Masters in Design in USA: Top Colleges, Fees, Eligibility, Scholarships, Scope

    Masters in Design in USA is a 1-2 year program offered by some of the top design schools in the US. The course aims at helping students learn the process and techniques involved in particular realms of designing. With a bachelor's degree in design or cognate subjects and a strong portfolio, you can get admissions with any of the universities offering masters in design in the US. Applications of students are assessed on the basis of their portfolios and creative intellect. 

    Offered as Master of Professional Studies (MPS), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS) in Design, and Master of Design (MDes), the course can cost anywhere from 53,000 to 111,000 USD. This for an Indian student can cost up from 39-82 lakhs INR. The cost may seem too high for a student on a budget. In such a case, you can apply for various scholarships available to study in US

    When the investment involved is high, the student expects to earn cushy median salaries. Although the entry-level salary is comparatively low ie. 45,100 USD (33 lakhs INR) per annum, it can increase up to 144,000 USD (1.05 crore INR) per annum with experience.

    Top Colleges for Masters in Design in USA

    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 2020 University Programs Offered Specializations Duration Total Program Fees (in USD)
    3 Parsons School of Design at The New School MPS Communication Design; Fashion Management 1 year 54,300
    MFA Design and Technology; Fashion Design and Society; Industrial Design; Interior Design; Lighting Design; Transdisciplinary Design 2 years 108,600
    MA History of Design and Cultural Studies 2 years 76,020

    Design and Urban Ecologies;

    Strategic Design and Management

    2 years

    1.5 years



    4 Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) MA Interior Architecture; Teaching + Learning in Art + Design 1 year 53,820
    Master of Industrial Design (MID) Industrial Design 2 years 107,640
    MDes Interior Architecture 2 years 107,640
    MFA Graphic Design; Furniture Design 2 years 107,640
    5 School of Art Institute of Chicago MFA in Studio  Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Architecture; Design for Emerging Technologies; Visual Communication Design (Graphic Design) 2 years 107,880
    MDes Designed Objects; Fashion, Body, and Garment 2 years 118,668
    10 Pratt Institute MFA Communications Design; Interior Design 2 years 114,514
    Master of Industrial Design (MID) Industrial Design 2 years 110,820
    MS Package Design 2 years 88,656
    12 Art Center College of Design MFA Graphic Design; Media Design Practices; Transportation Systems and Design 2 years 96,760
    MS Transportation Systems and Design; Industrial Design; Environmental Design 2 years 96,760
    16 Stanford University MA Learning, Design, and Technology 2 years 139,944
    MS Design Impact 2 years 149,080
    17 Carnegie Mellon University MDes/MA Design 2 years 84,000
    20 California Institute of Arts MFA Graphic Design; Scene Design; Costume Design 2 years 101,700
    28 School of Visual Arts MFA Design; Design for Social Innovation; Interaction Design; Products of Design; Game Design 2 years 95,440
    MA Design Research, Writing, and Criticism 2 years 89,400
    34 Columbia University MA Design and Development of Digital Games 1 year 53,040

    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.
    • 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: 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:

    Specializations Curriculum
    Interior Design Furniture Designing; Interior landscaping; Art and Craft renovation and innovation; Accessory designing;
    Graphic Design Type design; Web design; Typography; Motion graphics; Design theory; Design history
    Web Design UX principles; Information Architecture and Web design
    Industrial Design NURBS Modelling; Solid and Modeling; Parametric Modeling; Developing Surfaces; Digital Sculpting
    Art and Design Survey of Design and Decorative Arts Iⅈ Curatorial/Museology
    Game Design 2D Game design; 3D Arts; Game Analysis; Systems Literacy; Publishing Video Games; Art direction for art developers

    Admissions to Masters in Design in USA 

    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. 

    Eligibility for Masters in Design in USA

    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 Master of Design: 

    Universities/Colleges TOEFL (iBT) Scores IELTS Scores Additional Requirements
    Parsons School of Design at The New School 92 7.0 Resume; SOP; LORs; Portfolio
    Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) 93 6.5 Portfolio; SOP; LORS; Writing sample
    Institute of Chicago School of Art 85 6.5 SOP(500-700); LORs; Resume/CV; E-Portfolio
    Pratt Institute 88 6.5 2 LORs; SOP(500); Additional Writing samples; Resume
    Art Center College of Design 100 7.0 Portfolio (Sketchbooks); Written essays (2000 words); Resume
    Stanford University 100 -- Portfolio or book with 12-24; DVD works in the show
    Carnegie Mellon University 102 7.5 Statement of Intent; Letters of Recommendation; GRE test scores; Link to the Portfolio; 2 years professional or teaching experience
    California Institute of Arts 100 7.5 Resume/CV; 2 LORs; Portfolio; Personal Essay
    School of Visual Arts 68 5.5 Narrative Statement; LORs; Creative Portfolio
    Columbia University 100 7.5 GRE 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: 

    • Evaluated academic transcripts and certificates by NACES/WES or other evaluation agencies
    • Submission of non-English transcripts with their English translations.
    • Proof of standardized test scores required to study in USA
    • Statement of Purpose of 250-500 words 
    • Professional CV./Resume 
    • 2 or 3 letters of recommendation 
    • 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

    Student Visa to USA

    An F-1 visa is required for studying in USA. It also allows international students to stay back in the country for a period of 12 months under Optional Practical Training (OPT). Requirements for visa application are as follows:

    • Passport with validity of 6 months
    • Form I-20
    • Application fee payment receipt
    • Original mark sheet of previous academic studies
    • Proof of sufficient funds for studying and living in USA at least for a year.

    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:

    Categories Cost (in USD)
    Visa registration fee 160
    SEVIS Fee 350
    IELTS fee 240
    TOEFL fee 180
    GRE fee 205
    Airfare (one way) 700

    Tuition Fees for Masters in Design in USA

    The tuition fees for studying a Masters in Design in USA from top universities range from 38,010 USD to 70,000 USD annually. Parsons School of Design which ranks at 1st in the country among design schools has the lowest tuition fees among them. The tuition fees for masters in design in USA for Indian students are:

    University Total Program Fees (in INR)
    Parsons School of Design at The New School 40-80 lakhs
    Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) 40-80 lakhs
    School of Art Institute of Chicago 80-88 Lakhs
    Pratt Institute 66-85 lakhs
    Art Center College of Design 72 lakhs
    Stanford University ~1 Cr.
    Carnegie Mellon University 62 lakhs
    California Institute of Arts 75 lakhs
    School of Visual Arts 66-71 lakhs
    Columbia University 39 lakhs

    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 Expenditures Annual Costs (in USD)
    Hostels or room rent 5,000-7,000
    Cost of food 2,500
    Public transport 350-800
    Entertainment cost 1,000-1,200

    Masters in Design in USA with 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. 

    Scholarship Eligibility Awards (in USD)
    Print and Graphics Scholarships Foundation Academic records; Recommendations; Biographical records 1,000-5,000
    CFDA Design Scholar Award MFA/MA first-year student in fashion design; 25,000
    Two Ten Footwear Design Scholarship Enrolled in a US university;3 design drawings from a portfolio. 3,000
    National Costumers Association Creative Event Scholarship PG degree with 2.5 GPA; Must be 17 years or more 1,000
    Mary Abdoo Fashion Memorial Scholarship UG/ PG degree enrolled in fashion designing 1,000
    VCUarts Talent Scholarships Academic merit; artistic talent 5,000-12,000

    For other scholarships to study in the USA, Click Here

    Scope of Masters in Design in USA

    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:  

    Occupation Annual Median Salary (in USD)
    Art Directors 94,760
    Craft and Fine Artists 48,760
    Fashion Designers 73,790
    Floral Designers 28,040
    Graphic Designers 52,110
    Industrial Designers 68,890
    Interior Designers 56,040
    Multimedia Artists and Animators 75,270

    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.


    Ques. What are some of the top design schools in the USA?

    Ans. Some of the top design schools of the USA are Parsons School of Design at The New School, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), School of Art Institute of Chicago, Pratt Institute, and Art Center College of Design. 

    Ques. How much does it cost to study Masters in Design in the USA?

    Ans. Tuition fees of top universities offering Master of Design in USA range between 53,000 USD to 111,000 USD. The cost of living is approximately 1,000 USD per month.

    Ques. What is the eligibility required for admission in Masters in Design in the USA?

    Ans. A bachelors degree in design or related field and some experience in this field is required to apply for a Masters in Design in USA. A portfolio plays a very important role in admission decisions.

    Ques. What is the scope of Masters in Design in the USA?

    Ans. You can work as Graphic Designer, Interior Designer, Industrial Designer, Art Director, etc after completing Masters in Design in USA. The median salary offered is 48,300 USD per annum. 

    Ques. How can I become a graphic designer in the USA?

    Ans. You have to pursue a certificate, diploma, or degree course in graphic designing to become a graphic designer in the USA or any other country. Some of the top colleges offering degrees in this program are California Institute of Arts, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Art Center College of Design

    Ques. Is it worth pursuing masters in design?

    Ans. Pursuing masters in design does not go in vain, however, students are often seen pursuing shorter and cheaper courses like certificate and diploma programs. Though your masters degree can help you connect with industry players, certificate and diploma courses will allow you to learn the skill at a lower cost and in shorter duration.