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Masters in Design in USA: A Detailed Overview for International Students

Komal Yadav Komal Yadav
Study Abroad Expert

Masters in Design in USA is a 1-2 year post-graduate program that helps students learn the process and techniques involved in a particular realm of designing. Popular specializations of Masters in Design offered at top universities in USA are graphic design, industrial design, fashion design, interior design, product design, urban design, etc.

  • Masters in Design in USA is offered as Master of Professional Studies (MPS), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Design (MDes).
  • Average tuition fees charged by design colleges in USA offering masters degree ranges between 53,000 USD to 111,000 USD. 
  • The median annual wage for arts and design occupations in USA was 48,300 USD in 2019 which is higher than all other occupations having a medium wage of 39,810 USD per annum. 

Why Study Masters in Design in USA?

  • There are 24 design colleges in the USA that rank among the top 100 art and design institutions in the world, according to the QS Ranking of 2020. 
  • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), art and design occupations are projected to grow by 3% between 2018 to 2028 adding about 96,800 new jobs.
  • Graphic designers are considered the most popular profession as a designer.
    • The median annual salary is 52,110 USD.
    • The employment rate is projected to grow by 3% from 2018 to 2028.
  • According to Statistica, graphic designers were the most employed professionals in the art and design industry followed by merchandise displayers.
Number of Design Employees in USA (2018)

Masters in Design in USA: Top Colleges

According to QS Art and Design Rankings of 2020, among the top 10 design colleges of the world, five are from the USA. The table below lists the popular universities offering Master of Design in this country: 

QS Ranking 2020UniversityPrograms OfferedSpecializationsDurationTotal Program Fees (in USD)
3Parsons School of Design at The New SchoolMPSCommunication Design; Fashion Management1 year54,300
MFADesign and Technology; Fashion Design and Society; Industrial Design; Interior Design; Lighting Design; Transdisciplinary Design2 years108,600
MAHistory of Design and Cultural Studies2 years76,020

Design and Urban Ecologies;

Strategic Design and Management

2 years

1.5 years



4Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)MAInterior Architecture; Teaching + Learning in Art + Design1 year53,820
Master of Industrial Design (MID)Industrial Design2 years107,640
MDesInterior Architecture2 years107,640
MFAGraphic Design; Furniture Design2 years107,640
5School of Art Institute of ChicagoMFA in Studio Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Architecture; Design for Emerging Technologies; Visual Communication Design (Graphic Design)2 years107,880
MDesDesigned Objects; Fashion, Body, and Garment2 years118,668
10Pratt InstituteMFACommunications Design; Interior Design2 years114,514
Master of Industrial Design (MID)Industrial Design2 years110,820
MSPackage Design2 years88,656
12Art Center College of DesignMFAGraphic Design; Media Design Practices; Transportation Systems and Design2 years96,760
MSTransportation Systems and Design; Industrial Design; Environmental Design2 years96,760
16Stanford UniversityMALearning, Design, and Technology2 years139,944
MSDesign Impact2 years149,080
17Carnegie Mellon UniversityMDes/MADesign2 years84,000
20California Institute of ArtsMFAGraphic Design; Scene Design; Costume Design2 years101,700
28School of Visual ArtsMFADesign; Design for Social Innovation; Interaction Design; Products of Design; Game Design2 years95,440
MADesign Research, Writing, and Criticism2 years89,400
34Columbia UniversityMADesign and Development of Digital Games1 year53,040

Masters in Design in USA: Curriculum and Specializations

Design colleges in the USA offer multidimensional academic programs allowing students to choose the best option for them. There are a number of options available with different types of degrees. Mentioned below are some of the design specializations and the major courses covered during the coursework while studying in the USA:

Interior DesignFurniture Designing; Interior landscaping; Art and Craft renovation and innovation; Accessory designing;
Graphic DesignType design; Web design; Typography; Motion graphics; Design theory; Design history
Web DesignUX principles; Information Architecture and Web design
Industrial DesignNURBS Modelling; Solid and Modeling; Parametric Modeling; Developing Surfaces; Digital Sculpting
Art and DesignSurvey of Design and Decorative Arts Iⅈ Curatorial/Museology
Game Design2D Game design; 3D Arts; Game Analysis; Systems Literacy; Publishing Video Games; Art direction for art developers

Masters in Design in USA: Admissions Process

Applications to universities in the USA are usually accepted during the spring and fall seasons. International students are required to complete their admission application at least 6-12 months before the start of the program. All admission applications can be completed online through the respective university website. 

Masters in Design in USA: Eligibility

To be eligible for admission in a graduate design program, applicants must have:

  • Bachelor's degree in a design or related field of study from a recognized university. 
  • Strong excellence in the design field
  • Professional experience in the related fields (varies with the university)
  • Proof of English language proficiency through one of the standardized exams such as IELTS, TOEFL, etc. 

The table below denotes the requirements for the top colleges in the USA offering Masters in Design: 

Universities/CollegesTOEFL (iBT) ScoresIELTS ScoresAdditional Requirements
Parsons School of Design at The New School927.0Resume; SOP; LORs; Portfolio
Rhode Island School of Design(RISD)936.5Portfolio; SOP; LORS; Writing sample
Institute of Chicago School of Art856.5SOP(500-700); LORs; Resume/CV; E-Portfolio
Pratt Institute886.52 LORs; SOP(500); Additional Writing samples; Resume
Art Center College of Design1007.0Portfolio(Sketchbooks); Written essays (2000 words); Resume
Stanford University100--Portfolio or book with 12-24; DVD works in the show
Carnegie Mellon University1027.5Statement of Intent; Letters of Recommendation; GRE test scores; Link to the Portfolio; 2 years professional or teaching experience
California Institute of Arts1007.5Resume/CV; 2 LORs; Portfolio; Personal Essay
School of Visual Arts685.5Narrative Statement; LORs; Creative Portfolio
Columbia University1007.5GRE scores; Statement of Intent (500 words); Resume; 3LORs

Documents Required for Masters in Design in USA Admission

International applicants are required to submit the following documents while applying for a masters in design in USA: 

  • Academic Transcripts: Evaluated academic transcripts and certificates by NACES/WES or other evaluation agencies must be submitted. International students are required to submit non-English transcripts with their English translations.
  • Standardized exams to study in the USA: Applicants are required to submit scores of exams to study in the USA that include: 
    • GRE scores required by a few universities.
    • Proof of English language proficiency
  • SOP/Personal Statement: Statement of Purpose must be of 250-500 words that explain why an applicant has chosen the particular field of study.
  • Resume/CV: Professional CV./Resume must state research, awards, and exhibitions.
  • LORs: 2 or 3 letters of recommendation are needed for an application. Applicants must indicate the full name and department of interest at the beginning of the letter and as well on the outside of the envelope. The envelope must be signed and sealed by the recommender. 
  • Portfolio: Portfolio is a mandatory part of the admission application while applying for a graphic design or any other design program. It can be submitted in the form of a comic book or DVD with 15-25 images denoting the work in the field. Some universities ask for the SlideRoom portfolio or list Vimeo links.
  • Interview: Some universities also conduct an interview before the final decision.

Masters in Design in USA: Cost of Study

Studying abroad can be pretty costly for the pocket. Therefore, international students must estimate their budget in the USA beforehand and arrange for the costs. The section below caters to these estimated expenses while studying masters in design. 

Pre-arrival Cost

The pre-arrival costs include one-time expenses such as fees for a student visa to the USA, application fees, IELTS/TOEFL fees, and GRE fees, etc. The following table denotes the usual pre-arrival expenses:

CategoriesCost (in USD)
Visa registration fee160
SEVIS Fee350
IELTS fee240
TOEFL fee180
GRE fee205
Airfare (one way)700

Tuition Fees for Masters in Design in USA

The tuition fees for studying a Masters in Design in USA range from 25,000 USD to 70,000 USD annually. 

Tuition Fees

Cost of Living in USA

The living costs vary greatly with the city, type of student housing in the USA, the standard of living, etc. The average monthly cost of living for a single person in New York is USD 1,100 whereas San Francisco is 1,114. 

Types of ExpendituresAnnual Costs (in USD)
Hostels or room rent5,000-7,000
Cost of food2,500
Public transport350-800
Entertainment cost1,000-1,200

Masters in Design in USA: Scholarships

To help with the expenses, students are provided with various international scholarships to study in the USA. These are awarded by the respective universities, government, and even some private organizations and agencies. 

The following table states the eligibility and award of design-specific scholarships. 

ScholarshipEligibilityAwards (in USD)
Print and Graphics Scholarships FoundationAcademic records; Recommendations; Biographical records1,000-5,000
CFDA Design Scholar AwardMFA/MA first-year student in fashion design;25,000
Two Ten Footwear Design ScholarshipEnrolled in a US university;3 design drawings from a portfolio.3,000
National Costumers Association Creative Event ScholarshipPG degree with 2.5 GPA; Must be 17 years or more1,000
Mary Abdoo Fashion Memorial ScholarshipUG/ PG degree enrolled in fashion designing1,000
VCUarts Talent ScholarshipsAcademic merit; artistic talent5,000-12,000

For other scholarships to study in the USA, Click Here

Masters in Design in USA: Scope and Salaries

There are a number of job opportunities in the USA for design graduates. Graphic Design graduates can work as architects, industrial designers, landscape architects, and interior designers. Fashion Design is also a popular vocational course. Almost 28% of fashion designers work as apparel, piece goods, and notions merchant wholesalers.

Industrial Designers work as Designers, Business Directors, Project Manager, Senior Designer, and Lecturers. As of 2018, there were 43,900 jobs in this sector. Interior Designers work as Corporate designers, Healthcare designers, Kitchen and bath designers, Sustainable designers, and Universal designers. Game Designers can work as software developers. 

Jobs for Designers

The table below shows the median annual salary of art and design professionals in the USA, according to BLS:  

OccupationAnnual Median Salary (in USD)
Art Directors94,760
Craft and Fine Artists48,760
Fashion Designers73,790
Floral Designers28,040
Graphic Designers52,110
Industrial Designers68,890
Interior Designers56,040
Multimedia Artists and Animators75,270

Design and its specializations is a popular field of study. Interior designing is expected to see a projected growth of a minimum of 4% by 2028. The skills acquired by a master in design graduate in the USA can get the applicant employed in industries such as media, marketing, films, theatres, etc.

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