Doctoral Degrees

The School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University is a longtime leader in doctoral design education in North America. In fall of 2014 the School launched an expanded program for doctoral studies that now offers two types of doctoral degrees: a full-time, residential PhD and a Doctorate of Design (DDes). The PhD degree is appropriate for those who wish to become full time academics or applied research leaders in design practice. The DDes is aimed at mid-career design professionals who wish to ‘pivot’ their career or conduct focused research while they continue to work.

The School’s doctoral programs are one of only a few research degrees in North America focused on creating new knowledge in the discipline and profession of non-architectural, non-engineering Design. The programs’ primary research focus is Transition Design, an emerging area of design practice and research directed toward structural change in our societies and the re-conception of lifestyles to be more place-based and sustainable.

The School of Design is also committed to practice-based forms of design research and candidates are encouraged to undertake innovative design projects as part of their research process and to include project documentation and artifacts as part of their submissions. Please read the following sections carefully as our criteria for application and acceptance has recently changed. Also see our page on Frequently Asked Questions.

Candidate Qualifications

Applicants to the doctoral programs should have a high level of design expertise/experience and a masters degree in design that includes a significant thesis component with research training. Design and research experience should be in one or more of the School’s focus areas: Communication Design, Product Design, Environments Design (design for physical and digital environments/IoT), Design for Interactions, Design for Services or Design for Social Innovation. Applicants whose experience is exclusively in the areas of engineering, architecture or interior design will be encouraged to conduct masters research in design prior to application to the doctoral programs.

See the PhD Program page for more information about the degree and applicant qualifications.

Applicants to the DDes may be considered without a masters degree if they have extensive professional design experience (10+ years) in one or more of the School’s focus areas in design. See the DDes Program section for more information about the degree and applicant qualifications.

Program Formats

The PhD in Design: is a 4-year, full-time program. The first year comprises coursework in Design Research, Design Studies and Transition Design.

There are two financial models for the PhD program: 1) Candidates who are qualified to teach on the School’s undergraduate or masters programs in design receive full tuition for 4 years and an annual teaching stipend of $13,500 in exchange for teaching one course per semester. 2) Candidates who do not wish to teach or are not qualified to teach have the option to pay full tuition. We anticipate tuition of $41,000 per year in 2018-19. Note that all candidates are responsible for their own health insurance costs and University fees.

The DDes: is a 3-year program designed to be undertaken by design practitioners at a distance while continuing to work at their current jobs. DDes students are required to visit campus at least twice a year to participate with the PhD students in intensive workshops and presentations.

The DDes is a tuition-based program and does not offer stipends or scholarships. Some DDes students undertake research on behalf of their organization, who contribute to or cover their tuition costs. We anticipate that the rate will be $21,000 from  next year.

The DDes is only available to residents of the USA because of the intensive residential requirements of the program. Residents of the states of Alabama, Arkansas or Minnesota are not eligible to apply because of the distance learning component of the DDes.

For more information

We ask that you thoroughly read the information on the PhD and DDes program pages of the website and refer to the pages on ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ before contacting us for additional information. Applicants must meet all of the criteria outlined to be considered for admission. Requirements such as TOEFL scores and background experience cannot be waived.

Note that applications will be accepted between December 1 and February 28 for the following academic year.