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Design & Applied Arts

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2021 Design & Applied Arts Degree Guide

A degree in Design and Applied Arts allows students to design everything from living rooms, clothing, and comic books to product packages, billboards, and logos. You will learn the skills to use computer-aided design, drawing, and other techniques to create unique images and products.

Design and Applied Arts is a wide field that covers many different topics. Students typically choose to specialize in a specific area of design. Some concentrations available are Design and Visual Communications, Commercial and Advertising Art, Industrial and Product Design, Commercial Photography, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, and Game and Interactive Media Design.

Students will take a variety of classes specific to their chosen concentration. However, all Design and Applied Arts students can expect to take graphic design, art history, drawing, illustration, typography, and other art related courses.

#34 Most Popular Major
36.2k Degrees Awarded
-3.5% Increase in Graduates

Design & Applied Arts was the 34th most popular major in the 2018-2019 school year. Colleges in the United States reported awarding 36,179 degrees in this year alone. This represents a 3.5% reduction in design degrees awarded over the prior year's total of -37,428.

There are 961 schools offering degrees in design and applied arts in the United States. Our 2021 Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts ranking analyzes 206 of these schools to determine the best overall colleges for design and applied arts students. Explore this or one of our many other custom design rankings further below.

Design & Applied Arts Degree Requirements

Design and Applied Arts students are typically creative and have the ability to build products, designs, and images in their head. They can take these concepts from paper and create an actual product. Students are detail oriented and perfectionists. They have strong communication and interpersonal skills because they often are working for a client and must listen to what that client wants out of a design or product. Students in this field typically have a background in art.

Design and Applied arts graduates usually work in full time positions in offices, design labs, or on location working for a client. Hours vary depending on the type of work you are doing and if you are trying to meet a deadline.

Students interested in this area should pursue an internship, summer job, or position as an assistant to design professionals. This will allow you to gain experience in the field and get an understanding of how it works.

Depending on the area of specialization, you may only need to earn an associate's degree to work. It is best to look into your desired field of study to learn how much education is necessary and if additional certification is required.

Prior Education for a Design Program

New students will need to have completed high school or a GED program and each school will have their own minimum GPA and SAT/ACT test requirements. Specific design careers may require a certain level of degree attainment or additional certifications beyond that.

Design & Applied Arts Degree Types

There are many different design degree levels. You can spend many years getting as high as a research / scholarship based doctorate's in design and applied arts to something that takes less time like a associate's. Different design and applied arts degrees vary in how long they take.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to design, with approximately 44.9% of workers getting one. Find out other typical degree levels for design workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Bachelor’s Degree 40.5%
Master’s Degree 15.6%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 11.3%
Doctoral Degree 10.7%
Some College Courses 9.4%

About 69.7% of workers in careers related to design obtain at least bachelor's degree. See the chart below for the most common degree level workers in design and applied arts have received.


This of course varies depending on which design career you choose.

Career Opportunities for A Degree In Design Graduate

Average Number of Jobs
$29.5k Average Starting Salary
5% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

Design and Applied Arts graduates work in many industries including advertising, fashion, graphic design, illustration, interior design, and marketing. You will learn the skills to be successful in your desired area of specialization, making you an asset to companies, small businesses, or design firms.

Some careers in this field are not experiencing any growth, while others are growing at an average rate. This will play a role in the amount of competition graduates will face when looking for a job. Those with previous experience in their field should have an advantage in the job market.

Growth Projected for Design Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your design degree? Design & Applied Arts careers are expected to grow 5.4% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to design and applied arts.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Graphic Designers 277,400 4.2%
Professors 258,700 9.4%
Photographers 139,000 -5.6%
Art, Drama, and Music Professors 137,200 12.0%
Art Directors 95,200 5.4%

How Much Money Do People With a Design Degree Make?

Recently graduated design and applied arts students earned an average of $29,461 in 2017-2018. Earnings can range from as low as $9,900 to as high as $89,300. As you might expect, salaries for design graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


High Paying Careers for Design Majors

Salaries for design and applied arts graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers design grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Art Directors $104,590
Architecture Professors $99,320
Fashion Designers $87,610
Art, Drama, and Music Professors $82,560
Multimedia Artists and Animators $78,230

Getting Your Design & Applied Arts Degree

With over 3,144 different design degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased design school rankings to help you with this.

One of 9 majors within the Visual & Performing Arts area of study, Design & Applied Arts has other similar majors worth exploring.

Related Major Annual Graduates
Fine & Studio Arts 40,751
Music 26,968
Drama & Theater Arts 17,726
Film, Video & Photographic Arts 16,756
General Visual & Performing Arts 5,720

View All Design Related Majors >


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