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Schools for Industrial Design Degrees

If you are interested in designing toys, modern furniture and consumer products, consider an industrial design career. Industrial design schools across the United States provide students with the skills and hands-on experience to design and develop a wide range of products, vehicles and furniture, and learn about different design styles and technologies. Programs prepare students to pursue rewarding career as a product designer, transportation designer or toy designer, and many skills can be transferred to other fields, including engineering and marketing.

Training and Education for an Industrial Design Career

Students interested in pursuing an industrial design career must complete formal training at an accredited college or university. Many colleges that have their own industrial design department offer both online and offline course options for prospective students. Training in this field enables students to develop several specialized skills, including:

  • Graphic skills and page layout methods
  • Drawing and sketching
  • Digital sketching
  • Rendering and digital rendering
  • Drafting skills
  • Surface development skills
  • Digital surfacing skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Human diversity and human behavior
  • Research and analysis
  • Research and analytical skills
  • Technical aspects of finishing and painting
  • Systematic thinking and process familiarity

Industrial design courses teach students how to use digital tools, hand drawings and sketches to create models, 3D renderings and prototypes in a variety of industries. Students must also use research and analytical skills to solve design problems and come up with effective solutions using a wide range of materials.

Programs prepare students to identify and troubleshoot various design problems, and also learn about traditional and current trends in the field. Students participate in a number of activities and workshops to create developmental drawings, 3D models and working prototypes using computer technology and basic drawing techniques. Some programs include activities such as:

  • Creating mock-ups
  • Designing working models
  • Hands-on studio projects about types of materials
  • Using 3D computer applications
  • Graphing

Industrial Design Programs

Many schools and some technical colleges offer two-year and four-year industrial design programs. Most schools offer the following types of industrial design programs:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design (BFA)
  • Master of Fine Arts in Industrial Design (MFA)
  • Certificate Program
  • Associate of Arts Degree (AA) Program

Some four-year programs include a fifth year option that leads to a professional degree. Students may be required to complete an additional set of credits in design electives and studio work to fulfill the fifth year program requirement, and submit a proposal during their senior year.

Commercial and industrial design programs also teach students how to work with other specialists in the industry, including materials scientists, marketing departments and cost estimators.

Types of Industrial Design Courses

An industrial design school or department typically requires the completion of the following courses:

  • Introduction to Wood
  • Introduction to Metal
  • Design Principles
  • CAD
  • Manufacturing Techniques
  • History of Industrial Design
  • Contemporary Manufacturing Processes
  • Ideation
  • Industrial Design Studio Principles
  • Advanced Digital Design
  • Human-Centered Design

Students who successfully complete a two-year or four-year program may also consider completing a certificate program to specialize in a particular area. Certification training programs provide students with advanced skills and specialized knowledge, and may be attractive to certain employers.

Industrial Design Career Opportunities

Students who have successfully completed a degree program can pursue a number of career opportunities, including:

  • Multimedia Designer
  • Product Designer
  • Product Developer
  • Exhibit Designer
  • Interface Designer/Developer
  • Industrial Designer

They may work in fields and industries such as:

  • Design Firms
  • Entertainment Industry
  • Automotive Industry
  • Medical Product Industry
  • Software Industry
  • Consumer Products Industry
  • Museum

Industrial Design Career Salary Information and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the field is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations through 2018. However, competition can be expected for jobs that involve engineering, computer-aided design and general business applications. As of May 2008, the median annual wage and salary wages for commercial and industrial designers were $57,350. The majority of these individuals worked in the field of management of companies and enterprises, and in the architectural and engineering fields. Others worked independently or for specialized design firms.

Related occupations, and fields where the individual may be able to transfer their skills and knowledge, include:

  • Artists
  • Fashion designers
  • Architects
  • Desktop publishers
  • Drafters
  • Engineers
  • Graphic designers
  • Interior designers


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