Industrial Design Master's Degrees: Salary and Career Facts

Industrial designers use both art and engineering skills to create concepts for new products and manufactured goods. Find out the typical duties, employment outlook, and education requirements for a career in industrial design. Schools offering Graphic Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can I Do With an Industrial Design Master's Degree?

An industrial designer combines their knowledge of engineering with artistic principles of design to create materials that are both functional and visually appealing. The scope of products made varies depending on the industry you find employment in (some job titles including product designer, mechanical designer, and project engineer), but most begin by drawing up plans based on the needs of a client and using computer design software to devise a concept, making changes based on critique. Those pursuing this field typically need to complete a bachelor's degree, though many choose to continue to a master's degree. Education often include hands-on training in a studio. Below, the table provides some additional details about careers in this field:

Degree RequiredBachelor's at minimum; master's preferred for some jobs
Key Responsibilities Work with clients to best understand designs, sketch ideas and use software programs to further develop them, create prototypes, evaluate the safety of products
Licensure Requirements Not required
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% (for all commercial and industrial designers)
Mean Salary (2015)* $69,820 (for all commercial and industrial designers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Can I Expect From an Industrial Design Master's Program?

Studying industrial design at the master's level can lead to a Master of Fine Arts in Industrial Design or a Master of Industrial Design. Whichever degree program you choose, you can expect to spend time in a studio, working with others and alone as you create plans for new products or enhancements of existing products. You'll also spend time in lecture halls learning about the history of design, how and where to get information for product research, and design ethics.

As a master's degree candidate, you'll be required to complete and defend a thesis project. The project is usually either a written paper, a designed object, a multimedia project or some combination of the three.

What Jobs Can I Qualify For?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that entry-level industrial design careers require a bachelor's degree in industrial design, although some employers prefer individuals with advanced degrees (

The Occupational Information Network, or O*NET OnLine, noted that there are several job titles that fit the role of an industrial designer. These titles include product designer, mechanical designer, or project engineer (

As an industrial designer, according to O*NET OnLine, you'd be responsible for working with clients to design a new product or improve one that already exists. You'd start with sketches and designs, and use computer design programs to establish concepts for new products.

In addition, your job would entail working with individuals in marketing and production departments to evaluate and modify designs to a customer's specifications. Also, you'd be involved in market research to determine the usefulness of that new product, as well as the demand for it.

The BLS stated that industrial designers can work in manufacturing companies or small consulting firms, or go into business for themselves as freelance designers. The BLS noted that in 2015 there were 31,330 individuals working as commercial or industrial designers, and that employment in industrial design is expected to grow by 800 jobs, or 2%, from 2014-2024.

If you're interested in teaching others, you may want to consider an instructor's position at a community college, which is another option for master's degree holders. The BLS reported that employment for postsecondary instructors is expected to increase by 256,900 jobs, or 15%, through 2018, a rate of growth that's faster than average for all occupations. Another option is to pursue a Ph.D., which opens the door to faculty employment at 4-year colleges and universities.

How Much Can I Earn?

In 2015, industrial designers earned an average of $33.57 per hour, or $69,820 annually, reported the BLS. The highest-paying industries for industrial designers were motor vehicle manufacturing and business schools, including computer and management training. Designers for motor vehicle manufacturers earned an average of $44.32 per hour in May of 2015, or $92,190 per year. Designers who worked for household appliance manufacturers earned an hourly mean wage of $34.63, or $72,020 annually.

The online salary database reported that product development engineers responding to a salary survey had earnings of $55,693-$100,017 in October, 2016. These figures were for base salary and compensation, including bonuses and other benefits.

The data showed that experience was a factor in a product development engineer's salary. For example, an individual with just 1-4 years of experience earned $54,023-$86,391 in 2016, whereas an individual with 20 years or more experience earned $72,171-$137,511 in that same year.

Salaries for postsecondary teachers were listed according to area of expertise by the BLS. For example, a college instructor of architectural design earned an average annual salary of $84,880 in 2015, while that same year engineering teachers earned an average of $104,220.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Given that the minimum education for industrial designers is typically a bachelor's degree (with the 2016 O*NET statistics citing over half of industrial designers holding the distinction), many related careers will have similar requirements. Architects, for example, generally require a bachelor's to find employment. These professionals design and plan buildings to be structurally sound and aesthetically appealing, similar to the concerns of industrial designers in their work.

Art directors set the standard for the visual style in a work - from magazines, products, television, and more - directing others collaborating on these projects to create a unique and memorable look. Depending on the project, they may work with or direct industrial designers in their work.

Graphic designers create concept art and designs for a project intending to convey certain ideas and messages through a visual medium, a concern industrial designers may also share with their work.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • University of Illinois at Chicago

    Campus Locations:

    • Illinois: Chicago
  • The University of the Arts

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
  • Rhode Island School of Design

    Campus Locations:

    • Rhode Island: Providence
  • Philadelphia University

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
  • North Carolina State University at Raleigh

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Raleigh
  • Cranbrook Academy of Art

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: Bloomfield Hills
  • College for Creative Studies

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: Detroit
  • Auburn University

    Campus Locations:

    • Alabama: Auburn University
  • Art Center College of Design

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Pasadena
  • Academy of Art University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: San Francisco