Graduate Program

The School of Design is committed to offering students a world-class graduate-level design education through our three masters programs—Masters of Art in Design, Masters of Design in Design for Interactions, and Masters of Professional Studies in Design for Interactions (for MA students only).

We take a values-centered approach to design.

Design is a highly interactive and transdisciplinary activity that is integral to the success of businesses and organizations worldwide. Leaders in the field increasingly collaborate to develop products, services, and systems that significantly impact ways of life, placing great responsibility on designers. In the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon, we understand the important roles design can and should play in the world. We practice a values-centered approach to designing various types of meaningful interactions. Carefully considering the implications of our actions, we develop thoughtful approaches that strive to improve the quality of life for people and the planet, today and in the future. 

We work in the face of ambiguity.

Contemporary challenges and opportunities are often vague and ambiguous. Rather than shy away from unruly situations, our graduate programs face them head-on. As a student, you will learn how to work comfortably among existing uncertainties. You will employ processes that enable you to confidently navigate open-ended challenges and design comprehensive approaches that strive to improve living conditions in thoughtful and meaningful ways. 

We leverage design in contexts that matter.

Whether working with worldwide corporate sponsors, local non-profits, or peers in the classroom, you will engage in projects that have the potential to yield positive outcomes for society. Coursework throughout our masters programs in the School of Design intertwines theory and practice, frequently focusing on social, technological, economical, environmental, and political concerns that exist in areas such as healthcare, education, transportation, and business.

“I have been most impressed with the way that design theory and practice have been so seamlessly melded together, stimulating creative ways of thinking and making in tandem.”

—Masters student 

We have an eye on the future.

We recognize the importance for the field of design to evolve in alignment with the needs of society and technological advancements. Therefore, we continually strive to develop and integrate the study of emerging tools and practices into our graduate curricula. Several of our courses explore user-experience, user-interface, augmented reality, virtual reality, extended reality, embodied interfaces, and conversational design as a means of developing forward-thinking design concepts. Through required and elective courses you can investigate the important roles that co-design, design strategy, critical and creative thinking, design for learning, speculative design and futures, systems design, transition design, service design, and design for social innovation can play in the world and foster your design expertise. Our program will also help you hone skills that are critical to the advanced practice of design such as reading, writing, presentation, conversation, collaboration, critique, crafting, and iteration.

We are an intentionally small and tight-knit community.

A strong belief in the importance of human connections and the desire to foster individuality grounds our graduate programs. Each cohort is composed of approximately a dozen students each year for a total of less than 50, which enables all of us as faculty, students, and staff to get to know each other well, establish strong professional relationships, and support each other as we carve our unique design paths. We pride ourselves on the kind, caring, and compassionate community that we foster and we do our best to model and encourage a healthy work/life balance.

 “I have found that the faculty are incredibly kind and genuinely want to provide students with the support needed.”

—Masters student 

We are a diverse group of accomplished individuals who are strongest together.

The faculty in the School of Design hold expertise and are pioneers in diverse areas, such as industrial, communication, environmental, service, and transition design, as well as design for social innovation, design research, fine art, philosophy, psychology, human-computer interaction, architecture, and business. We collectively cast a broad net so you are likely to find people who share your interests. Likewise, students who join our programs are equally distinct, bringing with them diverse backgrounds and professional experiences. As members of our graduate cohort, you will learn how to work effectively in a team by leveraging your connected interests in design, while sharing your unique knowledge and skills with your peers and benefiting from the group’s collective wisdom.

We value and support the diversity of our community.

The School of Design is composed of faculty, students, and staff who chose to relocate to Pittsburgh from locations around the world to live, work, and learn. We appreciate and welcome the diverse cultural practices that members infuse into our community as we believe it deepens everyone’s understanding of the world in which we live, and strengthens us as designers. 

We learn in moments that extend beyond conventional classroom contexts.

The School of Design has a state-of-the-art graduate suite that sets the context for much of your learning. It consists of four interconnected spaces to support multiple work preferences: an area with individual workspaces, a collaborative space with an enclosed team room, a kitchen and social cafe area, and a distance-learning capable classroom. The graduate suite also features wall-to-wall whiteboards, 50-inch video monitors, dynamic screen-sharing technologies and teleconference abilities. Recognizing that some of the most meaningful learning often happens among peers and faculty through impromptu conversations, we want to encourage those interactions. Therefore, the School of Design strives to provide important resources and a comfortable space that fosters healthy, enjoyable, and effective learning.

We appreciate working with various disciplines to broaden and strengthen specific interests.

The School of Design is situated among many world-class programs that together make Carnegie Mellon a truly remarkable place to learn. There are several ways you can reap the benefits of interacting with faculty and peers across campus, such as working on transdisciplinary research projects that are led by faculty across campus and taking graduate-level elective courses in the Tepper School of Business, the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, the School of Architecture, or the Heinz College for Information Systems, Public Policy, and Management, to name a few. Popular courses include but are not limited to Human Robot Interaction, Design for the Internet of Things, and Telling Stories with Data. Many electives offered through the School of Design also dive deeply into adjacent areas of interests such as Design for Climate Change, Designing Experiences for Learning, Methodologies of Visualization, and HyperSENSE: Augmenting Human Experience in Environments. Design instructors frequently welcome the enrollment of non-design students, serving as great opportunities for you to work on transdisciplinary projects while developing your skills and knowledge in specific areas of interest.  

We recognize the value of professional internships.

Given that our MDes program spans four semesters over two years and that many of our MA students continue their studies with the School of Design after completing the one-year program by pursuing a second degree, you may determine that the summer serves as an excellent opportunity for you to participate in an internship. Whether working for a corporate leader, lending a hand to non-profit efforts, or engaging in academic research, many of our students report that internship experiences enrich their graduate education and provide direction for the next steps they will take as alumni. We encourage you to leverage the vast connections of our faculty as you seek opportunities. In addition, the School of Design invites you to participate in Confluence, our annual career event held each spring to support students in their internship and employment searches.

We prepare you for a life in design, wherever it may take you.

Beginning in the mid-1990’s, the School of Design was one of the first programs worldwide to offer a master’s degree in interaction design. Our graduate offerings have grown and evolved over time in alignment with the field and are widely considered among the best in the world. In rankings of design schools based on career outcomes, our graduate programs consistently come out on top. Our alumni acquire some of the most desirable positions in the field, with multinational companies, design firms, and nonprofits. Some of our alumni become design researchers and educators, and others start their own businesses. You might choose to work as an interaction designer, systems designer, user experience designer, design researcher, learning experience designer, service designer, design strategist, information architect, creative director, data visualization expert, startup founder, chief creative officer, or design educator. In addition, if you are an international student who seeks employment in the United States post-graduation, the STEM designation of our masters programs may improve your opportunities. Whatever your focus, we are confident that our graduate programs will prepare you for entry into top jobs at leading companies and organizations, and help you become a leader in the field, developing innovative design approaches to contemporary challenges with future generations in mind. We welcome you to peruse alumni employment statistics online at: