Master's Program Admissions

We’re delighted that you're interested in applying to one of our graduate programs. You'll find everything you need here to apply, along with links to general university information about finances, benefits, and housing.

For applicants with an undergraduate design degree and professional experience the School of Design offers:

MDes degree (Master of Design): This two-year degree provides students studio, seminar, and lab coursework in design for interactions, with an emphasis on design for services and social innovation. It is combined with relevant electives and a full year of in-depth research that culminates in a thesis.

MPS degree (Master of Professional Studies):  This one-year degree enables students to expand on their prior design experience, focusing on design for interactions, services, and social innovation, through coursework that is identical to the first year of the MDes program.

For applicants from other disciplines transitioning into design:

MA degree (Master of Arts in Design): This one-year degree introduces students with no previous design experience to design for interactions. It can serve as a pathway to other degrees within the School of Design or other departments in the university.

You can apply to the MDes, MPS, or MA programs through the link at the bottom of this page. If you are interested in the Master of Integrated Innovation for Products & Services degree, please apply through the program's website.

Educational and Professional Requirements

MDes and MPS Degrees:

  • A Baccalaureate degree in design from an accredited institution, with a strong record of academic achievement
  • A design background evident in your portfolio, including, for example, elements of visual design, typography, layout and composition, color, illustration, information design, filmmaking, photography, and experience with design process, iteration, critique and visual communication.
  • At least two years of professional or teaching experience

MA Degree:

  • A Baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution, with a strong record of academic achievement
  • At least two years of professional or teaching experience

Application Checklist

All prospective students must submit an online application that includes:

  • A statement of intent
  • Letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL/IELTS scores where applicable (scores must be less than two years old. Or the Duolingo online English proficiency exam for students (scores from the July 2020 updated version)
  • Official transcripts
  • A link to your portfolio
  • A one-minute video
  • Your admissions fee

Detailed information about each component of your application is shown below:

Statement of Intent

Describe your reasons for pursuing graduate studies, your educational and professional objectives, your specific interest in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, and any other information that you believe will aid the admissions committee in reaching a decision. For applicants planning a sequence of degree combinations, for example MA+MPS/MDES or PhD, please indicate this in your statement. Your statement should be one to two pages in length.

Letters of Recommendation

Provide names and contact information (including email addresses) for three people you have chosen to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. Choose a variety of individuals, if possible – for example, a professor, a professional manager, and a mentor. Ask each of them to write a substantive letter about your qualifications for graduate study in design, mentioning your previous study, research, and professional experience.

As you enter each recommender’s information on the application, the system will contact that person to request your letter of recommendation. Be sure to keep the admissions timeline in mind and give your contacts plenty of time to write letters and submit them before the deadline.

Test Scores

English Proficiency Test
All applicants whose native language / mother tongue is not English must also submit a TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo score.

Duolingo English Test
For 2021-2022 admissions, in addition to TOEFL and IELTS, we will now accept the online Duolingo English Test for applicants for whom English was not their first language. These tests include a proficiency composite score, section sub scores, video interview, and writing sample which are shared with CMU School of Design when you send your results. Certified results are available within 48 hours of the test session. Minimum and recommended score follows our TOEFL and IELTS minimums using percentile equivalencies and are indicated below. For more information, please visit the websites for the Duolingo English Test:

We will only accept results from the current version of the Duolingo English Test on the 160 point scale with subsection scoring (new as of July 2020). If you took the Duolingo (160 point) exam prior to subsection scoring, you may wish to contact Duolingo to ask if they will rescore your exam for the subsections. We will not accept the old Duolingo exam (100 point scale).

The recommended Duolingo score is 120/160 overall (see below for scores in each category).

  • Literacy: 105 (recommended = 115)
  • Comprehension: 115 (recommended = 125)
  • Production: 70 (recommended = 100)
  • Conversation: 95 (recommended = 105)
  • Overall Band: 105 (recommended = 120)

Our minimum ibT TOEFL score is 102 total, with minimum subscores of 25. In addition to single test date TOEFL iBT scores, the School of Design also accepts MyBest scores for TOEFL iBT.

Our minimum IELTS score is 7.5, with no score lower than 7. Scores below these minimums will not be considered for admission.

Submitting Test Scores
Language tests are administered by the Educational Testing Service. Test scores listed on your application must be sent directly from the test administrator to the School of Design. Please provide ETS with the following codes to ensure we receive an original copy of your test scores.

  • TOEFL School code: 2074
  • TOEFL Department code: 15
  • IELTS does not require school or department codes.
  • DUOLINGO: Your scores must be submitted directly to "Carnegie Mellon University – School of Design" by Duolingo.

If you completed either the TOEFL or IELTS more than two years ago, you MUST take one of the tests again. The testing agency will not verify scores that are more than two years old. If your score is below the minimum on the chosen language proficiency exam, you should consider retaking the exam of your choice before applying.

Official Transcripts

You must upload legible scanned or digitized copies of your transcripts to the online application system. In addition, you must contact the academic institutions you list on your application and have them send official copies of your transcripts directly to:

Donna Cardiff Frost, Graduate Program Coordinator
School of Design, MM 110
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890, USA

Link to Your Portfolio

All applicants, regardless of whether they have a design background or not, must submit a link to their Web portfolios.  Please read Preparing and Submitting a Portfolio carefully, as this is an part of your application for graduate study in the School of Design.

One-Minute Video

You are required to upload a one-minute video as a component of your application. Please describe your interests in design throughout the piece and feel welcome to include any visuals you see fit.

Application Fee

Each applicant must submit a $75 application fee.

When You May Apply

The application for Fall 2021 admission will be available in October 2020. The application system will close on January 15th, 2021.

Your Master’s Degree Contact

Donna Cardiff Frost is the Graduate Program Coordinator at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design. She will be glad to discuss anything relevant to the program(s) of interest to you. Before contacting Donna, please read this section of the Design School website thoroughly, as many frequently asked questions are answered here.

Link for application can be found here when live.