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Compare online master’s in design programs

Develop products, services, and design systems that spark innovation and solve complex problems.

Explore online master’s in design programs

Why earn a master’s in design online?

Prepare for a career in design

Develop a thorough understanding of design and creative leadership strategies to drive business results.

Build new design systems, products, and services

Advance your design knowledge by studying in a flexible format that features live online classes, asynchronous coursework, and practical training.

Become a design leader

Find a university that aligns with your goals and values so you can advance your design career and be a leader in your company.

Browse online master’s in design programs New

What is a master’s degree in design?

During your online master’s in design program, you’ll be exposed to the latest industry tools, practices, and skills. As you build a standout portfolio, you’ll benefit from hands-on training and real-world client interaction. Once you graduate, you can pursue design within various verticals because you’ll be able to create innovative new products, services, and systems that solve complex problems. As you’ll have a thorough understanding of design and creative leadership, you should also be able to lead teams and departments with confidence.

Admission requirements for an online master’s degree in design

The universities offering master’s degrees in design all have specific admission requirements. Some may require taking foundational courses or providing standardized test results. All universities and institutions will be looking for talented, creative candidates with at least some professional experience in the field. 

For admissions to a master’s in design program, schools usually require:

  • A BA or BS from an accredited college or university, with a GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4.0

  • Previous work experience or adequate familiarity with design

  • Topical and personal essays demonstrating the knowledge, goals, and career aspirations of the applicant

  • Professional letters of recommendation

  • Transcripts from previously attended institutions where you earned credits 

  • A creative portfolio including web, video, or multimedia samples

Make sure you have a strong résumé/CV to include in your application. Here are some tips on how to write a CV. In addition to master’s degrees in design, you can explore other edX master’s programs or online bachelor’s degrees to further your career. 

How to apply

Before you apply for an online master’s degree in design at the schools of your choice, research their various application deadlines, admission requirements, tuition, and scholarship opportunities.

Master’s in design online curriculum

Online master in design programs are ideal for students who wish to advance their careers in advertising, marketing, visual design, graphic design, interactive design, industrial design, or other design fields. The programs are well-suited to those interested in pursuing leadership and strategic roles. As design is such a broad field, many schools offer specializations in areas such as design technology, fashion design, urban design, or sustainability in design. Programs are typically divided into core design courses, specialization courses, research and analysis courses, design technology courses, electives, internships or practicums, and portfolio development. Discover more about the available opportunities to learn design at a pace that suits you by exploring executive education in design programs online. Curious how to get the most out of online learning without missing a beat? Explore these tools and tips for online learning, so you can manage your time successfully and minimize distractions. 

Types of master’s in design degrees

The field of design is incredibly varied, and because of this, numerous specializations are available to you. Depending on the program you pursue, you could choose to focus on one or more of the following:

  • Instructional design: This involves systematically designing and developing effective educational materials and experiences that facilitate learning, often using various instructional technologies and methodologies. In practice, this can include designing learning apps.

  • Integrated design: This field focuses on learning to synthesize diverse design disciplines, collaborate across fields, and create holistic solutions that address complex problems by integrating multiple perspectives and approaches. In practice, integrated design can involve being in charge of building products that have physical and digital components. 

  • Design management: With this specialization, you’ll learn to strategically lead and coordinate design processes, integrate design thinking into business strategy, manage interdisciplinary design teams, and optimize design-related resources to achieve organizational goals effectively. This type of management is something that ad agency creative directors do, for example.

  • Interaction design: This field focuses on learning to create user-friendly digital interfaces and experiences. It covers user research, information architecture, prototyping, and usability testing. Students get to design intuitive and engaging user interactions for websites, apps, and other digital platforms, ensuring a seamless and effective UX journey.

  • Graphic design: By focusing on this design area, you'll learn advanced design concepts, creative problem-solving skills, design research methodologies, and gain the ability to create visually compelling and communicative solutions across various media platforms. Typically, these skills are used in marketing and advertising agencies.

In addition to a broader design degree, you may want to consider how you can learn graphic design, take the necessary courses to learn design thinking, explore boot camps in UX/UI design, or learn user experience design. Alternatively, you can pursue the study of physical structures by learning architecture.

Careers in design

Creating digital and physical products plays an enormous role in today’s global economy. As such, there are numerous careers you can pursue after you graduate with a master’s degree in design. Some career paths include art director, UX/UI designer, product design manager, app developer, videographer, interior designer, creative director, product designer, web designer, and more.

Here are just a few examples of the types of roles you can pursue:

  • Product design manager: Oversees the development of digital or physical products, ensuring they align with the company's vision, meet user needs, and are delivered on time and within budget.

  • Creative director: Guides in-house or agency teams to produce products, content, ads, and other collateral in a way that suits the brand strategically and grows the client’s business.

  • Web designer: Leads the UX/UI design aspects of web projects, supervises junior designers, and facilitates the creation of visually appealing, functional, and user-friendly websites.

  • App developer: Designs, codes, and tests software applications for mobile devices and computers, ensuring they function effectively and meet user needs.

Frequently asked questions

This degree can open up many exciting career and leadership opportunities, equipping you with the skills to lead design teams, manage large-scale creative projects, and innovate design processes. You can pursue roles such as senior designer, design manager, creative director, and design consultant across various fields such as graphic, industrial, interior, fashion, or interaction design. You can work in-house or serve clients by working in an agency environment. You can also work for yourself by offering consulting services.

A master’s degree in design requires a significant investment of your time and financial resources. But, this is a field that is ever-expanding and dynamic, and if your career goals involve moving up in your organization and managing teams and large-scale projects, this investment may pay off. Before applying for your master’s in design, consider your experience, career objectives, the program's reputation, cost, financing options, and your ability to effectively manage the online coursework.

An online master's in design program typically takes 18 to 30 months to complete, depending on the specific program requirements, the number of credits needed, and your course load. Online programs offer flexibility, allowing learners to complete coursework at their own pace, which can affect the overall timeline. Accelerated programs might be completed in as little as 12 to 18 months, while studying part time may take longer. Additionally, some learners may extend their studies to accommodate work or other commitments.

A master of fine arts (MFA) and a master's in design differ in focus and career outlook. An MFA fosters advanced artistic practice, critical thinking, and the development of a strong artistic portfolio and typically leads to an arts career in painting, sculpture, photography, or multimedia. In contrast, a master’s in design focuses on disciplines such as graphic design, industrial design, or interior design. This degree emphasizes practical skills, design theory, and problem-solving, preparing students for careers in design-related fields.

While some design aspects and architecture philosophies may overlap, these two graduate-level degrees represent distinctly separate fields with different scopes and purposes. A master's in design emphasizes creative problem-solving, aesthetics, and user-centered design, preparing learners for careers in areas like graphic design, industrial design, or interaction design. In contrast, a master's in architecture centers on architectural principles, building design, and construction, training learners to become licensed architects who design and oversee the construction of buildings and structures. 

Yes. Many universities offer online master's in design programs. These programs provide flexibility for working professionals or individuals with other commitments, giving them the chance to pursue advanced design education without attending physical classes. Learners can do self-paced learning, collaborate with peers online, and access lectures and coursework remotely. It’s best to research individual programs to evaluate how the school’s online learning program will be structured and how the internship and practical experience portion of the master’s program will work.

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