Switching from IT to ID

Hey guys. I just recently discovered this website and it seems like a great place to seek advice about ID. With all the great people in this community, I was hoping you could help me out with my dilemma.

Some background: I just finished my freshman year at Penn State University as an Information Sciences and Technology major. I’m currently doing an internship program at Citigroup in NJ.

After interning here for over a month and seeing what the IT environment is like, I have been having second thoughts about working in this industry. Lately, I’ve been thinking about other careers I and found that I am very interested in Industrial Design. The thing is, besides some personal web/graphic design, I have no other experience in design. I haven’t sketched or drawn anything in years. Unfortunately, Penn State does not offer an ID program and before completely changing my life and transferring to an art school, I was hoping you guys could give me some advice on a couple topics.

1.) Although I think I have a good aesthetic sense, I don’t have any real artistic experience, so it would probably be pretty foolish to consider transferring right away. Is there anything I can do to prepare myself and more importantly, see if I even have any potential as a designer?

2.) How much talent/experience do I need to have going into an art school? If I am lacking in these areas, how much does art school help to hone these abilities?

3.) What is the job market like in the ID industry? If I were to receive a BA in ID, what are my chances of finding a job out of school?

4.) What is the typical salary for an entry-level designer? With years of experience, how much can this salary increase (assuming I go on to get a MFA)?

I think those are my main concerns for now. Thanks in advice to anyone to contributes to this topic!



I recently graduated in ID completing a transfer from another school similar to what you are considering.

  1. I had been drawing and liked products all my life but never really recognized it was my passion. I think I was in art class till like middle school then never took it anymore not really thinking that I missed it. Went to college thinking Mechanical Engineering was as close as I could get to design. No idea ID existed at the time. Found out about ID as you have and started to look into it. The big thing about the Art and Design schools is that you need a portfolio to get in so you need some work to show. I was at a state school and transferred from ME to Graphic Design while I was taking a few industrial production classes in metal working, 3d modeling, etc… I spent a year in the Graphics classes and since I was starting over in a new major, I was taking all the basic art classes painting, drawing, 2d and 3d design, etc. Many of these are the basics of any art education. I used this as an opportunity to develop a portfolio and taking many of these classes at a reduced cost at a state school. Art school was much more expensive, and I was able to transfer in as a sophomore right into the ID program. You also should be able to transfer most of your humanities as well. Taking these classes will give you an idea if you will really enjoy it, even though I see art and design as still different in ways, you just have to recognize the connection to how you would design products, and being a problem solver.

    2.) I think a big part of ID specifically is that you are willing to work hard, and be dedicated to what you are doing and believing in it. I found that when I found something I had as much passion for as design, work wasn’t work at all, and still loved it working into the wee hours of the night, sanding a surface on a model. You will learn a lot at school much of it from fellow students, they will push you much more and instructors in many cases. Sure there will be some students that come in with great drawing skills and things just seem to come easy to them but in many cases they have been doing it their whole life, but if you are willing to work for it I don’t think you will have a problem. Sure the school will teach you about ID but in the end what you learn is really up to you, and the work you put into it.

  2. I am doing the job search gig now, and there are definitely jobs out there but I think that as with any position its take time to find and job and even more so the place with the right fit for each designer. I mean there are not really companies knocking down design schools doors looking for designers, but there are a growing number of jobs out there and more companies are starting to see the business benefits to design. In the end if you worked your butt off in school and had some good internships and have created a strong portfolio with a little searching you will find a job. Networking is the way to go but you will find that some instructors will be very helpful in the job search process depending on there connections and some are just disconnected from it completely.

  3. Salary is very dependent on your experience in say an internship or other work and the region you are looking at and the need for designers. The norm out of school seems to be $35 to $50,000 I would say. If you want to get a better idea of peoples work check out Coroflot (link to people and jobs on core77 homepage) and look through some of the portfolios, and they also have a salary survey to give you a better idea or what different areas make. As for MFA many in ID don’t see a use for it unless you want to teach, there is more benefit in other majors for an MFA if you are looking to make more money.

    Well I hope this helps, much of this has come from my experience and what I have learned reading on Core and my personal job search. Best of luck in making a decision as to your future in ID. A little long winded I know.


If you can switch to a degree in computer science and then get design experience you’ll be in a good position and will have far greater earning potential then you ever would in ID alone.

I got a five year degree in ID from a Big 12 school and did my minor in CS, now I’m back in school completing it as a full second major. If you’re in IT then all you’re going to be doing is managing networks and installing software all day without a lot of creativity and fun.

But with ID and CS you could get involved in creating applications, interfaces, and some really cool products. These days everything has a computer of some sort in it but most ID people don’t have a clue how it all works. They just know to leave enough space inside their product casing for the engineer to insert the “guts”.

If you’re into doing web design it’s also a must these days to have a good sense of aesthetics and good coding skills. Check any ad for entry web design jobs at places like Yahoo and they all require CS and design experience. ID and CS are also good mixes because they both deal a lot with user interaction and understanding how to map out processes. After a year in CS you’ll be a flow chart master and will be able to pick apart just about any design problem with ease. Flow charts may not be sexy but they get the job done.

The other plus is that most designers in my region work for years to get up to the 50k salary mark but thats where most CS people start. If you know your shit and are willing to work hard it doesn’t take long to make 80,90, or even 100k a year.

Being a designer means communicating your aesthetic sense (and a whole lot more, like usability) to the world. If you can’t do this with artistic techniques (drawing, model-making) then you may be better of getting into a non-design field within in product development, such as strategic marketing (those people who frequently define what designers do.)

They won’t let you in if they don’t see potential, but the best way to find out is to start talking to admissions at those schools.

Look at the ID portfolios on Coroflot to get an idea of what kind of skills you’ll need. Be careful to only look at the individuals who are or have worked at the types of companies you’re interested in.

Lastly, you should realize that the majority of ID students switch majors before graduating, and the majority that do graduate don’t end up working in design. You have to be good, and dedicated to succeed.

PS, if you like IT, you may want to explore Interaction Design, which involves the design of high tech products, but does not always involve aesthetic talents (interaction designers frequently direct interface/media designers.)

Hey guys. Thanks for all the replies so far. I’m getting some great feedback.

What was your SAT score? GPA?

My SAT score was a 1270 and my cumulative GPA after my first year is a 3.74.

How “untalented” are you artistically? If very, then are you good at communicating ideas effectively? If so, are you ABLE to come up with creative and unique ideas? These things can be noticed not only with scores and grades, but by your character. Are you known amongst your family/friends/academic circles as a uniquely thinking creative individual? If so, great, you’d have fun being a designer. Or are you just an average chump who goes about life imitating others? If so, great, you’d have fun being a designer.

I am not bad at sketching. Although I don’t practice, some of the doodles I do on my notes sometimes are not bad. With practice, I’m sure I could become pretty good.

As far as my character goes, for the past few years, I haven’t been doing anything very creative. I think in high school I was a little too busy trying to blend in with the crowd. Before high school though, I was a lot more into graphic design and websites. My designs were not so creative though. For example, when I was designing a new site, I would look at other sites for design elements that I liked, and use similar ideas in my site. Not exactly copying, but at the same time, I wasn’t coming up with any new or brilliant ideas of my own.

Either way, get the fucck out of IT. What the hell’s wrong wit you.

Haha, I really like this. After working here, I realized that I don’t want to be doing work that is strictly technical. If I WERE to stay in IT, I would have wanted to be a project manager who designs and implements systems to help clients. At least some amount of creativity is needed there.

If you can switch to a degree in computer science and then get design experience you’ll be in a good position and will have far greater earning potential then you ever would in ID alone.

I have considered CS, but I don’t like coding too much. At my internship here, they are having me code a web based calendar system in ASP to keep track of employee vacation/personal days etc. I’ve found that instead of focusing on the functionality of the application, I am more concerned and interested on how it looks lol.

But with ID and CS you could get involved in creating applications, interfaces, and some really cool products.

Interface design and human computer interaction are both very cool. This might be an area of CS I might enjoy.

PS, if you like IT, you may want to explore Interaction Design, which involves the design of high tech products, but does not always involve aesthetic talents (interaction designers frequently direct interface/media designers.)

Interaction Design sounds very interesting. Do you have any websites or resources off hand where I can learn some more about it? What are some other scenarios that would explain what an Interaction Designer does?

Again, thanks for all the feedback guys.