like only at higher levels where a small product design firm is looking for an experienced ME with some decent design chops. But they’ll be mainly interested in the ME qualifications of taking products through to production. While the ID concept at the beginning of the product design process can be expensive, it’s nothing compared to the engineering costs that go into producing the first parts and eventually turning it into a profitable product. Unfortunately, as and ME fresh out of school (who then studied ID for 3 years), you won’t have any of that experience. My guess is that you’ll be looking primarily for ID jobs with your shiny new portfolio.

  6. I’ve heard/seen good things about NCSU and RIT, and nothing about Houston. I got my MSID from Philadelphia University. The program is new (I was the 2nd MSID class to graduate in 2014) and is improving by leaps and bounds every year. They’ve had a BS program in ID for a long time, and a bunch of other design oriented majors, so it is not at all a new field at the school. The faculty are absolutely great and can help point you in the right direction of wherever you want to go. There are a lot of corporate sponsored projects, which is cool because you get some recognizable names in your portfolio. It is, however, a very “hands off” approach, as is probably the case elsewhere. Graduate school is completely different than ME undergrad. You’re not studying for the test to get a good grade to get a good GPA. You’re working to hone the skills and interests that you’d like to pursue out of pure passion. There are, of course, set courses to take and assignments to do. But in contrast to engineering, if you’re just doing the homework assignments, then you’re not doing enough. PhilaU will give you a fine educational experience, but it is really up to you in the end to make it count.

Since it sounds like you’ve been accepted at some other really great (and highly regarded) schools, and you’re ok with the financial outlook, then why not go to the “better” school?

Anyways, hope that helped. Best of luck!

Thank you so much, it helped me out a lot!